Monday, October 20, 2014

The Roman Catholic and Hillsong Church Homosexual Dance

In an extraordinary week, both the Catholic Church and Hillsong appeared to be making progress re their attitude, if not their beliefs, about LGBT people.

It's a dance. Two steps forward one back. 

Roman Catholic Church

Hillsong Church

This is not an uncommon process. Some of you might remember the farce with World Vision earlier this year. Sadly the march to progress is never a straight line.

Dragging an entrenched religious belief systems into the realities of the 21st century is like trying to turn a huge ocean container ship. No one moves from anti-gay to gay affirming in one step. There is actually a process of seven steps.

Some denominations have taken this journey and are at the final stage in the process which is advocacy. Some are stuck in stage one.

As I said to a megachurch pastor a couple of years ago "The question is not if you will change but when  will you change"

As we have seen with other societal consciousness shifts in equality, such as the right for women to vote or equal rights for people of colour, once the question is asked, the course is set for an inevitable outcome.

The world has changed. Gay and lesbian people exist. Some have a Christian faith and many have created families. The ideal of one man, one woman together for life is the exception not the rule in our world of modern families and never will be again.

But if churches don't face the realities of life in the 21st century they will slip off the horizon of irrelevancy and The Gulf Factor I wrote about concerning the closure of Exodus will come into play.

The dance continues..........but

What many church leaders fail to realise is that when they backflip because of a conservative backlash it has tragic consequences. The hopes of LGBT people are initially raised. Then the step backward becomes another kick in the guts to LGBT people who've experienced abuse and are still living with wounds inflicted by the church and Christians. It hurts deeply. It creates a bigger gulf, turns more people away and sets the conversation backwards. To say nothing of the impact on those who love and support their LGBT friends and family.

This week, once again, has been a clear example of why Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International church consultancy work is so vital.
© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, 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’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and  was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


8.   The midlife factor

Yep..... something I think many people have missed is possible the influence of midlife I believe. Maybe I'm more aware of this than others are because it happened to me like clockwork and I've worked one on one with so many who are in midlife facing similar issues. Coming up to my 40th birthday something was happening. A shift. It wasn't pleasant. Midlife is a transition where, particularly for men, many things have to be faced. One of those is unresolved issues and that some things you dreamed were going to happen may never become a reality. At 40, I faced the reality that I was, am and always will be gay. As a high profile preacher, married with two children facing this reality had enormous challenges, as you can no doubt imagine. Those who don't face up to what comes up at midlife are plagued with it for the rest of their lives. If they are not conscious of what is going in then they slip into midlife crisis mode.


7.   The evolving faith factor

People in evangelical/Pentecostal circles have a strongly biblically based faith. This type of theology has been at the core of the ex-gay movement and you'll often find it clearly stated on ex-gay websites. An evangelical/Pentecostal faith is all very neat and tidy. It's black and white. There are no arguments. No wiggle room. Doubts and questions are not encouraged. I remember well the slogan, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it".

The problem with this kind of theology/faith is it doesn't take into account interpretation of what God "said". Not only has Christianity been smashed into 1,000's of denominational pieces because of interpretation, it happens within denominations as well. Do you know how many breeds of Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Pentecostals there are in each of those groups? Each one believing they are right, which of course makes the other wrong, in error or apostasy because they have strayed from "the truth".

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


6.   The listening factor

If people are going to reach out to dialogue there has to be a willingness on the other part to engage. Of course their willingness to listen depends largely on the approach and the language used to reach out. No one is going to engage if they are attacked and the language consistently accusatory or defamatory. I don’t bother with emails or people like that myself. Alan's words in his response during our interview probably sums it as well as anything. When I asked him the question "I’m here, and you said ‘I’d love you to come,’ so that’s probably intriguing for a lot of people as to why would you want Anthony Venn-Brown to be attending that conference and so what was all that about?" 


5.   The bridge building factor

When I first wrote briefly in my newsletter about being at the Exodus Conference and the 37 year old organisation was closing a lovely person responded via email saying "Thank you.......etc etc". I laughed aloud. Oh dear, this person was under the allusion that somehow, singlehandedly, I had managed to bring the world's largest ex-gay organisation to a grinding halt. I replied thanking them for their gratitude but that I was a very very small cog in the wheel. Others have been far more influential in the long saga.

Monday, September 08, 2014


4.   The honesty factor

Azariah Southworth, Christian TV host, like many, paid a high price for his honesty
Yes, simple honesty contributed to this tipping point. The message for decades was "Change is Possible". The goal of people who sort out ex-gay organisations was always to rid themselves of homosexuality and become heterosexual/'normal'.  Even though some groups and leaders profess today that heterosexuality is not the goal they still constantly refer to now being married and fathered children......thus setting up a false hope.

Alan Chambers was once of these people. "Our organization hears from thousands of teens and young adults each year who are desperate for information and resources beyond the one-sided 'born-gay' message that saturates our culture".

In a written testimony he said, "In 1998 my ultimate earthly dream came true when I married my best friend. My wife, Leslie, is the embodiment of all I consider to be godly, pure and beautiful. She is not my diploma for healing, nor is she proof that I have changed."

Alan like many others in Australia like Rev Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party, Bill Muehlenberg, Ron Brookman – Living Waters, Peter Stokes – Salt Shakers and Margaret Court repeatedly have told us about the 1,000's of people who had left the "homosexual lifestyle" and were now married.

First it was 1,000's then 10,000's

Thursday, August 28, 2014


3. The internet factor

The influence of the internet to gain information and connect people cannot be overestimated re the downfall of Exodus. 
When I resigned from the ministry and came out in 1992 internet usage was in its infancy and not the commonplace entity it is today. I am a little embarrassed to say that for years, I really believed that I was probably the only Pentecostal minister in the entire world who had resigned because he couldn't "overcome" his homosexuality. It wasn't until after 1996 when was launched and I joined the internet that I actually found someone just like me. Searching various criteria on PlanetOut I found an African American Pentecostal preacher who was gay ....and out. I was over the moon. Then I found Jallen Rix, the first former ex-gay person I'd ever met. Talking with others who had similar experiences was reassuring. No longer did I feel so alone or like I was a freak.  Probably a similar feeling that young people got when they finally connected with an ex-gay group (point 1 in this article).

During the 70's 80's and 90;s, before the internet, where did the 1,000's of gay men and women who'd "failed" and left ex-gay programs and anti-gay churches go? They went into another closet. 

A few found love like Michael Bussee and Gay Cooper (Exodus originals) Love changes everything. Those who found love realised that their homosexuality was not a sin but an orientation which created the most beautiful human experiences of love, intimacy, affection and finding a partner for life. Others left the ex-gay programs with an even greater sense of failure and shame. Years of conditioned internalised homophobia continued to play out in self destructive behaviours. They had been told for years about the "homosexual lifestyle" and assumed this was how they should live once they accepted being gay so went straight to the tip of the iceberg. Many had been traumatised and developed mental health issues like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To go back to these experiences reminded them of the pain of some of the darkest days of their lives so they just kept quiet. Some just wanted to move on and forget about it.. For others it all became too much. They'd failed to become straight, rejected by family and friends, disillusioned by their experiences in the tip of the iceberg; they choose suicide. The horrendous toll that ex-gay thinking and organisations have had on individuals lives can never be fully documented.


2. The gulf factor

Born in 1951, I grew up in a generation when racial slurs and sexist jokes and poking fun at people with disabilities were commonplace and accepted. No longer would anyone dare say something like "A woman's place in the home" Imagine the outcry, because we know these things are completely inappropriate in this day. But once, it was the common belief. A racial slur can get you sent off the playing field or straight to the Human Resources manager. It is not tolerated in a civilized society, workplace of sporting arena. Our society says you can't discriminate and there are laws to penalize you if you do. We are a better and fairer society for dismantling prejudice and bigotry and creating equality.


In Malcolm Gladwell bestselling book, "The Tipping Point", he describes several key factors that, put together, create the phenomena of a shift in consciousness and/or society. 

Exodus closing was not an insignificant event. It is/was a tipping point.  For LGBT people, the Stonewall riots in 1969 were a tipping point. The major factor that created this was that the harassment and oppression had gone on for too long and it ignited anger and rage in the gay men, lesbians and drag queens. The riots that spilled over to several nights on the streets of Greenwich Village, New York have been seen by many as the birth of the gay rights movement. We are still feeling the impacts of that event over four decades later. President Obama's declaration in 2012, that he supported same sex couples getting married was a tipping point. The graph below demonstrates the impacts of this.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vote on your favourite cover for "A Life of Unlearning" reprint.

After selling out twice, Anthony Venn-Brown's best selling autobiography "A Life of Unlearning" will soon be available again. 

This time it will be available not only in hard copy but also eBooks and Kindle. Please vote on the cover you like the most. Make sure you are on the newsletter list to hear about the release and special offers. Subscribe here

To Vote
Scroll through 4 options below. Select your choice in the drop down box at the top and hit Submit at the bottom.