Last month, The Saturday Paper (a new tabloid from the same stable as The Monthly) captured the moment that Living Waters, a ministry to the sexually broken, closed and gay rights ambassador Anthony Venn-Brown hosted a gathering that the paper’s journalist Luke Williams said was to “mark the end of the country’s last remaining gay conversion ministry”.
Readers of The Saturday Paper that week might have been excused for thinking that the last Christian group aiming to convince gay people that traditional Christian chastity was the path they should take in life, had closed.
But as Liberty Ministries chair David Peterson points out “The reality is that groups such as Liberty and Beyond Egypt in Sydney, Exodus Asia-Pacific in Melbourne, and Liberty in Brisbane, continue to offer help to those who want it.”
“None of these groups offer what is disparagingly called ‘gay conversion’ or technically known as ‘reparative therapy’”, adds Peterson who is Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in New Testament at Sydney’s Moore Theological College.
For example, Liberty in Sydney does not advocate sexual-orientation change. The stated aim of this ministry is ‘to help people live holy lives in God’s sight, as laid out in Scripture’.
Liberty does believe, however, that “as people surrender their hearts to God and the roots of their sexual brokenness to God in Christ, they can experience a change in sexual desire and be delivered from inappropriate and addictive behaviour,” as it states on its website.
Anthony Venn Brown, a former Assemblies of God minister and CEO of Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International, grieves the impact of “gay conversion” ministries.
“The grief I feel is for those we have lost through suicide, others who have had and some still suffering, mental health problems today and for the wasted years many invested in trying to do the impossible.” he told Eternity. “That is, change their sexual orientation.”
Ron Brookman of Living Waters’ testimony is the opposite.
“Jesus formed Himself in me by transforming my sexuality and setting me free from strong sexual drives which precluded my being at peace with Him. I cannot help but proclaim His work in me”, he wrote in ACCatalyst, published by the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, a conservative Uniting Church group.
The Saturday Paper may have captured the moment as Ron Brookman retired from Living Waters, but possibly missed a bigger story—the trajectories of Brookman’s and Venn-Brown’s lives form fascinating opposites.
Venn Brown, struggled with his homosexuality as a young Christian, signed himself into ex-gay programmes, was a successful Pentecostal church planter, and launched the Youth Alive concerts. In 1991 he came out as a gay man, beginning a campaign against ex-gay organisations.
Brookman was a secret homosexual as a minister in the Uniting Church, leading an evangelical congregation. His coming out was in different direction. He confessed “my double life, my sexual sin in acting out homosexually, and therefore my spiritual abuse of my congregation at Newtown Mission”.
After leading the Living Waters congregation for some time Brookman applied to have his ordination as a minister recognised again by the Uniting Church (which recognises homosexual ministers). Appealing to the inclusivity of the church, he was welcomed back as a minister, continuing his ministry to the “sexually broken”.