A Life of Unlearning
A preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith
We are all living a life of unlearning: unlearning things we accepted as truth but created a persona so unlike who we really are. Eventually cracks appear and beliefs challenged.
On the surface everything looked perfect. Anthony Venn-Brown was a happily married father-of-two and a popular preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches such as Hillsong. Behind the scenes he fought a constant battle to conform, believing his homosexuality made him unacceptable to God and others. After twenty-two years of struggle and torment, a chance meeting forced Anthony to make the toughest decision of his life; maintain the façade he had created or, be true to himself and lose it all. Tired of feeling torn and fragmented, he confessed and came out. The results of that confession took him on a lonely journey that made him who he is today.
This sometimes brutally honest account highlights not only the costs of being true to yourself but that the rewards of resolution and integrity are worth the struggle.
As Anthony’s story is ultimately about being true to one’s self, gay, straight, Christian and non-faith people have found relevance in this triumphant autobiography.
The first and second editions sold out. New revised edition has now been released.
“Human stories, like the one in these pages, play a part in advancing understanding and acceptance. It is the story of a quest to find not only self-acceptance but one of the most powerful forces in nature—human love..”
– Foreword by the Hon. Michael Kirby
“Anthony shares his life with us with all the colour that a story-telling evangelist can capture. The honesty of his story is compelling . Anthony doesn’t claim to be ‘right’, he simply tells his story. You can’t argue with it. It is neither right nor wrong, it simply is. His story faces the hard issues, HIV/AIDS, Suicide, Sexual Assault, Relationships, Marriage, Parenting, Domestic Violence, Loneliness, Guilt, Shame, Rejection, Love and Sex. He has nothing to hide and it is refreshing. I recommend this book as a non-threatening way to understand and process the issues of sexuality and spirituality; however, I can’t say you may not experience discomfort as the honesty in these pages invites you to be honest in your own life. Read it if you dare.”
– Dr Wendell Rosevear – O.A.M., M.B.,B.S., Dip. RACOG., FRACGP.
“There is scarcely a page that does not engage you personally… nothing is held back. Some will find Anthony’s story disturbing and confrontational and others will find it liberating and an example of the triumph of the individual human spirit. For those who want to understand human frailty, courage and personal redemption it is an invaluable resource. I highly recommend it.”
– Roger Fedyk – Sydney Morning Herald – Margo Kingston’s Webdairy
“Ultimately, as the theme that emerges is about being true to yourself, ‘A Life of Unlearning’ should be compulsory reading for every man, woman and child in Australia, whether gay or straight, young or old, religious or non-religious.”
– Gary Fishlock Former Editor, SX
“In this well written autobiography, Anthony Venn-Brown takes the reader on a remarkable journey… a heart felt story of someone attempting to reconcile two disparate, but equally powerful, elements of his life – his sexuality and his faith. Anthony wonderfully invokes growing up in Sydney in the nineteen fifties and his prose really rings true for a first time author. As our exploration of who we truly are always affects those closest to us, and it is their pain that echoes through this book. Through it all, however, we come to see the essential nature of ‘character,’ despite the dramatic changes of scenery along the way.”
– Wellbeing Magazine
“A Life of Unlearning is still, in 21st century Australia, a shocking and much-needed work… it’s an extraordinary life story, and ultimately a positive one.”
– Greg Spearritt Sea of Faith in Australia.
“By providing powerful, personal and accessible insights into how an individual experiences the tensions, meshings and meeting points between religion, spirituality, sexuality and family, ‘A Life of Unlearning’ is essential reading for students and teachers of social sciences, religious studies, family studies, psychology and health studies at both upper secondary and tertiary levels.”
– Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli. Author and Senior Lecturer in Social Diversity, Health and Education School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
“A Life of Unlearning is a thought-provoking and disturbing insight into the oppressive stereotyping of ‘acceptable’ maleness in Australian culture. This stereotyping has ruined the lives of so many men (and their partners and families) and which, causes years of unhappiness, often severe psychological damage and – just as disturbingly – a denial of the possibilities of the rich life of thought and culture. Venn-Brown has been able to free himself from it’s limiting constructions and bovine constrictions. This brave book is a ‘must read’ for all students of constructions of gender and sexual identity (and how these have been abetted by the churches, especially those of biblical-fundamentalist character) and of the history of social definitions of maleness.”
– Dr Barry Spurr MLitt Oxf. MA PhD, MACE,Senior Lecturer – Department of English, University of Sydney, Australia
“From internalised hatred of self, perpetuated by homophobia in society and specifically the church, Anthony Venn-Brown climbs millimetre by millimetre from a place he describes as ‘a suicide of the soul’ to a place of light, true acceptance, love of self, love of others and discovering the true meaning of the love of God. ‘A Life of Unlearning’ is a story of courage and resiliency, providing powerful insights essential for any professional considering working with people; teachers, health and social workers, psychologists, counsellors and those who minister. This work is also extremely relevant for individuals with similar issues who, unfortunately still in some circles, frequently feel alone in their struggle to overcome the stigma attached to homosexuality and find self-acceptance.”
– Liz Hammond, Manager Health Promotion, Family Planning NSW, founding member of the NSW Anti Homophobia Interagency
“In ‘A Life of Unlearning’ Anthony shares his life with us with all the colour that a story-telling evangelist can capture. The honesty of his story is compelling. Many Christians love to argue, gaining a sense of safety out of “being right”. Anthony doesn’t do that, he simply tells his story. You can’t argue with it. It is neither right nor wrong, it simply is. You can feel the genuineness in trying to build a relationship with God and the internal tensions of sexual guilt and self-rejection. The tension between his truth and his sense of value and worth is the key battle. We see Anthony rising to success as a popular preacher only to fall with scandal when his truth comes out. His pain deepened as others got hurt, including his wife and daughters.Even as he left the ‘safety’ of religion and ventured into the homosexual world, he learned the spirituality of honesty and the caring of each other beyond what he had experienced in his denomination. Anthony deals with Fundamentalism by reverting to the fundamental of LOVE. His story faces the hard issues, HIV/AIDS, Suicide, Sexual Assault, Relationships, Marriage, Parenting, Domestic Violence, Loneliness, Guilt, Shame, Rejection, Love and Sex. He has nothing to hide and it is refreshing.I recommend this book as a non-threatening way to understand and process the issues of sexuality and spirituality; however, I can’t say you may not experience discomfort as the honesty in these pages invites you to be honest in your own life. Read it if you dare.”
– Dr Wendell Rosevear – Psychologist O.A.M., M.B.,B.S., Dip. RACOG., FRACGP., 1998 Order of Australia Medal, 1996 Brisbane Citizen of the Year, 1996 A.M.A. National Award for ‘Best Individual Contribution to Health Care in Australia’