It’s only been weeks since Ted Haggard, 54, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of a mega-church in Colorado, stepped down after it was revealed he’d been having sex with a male prostitute for some time. This week, Paul Barnes, also 54, resigned as the pastor of the 2,100-member Grace Chapel, in Denver after acknowledging he also has had sex with men. Former leader in the Assemblies of God in Australia, Anthony Venn-Brown, says the church must accept some of the blame for these men living a life of deceit and a façade of heterosexuality.

‘If these men take the same journey I have, hopefully one day, they will look back and thank God they were finally honest with themselves and others and begin to live authentic lives as gay men.’ Venn-Brown said. ‘It’s a long and painful journey and not everyone comes out okay the other end. Firstly, you have to get over the trauma of the experience as well as deal with the loss of everything you’ve held dear, such as your marriage and your ministry.’ Venn-Brown added.

Anthony Venn-Brown, who was married and father of two, doesn’t have to imagine what it’s like for these men as he experienced it himself 15 years ago when resigned and left his successful ministry in the mega churches of Australia, ending his 22 year attempt to change his sexual orientation. ‘You have no choice but to hide the conflict with your homosexuality and your faith because you know that if you came out as gay you’d be rejected by the people who are most important in your life, so you struggle in secret’. Venn-Brown said. Although not ‘outed’ in the media Venn-Brown confessed to the leaders of the Assemblies of God denomination then publicly to a congregation of 800 in 1991. In 2004, he revealed what went on behind the scenes in his autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning’.

‘As long as churches continue to hold on to the outdated beliefs that homosexuality is a sin, illness or the result of poor parenting, it creates a culture that forces people who are same-sex-attracted to feel shame for what is normal to them. This leads to a life of secrecy, deceit and self-hatred. Ted Haggard’s comment “There is part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life,” and Paul Barnes’s “I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy, I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away”, reflect the torment experienced being gay in an evangelical environment.’ Venn-Brown added.

‘With all the research on sexual orientation available today, it’s hard to understand that there would be anyone who still believes anything but homosexuality is a normal expression for some. But looking at history we see the churches were the last to oppose the abolition of slavery, sanctioning interracial marriages and accept the women as equals’ Venn-Brown concluded.

More Media information available from:
Anthony Venn-Brown
Author of ‘A Life of Unlearning – A Journey to Find the Truth’ Foreword by Hon. Michael Kirby.Revised Second Edition out in February 2007 – more startling revelations in each chapter and ongoing events of the last two years (including THE letter to the National Executive of the Assemblies of God)
Tel: +61 2 9699 2448 Mobile: 0416 015 231
Download Chapter 1 ‘The Confession’ here