"In 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as
a spokesman for the "ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the
decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay”
and I no longer support or promote the movement. I do not believe that
reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to
am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. From
the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that
caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to
extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by
"I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men,
women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed
or thrown away by God or the church. "
"This is a life transition that has been and will continue
to be, challenging. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come
from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my
public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I
eagerly anticipate giving back to the community."
".. there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out
there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote
about my journey….. I don’t get any royalties from these publications ….I discourage anyone
from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because
they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today."
above are from John Paulk's recently
was a former poster boy of the "ex-gay/conversion therapy" movement.
He worked for James Dobson's Focus on the Family, on the board of Exodus (the
umbrella organization for ex-gay ministries globally) and spoke regularly at their
"Love Won Out" conferences. One of his biggest claims to fame was his
appearance on the cover of Newsweek in 1998 with wife Anne.
this came crashing down in 2000 when John was caught in a gay bar, Mr P's, in
Washington DC. Wayne Besen caught John on camera as he was escaping realizing
that he'd been exposed. That now famous image appeared on the cover of Wayne's
exposé of the ex-gay movement, "Anything But Straight".
transpired after that was a series of questionable excuses as to why he'd
entered the establishment - including to use the bathroom. But John did step
down from his positions in these ministries and with his wife Anne moved to
another state to live a secular life and run a catering business.
didn't stop people around the world touting John and Anne's story as an ex-gay
"success" story. Even here in Australia as late as 2004 the Australian
Prayer Newsletter was quoting John.
of the most divisive issues in the church and society today is homosexual
orientation. Are people born gay? Is it possible to change? Focus on the Family
tackled this topic at its Love Won Out conference in Washington, D.C. “We are motivated out of concern for those
who feel trapped by homosexuality,” says John Paulk, a former homosexual
who hosted the one-day conference. “Contrary
to popular opinion, many people struggle with unwanted homosexuality and do not
know that change is possible. This conference is a place for them to find the
help and hope that I and thousands of other men and women have found.”
decade later John reappears with a very different message. I wonder if the
Australian Prayer Newsletter will report on John's genuine apology and his
change in perspective. Most likely, if they report on it, they will put their
own spin on it…that he has given into "sin" as some Christian
organizations did with my story.
this is a reappearance by John, but others of us have known that his journey
was far from over. Out of the "ex-gay" spotlight, there were some
realities John was facing.
largest closet in the world is the "ex-gay" closet
statement we have heard over and over again is that 1,000's have left the "homosexual lifestyle". Claims have even been made that there are 100,000's. But we have
never been able to find these 1,000's of people or are they too afraid to come
out as "ex-gay"?
Statements about large numbers "leaving homosexuality" have
been boldly declared regularly by religious leaders and organizations such as
Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Exodus, Charisma Magazine, Frank
Worthen - Love in Action, Parents and Friend of Ex-gay (PFOX) – to name a
Here in Australia the same claims have been made by Rev
Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party, Bill
Brookman – Living Waters, Peter
Stokes – Salt Shakers and Margaret
have been exiting the "ex-gay" closet by the back door for decades as
they come out in their 40's, 50's and even 60's; finally admitting that nothing
ever changed and they have accepted the fact that they have always been and
always will be gay. But it is public declarations made by high profile people like John Paulk that
cause the "ex-gay' tent to deflate the most. Others have included people such
Bussee (one of the founders of Exodus), John
Smid former Director of the ex-gay residential program Love in Action and
Exodus's current leader Alan
Chambers admitting that 99.9% of people he'd met had never changed their
same thing has been happening in Australia with former
"ex-gay" leaders for some time.
We are witnessing
something many people believed impossible - the collapse of a movement and belief
system that, for four decades, has declared homosexuality is a sin, choice and
can be changed. HALLELUJAH!
to John Paulk's Apology
been around long enough to know that the responses will be varied.
John you may have played closet
hokey pokey. You may have been a situational heterosexual but now you have found the truth and have taken the brave step
to be honest with yourself and the world. Thanks.
will be hurt and angry. Considering the hurt,
trauma and wasted years that many have experienced believing the ex-gay
message, this is understandable.
will think it is completely irrelevant – who
- Others will view it with
suspicion and skepticism.
will attack John - as is happening already on some both Christian and LGBT websites
and forums calling him a hypocrite and fraud.
- Others of us will say "Welcome
home John….you must be tired…it's been a long journey that has often taken you to dark places…..we've been waiting for
you. Sit here Rest a while. Be at peace". We will say this
because we have travelled a similar journey. We know the twists and turns and cliff ledges where we nearly lost our footing. We
know the pressures. No one can predict how long a person's journey to
authenticity will take or even if they will make it through – there are too many variables. If and when they do find that place of honesty and authenticity we should be grateful and applaud.
I look forward to seeing where this new journey takes you. I
have no doubt it will be redemptive.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
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 director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
Labels: apology, ex-gay, exodus, former ex-gay leader, john paulk, LGBT apology