Ex-gay ministry bites the dust

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Living Waters Australia, one of the largest and longest running ex-gay ministries still operating in Australia, will cease its operations next month.

Only two ex-gay ministries – Liberty Christian Ministries and Beyond Egypt – remain in Sydney. In November, the Inner West Independent revealed Liberty Christian’s struggle to find a new pastoral worker after the resignation of Haydn Sennitt.

Founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International, Anthony Venn-Brown, said the closure of LWA is a significant step for LGBTI people and wider society.

“It has been one of the largest and longest running organisations in Australia,” he said. “Their closing down means that we are towards the very end of these sorts of organisations [ex-gay ministries] actually existing in Australia, which means, we’d be ahead of America.”

A letter from LWA cites shrinking numbers and lack of new leadership potential as reasons why it has decided to shut down. The letter admits the organisation has shrunk to “three groups operating in the Sydney area” and “a couple of ministries in Victoria”.

Mr Venn-Brown said that the relevance and significance of all ex-gay ministries has declined in the past decade.

“Liberty Christian Ministries’ previous pastoral worker, who was an ex-gay himself, had only seen less than a dozen people in the last twelve months. They hadn’t had any conferences, they hadn’t run any groups,” he said.

“The last time Beyond Egypt had a conference was two years ago. They are very insignificant in the big picture.”

Liberty Christian is registered in Balmain East and previously conducted business in Surry Hills and the inner west. Earlier this year it hired a new part-time pastoral worker, Allan Starr. It is not known if Mr Starr has yet conducted any sessions.

Living Waters will hold a Thanksgiving Service to mark its closure in April, and on the same day, Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International will hold a vigil to remember those who have taken their own lives due to conflict between their faith and sexuality.

Mr Venn-Brown said the churches must face up to the reality that “they are 40 years behind society”.

Liberty Christian and LWA did not respond to requests for comment.