A KEY gay activist in the Christian community has urged colleagues to condemn coversion therapy.

Leading lesbian evangelical Jayne Ozanne has called on the Church of England to oppose the counselling, which aims to ‘cure’ Christians of homosexuality.

The South Oxford resident has tabled a motion at the General Synod - the legislative body of the CofE - deeming the therapy ‘unethical and harmful’.

Her motion, signed by bodies including the NHS, states conversion therapy ‘is based on a misguided belief that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is wrong’.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail yesterday, Ms Ozanne said: “So many people end up with long-term mental health issues, breakdowns and sadly it can lead to suicide.

“Stigma plays a large part but within the church it is a sense of ‘does God hate me; am I sinful?’

The 48-year-old suffered a mental breakdown in 1997 after realising she was in love with a woman.

In 1999 she was accepted onto a church governing body called the Archbishops’ Council, and started years of conversion therapy in attempt to rid herself of the feelings.

She said: “I thought I’d better make sure I won’t suffer those awful feelings again. I really thought I was healed and just hadn’t met the right man.”

After moving in 2006 to study at Oxford University, she met someone who stirred the same feelings.

Ms Ozanne said: “I had a second breakdown that it obviously hadn’t worked. I was desperately lonely.

“”I was left feeling very depressed, ashamed and guilty. It just completely mucks you up.

“Even if you come out, there is still this internal battle going on in your head. It’s a form of abuse and it sticks with you for life.”

She described the therapy as ‘horrific’ and said the UK remained ‘in the dark ages’ by not banning it as several other countries have.

Relief came when she finally came out to family and friends in 2009, which preceded a more public declaration in 2014.

She said: “Many churches on a local level are very inclusive, but sadly many in Oxfordshire definitely aren’t. Many believe people need to be transformed or healed. They believe it’s wrong and you’ve got to change or be celibate.

“Most people really think they are helping, but it’s dangerous.

“All the evidence says you can’t change your innate desires. You can change your behaviour and pretend to be straight; get married and hope for the best, or just be completely in denial. All of that is incredibly damaging.”

The General Synod is set to discuss and decide on the motion at a meeting in York this weekend.

What is conversion therapy?

CONVERSION therapy claims to be a psychological treatment that can change a person's sexual orientation from from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.

Methods generally range from group prayer sessions to counselling and courses, although more extreme versions might include electric shock therapy. There is no scientific evidence to suggest it 'works.'

Jayne Ozanne is also calling on the Government to widen its fourfold definition of abuse - sexual, emotional, physical and neglect - to include 'spiritual abuse'.

She said conversion therapy falls under this category of abuse and more must be done to tackle it in churches.