Why Anthony Venn Brown was at the Exodus International Conference

The Secret Mission is no longer a secret

What a bizarre feeling to be walking into the Exodus International conference at the Concordia University. Irvine California last night. Especially as initially I had a déjà vu moment as I caught a cab to the wrong university, The University of California, Irvine. I had been at the latter in 2007 for the first ex-gay survivors conference.

Finally finding the registration table and auditorium I looked around at the 300 people and tried to read their faces. Some had obviously heard the news of the apology to the LGBTQ community, some looked tormented and others happy to renew contact with people they had come to know at previous Exodus events. I sat down in the back row next to my friend Jim Burroway the editor of Box Turtle Bulletin. As far as I knew we were the only openly gay and accepting people in the place.

Even with all I knew that had been going on the message Alan Chambers delivered caught me by surprise.

Background

My approach, if possible, has always been to engage instead of attack (this is the philosophy of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International). Attacking from a distance is easy. Trying to engage someone in dialogue is time consuming and requires grace and patience.

Since 2010, every time Alan Chambers did something positive I sent him an email thanking him. He always responded. Over the last 12 months our dialogue became warmer. I have also been in a secret Facebook group with Alan, other Exodus leaders and a number of ex-gay survivors. The discussions have been challenging at times but, to their credit, some Exodus people continued listening and engaging.

For some reason I had a strong sense that I should attend the conference. In February I asked how Alan would feel about me attending the Exodus conference. Alan’s reply was:

Anthony,

Thanks for your email. 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. Our numbers are down and my desire for change is high. It might just turn into an opportunity to promote common ground. You must decide whether God wants you to join us. Please let me know how that turns out.

Praying.

Alan

Last night’s historic announcement

Alan Chambers delivering the historic announcement.
I honestly didn’t know what Alan was going to announce last night. I knew it would be a challenging meeting considering that the apology to the LGBTQ community had been strategically released only hours before. Exodus shutting down was a possibility but I doubted that would be announced at the first night of the conference.

The mood in the meeting was sombre and you could tell Alan was preparing the audience for some challenging news. But I am sure most of the crowd were unprepared for what was about to come. After all, many had come because they were struggling with ‘unwanted same sex attraction’ .

Whilst Alan was making the announcement, once again strategically, the announcement that Exodus International was ceasing to exist was released on their website.

Alan’s preparation for the audience was sensitive. He began to cry several times. He detailed his personal journey to face issues and be completely honest. And also about his spiritual journey to become less judgemental, more accepting and to be like Jesus. He criticized the churches attitude towards LGBT people and the community. He wants to make changes and forge a new path of honest and open change.

What now?

Some are sceptical of these changes. Some are angry and rejecting the apology. Many are celebrating. Being an ex-gay survivor myself and worked with so many since 2000 I understand and empathise with all these reactions.

No doubt these recent announcements will have a huge impact on western evangelicalism and if handled properly will spill over to Asian and African evangelicalism. But this won’t happen overnight.

There is still much to do which is obvious to those of us who have worked in this space for many years now. The challenge that lies ahead of us now is to work with those who have suffered because of the message “homosexuality is a choice and it can be changed”. Sorry doesn’t necessarily heal the past but it does give us hope for a better future. With two thirds of ex-gay ministries disappearing in Australia in the last decade I believe that we have led the way. These recent announcements should mean that my goal to see them all disappear is closer to a reality.

More on that later.

© Anthony Venn-Brown
Twitter: @gayambassador
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Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning’, details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
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Labels: reparative therapy media release exodus unwanted same sex attraction ex-gay


One thought on “Why Anthony Venn Brown was at the Exodus International Conference

  1. There’s an amazing apology by Alan Chambers

    http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/i-am-sorry/

    Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

    More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

    I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.

    You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.

    Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

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