Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"A Life of Unlearning - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality church and faith" newly released

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Hard copy to follow shortly click here info@gayambassador.com to be notified. Or you can join my newsletter list here   Audio version available.

"We are all living a life of unlearning: unlearning things we accepted as truth but created a persona so unlike who we really are. Eventually cracks appear and beliefs challenged.
 
On the surface everything looked perfect. Anthony Venn-Brown was a happily married father-of-two and a popular preacher in Australia's growing mega-churches such as Hillsong. Behind the scenes he fought a constant battle to conform, believing his homosexuality made him unacceptable to God and others. After twenty-two years of struggle and torment, a chance meeting forced Anthony to make the toughest decision of his life; maintain the fa├žade he had created or, be true to himself and lose it all. Tired of feeling torn and fragmented, he confessed and came out. The results of that confession took him on a lonely journey that made him who he is today. This sometimes brutally honest account highlights not only the costs of being true to yourself but that the rewards of resolution and integrity are worth the struggle. As Anthony's story is ultimately about being true to one's self, gay, straight, Christian and non-faith people have found relevance in this triumphant autobiography." 

"Human stories, like the one in these pages, play a part in advancing understanding and acceptance. It is the story of a quest to find not only self-acceptance but one of the most powerful forces in nature—human love..” — Foreword by the Hon. Michael Kirby
 

 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I'm not homophobic .....but........(fill in the blank) IDAHOT

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Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. #IDAHOT

 

How many times have we heard an anti-gay religious person or leader protest "I am not homophobic". We hear it constantly in Australia and overseas. I hear it from the lips of church leaders and Christians I speak to as they tell me that they "love the sinner but hate the sin".

How frequently do we hear the label homophobe given to anyone who says anything negative against homosexuality or marriage equality. It's the quick and defining label that falls easily from the lips of an outraged gay person.

The terms homophobia, homophobic, homophobe are often problematic
.
The word homophobia was coined in 1960's initially used to describe heterosexual males aversion to homosexuality, homosexual men and also the fear that others might think they are gay.

Homophobia is not exclusively heterosexual. Gay people themselves can be homophobic. Internalised homophobia (hatred of self) is very real for many gay and lesbian people. For those from religious backgrounds it can remain entrenched from years of negative conditioning about their gay selves and lurks under the surface in their subconscious undetected in their behaviours, comments and attitudes. 

Since the 1960's the term homophobia has evolved and expanded substantially to include negative statements, behaviours and attitudes towards same-sex-oriented people, their relationships and the LGBTI community itself. Unfortunately the word phobia is strongly linked to fear so some people, knowing that don't fear gay people, will say they are not homophobic. But do they really know what it means?

I suggested to a pastor recently, who was quite adamant that he wasn't homophobic, that possibly only a gay person really knows what homophobia is as they are the ones who experience it. I gave him some examples.
  • Being yelled at from a passing car of strangers and called faggott or queer.
  • Having a person physically threaten you because you are gay
  • Walking into a room where everyone is greeted warmly but you get a cold handshake...or at worst ignored
  • People distance themselves from you because they don't want to get to close to you
  • Others girlfriends and boyfriends get invited to family functions but not yours

A gay person knows exactly what homophobia is. They have experienced it many times. Sometimes from those they wished for love and acceptance instead of rejection or suspicion. Some of us have learned to live with it and accept it as a part of our lot in life. But it is never acceptable.

When compared to the experience of many LGBT people around the world these experiences seem trivial.
Violence, imprisonment and death hang constantly over the lives of LGBT people still in too many parts of the world
.
This is the day when we remember the journey to acceptance and equality for lesbian.gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people has been a long and difficult one and most certainly is not over. A day when each of us, gay or straight, can pledge to make a difference whether that be in our homes, work places, nationally or internationally.
 
Never think your voice is not important because everyone of us adds the growing cry of equality, freedom, respect and dignity for all.

Share this post with a friend or on Facebook or Twitter.
Read and share President Obama statement on #IDAHOT
Watch and share United Nations video with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia's foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His autobiography  '"A Life of Unlearnin - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith", detailing his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man, has impacted 1,000';s globally.  Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

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REPORT: Half of LGB Americans Identify As Christian

By Eliel Cruz

Originally published on Advocate.com May 12 2015 7:10 PM ET


 
More LGB Americans consider themselves Christian than ever before. In a new Pew Research Center report, 48 percent of LGB Americans identify as Christian, up from 42 percent in 2013. The statistic contrasts the study’s finding of overall decline of Christianity, from 78.4 percent of Americans identifying as Christian, down to 70.6 percent.

“Among respondents who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, fully 41% are religiously unaffiliated, and fewer than half (48%) describe themselves as Christians,” the study finds. “Non-Christian faiths also are represented in the gay community at higher rates than among the general public, with 11% of gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents identifying with faiths other than Christianity.”

Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu mostly compromised the 11 percent of non-Christian faith. Under the 41 percent of religiously unaffiliated, 8 percent identify as atheist, 9 percent as agnostic, and the remaining 24 percent don't identify with any particular label.

The findings could represent a culture shift, says Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian.

“Many people might find that figure surprising, in large part because the majority of LGBT people represented in the media don't identify as Christians,” Vines told The Advocate.

“The 'Christians vs. LGBT people' narrative that we hear so often is part of the story, but as the Pew poll shows, it's not all of it. In fact, it's the 48 percent of LGBT Americans who are Christians who are best positioned to change both religious attitudes about same-sex marriage and secular attitudes about religion. As LGBT Christians continue to find their voice, they'll be changing both their churches and the LGBT community for the better.”

The survey consisted of 35,071 adults, 1,604 of them identifying as LGB. The survey was conducted by telephone, from June 4 to September 30, 2014. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gay conversion therapy began in Australia

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Gay conversion therapy was not an American evangelical import into Australia as has been assumed

With the focus on recent developments in the United States, such as individual states banning ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapies and President Obama also calling for the practice to be banned many people believe the concept to be an American invention.  Apparently, conversion therapy was being practiced in Australia at least seven years before it was formalised in the US when Exodus International was founded in 1976..

Anthony Venn-Brown, founder of Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International, has revealed he was possibly one of the first in the world to go through a formal conversion therapy program living in Sydney in 1972. He detailed the trauma he experienced in a residential program in his autobiography A Life of Unlearning. According to Venn-Brown, it was like a rehabilitation program he entered because they could turn him from gay to straight. 

"Like mental health professionals of the day, the leaders of this program believed I was homosexual because of my upbringing and that I could be cured," Venn-Brown said. 

"In order to become straight, I had to pray a lot, read the bible daily, confess my sin and have demons cast out of me. They went through my wardrobe and took all clothing they believed was 'gay' and made sure I only did 'manly' chores in a concerted effort to masculinise me," Venn-Brown added.

Since 2000, Venn-Brown has worked with hundreds of survivors of ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapies and programs. It began with an online support group he commenced the same year with over four hundred members. 

"It became clear very early in my journey helping survivors, the horrendous damage these programs have caused individuals. I knew it was bad I just didn't realise how bad. Depression, mental health issues, thoughts of suicide as well as attempts were common themes. There are people who have taken their lives because of the shame of their homosexuality and failed attempts to turn from gay to straight." Venn-Brown said.

Venn-Brown says that the recent developments in the US are encouraging but wonders why we have not seen the same thing happen in Australia.

In 2014, the Association of Christian Counsellors in the UK banned the practice of reparative therapy but the Australian Christian Counsellors Association has yet to develop a policy or make a statement. Some Christian counsellors in Australia still believe homosexuality is disordered and can be changed.

Alex Greenwich, member for Sydney, proposed banning reparative therapy in New South Wales in 2013. Venn-Brown lodged a submission to the Inquiry into the promotion of false or misleading health-related information or practices,  detailing his fifteen years experience and observations in this area but nothing has happened since. 

"Whilst I'm glad that ex-gay/reparative/conversion organisations continue to decline in Australia, legal protection for minors against these practices sends the right message. Firstly to LGBT youth that they are accepted and protected. It also sends a clear message to practitioners that their philosophy, that homosexuality is disordered, is archaic and harmful and will not be tolerated in our enlightened and accepting Australian society." Venn-Brown concluded.

Media inquires

Anthony Venn-Brown
Founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI)
Author of 'A Life of Unlearning - A Journey to Find the Truth'
M: +61 (0)416 015 231
E: info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador
Honoured to be voted one of the 25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians (2007 & 2009) and finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award
Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International's mission is to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender, intersex) people, empower community members and build bridges with religious organisations and leaders
For more information on Anthony Venn-Brown's expertise in the ex-gay/reparative/conversion area click here

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

'Religious Freedom' - anti-gay 0r anti-Christian?

3 comments:
I know my bible pretty well. I used to read it for personal devotions from Genesis to Revelation at least once a year for twenty-two years. In addition there’s all the additional study I did as a preacher. So when I read of Christian individuals and organisations refusing service to LGBT because of their Christian 'beliefs', I feel like I need to give them a lesson in Bible 101.

There was a time when LGBT people were forced to live restricted lives as they could lose jobs, housing, and promotions if their orientation was discovered. This fear of loss kept many in the closet, afraid of the consequences of being honest about who they were. But anti-discrimination laws changed in western countries to include sexual orientation along with gender and race.

This has not stopped Christian organisations and individuals from treating LGBT people differently based on their Christian beliefs and then claiming that religious freedom gives them the right to discriminate, "I can't//won't serve you". Let me give some examples. 

In Australia a Christian Brethren owned camp site refuse to take a booking for 'Way Out', a Rural Victorian Youth and Sexual Diversity Project, who'd planned to run a camp for young people experiencing bullying and homophobia. The manager of the camp site said, "Our Christian faith, does not support or include the promotion of homosexuality". 

In the UK, gay couples have been refused accommodation by Christian B & B owners who said, "We are not prepared to have that sort of activity under our roof".

"After Much Prayer" a Christian paediatrician in Michigan refused to treat a lesbian couple's newborn baby.

Where marriage equality has been recognised it has caused even more drama. Gay and lesbian couples planning for that special day are finding that some people won't hire them venues, cater, bake their cakes take photos, print their invitations or sell them flowers. And who is refusing these services? 'Bible believing' Christians in the name of "religious freedom". 

Two weeks ago the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence. This would make it legal for businesses and business owners to choose whom they provide services to based on their religious convictions.  There is only one problem with this; it's not religious freedom, it's anti-Christian. 

Jesus told a story (Luke 10:25-37) 

Actually, he told many. They were called parables and intended to teach a simple but valuable lesson to his followers. Enter the parable of the Good Samaritan. A story that people who went to Sunday school or Christians who read their Bibles are very familiar with.

We'll pick up the story here 
25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
26 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.”
28 “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
29 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbour’?”
30- Jesus answered by telling a story. 

The story is of a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was notoriously dangerous. So much so, that it was known as the "Way of Blood". Like many others, he was attacked, robbed and beaten by thieves and left wounded by the roadside. A priest passes by, sees him, and then crosses to the other side of the road. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoids the injured man making a conscious decision not to help.

The third person to appear is a Samaritan. Yes, that meant they were from a geographical place, Samaria, but it also meant so much more. It's hard for us to comprehend exactly what this meant unless we understand the background and tells us why Jesus chose the Samaritan in this parable. It was not like Sydney versus Melbourne or East Coast versus West Coast rivalry, the word Samaritan was loaded with many centuries of intense religious, tribal, political and ethnic hatred, hostility and bitterness. Samaritans were hated by the Jews even more than their Roman oppressors. A modern day equivalent would be the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Ireland or the constant conflict between Sunnie and Shiite Muslims. So intense was the Jews hatred of the Samaritans that they would add miles and miles to their journeys in order to completely avoid going through the area and having any contact with them. The Jews referred to Samaritans as “dogs” and “half-breeds”. 

The first two men who passed by were just like Jesus' audience and also like the religious scholar who stood up with a question to test Him. It was the despised Samaritan man who took the beaten man, tendered to his wounds, found him lodging to recuperate and covered ongoing expenses. The parable must have made it decidedly uncomfortable for the self-righteous Jewish leaders.

Jesus then asks 36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers?” 37 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religious scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” 

The message is clear. The first two religious passer-by's had the opportunity to demonstrate "love your neighbour as well as you do yourself” but chose to reject the opportunity. The radical "Christian love" that Jesus talked about in this story means treating others with kindness and respect and helping them when they needed it. Baking a cake for their wedding is not a huge ask.

I'm not sure how any Christian can read this well-known parable and then cry “I want "religious freedom" so I can walk away. Because of my beliefs I can't hire you a venue, cater for your wedding, bake your cake, take photos, print your invitations or do your flowers”.

Jesus also said some other things against this interpretation of "religious freedom". Rather, he said that true religious freedom is being an exceptional human being that does the unexpected. 

"If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well". 

"Give to everyone who asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back. Do for others just what you want them to do for you". 

One last thing. 

In Galatians 5:22-23 Christian's are encouraged to be filled with God's Spirit and then their lives will demonstrate the character of God. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these". 

Love, kindness, goodness and humility NOT rejection, nastiness, self-righteousness, arrogance.

If marriage equality has created anything, it has created another opportunity for Christians to actually BE Christians and embody the true meaning of the Christian message. When beliefs trump simply loving others then the essence of true Christianity has been lost. 

Some additional thoughts 

Are gay people being too precious? 

"What's the fuss" some say. "Surely you'd just go to another baker. If you know some business will discriminate against you why would you go there."

The problem with this is that in all these cases the gay couple had no idea of the vendors beliefs, just the service they provided. Had they known, they may or may not have used their services. I think we need to put ourselves in the gay couples shoes for a moment. Unless you've experienced being rejected like this you may not have an understanding of what it's really like.

You're planning a very special day. You're in love. You're excited. You go to the service provider to discuss your plans. Then they dropped the bombshell. "Sorry I can't provide those services because I'm a Christian and therefore I can't bake your cake is that would mean I am approving of your lifestyle". .....or words to that effect.

 How does it make you feel to have someone say that to you? This may also have been said so that others around overheard.

Do the gay couple smile politely and say thanks for letting us know then leave?

At that moment you feel many things. Humiliated. Embarrassed. Crushed. Shamed. Mortified. Rejected. Angry. Lots of emotions. And what some people forget is that experiences like this can trigger past hurt and trauma for LGBT people. Most gay and lesbian people have experienced the pain of rejection in their lives. Some many times. Some of us have been rejected by our churches, Christian friends and family. It's painful. It hurts.

Subjecting gay and lesbian people to further experiences of rejection and trauma is cruel. Legislation to make it legal is not in the spirit of the law which is designed to protect not harm isn't it?. 

Will you serve me I'm gay? 

If religious freedom laws are introduced then it gives people the right to discriminate. I don’t believe that gay and lesbian people should have to go around asking businesses and business owners the ridiculous question "Will you serve me/can I purchase your goods/services I'm gay?' 

Maybe the solution would be for Christian businesses and business owners to have large signs in their premises saying "We are Christians. Because of our Christian beliefs we don't serve members of the LGBT community". Signs like these used to be in shops like "No coloured served here". Of course this is also ridiculous. I also doubt they'd be willing to do it as it that would mean that family and friends of LGBT people would also walk out and therefore they'd lose more business. 

This religious freedom thing is hypocritical. 

Let's take the example of the cake baker. Do they question every person who wants them to bake a cake for their wedding and ask them questions like. "Are you both virgins? Have you been living together before you get married?". No they don't. Why? Because it's rude and actually none of their business. But yet it IS against their Christian beliefs that say no sex outside of marriage.  They bake the cake without so much of blink of the eye or a twinge of conscience. This is hypocritical to target just one group of people who don't fit into your belief system and conveniently ignore the rest. It is most likely more about a homophobic attitude than a Christian belief.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia's foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His autobiography  '"A Life of Unlearnin - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith", detailing his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man, has impacted 1,000';s globally.  Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Gay Males from Christian backgrounds - fragmented, conforming or integrated

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Here is my observation of the processes gay males from Christian backgrounds often go through. From fragmentation to conforming to integration.

Our real self is the gay self. We may have turned to Christianity because of our homosexuality or discovered it growing up as Christian young men. Dark, negative beliefs and identity get attached to the gay self, because all we've ever heard about being gay was that it was evil, against God's will and an abomination.

Another part of our real self is our personal value system. These include things like love, respect, integrity, trust, honesty etc. We have been told, and believed, that these are Christian values. But they are actually fundamental human values – non-religious people have the same values.

We develop strategies to deal with this internal struggle with the gay self. Compartmentalizing parts of our lives is one method. The Christian self is the one people see which is generally happy, speaks christianese, worships, serves etc. The gay self is perceived as the dark side. We hide our real selves in a secret closet with the door tightly locked and sealed by fear, shame and guilt. This dark self can create unhealthy behaviours, addictions and obsessions and we will allow the dark gay self to do things the Christian self would be horrified to engage in. 

We have been at war with ourselves. At times investing enormous amounts of time and energy destroying the gay self. Eventually this internal battle becomes too much. Feeling torn and fragmented we break out to become our true selves. For some people, depending on several factors, this doesn't happen until their 40’s, 50’s even 60’s. 

We don’t come out clean though. The gay self has been scared with false perceptions. Not only by experience but also by the years of negative conditioning. All we have ever heard or read about is the supposed "gay lifestyle" that it is hedonistic with endless sexual encounters etc. Many a young Christian man has fallen into the trap of thinking for them to be gay this is the way they have to live and, when they accepted their sexuality, headed straight to the "gay scene". They live the "lifestyle". 

So essentially, they have spent their entire lives conforming. Firstly, to how the church told them they should live as Christian to now confirming to a gay stereotype. But they are still not being themselves. 

What about their personal values? Often their new gay identity is in conflict or disharmonious with their values.

For many this can take years to sort out until they realise that they can live by personal choice and don’t have to conform.

Some work it out, create the life they have really chosen and gather around them a tribe of like-minded and like-valued people. Finally there is an alignment with their gay self and their personal values.

What happens to the rest of them? They have shifted to a new place of bitterness and resentment. Once bitter about their church experience they are now also bitter about the gay world because it didn't give them what they were "promised" or looking for. Disillusioned once again by a false hope that conformity would bring them acceptance and happiness.

© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. His autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.


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