Firstly, he attended the Gay Christian Network annual conference in Orlando.
Secondly, during a panel discussion, he stated “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”
Lastly he said ” I honestly trust Justin Lee (founder of the Gay Christian Network), and I honestly like him, and I honestly believe that he loves Jesus and that we are brothers in Christ and that we will spend eternity together … and because of that, the thing that brought me here first and foremost is: We’re Christians, all of us. We may have diverging viewpoints … but the thing that brings us together, the thing that causes us to even want to have this dialogue, or need to have this dialogue, is the fact that we all love Jesus. We all serve him. We serve the very same God and believe very different things”
OMG. Alan Chambers publicly stating you can be both Christian AND gay. What next? That was worth a thank you email.
In July 2012 reparative therapies were denounced both publicly by Alan at their annual conference and also by a position statement on their website. This immediately distanced Exodus from the extreme groups like The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), their teachings and practices. Once again an email saying thanks and why was sent.
Every time I sent an email I got a response personally from Alan. Believe me, I know when I’m getting a standard cut and paste reply from a PA.
Predictably, every step Alan and Exodus took caused huge controversy. On one side people in the LGBT community continued to attack him and on the other, Christian conservatives were just as vehement accusing him of weakness, deception and apostasy, amongst other things. The comments sections of media articles and social media posts became cesspools of toxic conflict. One side being called bigots, haters, homophobes whilst the other fired back with perverts, sodomites, abominations. And they were the decent words. Some people were just plain vile….on both sides. I didn’t bother wasting my time investing in the online confrontations. I’ve learnt a thing or two over the years.
The enemy is not individuals, churches, ‘ex-gay’ organisations or political parties; the enemy is ignorance. Change is created by focusing our energies on overcoming the latter instead of attacking the former.
To some, in the LGBT community, I tried to remind them that Alan was on a journey. I could see it, why couldn’t they? How could they forget so easily the time it can take for people of faith to resolve the issue of their sexuality? Just as there is no instant “cure” for homosexuality there is no one step process for anyone to go from anti-gay to gay affirming. It’s a process of several stages. If it took me 28 years, surely I could give Alan a little grace. It seemed everyone wanted Alan to be where they were at RIGHT NOW, ignoring the fact that each steps taken so far, had been significant. Ground-breaking in fact. Some of us could see the writing on the wall.
Occasionally I’d forward Alan one of the many emails I’d received from an individual’s who’d shared their horrific ex-gay journey and ongoing implications with me. This is what is happening, I’d remind him.
By January 2013 our email conversations were getting warmer, friendlier, and more natural. Humour often became a part of our conversations. I was enjoying the dialogue. Alan said the same.
Then something happened.
I had an overwhelming sense that I should attend the Exodus conference in six months time. A strange feeling considering the work I’d been doing for years. What would be the purpose of going there? But it was the same feeling I had in 2007. “I have no idea how I’m going to get to the ex-gay survivors conference“, I thought, “but I MUST go”. That time proved to be not only monumental but also strategic long-term. It was at that conference I met so many fellow “myth-busting” colleagues that I still have contact with today; some have become friends.
I emailed Alan and told him what I was feeling about coming to the conference. How would he feel about that?
He emailed back saying
“I would love for you to come to the conference. I think it will be a year like no other—I don’t know what that means other than it isn’t turning out to look like it used to look. You must decide whether God wants you to join us. Please let me know how that turns out. Praying. Alan“
Now all I had to do was raise the money to go.
One thing I knew from experience was that this must be kept a secret. “Why?” you may ask. One reason was that I knew some ex-gay survivors would feel betrayed by me attending. I am well aware of the triggers and I didn’t want to cause them any more hurt. Trying to explain why I was going would have been difficult anyway. I wasn’t completely sure myself.
I also knew some would attack me for deciding to attend. The other more obvious reason was that if it got out that Anthony Venn-Brown was going to the Exodus conference right wing Christian conservatives and ex-gay leaders would launch a campaign against me as they have in the past. This would not only be unnecessarily distracting for me and also cause Alan more drama. One of Australia’s ex-gay leaders had attended the previous year. Even though he’d been writing disparagingly of Alan and Exodus, I knew he particularly would not be happy.
So I launched The Secret Mission to raise the funds. Donations came in from all over the world. Not only people’s generosity amazed me but their trust in me was truly humbling.
A straight Pentecostal woman with lesbian sister wrote, “I would like to contribute $100 to the secret program, whatever it is. If you are heading it up then I know I can trust it is worthwhile to contribute to”. Within weeks, the money to take me firstly to speak at the Amplify Conference in Hong Kong, then over to the US, came in.
Copyright © Anthony Venn-Brown