SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 16, 2007
For Immediate Release
U.S. Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Australian Contact: Anthony Venn-Brown
Cell: +61 416 015 231
(Austin, TX) — Former "ex-gay" leaders in Australia have added their voices to a public apology for "the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith" caused by the message that gays and lesbians must change or suppress their sexual orientation in order to be good Christians.
On June 27, 2007, Soulforce and beyondexgay.com brought together former ex-gay leaders from the U.S. and U.K. to issue a public apology for their prior involvement in providing and promoting ex-gay conversion therapy. As part of their apology, Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks appealed to other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to the apology.
Inspired by this historic statement, Vonnie Pitts, Wendy Lawson, and Kim Brett — all former leaders of Australian ex-gay ministries–have come forward to confirm with their American and British counterparts that ex-gay ministries cause more harm than good.
"There has been an increasing uneasiness in me since 2005 that what I was teaching was harmful to people," says Kim Brett, who founded an ex-gay program that was affiliated with Exodus and Living Waters, two U.S. ex-gay groups. "I became tired and ill at ease with always feeling that this part of my life and others attending the group were broken and in need of fixing."
Wendy Lawson, former leader of an ex-gay group in Melbourne, emphasized the personal psychological impact of the ex-gay message:
"I suffered torment and huge anxiety all muddied by confusion and constant failure during the Exodus years. For me the most traumatic outcome was my personal sense of failure as a Christian and not being accepted as a part of the church family I loved," says Lawson.
Vonnie Pitts was a heterosexual church leader who organized an ex-gay support group in the Sydney area. Although her group members were dedicated and determined, she did not witness the changes in orientation promised by the group’s curriculum, which was adopted from the Missouri-based Living Waters ministry.
"If I were to see any of the people that I took through the Living Waters program again, I would say ‘I’m sorry.’ My intentions were to help you through your struggle, but I acted in ignorance," says Pitts.
The Australian former ex-gay leaders were organized by Anthony Venn-Brown, who attended Australia’s first ex-gay program in 1972 and spent the next 22 years attempting to suppress and change his sexuality. During that time he married and became a national Christian leader in Australia through the Assemblies of God Church. Through his own experiences, Venn-Brown eventually came to realize that the ex-gay message created trauma rather than freedom. He narrates this journey in the recently published book, A Life of Unlearning — A Journey to Find the Truth (New Holland Publishers) and will share some of his story on 60 Minutes in Australia on Sunday August 19, 2007.
Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.