Southern Baptists Recently Hired Strategist to Promote the Message that Gays Must Change
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 7, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
(Nashville, TN) — Yesterday, two survivors of "ex-gay" ministries and counseling — Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle — traveled to the Southern Baptist Convention offices to speak out about the emotional, financial, and spiritual harm caused by the message that lesbians and gays should change or suppress their sexual orientation. They told their stories in the shadow of a statue of Billy Graham and then walked to the church’s Lifeway publishing arm to present framed collages depicting their experiences.
To see video of this action, go to: www.soulforce.org/article/1291
Bakke and Bogle’s message was aimed at Bob Stith, the Texas pastor who was recently hired to serve as the Southern Baptists’ "national strategist for gender issues." The new position is designed to promote "ex-gay" ministries — programs that promise to help gays and lesbians change their sexual orientation — within Southern Baptist congregations.
Although ex-gay ministries teach that gays should change or suppress their sexual orientation in order to be acceptable to God, Stith has said that "we should reach out to them [gays and lesbians] with compassion." Given Stith’s compassion, Bakke and Bogle were hopeful that he would be moved by their stories about the psychological and spiritual damage caused by ex-gay ministries.
During the five years that she sought to change her sexual orientation through prayer, support groups, and counseling, Bakke sought Stith’s counsel via email, and the two maintained an on-going correspondence. In 2003, she realized that, while she had changed in many areas, her sexual orientation remained the same.
Then she had to deal with the emotional and spiritual damage caused by her attempts to change.
"I felt that I was worth less than other Christians, merely because they were straight," said Bakke. "I felt overwhelming shame and hopelessness because of being a failure."
"I felt betrayed by the knowledge that many of the people who had talked about change actually meant a change in their behavior but not in their orientation. They were still attracted to the same sex, but this was never mentioned in the advertising or testimonies."
Bogle, a former evangelical minister and ex-gay leader, was once featured in ex-gay advertising and touted as a "success" story–until 1990, when she met and fell in love with her future partner.
Yesterday, Bogle spoke of how the church’s stance on gays and lesbians ironically divides families. Before she died in 2005, Bogle’s partner lived in fear that her Southern Baptist family would reject her if they knew her sexual orientation.
Bakke and Bogle are speaking out as part of the Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative, a national campaign to share the stories of "Ex-gay Survivors" — men and women who feel that ex-gay messages and programs did them more harm than good. To date, similar actions have occurred in Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, and Memphis.
"Across the country, the voices of ex-gay survivors are having an impact," said Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director. "Their stories educate the public and help them understand the tremendous human costs of ex-gay ministries and therapies."
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.