Being an ambassador – the good, the bad and the ugly

//Being an ambassador – the good, the bad and the ugly

Being an ambassador – the good, the bad and the ugly

Yes there are many ways to create change. Some activists are quick to name call and attack. Some protest and march. Some extreme activists have been violent and destroyed property in order to make get their message across. Personally, I have chosen to create change by overcoming ignorance with education, challenge misinformation with facts and where possible, dialogue with those you might be perceived by some as the enemy.  

I’ve been told more than once the latter is a waste of time. If you were wanting instant results that might be the case but I’m in this for the long haul. 

 In this newsletter I talk about the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY side of engagement with ex-gay leaders.  You can make up your own mind if dialogue is a waste of time or not.

The Bad

Recently I was a guest in the Sydney ABC studios on Sunday night (Sunday, October 7, 2012)  to give my perspectives on reparative/conversion therapy. In the studio was also the pastoral worker, Haydn Sennitt, from Liberty Christian Ministries, who works with people who have ‘unwanted same sex attraction’. You can read about the program and listen to the podcast here.

Haydn shared the story of his promiscuous and unhappy gay life, his disillusionment and his desire to be straight. Then presenter, Noel Debien, asked me to respond. My first response was that listening to Haydn story was in many ways exactly like mine ……‘déjà vu’ I said. 

After the Sunday night program Haydn responded on the organisations website. An extract is below.  

Haydn’s story is Haydn’s story

Last weekend I appeared in a radio interview on ABC radio to discuss the issue of recent Californian legislation on reparative therapy.  Another guest appeared on the show, a so-called  ‘gay Christian’ and former pastor named Anthony who left his wife, family, and ministry to live a gay life.  At the outset of the interview, Anthony commented on my journey of leaving homosexuality by saying with unsurprising condescension something along the lines of, “Oh, when I listened to Haydn’s story I get a feeling of déjà vu!  I was exactly the same 30 years ago”.

The implication, hint hint, is Change did not work for me, and therefore it cannot for Haydn.  We have many things in common: both were/are married, have two daughters, identify as Christian, and even once/do attend the same church, therefore expect him to go down the same track that I have.  Haydn’s really gay, and nothing he can say or do to the contrary will change that.  Haydn, why fight yourself?  There is no integrity in that.  Why stick to your wife and children and deny ‘who you are’ and live with a ‘lack of integrity’ when you can join others who ‘understand you’?  You’re ‘lying’ to yourself and everybody else and one day you can and should leave your family because it’s all a hopeless sham.

My integrity is found in sticking with my wife and keeping to the marriage vows that I made to her and others.  It is very true that I was not always faithful to my wife after we got married  and we are working through those things in individual and marriage counselling. A lot of my unresolved brokenness has affected our marriage and I am responsible for it.  But we’re working at it and our relationship is getting stronger because GOD is with us and very much been the instigator and sustainer of our marriage.  He’s healing me through being a husband as well as a father to my two daughters and none of them are a mistake; indeed it is personally offensive and scurrilous to suggest that those whom I love and give me so much joy are a ‘sham’.  And their very existence begs the question that if I was ‘born gay’ how could it be that I would have the biological ‘equipment’ to sire two children and enjoy sexual intimacy with a woman?  If there is integrity in ‘being gay’ it seems to be lost on me because my own circumstances by the power of God demonstrate that gay identity is not a reality.

Haydn Sennitt

Considering that certain false assumptions had been made about my comments as well as other comments Haydn had made I thought it would be good to email him. I carefully constructed a 1500 word gracious, respectful but honest response. Part of that email is below.

Hi Haydn

I was sort of hoping we would be able to chat/debrief after the ABC interview. I sensed though this is not something you would like to have done.

Someone notified me of some of your recent blogs entries.

I did think that the assumptions you have made about the meaning of my déjà vu statement on the ABC has taken things a little too far. Your assumptions and wording of what I meant by déjà vu are rather heartless statements and assumptions that I wouldn’t make.

You and I do have many similarities in our journey. Fortunately I have not had to deal with sexual abuse or a tortured relationship with my family you seem to have had. Your brief time living as a gay man with the many meaningless and often anonymous sexual encounters is tragic. I lived like that myself for some time before I got married. And like you some of that continued during my marriage life. It appears from what you have said and written that this was mostly at beats, sauna’s or a part of the gay ‘scene’. My life today though living as an openly gay man is very very different. Its moral, full of wonderful people and most of my gay friends are in monogamous committed relationships. You and I previously were obviously moving in the wrong circles.

This is certainly not just about me. ….my story or your story. We now have 40 years of ‘ex-gay’ history to draw on. The patterns are quite clear. I have worked with 100’s of people like myself and like you. Currently I am working with a ex-gay leader who is in the process of facing the reality late 50’s. And another  man I worked with recently early 60’s. When you speak about the decisions and choices people like us have had to make you make it sound like the issue was that we left the marriage to live a ‘gay life’  and insinuating it is about sex and that we choose selfishly.  Or that we have ‘given in’ to our homosexuality. This is very far from the truth and demonstrates that you are unaware of the personal pain we have experienced in coming to a place of acceptance. Believe me it was and is never that easy. It’s unfair that you speak so demeaningly about this.

I do feel sad for you…..and your wife. This is not a condescending sadness in any way. It is genuine compassion having experienced myself some of your pain and seen how my former wife also suffered. You have blogged about your unfaithfulness and betrayal of your marriage vows. I am saddened to read that in such a public space and wonder what impact these sorts of disclosures have on your wife’s mental health and sense of self worth.

A women recently emailed me her story after Ron Brookman said at the marriage equality committee he had recently performed the marriage of 3 men who were ‘former homosexuals’ .

My story… I am straight and I was married to a closeted gay Christian man. This is a scenario that occurs over and over again in the Christian world. The gay man or women has heard all their lives from the pulpit that they are an “abomination”. Mostly there is never even a distinction made between same-sex attraction/orientation and same-sex behaviour. So gay Christians learn to hide, to never be authentic, to never reveal their struggles. They marry a person of the opposite sex because that’s what is expected. This is a marriage doomed to failure. The unsuspecting straight partner knows something is wrong but can’t work out what. The gay partner eventually finds every excuse in the book to avoid intimacy and most often also becomes emotionally distant and detached, depressed and anxious. The straight partner has lost not only an intimate partner but also a friend and companion, and their self-esteem is quite often shattered in this facade of a marriage.

I’m sad for Ron Brookman’s wife, and for the wives (and children if these marriages don’t make it) of the other men he talks about in this interview. I’m sad for everyone who will believe what he says. I’m sad for myself… separated, now divorced from my Christian, closeted, gay-in-denial ex-husband (also in ministry). I’m sad for my ex-husband’s first wife and children. I’m sad that he quite possibly will do this again to a 3rd woman because of fear and shame, and because of messages like this one from Ron Brookman that say that it’s possible to be a “former homosexual”. I support honesty, authenticity, and integrity. And… I’m very very sad for my ex-husband, and for all the unnecessary anxiety, depression, fear and shame that keeps him in the closet.

So Haydn we all suffer in this together in this terrible dilemma of being gay in a Christian culture that is ill-informed about sexual orientation.

How do I know all these things……from the experience of working with 100’s of people who have tried the path of marriage….some used to attend Liberty….many other ex-gay style programs..

As always I am willing to dialogue or chat with you. Our meeting and the content will remain confidential if that is what you desire.

Sincerely

Anthony

……and then it got a little ugly.

The Ugly

I didn’t get a personal response to my email but the next day this was posted on his blog.

The Good  

Recently I was searching the internet for some information and came across this podcast of a national Christian radio show aired on 1 October 2006. The topic was Homosexuality and Christianity. John Meteyard was at that time the chairman of Australia/Asia Exodus. After hearing the tragic stories with no hope I called in. If you listen or download the podcast you will hear my call in on the 49th minute. I was on air for till the end of the show (15 minutes). At the end I asked John if he would be willing to talk further and followed up with an email. Over the next few months we emailed back and forth spoke on the phone and finally met up face to face when I was in Brisbane. The final outcome of that dialogue and relationship was this statement for which John was severely criticised in the Christian and ex-gay worlds. As an Australian leader of Exodus John Meteyard was doing something in 2007 that the global leader Alan Chambers has only done this year by opposing the message of conservative Christians and saying you can be Christian and gay.

 Former Ex-gay Leader – John Meteyard

 I was involved with Exodus ministries for nearly 20 years until my recent ‘retirement’ at the end of 2006. I have also seen many of my brothers and sisters show great courage in their choices as they seek to respond to the profoundly difficult challenge of reconciling their faith and sexuality. Many of these have managed to live a life of integrity and morality as same sex oriented individuals. During the last two decades my views concerning the issue of Christian faith and homosexuality have undergone considerable growth and change. This has been the result of many things: my own journey, my developing understanding of God and, as I have shared above, the experiences of friends and other courageous brothers and sisters I have met on the way. In the past I have been ardent in my opinion that homosexual orientation was unquestioningly a result of the ‘fall’ and God’s intention was therefore always to heal the same-sex attracted believer and help them to be ‘whole’. In the past I have frequently spoken publicly in support of these views. However, my position is now somewhat different. I now believe that it is crucially important that we all learn to respect the rights and choices of gay and lesbian believers as they work through the complexities of their unique situation with God in their own way and in their own time.

By |2018-09-25T18:16:45+00:00October 14th, 2012|Categories: Conversion therapy|Tags: |0 Comments

About the Author:

Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia’s foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His best-selling autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith', details his journey from being one of the first in the world to experience religious gay conversion therapy, becoming a married, high profile preacher in Australia's growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b. He is an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy myth. Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International. Anthony has been recognised on a number of occassions for his contribution and impact including being twice voted one of 'The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’.

Leave A Comment