Monday, October 29, 2012

Anthony Venn-Brown writes to Sydney Anglican, Haydn Sennitt, about the problems that arise when religious groups use ex-gay ministries to move same-sex attracted individuals from sexual brokenness to heterosexual wholeness

Surely one of God's greatest gifts  is to be able to love... and be loved in return. 
Anthony Venn-Brown has posted an email (in the comments section of an earlier post on this blog), that he had sent to Sydney Anglican, Haydn Sennitt. This was after Haydn Sennitt had written an article on the Liberty Christian Ministry website, as the pastoral worker to SSA individuals and their families. Haydn's role also involves speaking to young adolescents in Christian schools, and auditoriums full of young university students, about the incongruencies of SSA and the Christian lifestyle. Anthony explains in his letter, that it's not about Haydn and Anthony's stories...but  more importantly, it is about the lives of others affected by religious groups, whose prejudice forces SSA individuals to remain closeted, for fear of rejection, and the damage that is done when SSA individuals are encouraged to believe that they can move towards heterosexuality through  ex-gay ministries.
Anthony writes...
Hi Haydn

I did think that the assumptions you have made about the meaning of my déjà vu statement on the ABC has taken things a little too far.

EG "The implication, hint hint, is Change did not work for me, and therefore it cannot for Haydn. We have many things in common: both were/are married, have two daughters, identify as Christian, and even once/do attend the same church, therefore expect him to go down the same track that I have. Haydn’s really gay, and nothing he can say or do to the contrary will change that. Haydn, why fight yourself? There is no integrity in that. Why stick to your wife and children and deny ‘who you are’ and live with a ‘lack of integrity’ when you can join others who ‘understand you’? You’re ‘lying’ to yourself and everybody else and one day you can and should leave your family because it’s all a hopeless sham."

These are rather heartless statements and assumptions that I wouldn't make. You and I do have many similarities in our journey. Fortunately I have not had to deal with sexual abuse or a tortured relationship with my family as you seem to have had. Your brief time living as a gay man with the many meaningless and often anonymous sexual encounters is tragic. I lived like that myself for some time before I got married. And like you some of that continued during my marriage life. It appears from what you have said and written that this was mostly at beats, sauna's or a part of the gay 'scene'. I am not sure...this has never been fully clarified. My life today though living as an openly gay man is very very different. Its moral, full of wonderful people and most of my gay friends are in monogamous committed relationships. You and I previously were obviously moving in the wrong circles.
This is certainly not just about me. story or your story. We now have 40 years of 'ex-gay' history to draw on. That patterns are quite clear. I have worked with 100's of people like myself and like you. Currently I am working with a high profile ex-gay leader in the US who is in the process of facing the reality late 50's. And another man I worked with recently early 60's. When you speak about the decisions and choices people like us have had to make you make it sound like the issue was that we left the marriage to live a 'gay life' you seem to be insinuating it is about sex and that we choose selfishly. Or that we have 'given in' to our homosexuality. This is very far from the truth and demonstrates that you are unaware of the personal pain we have experienced in coming to a place of acceptance. Believe me it was and is never that easy. It's unfair that you speak so demeaningly about this.

I do feel sad for you.....and your wife. This is not a condescending sadness in any way. It is genuine compassion having experienced myself some of your pain and seen how my former wife also suffered. You have blogged about your unfaithfulness and betrayal of your marriage vows. I am saddened to read that in such a public space and wonder what impact these sorts of disclosures have on your wife's mental health and sense of self worth.

A women recently emailed me her story after Ron Brookman said at the marriage equality committee that he had recently performed the marriage of 3 men who were 'former homosexuals' .

"My story... I am straight and I was married to a closeted gay Christian man. This is a scenario that occurs over and over again in the Christian world. The gay man or women has heard all their lives from the pulpit that they are an "abomination". Mostly there is never even a distinction made between same-sex attraction/orientation and same-sex behaviour. So gay Christians learn to hide, to never be authentic, to never reveal their struggles. They marry a person of the opposite sex because that's what is expected. This is a marriage doomed to failure. The unsuspecting straight partner knows something is wrong but can't work out what. The gay partner eventually finds every excuse in the book to avoid intimacy and most often also becomes emotionally distant and detached, depressed and anxious. The straight partner has lost not only an intimate partner but also a friend and companion, and their self-esteem is quite often shattered in this facade of a marriage.

I'm sad for Ron Brookman's wife, and for the wives (and children if these marriages don't make it) of the other men he talks about in this interview. I'm sad for everyone who will believe what he says. I'm sad for myself... separated, now divorced from my Christian, closeted, gay-in-denial ex-husband (also in ministry). I'm sad for my ex-husband's first wife and children. I'm sad that he quite possibly will do this again to a 3rd woman because of fear and shame, and because of messages like this one from Ron Brookman that say that it's possible to be a "former homosexual". I support honesty, authenticity, and integrity. And... I should also have said that I'm very very sad for my ex-husband, and for all the unnecessary anxiety, depression, fear and shame that keeps him in the closet."

So we all suffer in this together in this terrible dilemma of being gay in a Christian culture that is ill-informed about sexual orientation.

How do I know all these things......from the experience of working with 100's of people who have tried the path of marriage....some used to attend Liberty....many other ex-gay style programs..

As always I am willing to dialogue or chat with you. Our meeting and the content will remain confidential if that is what you desire.
Anthony adds... I didn't receive a personal reply to my email but I am assuming that this post on his blog the next day is his answer

it gets sadder unfortunately.

I am reminded once again what Archbishop Jensen said on ABC's Q&A and was reaffirmed by Haydn that they would like to discuss the issue homosexuality in an atmosphere that is not volatile but respectful ......but when the opportunity to do this is offered then it is either ignored or soundly rejected.

Well Bill...I heard Haydn speaking on that ABC radio show...and he sounded like a fine man... just like Anthony... and you know something...I sure hope his marriage is, and continues to be a happy one...but I have issues with a group like Sydney Anglicans who use a young man like push their homophobic message. I mean what kind of  ethics committee would allow Haydn to publish his sexual life story for all to see...and Bill ...that Peter Jensen was one of the ethical advisors for LCMI ...and isn't David Petersen now on the ethics committee? And what is ethical about encouraging, and using, a young man, grappling with his SSA and receiving marriage counselling,  to preach to others about overcoming SSA?  Who are the people running the Sydney Anglican diocese?
Disgraceful exploiters Calam! Some ethics committee...a bit like the standing committee that made the financial decisions... that resulted in a loss of 160 million...but at least that was only money...these guys are screwing with people's lives...these spiritual policy makers don't care about women or SSA people...but what would you expect when the Sydney Anglican guru, Phillip Jensen writes...  "But it is still true that boys are different to girls. God did not make us as hermaphrodites, but as males and females (Genesis 1:26-28)"
 Say Ennis...if God didn't make hermaphrodites...then who made my Intersex friends...Satan?

1 comment:

  1. Poor Haydn. His mind is closed and, like most confused fundamentalists, can only quote scripture over and against his real experience. What a sad man.