In the three years since publishing his wrenching account of being gay and a leading Pentecostal Church leader, Anthony Venn-Brown has won plaudits from high places.
His supporters include High Court judge Michael Kirby, who has praised Venn-Brown’s efforts educating about gay and lesbian Christians.
But as he prepares for the launch of a second edition of A Life Of Unlearning this month, Venn-Brown says the response from everyday readers has been the most extraordinary.
Venn-Brown, a former Assemblies of God and Hillsong leader, says he has received hundreds of emails from readers, some of whom were considering suicide before finding his book.
One unemployed man with mental health problems read the book day after day in a bookshop because he could not afford a copy.
Today he’s back in the workforce and all those diagnosed mental health issues no longer exist for him, Venn-Brown said.
The powerful response is a reflection of Venn-Brown’s remarkable journey from married church leader to openly gay man.
In more than 20 years in the church, Venn-Brown tried exorcism and psychiatric treatment to cure his homosexuality. And in 1972 he was one of the first enrolled in an Australian ex-gay program.
The strategies failed, and by 1991 Venn-Brown finally accepted reality.
I had to resign because I’d fallen in love with a man and realised that my years of struggle to change my sexuality were futile, he said.
I did go back again to have an attempt at the marriage for another 12 months, but I realised I had to be true to myself.
Venn-Brown wrote A Life Of Unlearning to share his experiences -“ not least with the many gay men and lesbians who remain in conservative churches.
The revised edition includes the response from readers since 2004 and new insights into the ex-gay movement and the influence of the religious right.
Venn-Brown has also set up Freedom 2 b[e], a support group for gays and lesbians from Pentecostal backgrounds. He remains a Christian and is optimistic change will come, even to the most anti-gay denominations.
My belief is that change is inevitable. I don’t think anyone can stop it. What we don’t know is the timetable, he said.
This is something that I see me devoting the rest of my life to, trying to bridge the gap between the church and gay community.
The revised edition of A Life Of Unlearning is out now. The official launch is on 13 February, 7pm, at the Midnight Shift. Entry is $10 and proceeds go to ACON and Freedom 2 b[e]. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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