Being gay was something I couldn’t put words to as a child, being attracted to guys was simply how I was wired. But it was always “wrong” and filled me with shame, so after a spiritual experience at 15, I determined to become straight, going through every form of Christian therapy I could find to fix the problem. Years of prayer counselling, casting out demons, breaking family lines of oppression and just about every crackpot idea imaginable, including marrying a woman, finally lead to discovering Living Waters in the late 90s.
My wife and I were worship leaders, and through some contacts, were asked to lead the worship at a weekend Living Waters conference in Sydney. It was an amazing experience, and we decided we wanted to be involved.
We met Ron Brookman, who ran the Australian operation, who loved our sensitive style of worship, so we ended up doing quite a few workshops and gatherings over the years, including one with Andy Comisky, the founder of Desert Streams and Living Waters in the USA. The promise of healing from “unwanted same sex attraction” was too good to refuse and we became great advocates of their brand of reparative therapy.
We didn’t get a chance however to do the full 20 week course until 2001 in New Zealand, where Cam Rimmer was running it. Cam was a lovely man, full of love and grace, but as a straight man, had no experience with what it meant to be gay. His issues of abuse and addiction however, apparently gave him the credibility to run something like this. Helen Harris was also assisting and later took over running LW after Cam retired.
We did the full course most years after that – as worship leaders, participants, group leaders or assistant leaders. It was a hope for freedom that I embraced completely, and extolled it’s virtues to anyone who I thought could benefit.
Their teachings are primarily based on the work of Leanne Payne, claiming that all deviations from heterosexuality are caused by childhood trauma, abuse, incorrect correct parenting, etc.
It became apparent though, that “healing” was a long process, and many would come back year after year to keep digging for that elusive key that triggered their “sickness”, or fighting the “gay” temptations, just like the lust that heterosexual people had to deal with every day.
We were trained to take every thought to the “foot of the cross” and allow Jesus’ blood to wash it away. I found myself making past events more significant than they were, even assuming that certain things must have happened to me just to make the formula work!
About half of every meeting was spent in small groups sharing and praying for God to reveal the deep hurts that caused it all. There was a lot of “prophetic” words that helped bring to mind specific events that supposedly triggered the sexual aberration.
At the end of a course, everyone gave a little speech about what God had done for them – an absolutely daunting task, given that I had to word it carefully to say I was healed and straight, but still relying on Jesus to get me through. It was a lesson in ambiguity.
The sense of failure and hypocrisy was completely repressed. We encouraged each other to be honest with our temptations, but never to question that the whole system might be intrinsically flawed. I thought the depression and suicidal ideation would go as I embraced God’s healing power, but nothing changed, except my ability to hide it better!
Most were encouraged to come back for the next course. Some did, most just faded away, with no follow up to know how they were, and so stats on the real success rate. And then you’d hear of some leader who had “fallen”, and the unspoken mix of emotions as we passed judgement on his spiritual state.
It wasn’t until my wife died, that I stopped to look at the entire process. The damage was deep, and had filled me with even more self-doubt and hatred, a constant sense of hiding something and living in fear. I’m still finding its lasting effects on me.
I have always been gay, and after 45 years of desperately trying to change, have finally found the peace to simply be gay.
Former Living Waters Leader
Author of “It’s Life Jim…: A Journey to Sexual and Spiritual Reconciliation via the Road of Fundamentalist Religion”
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