Anthony Venn-Brown

The Secret Mission is no longer a secret.  


You can read my report on the first night of the Exodus Conference, the apology to the LGBT community and that Exodus International is closing it's doors here.

In this newsletter you will find:

Why I am attending the Exodus International conference exodus

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.




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:




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.






Last night's historic announcement


Alan Chambers delivering historic message. It's over 

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.  

He's out, he's in, he's out, he's in. Playing closet hokey pokey  closethp

'Closet hokey pokey' is a phenomena I have observed working with gay men and lesbians from faith backgrounds for many years now. Closet hokey pokey doesn't occur as frequently amongst those from non-faith backgrounds.


If you come from a faith background your struggle to accept your same sex attraction/orientation most likely will be more intense and take longer. You can read the reasons for that here.


The conflict between faith and sexuality creates an intense cognitive dissonance which produces stress and fragmentation of self - the two people we are (public straight self and the real gay self) seem irreconcilable. Living with this internal conflict eventually impacts us psychologically (e.g. depression), emotionally (distancing and unable to have intimacy or strong friendships) or physically (stress related illnesses e.g. high blood pressure, insomnia, ulcers etc).


When the anxiety and stress becomes too much we know we have to resolve it. We have to deal with the denial, suppression and be honest and accept that we are gay. It can take years to get to this point but we begin to be more vulnerable by opening up and share our 'shameful' secret.


We may do this by coming out to a few select people we feel we can trust, or our partner, if we are married, and so we begin to slowly open the closet door.


Once we begin to open the door we then think about the consequences and they scare us. The end of a marriage, rejection of family, friends, children. This is too great a price to pay and we will lose things we have highly valued in life. We may feel that we have been deceived and therefore will lose our eternal salvation - we retreat again. Or we come out and don't feel like we fit in then go back. We may recommit to making the marriage work. Another factor that can drive us back into the closet is a sense of guilt for the hurt and trauma we will or have created in the lives of those dear to us.


Some people go through this process several times.


Read more here Please leave comments/insights on the blog

Former 'ex-gay' poster boy, John Paulk, says 'Sorry'  jpsorry

John Paulk was a former poster boy of the "ex-gay/conversion therapy" movement. He worked for James Dobson's Focus on the Family, on the board of Exodus (the umbrella organization for ex-gay ministries globally) and spoke regularly at their "Love Won Out" conferences. One of his biggest claims to fame was his appearance on the cover of Newsweek in 1998 with wife Anne.


All this came crashing down in 2000 when John was caught in a gay bar, Mr P's, in Washington DC. Wayne Besen caught John on camera as he was escaping realizing that he'd been exposed. That now famous image appeared on the cover of Wayne's exposé of the ex-gay movement, "Anything But Straight".


What transpired after that was a series of questionable excuses as to why he'd entered the establishment - including to use the bathroom. But John did step down from his positions in these ministries and with his wife Anne moved to another state to live a secular life and run a catering business.


This didn't stop people around the world touting John and Anne's story as an ex-gay "success" story. Even here in Australia as late as 2004 the Australian Prayer Newsletter was quoting John saying..... 

Read full story here

Amplify Asia - Hong Kong - June 7-9 JOIN ME (it's not too late) amplify
Last year I was privileged to attend and speak at this great conference for LGBT churches throughout Asia. You can read all about that here. I will be involved again this year presenting a workshop on Self Image, Self Esteem & Sexual Identity - the connections. Read about this years speakers here including 




The Reverend Dr. Cindi Love is the Executive Director of Soulforce, a national organization devoted to acceptance of LGBTQ people of faith through dialogue and ending anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the religious landscape.  Founded some two decades ago by renowned gay Christian activist, Rev. Dr. Mel White, Soulforce has modeled 'relentless nonviolent resistance' as taught and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..  Soulforce is active on conservative Christian University campuses and other hostile environments.


Cindi is an ordained minister with the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and served on the church's Executive Leadership Board of Elders for five years.  She also served as the founding Pastor of MCC of Greater Dallas.  For many years she was active in the business sector founding companies and was named one of the "Top 50 Entrepreneurs" in North America by Inc. Magazine.


She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post, serves on the "Faith and Religion Council" for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., and the Compass to Compassion working with the United Nations to end criminalization of LGBT persons throughout the world.  She is the author of Would Jesus Discriminate? The 21st Century Question. This book is part of a global campaign to encourage churches, communities and individuals to consider the ways that religious attitudes against homosexuality may contribute to wider discrimination against gays and lesbians.  


 Confidential project needs support - URGENT EXODUS
We live in interesting times.

An amazing opportunity has just presented itself which would contribute greatly to the end of ex-gay/conversion therapy here in Australia. To make this a reality the project will need financial backing and I only have a week to raise that.

Why the secrecy?

There are people (non aligned with the cause) who read these newsletters and will not be happy with the final outcome. Therefore I am keeping it a secret at this stage. I have learned the hard way not to let the cat out of the bag too early. Otherwise opponents begin to try an throw a spanner in the works and undermine the months of work I have put into these things.

If you feel that you'd like to contribute in some way financially to end the harm caused by ex-gay/conversion type therapies then email me directly for more information. Financial supporters of this project will be kept up to date personally with each development. This is an urgent request so email now.
Become a supporter of ABBI   Help



Enormous unnecessary suffering is caused by people's lack of understanding about sexual orientation. Ignorance in this area impacts not only gay and lesbian people themselves but families, educational institutions and workplaces. This is especially true for those from religious backgrounds and certain cultures.

  • High suicide rates among LGBT youth and people from religious backgrounds
  • Existence of "ex-gay" programs that attract the emotionally vulnerable and tormented with false promises of change
  • Eventual breakdown of marriages when one partner believed heterosexual marriage would solve their 'problem'
  • Depression and other mental health issues caused by the perceived conflict of faith and sexuality
  • Self-destructive and obsessive behaviours as a result of internalized homophobia
  • Religious organizations reinforcing myths & maintaining stereotypes about LGBT people & their relationships
  • Fragmented relationships when families and friends reject the gay or lesbian person who 'comes out'

Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International's mission is to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender, intersex) people, empower community members and build bridges with religious organisations and leaders. This will be achieved by  providing education,  consultancy, resources and utilising social and media networks.


You can make a difference by supporting ABBI financially?   


You can make a one off donation or if you would prefer to set up a regular monthly donation via internet transfer by using the bank details below. All donations of $20, $40, $50 or $100 per month are greatly appreciated. 


Bank: Westpac

Account name: Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International

BSB: 032 023

Account No.: 292997  


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Anthony Venn-Brown 
Founder and Director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI) 
Author of 'A Life of Unlearning - A Journey to Find the Truth'  
Honoured to be voted one of the 25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians (2007 & 2009) and finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award 
M: +61 (0)416 015 231 
Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International creates a better world for LGBTI people through education, information and dialogue.  Seminars - Workshops - Church & Denominational Consultancy on LGBT Issues - Coaching for LGBT - Lectures - Public Speaking.
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