Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ex-Gay Survivors in Nashville, TN

Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle went to Nashville, TN yesterday and stood in front of the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention. They each share personal, moving stories of their own experiences as ex-gay. They also called on the Baptists to consider people before politics and to heed the warning that many of us who pursued ex-gay conversion therapy caused us more harm than good.

You can see video here:

Read the Tennessean article here.



At 6:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have to take real issue with some aspects of this video. In particular the following statements are just innacurate:

i) "Promise to change people from gay to straight" - You know what, that's what we don't promise. What we promise is that lives that commit to the call to holiness that Jesus issues will be lives that ultimately see him at work within and without. Some people's orientations (like my own) change, some do not, but change isn't the goal, holiness is. The "promise to change" perspective might have been true ten or more years ago, and it might still be what some ministries claim, but most of us who pastor in the area of sexual brokenness know that being gay or straight is not the issue.

ii) "Homosexuality is a sin and can be changed by becoming saved" -What an utter piece of arrant nonsense. No-one (apart from a few whack teachers who probably never actually pastored anybody in the situation) teaches that one's sexual orientation dictates whether you can or can't be changed, OR that orientation will change on salvation.

iii) "They continue to be told that they are sinful, disgraced, unacceptable to the family and to God" - This is such a straw man that I don't know where to start. Yes, I would tell someone that homosexual practice was not intended for them by God and that in the long run it will do them spiritual damage, but that's not the same as the portrayal in this video clip that ministries teach that someone who is homosexual is by the nature of their orientation "sinful, disgraced" etc. Yes, I realise that you and others disagree that one can separate the notion of sexual orientation and practice in terms of identity, but at least can we have the courtesy to engage with what people like myself actually believe and teach.

iv) "I am a lesbian by birth, not by choice" - Er right, and the scientific proof for this is what? You know as well as I do that ultimately that's a statement of faith in the absence of clear evidence. And the bi-polarisation of the issue of the development of sexual orientation in those nine simple words (birth or choice) betrays a complete lack of engagement with the current scientific debate on the subject. None of us teach that homosexual orientation is simply a choice and neither is there any direct proof that homosexuality is something you are born with. You and I both know it's more complicated then that and statements like the one above trivialise the issue and move the debate backwards, not forwards.

v) "I came to believe that I had to change to be considered acceptable by fellow Christians and God." - Well I'm not sure that anybody (apart from the whack fringe and by all accounts that's not where Christine was going to church) would have taught that, so I'm curious about WHY Christine believed that. Was it something she was told or something that she started to believe despite the fact that it wasn't true, in order to justify a reaction to that belief when she didn't change? And sure enough Christine tells us that after four years she wasn't straight, but was that a failure in her eyes or God's? You see the problem with this testimony is that it's setup with the straw man that total change of orientation is meant to happen and when it doesn't somehow that proves that exgay / postgay theologies are all a con. In reality the exgay path is one of walking away from "gay" and towards holiness, regardless of the hardness of the journey, regardless of the level of sanctification and wholeness this side of Glory.

v) "It's not about heterosexuality, it's about wholeness" - Yes, but was Christine's understanding of that flawed? You see for me wholeness is to do with one's direction of journey. Am I pointing in my life towards the perfect, glorified, resurrection, sinless creature that God is one day going to make me, or am I structuring my life to point away from that? Wholeness isn't just about brokenness having gone, it's as much about recognising that brokenness still exists but that I'm not going to have my life dictated by it. One can be heterosexual and completely "un-whole" and one can be homosexual with no hint of heterosexual attraction and yet still whole because one chooses the path of chaste holiness.

Please don't get me wrong - I recognise that both Christine and Darlene have had hard experiences with much pain involved, but that isn't an excuse for taking these two stories and using them to decry all postgay ministries and pastoring. The polemic in this video doesn't actually engage with the theology of wholeness on any substantial level. There is no interaction with the experience of men and women like myself who have experienced some measure of healing but who are also pastorally realistic about what might and might not happen when entering on this path. There are mis-assumptions and straw men that don't do anything to foster a healthy dialogue in this area.

Peterson, I'm going to post this on my blog and I'd love to engage with you and others there on the subject. Apologies for any typos.

At 9:12 AM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

Hi Peter, I will be in the UK again this August and still wish to have a proper face to face encounter with you. I find that a lot more ground gets covered more effectively that way.

I will not respond to each of your points and will let others do so if they wish.

A few things:
When I have traveled to the UK to do my shows and give my talks, British folks, gay, ex-gay and straight, have repeatedly warned me that Evangelicalism, and the ex-gay movement in particular, are VERY DIFFERENT there than they are in the US. Having been to the UK about 10 times in the past 5 years, I now know that to be true. Things are VERY DIFFERENT here in the US in many ways in regards to the church and the ex-gay movement.

Peter, here in the US there has been a long history of people promising "Freedom from Homosexuality" with slogans like "I Questioned Homosexuality--Change is Possible." Although the internal messages are more complex, many of the ex-gay consumers I have met, weighed down with the heterosexism and very clear anti-gay sentiment from the Church, friends and families, hear that message and assume it means what it says, Change is Possible--change in orientation.

It is only very recently that ex-gay groups have been straight forward about their message (although their ads have not changed that much). And although Exodus is the largest ex-gay organization in the USA, it has no real oversight to the teachings and practices of its member ministries. Also, lots of ex-gay work happens outside of Exodus under the radar through other ministries, Christian counselors and by pastors who may have attended an ex-gay conference or read a book. So lots ex-gay ministers still teach about healing and change.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant Christian sect in the US, is VERY DIFFERENT from any Baptist Church I ever attended in the UK (I went to a few there back in the 90's). The message that Darlene Bogle shared in front of Southern Baptist headquarters is completely appropriate considering the Southern Baptist teachings and world view. Does every Southern Baptist believe that way? No, but many do, perhaps most.

The strident messages about salvation and change for people with same-sex attractions that the conservative churches in the US teach are not subtle at all. These are not a few fringe whack teachers out there but thousands of local and national figures who speak to millions daily through radio and TV broadcasts as well as from the pulpit on Sunday mornings and in books, magazine articles, newspaper columns and recordings.

Many ex-gay consumers have been sitting under these teachings for years. The weight of these teachings work in tandem with testimonies of current ex-gays, who as they tell their stories with their spouses and children at their side, reinforce the concept that heterosexual living is a realistic goal for gays and lesbians.

It is not. It is realistic only for a tiny percentage, and the vast majority of those I have met, who tried and failed, left in their wake much pain for their families.

Christine said "holiness" not "wholeness". She stated: "It’s not about heterosexuality, it’s about holiness” and it felt like I could not be holy now, and that God must have given up on me too."

There is a common mantra in the ex-gay world in the US, "The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, it is holiness." The message is clear, you cannot be gay and Christian.

From my experience with many profoundly spiritual and loving Christians, who happen to also be romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same-sex, you can indeed be holy and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender.

Peter, it sounds like your experience in the UK as an ex-gay is very different from many of our experiences here in the US. Darlene's and Christine's stories sound consistent with the hundreds of people I have encountered here and the folks who have shared their stories at BeyondExGay. Each is slightly different, but we see common themes emerge as people step up and tell their stories.

Some ex-gay leaders in the US have only just begun to take responsibility for their misleading messages. UK ex-gay leaders have been more forthcoming in clarifying the message. Change in orientation is not possible, but celibacy may be a realistic goal for some.

As ex-gay survivors step up and tell their stories, we have noted how defensive and even dismissive some ex-gays in the US have been.

From our contacts with hundreds of ex-gay survivors, the reality is that for most of the people who try to go ex-gay, it does not work, and that for many of these, their experiences have caused them more harm than good. Sure some good came of it, but at tremendous cost. If ex-gay leaders care more about pastoral care than politics, they would do well to consider our stories to see what they can do differently.

Perhaps there in the UK you have a better way of approaching all of this so that people do not experience the emotional, psychological and spiritual damage that many of us have encountered.

That is not to say we didn't meet loving and caring people who attempted to help us in our former struggles. The problem was their teachings, although well meaning, actually ended up reinforcing shame while often casting blame on us when we were not successful in reaching the goals placed before us.

We have found and are finding better ways for ourselves, and we believe that others can be spared heartache and loss if they hear our witness and warnings.

At 9:21 AM , Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

I love the very human and gentle ways that Christine and Darlene tell their stories. It is a wonderful and courageous way of reaching out.


At 3:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

'neither is there any direct proof that homosexuality is something you are born with'

Surely by now we know SOME are born with same sex attraction whereas SOME are born opposite sex attracted . And a vast number of people are born somewhere along the continuum . Those with a less definitive sexuality have choices to make - and I can see that is where some moral code, Christian or otherwise , may be used to inform that choice.

But to FORCE people to view that only one option is morally correct and that any other option is damnable is foolish . How I behave will be determined by who I believe myself to be and thus my responsibilities to others. If I percieve myself to be a beloved and redeemed chld of God by the Blood of Christ that is my starting point - not my sexuality. From that point Grace takes over - to which I am daily a debtor . Because of Grace I no longer owe anyone anything nor does anyone owe me anything . Nor can anyone point the finger or cast a stone - any more than I can


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