Community / We don’t practise conversion therapy, church pastor says

Pastor John Rollo. Screenshot: New Life YouTube channel

“WE DO not and have never engaged in any form of conversion therapy.”

That is the message from the pastor of the New Life Shetland John Rollo, who has sought to clarify the church’s stance amid a campaign against its plans to take on a former council building.

He also said any future counselling potentially undertaken by members of the church will not involve any form of “conversion”.

New Life Shetland proposed community asset transfer of the old science block at the former Anderson High School in Lerwick has drawn concern from campaigners Peter Hamilton and Kerrie Meyer.

Central to their worry is a concern that conversion therapy could take place at the new church hub – a form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity.


The campaigners have cited the US-based Assemblies of God’s position on homosexuality, marriage and sexual identity. New Life Shetland is part of Assemblies of God Great Britain.

New Life Shetland’s proposed takeover is now unclear after change of use planning permission for the building was turned down by councillors over an apparent lack of detail around traffic management and parking.

Clarifying New Life Shetland’s position, Rollo told Shetland News that accusations the church practises conversion therapy were incorrect.

“To be clear, we do not and have never engaged in any form of conversion therapy,” he said.

“We also do not currently run a counselling service. This was [an] aspirational project related to the possibility that we might obtain the Knab building.

“In preparation some of our congregation have undertaken accredited training through COSCA and other accredited bodies and statutory associations.

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The science building at the old Anderson High School. Photo: Shetland News

“For the avoidance of doubt, any such service to the community will directed only at increasing the wellbeing of those receiving the counselling, and not any form of ‘conversion’.

“As a church we provide appropriate pastoral support, including prayer, to all our members, whatever life situations or circumstances they find themselves in, and point people to local professional services and primary care-givers where appropriate. In that we operate just as do many other faith communities.

“We also believe that it is incompatible with being a true follower of Jesus to be anti anyone, and statements saying otherwise contradict the fundamentals of our beliefs.

“All are welcome in our congregation irrespective of race, sex or sexual orientation.”

Regarding the next steps for the science block proposal, Rollo said the church – which currently meets at the Sandveiein Neighbourhood Centre in Lerwick – noted the planning committee decision.

“We need time to consider our options going forward based on what will be best for our congregation and community,” he said.

Shetland Islands Council has already agreed to the principle of New Life Shetland undertaking the asset transfer.

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