Former "Ex-Gay" Leaders in Australia Apologize, Claim That Ex-Gay Conversion Does More Harm Than Good

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 16, 2007
For Immediate Release
U.S. Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
Australian Contact: Anthony Venn-Brown
Cell: +61 416 015 231
anthony@anthonyvennbrown.com
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(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.

Pictures and complete text of the Australian leaders’ statements are available at www.soulforce.org/article/1295 and www.beyondexgay.com/article/apology2.

"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.

Australia’s Former Ex-Gay Leaders Speak

Wendy Lawson

Former Exodus Leader – Melbourne

Wendy LawsonAs a mature adult and mother of four, my Christian experience was very important to me. Not only did I attend Sunday services, I taught Sunday school, lead the Wednesday evening Bible study series, and also went to Tuesday prayer meetings. Somehow keeping busy and trying to please my husband kept me from coming to terms with other evolving emotions that I hadn’t time to explore or understand. Eventually, however, I could no longer hide from them.

When it became obvious to me that my "natural desire" was not for my husband but was for a woman, I felt trapped and hopeless. I sought out any information that I could find that might be helpful. I came across an ex-gay ministry called Exodus. I joined Exodus as a Christian wanting to change her sexual orientation. I enjoyed meeting others who were battling with the same demons as myself. Somehow I didn’t feel quite so alone.

After about twelve months I was nominated as leader of this small group of about fifteen individuals. We met weekly for prayer, discussion and support. I travelled overseas to America to interview Elizabeth Moberley, a scholar and academic who suggested that legitimate same sex affection would provide a passage out of homosexuality. Over the next three years, I continued to teach, study and practice "legitimate, non-sexual same sex affection." However, it soon became clear to me that my homosexual drive was not decreasing and I was not getting any closer to becoming heterosexual.

After four years I decided that the truth for me was that I stop hiding and accept my homosexual self. Having assistant pastor status with my church, I knew I had to tell them my decision. They felt that I could no longer continue in ministry, and I was asked to step down.

Today, more than fifteen years after I stepped down from leadership of the ex-gay ministry, I have come to know that nearly every member of that group is now living their lives openly as a homosexual person (twenty people). I am only aware of one member who married and who would say that they are pleased not to be gay but to be living in a heterosexual relationship. They have been married for five years. It is also my understanding that they have not disclosed their former struggles with their partner.

Although I valued the support and friendship of the Exodus members (many are among my closest friends today) 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.

On April 14, 2007, my long time partner and I were married at Colchester Registry Office in the UK. This wedding celebrated who we are and our love and commitment for each other. For the first time in my adult life I felt valued for being me and thrilled to at last find a legitimate home amongst my family and friends for my partner and myself.

I believe that my Heavenly Father is also pleased and relieved on our behalf. It is my sincere belief that Scripture points out that God is Love and God is Truth. The Truth shall set you free it says. Being true to my sexual orientation is freeing, and I no longer struggle with anxiety, depression, confusion and sexual dysphoria!

When one is at home with one’s sexual self and this causes no one any harm and is considerate and respectful, this is love.


Kim Brett

Former Exodus Associate and Former Leader Living Waters and Liberty Inc. – Brisbane

Kim BrettI was born-again at twenty which marked the beginning of my church teaching that same-sex relationships were wrong. I wrestled with the issue of sexuality and my faith, and the Church’s approach to people in my situation. I threw myself into Church life, looking for solutions and answers, just to find the attitude ‘Heterosexuality is what has to be’, without the practical help that brings healing to the person.

My now partner once commented how life as a gay Christian seeking re-orientation was like living in a cemetery waiting to die – this explained exactly how I felt. I had resigned myself to a life of chastity and obedience as re-orientation had never occurred for me and celibacy was my only option. My life had become shallow, small and empty.

My desire has been to support women who wish to live by their Christian convictions, not just aiming for validation by being ‘heterosexual’. In 2003 I co-founded an ex-gay group (YANA) for Christian women who were dealing with same-sex and relationship concerns. I have been involved with Living Waters, an ex-gay ministry (Liberty Inc) and Exodus. I was also on the leadership team of a street work ministry for 7 years.

There had been an increasing uneasiness in me since 2005 that what I was teaching was harmful to people. I had become tired and ill-at-ease with always feeling that this part of my life and others attending the group (same-sex orientated) is broken and in need of fixing. For a long time I had been witnessing peoples (and my own) growing frustration that no matter how repentant, prayerful and committed we all were to living a life as an ex-gay Christian, the changes we all sought and were taught possible never really materialised for most. Some people I knew were married and had married but most seemed to still be dealing with homosexual feelings.

Depression, anxiety, loneliness and inner turmoil were our constant companions because as seen through the eyes of many churches, our ‘failure’ to change equated with somehow not having enough faith, not being a ‘true’ Christian or having a demonic influence.

I do feel that there was benefit in attending some ex-gay groups in that as we journeyed together Christian maturity and personal growth was evident – I consider this is a consequence of any loving Christian group. The people I have journeyed with are the most dedicated and courageous people I have ever met. I pray God will lead us all to freedom and truth in Christ.

In summary, life has changed dramatically for me since being confronted so profoundly over the previous years. I have closed the women’s group. I have resigned from all involvement in ex-gay ministries. I have commenced a relationship with a wonderful Christian woman. I am allowing myself the time and space to investigate other thoughts relating to being gay and Christian. After nearly thirty years of torment I am finally learning to rest from fixing my sexuality and past. Above all, I am endeavouring to adopt a simple faith that I once held dear and that is Jesus’ words that say "Come follow me".

I would like to make it known that I respect and appreciate all the leaders and volunteers involved in the ex-gay ministries I have been associated with. They too are genuine and loving Christians living by their convictions. For me though, because of my own present journey I can no longer be involved with them out of respect for their ministries and their beliefs regarding homosexuality.


Vonnie Pitts (Veronica Canning)

Former Leader Living Waters and Former Pastor Christian City Church – Sydney

Veronica CanningI first heard of the Living Waters ex-gay program in early 1991. As a pastor on the leadership team of Christian City Church in Brookvale, I arranged to set up the program in our church to help those struggling with homosexuality. As heterosexuals, myself and two other pastors from the church spent four months going through the tapes and manual provided in order to be trained. We then took three lesbians and two gay men through the program over a six-month period. It was quite intense. I supported them in their struggles and as we worked through the teaching, we believed they had honestly tried very hard to come out the other end straight. When we reached the final week I asked the girls what they felt had been achieved. None of them felt the program had changed their sexual orientation. The guys who were working the program finished with similar results.

We looked at additional resources like Elijah House Counselling as a way of bringing more healing into the Living Waters Program. There were many at Christian City Church who heard about the program and wanted to join, but I was already beginning to have serious doubts about the program’s success. It became apparent that anyone who claimed to be "cured" had just gone into denial about his or her sexuality.

At this time, I began my own research into the causes of homosexuality and found there was mounting evidence that sexual orientation is determined in the womb. Now I have absolutely no doubt that homosexuals are born gay and don’t need to change. 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.

Soulforce Responds to Cancellation of Gay Navy Vet’s Memorial

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 13, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Arlington, TX) –Last week High Point Church, a nondenominational megachurch, canceled a memorial service for Navy veteran Cecil Howard Sinclair because the deceased was gay. According to the Dallas Morning News, High Point’s pastor defended the decision to cancel on Sinclair’s grieving family a mere 24 hours in advance, saying that the church "cannot glorify homosexuality as a lifestyle."

Statement from Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director

"Many of America’s megachurches and emerging evangelical leaders have become more politically sophisticated and have toned down the antigay rhetoric that emanates from the pulpit. But this shameful action by High Point Church demonstrates that their toxic theology is often no different than that espoused by Dobson, Robertson, and the late Jerry Falwell.

I hope this incident will inspire some much-needed national reflection about the dangers of religion-based bigotry. We should stop giving churches a pass when they preach God’s unconditional love and then ask gay and lesbian members to suppress an integral part of themselves in order to be worthy of that love."

Statement from Chaplain (Col.) Paul Dodd (Ret.), Soulforce volunteer

"Not long ago, the governor of Texas told gay veterans to go live elsewhere if they want to get married. Now, fundamentalist leaders are telling a grieving family that they must ‘go elsewhere’ if they want to remember and honor their son, a gay veteran. I call on the fair-minded people of Texas to cry out for justice and make it clear that love and compassion must always triumph over religion-based bigotry – every single time."


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.

Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative Visits Southern Baptists to Speak Out about the Dangers of "Ex-gay" Ministries: Video Online

Southern Baptists Recently Hired Strategist to Promote the Message that Gays Must Change

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 7, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(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.

Soulforce Q Right to Marry Campaign Concludes after Inspiring Citizens Across New York State

Youth Activists Look to the Future

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 1, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, Soulforce Q Co-Director
Cell: 469-867-5725
haven@soulforce.org
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(New York, NY) — On Friday, July 28, the young adults of Soulforce Q completed their Right to Marry campaign, a two-week tour to connect with New Yorkers and their legislators on the issue of marriage equality.

The tour, which criss-crossed the state on four separate routes, ended with a debriefing in New York City, where the youth recalled the many fair-minded citizens and legislators who were impacted by personal conversations with the young equality advocates.

"We have learned how to temper the natural assets of youth–earnestness, idealism, and personal witness–with the data and political astuteness that makes this conversation effective with lawmakers," said Haven Herrin, one of the campaign co-directors.

The youth were joined at the debriefing by Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of the Freedom to Marry coalition, who listened and asked questions about their experiences speaking with the people of New York state.

"The energy and tenacity of Soulforce’s Right to Marry Riders are wonderful, and a true inspiration," said Wolfson. "I am grateful for the way these young people are reaching people heart to heart, helping them push past their discomfort and rise to fairness, through conversational engagement with people where they live."

For the thirty-two young people who set out to have conversations across the state, one of the highlights was visiting legislators’ offices side by side with Madeline Davis, founder of the Buffalo Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives and, in 1972, the first out lesbian to serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

The Right to Marry campaign utilized a variety of creative methods to communicate the moral necessity of marriage equality. On a visit to the office of Senator Andrea Stuart-Cousins, the young adults brought the senator a cupcake to represent civil unions and an entire wedding cake to represent the 1,342 rights and responsibilities associated with civil marriage in New York State. Stuart-Cousins surprised the visitors by indicating that she had decided to become an official co-sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the state Senate.

However, in their quest to speak with citizens and decision makers, the young adults were not universally welcomed. When Senator Ruben Diaz refused to schedule a meeting or to allow his staff to discuss marriage equality, Right to Marry participants used a sit-in in his Bronx office as a means to extend peaceful civic discourse.

The campaign also included meetings with religious communities, including an hour-long forum at Long Island Community Fellowship church, where participants examined the role of the church in social justice movements and the role of young adults in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement.

"The opportunity to spend the past several days with the Soulforce’s Right to Marry Team was eye opening," said Pastor Shane Hibbs. "It is an experience which calls all religious persons from a faith of words to a faith in action. It challenges a complacent nature which is satisfied with the sameness of yesterday to a vibrant vigor hope of tomorrow."


Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance.