CHAPTER 1 Help me

Pastor Paul’s words were deeply disturbing. I shuddered at the thought of the implications and final consequences.

‘You know you can’t keep going back into sin like this, don’t you?’ he said in a sobering and threatening manner. ‘Eventually God will give up on you. His Word says that God turns his back on those who consistently sin because they grieve and disobey the Holy Spirit. This is probably your last chance to overcome this.’

He reached over and picked up his big black well-worn Bible from the desk beside him and flicked automatically to the verses as preachers can.

‘My Spirit will not strive with man forever.’ [1]

And then he flicked over to the back of the book.

‘Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ [2]

There is a point of no return for those who wilfully resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit when tempted to sin. The voice of the Holy Spirit becomes more and more distant until you hear it no more.

This was no new revelation to me but hearing these words in my vulnerable, fragile state from the man of God I respected so much added to the impact.

I had called Pastor Paul the night before, desperate for some counselling and support. I was at my wits’ end. The intense stress of constant temptation, failure, guilt and condemnation made me feel like I was heading for a nervous breakdown. It felt like I could crack any minute and go insane.

It had taken a lot of courage to call. Mostly I had kept my struggles to myself believing God and I could work this out together. I needed help and I needed it now.

‘How long have you had this problem?’ he had said over the phone.

‘Before I became a Christian,’ I admitted defeatedly.

‘Well, another night’s not going to make any difference then, is it?’ he quickly replied, in a way that made me think he had used that line before.

He told me to go to the boys’ home for the night and he would talk with me tomorrow. (The church had organised boys’ and girls’ homes for young people in the church who needed accommodation.)

Mum and Dad, seeing me in such a distressed state, tried to find out what was wrong. I couldn’t tell them because I knew they wouldn’t understand and besides, I was a Christian and if I told them honestly what was going on, then they might think God had failed me or I was a bad Christian. I didn’t want that.

‘I’ll be away for a few days,’ I announced as I walked out the door with a few belongings in my bag.

I hadn’t made it to the boys’ house. A serendipitous encounter with Ben, a gorgeous blond-haired, blue-eyed guy I’d previously worked with, had interrupted my journey on my way through the city. It was actually the first time I had spent the night with a man. So different from all my previous “encounters” which had been brief mutual masturbation sessions in public toilets, bushes in a park or a parked car in a dark, secluded place. How cunning the devil is to have caught me out that night, I thought. Who else could have organised us accidentally bumping into to each other in the city on my way to refuge on the Northern Beaches. The Devil knew I’d successfully resisted Ben’s advances before even though there was an undeniable magnetism between us. That night I was confused, lonely and vulnerable – an easy target.

But it was worse than just the sexual encounter. Whilst working with Ben, I’d often spoken to him about Jesus and taken him to services hoping that he would receive Christ and become a Christian. How would he ever become a Christian now. I was such a hypocrite.

In my defeated state the next morning, I made my way to the leafy north shore suburb of Turramurra and met with Pastor Paul and Roger, another minister from the church, in the Christian Faith Centre offices next to the auditorium.

As Pastor Paul re-read the scriptures I had heard other preachers speak about, I wondered if I had already passed the limit of God’s patience and grace. I loved Jesus. Since my ‘born again’ experience in 1969 all I wanted to do was to serve Him with all my heart and live a holy life. How could it have come to this?

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It was my homosexuality that brought me to God in the summer of 1969. Living in a society that viewed homosexuality as a perversion, mental illness and crime, finding personal acceptance and coming out were not even considerations. Actually, they were impossibilities.

After my initial same sex experiences and final realisation of what the term homosexual meant, I fought with every fibre of my being to resist the thoughts that were leading me to my ‘encounters’. It had been a secret battle, clouded with shame and remorse that I could share with no one. The more I fought the more depressed I became until finally I saw no way out but to end the life I seemed to have lost control of.

It was at this time that Marg, my next-door neighbour and friend, began to probe for answers to my growing melancholy.

“Have you thought about suicide” she asked caringly after I’d finally opened up. Not only had it been a regular thought but I pulled back my sleeve to show her the scars on my wrists from a few days before when the sense of hopelessness had overcome me and I’d made a feeble attempt to cut my wrists.

Marg did what I could never have done. She spoke to my mother about my problem and suggested I needed professional help.

Trips to a psychiatrist to find out the reason why this had happened to me and then ‘fix’ me were the result. But my father was never allowed to know the real reason. Too much shame was attached to this ‘condition’. Could my parents have caused this? Surely not. We were a fine upstanding, clean living, Anglican family.

After months of seeing the psychiatrist, he advised that it was a phase I was going through. To make sure it didn’t become entrenched in homosexuality, I was told that I should keep away from the friend I’d fallen in love with at high school and work on a closer to my father. That seemed easy enough. I was going to be fine.

But I wasn’t.

At the age of seventeen, in my final year at high school, hormones raged and it seemed impossible to stop thoughts or resist temptations. I had opened a door and no matter how hard I pushed, or what I put up against it, the door wouldn’t close.

It was at the beginning of 1969, at a Christian holiday camp one night, walking alone on the beach, I cried out to God for help and promised that if He would take this terrible thing from me then I would dedicate my life to Him.

I came back home from the camp a ‘born again’ Christian, full of hope and enthusiasm at the personal relationship I now had with Jesus Christ. So different from the traditional, formalised Anglican background I had been brought up in.

I felt the freedom, joy and peace of this new experience intensely; contrasted against the depression, internal conflict and darkness of the last couple of years. I’d found the answer in Jesus, the one who not only offers forgiveness of sins but gives the power to live a righteous life. The euphoria of the contrast lasted for months. Jesus had set me free. I kept quoting the verse from 1 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Thoughts and temptations seemed powerless against my newfound faith in God. Like any new ‘born again’ believer, all I wanted was to live a holy life and be like Jesus.

The euphoria had a use-by date as reality began to set in.

It happened again and again. I would be tempted and find myself back in the pattern that had previously dominated my life; in the dark of night seeking a physical connection with a man. A pattern of fighting temptation, quoting Bible verses, praying for God to give me strength, resisting Satan, succumbing, repenting, begging and pleading for forgiveness and promising God that it would never happen again…. became a constant cycle. My struggle was always a secret three-way between God, myself and the Devil.

Having failed miserably at the end of my tumultuous final year at High School, my parents allowed me to repeat the year if I promised to dedicate myself to study this time. I was confident, with God on my side, that this year would be dramatically different to the previous one.

It was during that year I discovered the Charismatic movement which had just begun in Sydney. The Charismatic movement was a global, trans-denominational, Christian renewal movement which preached that all believers needed a second experience beyond conversion. The baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues as the sign that one had received the gift and power of the Holy Spirit. This is what I’m missing, I thought. Once again euphoria and a heightened sense of freedom came into my Christian life with my Charismatic experience. At last, I’d found the answer.

I knew God had a plan for my life and that I was called to serve Him. So at the beginning of 1971 I flew to New Zealand to attend a six month training course at a Bible college, in Tauranga, about a three hour drive south of Auckland. I was sure that this time, cloistered away, the intensely spiritual environment of the Bible college would provide the protection I needed to finally hit the nail into the coffin of homosexuality. It did the opposite. The internal struggle intensified.

Feeling like my head was about to explode with the constant conflict, I disappeared from the college campus for the day. This caused a great drama as, in a previous course, I’d heard that another young man had disappeared and was later found drowned on a nearby beach. It was difficult for the police to determine if it was a suicide or accident. Had he been experiencing the same conflict? Did the leadership of the college know if this may have been the case?

Understandably, I was greeted on my return to the college with both anger and relief.

In the Principal’s office he kept probing. I was too ashamed to open up completely and had developed a way to never let the word homosexual come out of my mouth. I spiritualised everything. ‘I’m so weak in the flesh’. ‘Sin seems to take hold of me’. ‘The devil is trying to destroy the calling of God on my life’. Spiritual phrases fell from my lips so that terrible phrase never had to: ‘I’m a homosexual’.

The principal and I had a close relationship. Other students had noticed that I was his pet. It was time to come clean.

Looking down at the floor I muttered ‘I have a homosexual problem’. Much better to distance myself and say I have a homosexual ‘problem’ than I am one.

He listened as I relayed the battles of the last couple of years, thinking that it was all over, only to find it returning like a ravenous beast wanting to devour me. The holiness I craved was elusive like a mist.

“You’d be surprised how many people deal with this problem”, he said, once I had run out of steam. Then he repeated it again. I wondered. It was an eerie moment. I thought I knew what he was trying to say to me. No. That couldn’t be.

His words snapped me out of the moment. “These forces are demonic”, he said.

The doctrine that Christians could be possessed by evil spirits was taught and practiced in New Zealand Pentecostal and Charismatic churches but not in Australia. Frank Houston, Brian Houston’s (the founder of Hillsong Church) father, had spent a week at the college teaching us about it. Maybe God had brought me to New Zealand so that I could be delivered?

The Principal continued. “You will have to have deliverance before you can be free. I will call Pastor Neville Johnson in Auckland and arrange for him to see you”.

“Can’t you pray for me?”, I implored, wanting as few people as possible to know about my humiliating secret.

The Principal insisted this was not something he felt he could handle and there was no one in the country better equipped than Pastor Johnson.

Pastor Johnson led the growing Queen Street Assemblies of God Church and was highly respected. He was considered a prophet who could see visions and, most importantly for me, regularly cast demons out of people.[3]

For the next three weekends, after the evening service in Auckland, Pastor Johnson, his assistant Pastor Lloyd and myself walked up the stairs to the large empty hall above the church and they commanded demons of every type and name imaginable to leave me.

Finally it was over. I’d become a Christian, been baptised in the Holy Spirit and was now exorcised. Surely there was nothing else to hold me back.

After college, hitch hiking south to say goodbye to a friend before heading home to Australia, I found my homosexuality was only one temptation away.

Now the verses I had read repeatedly in the Gospels were becoming a terrifying reality.

‘When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and doesn’t find it. Then he says, “I will return into my house from which I came out,” and when he has come back, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with himself seven other spirits more evil than he is, and they enter in and dwell there. The last state of that man becomes worse than the first’.[4]

I had to do something to ensure this tragic fate was not mine.

Returning to Australia, I was determined to put an end to this thing once and for all. I couldn’t understand why, when I hated my homosexuality so much and desired to live a righteous Christian life to please God, He was not taking this thing from me. God knows I had prayed enough about it. Several times a day in fact. It was constantly on my mind. Maybe it was me. Weak in the flesh; not enough faith; loving my sin too much; were all options I had heard preached about. The problem had to be with me, not God.

Since becoming a Christian I’d been a faithful Bible reader and would read through, cover to cover from Genesis to Revelation, at least once a year. As well as this I did additional reading of the New Testament and attended regular group Bible studies; up to three a week. To the ‘born again’ Christian, the Bible is like food that should be consumed every day. If God’s Word was food then I was bloated.

I had read in the Gospels about the time, after Jesus’ baptism and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove, he went into the wilderness where he prayed and fasted for forty days. The scripture said that Jesus went into the wilderness ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ but after those forty days he came out ‘in the power of the Spirit’. Fasting was a way of gaining spiritual power and your prayers are super-charged. That’s it, I thought. I’ve been saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, had demons cast out of me, if I fast for forty days God’s power will be released in me to totally overcome. I will have my promised miracle.

I booked myself into Kihilla, a Christian retreat centre in the Blue Mountains, just over an hour west of Sydney, to fast and pray for forty days. It wasn’t easy. I felt like I was wrestling with my flesh, demons and the Devil himself but I got through it and returned to Sydney. It wasn’t long before I realised that fasting hadn’t given me extra spiritual power like Jesus – all I got was skinny.

And now defeated once again, sitting in Pastor Paul’s office, his words made complete sense.

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“The only way for you to really beat this is to go into rehabilitation. Are you prepared to do that?” he said, in a challenging voice.

With my head in my hands and too ashamed to look up and speak, I replied, “Yes, I’m sick of this defeat. Whatever it takes.”

There had been times I had considered this drastic step but always felt that somehow God and I could overcome it together. But the three years of unsuccessful struggle and repeated cycles told me this was the only way. Maybe even my last hope.

Pastor Paul rang to make arrangements for me to go down the next day to Moombara and discuss the possibility of going into the residential program with Pastor Shirley.

Moombara, was an independent Pentecostal church in the southern suburbs of Sydney that had gained some fame for its success in rehabilitation. It was pastored by two women, Shirley and Enid, which was highly unusual as most Pentecostal churches banned women preachers because of the teachings of St Paul who said ‘Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness.’[5] The fact that Shirley was also divorced was another mark against her in Bible-believing circles. To be divorced was against God’s will as far as we knew. No wonder she had to have her own church, no other denomination would have ordained her.

On a smaller scale but like the famous Teen Challenge, founded by David Wilkerson in New York in 1960[6], Moombara had been successful with a few drug addicts and also worked with homosexuals. Moombara commenced its work in the late 1960’s as the Charismatic movement began to infiltrate Sydney Christian circles. I had heard that a couple of guys living at Moombara were almost ‘free’ and one who had been ‘healed’ was now engaged to a girl in the church. When I met Nigel he still seemed to have feminine traits and rarely showed any affection towards his fiancée Lynn, but who was I to judge or doubt his miracle?

Whilst in New Zealand at the beginning of 1971, I’d met Shirley, the lead pastor, when she came to speak at the Bible college. By this time most of the college knew about my ‘problem’ and my deliverance. I was still in a euphoric state just after my exorcisms. Shirley came into my room after lectures to talk privately with me. Whilst sharing my excitement of my new deliverance, she had implied that the only way a person can really be delivered of homosexuality was through a rehabilitation program. “Casting the demons out was just the beginning”, she had told me; I also needed to change my way of thinking, ‘a renewing of my mind’ the Bible called it, and that would take time. Shirley suggested I should contact her when I returned to Australia. It was confusing to be getting such different advice from different leaders. It was certainly easier for me to believe that I was over my struggle at that time. Doubt is a tool of the Devil. Faith is what will give me the victory.

According to Shirley, Moombara’s system was the only successful program for homosexuals available in Australia, possibly the world. She was right about that. Exodus in the United States would not be founded until 1976 and the ‘Love in Action’ 12-step program for homosexuals commenced by Kent Philpott and Frank Worthen in San Francisco in 1973[7], didn’t become a residential program until 1979[8], when it moved to Memphis.

After Pastor Paul had finished making the appointment with Moombara, I had to go home and face Mum and Dad. What would I say? I really felt sorry for them and all the stress I had been putting them through. I told Mum what was happening but again it was decided it would be best to keep the full details from Dad.

When Dad discovered where I was going, he became very concerned. My father was an interesting man with many connections in politics, the police force and other places. He didn’t want me to go because somehow he’d heard the controversial tactics used by Moombara and that some had branded it a cult. I reassured him I would be safe and if there were any difficulties, I promised I would come home.

The drive down to the southern suburbs of Sydney at the beginning of 1972 was quiet. I knew Dad was already disappointed that his attempts to make a man out of me over the years had failed. It seemed we had little in common except the family name. Meaningful conversations were non-existent. And how could I ever talk with him about the struggles in my life.

Eventually, we drove down the steep, narrow, windy road towards the water and arrived at Moombara. As we pulled up, the tyres crunched on the pebbles in the large parking lot, built to accommodate the cars for services held at the mansion. Moombara was a stately two-storey sandstone mansion built in 1881, that had been converted for the dual purpose of live-in rehabilitation and weekly church services. Dad drove off as Shirley greeted me at the door, and led me into her large, tastefully appointed office. When she sat at her desk I could see the idyllic view through the windows behind her of the boats on Port Hacking Bay, artistically framed by over-hanging gum trees. The décor spelt class, with fine furnishings and antiques that matched the historic building. Noting that I was impressed by the surroundings Shirley quickly stated that Australia’s celebrated opera soprano Dame Nellie Melba, also famous for Peach Melba and Melba toast, had sung from the balcony off her bedroom upstairs.

I heard the door open behind me and turned around to see a tall, 180 centimetre, ruggedly handsome man. “This is Paul,” Shirley said. I rose to feel the strong masculine grip of his handshake engulfing my much smaller hand. I tried not to show that the handshake hurt. I wondered if Paul was an example of a successfully rehabilitated homosexual man. Shirley picked up on my instant admiration.

“Paul’s straight and married to Robyn but he understands what you will be going through,” she assured me. I wondered how, but becoming a man like Paul was very appealing. Apparently he was to be my ‘minder’ and, more importantly, the strong male role model/mentor I had apparently lacked all my life.

Like all ‘ex-gay’ programs that would eventually spring up around the world, Moombara believed that homosexuality was not innate but caused by a distant father and a dominant mother. It was a developmental problem also believed by mental health professionals at the time. The concept of sexual orientation, even though it was introduced in Alfred Kinsey’s research, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male[9] in 1948, would take several decades to catch on. Early sexual abuse was also touted as a cause of the homosexual ‘problem.’

As a distant father and strong mother were directly in conflict with the Bible’s ideal of the family where the male is the head of the home and the wife is submissive, apparently my upbringing had caused me to be defective in my sexual development. If that was the case then there must be an entire generation of latent homosexuals, as this was very much the culture of my day. Fathers fulfilled the role of authority figure and provider and most didn’t show affection or love beyond a practical expression. Based on what Moombara believed, I wondered for a moment how useful my relationship with Paul would be considering we were being dominated by two very strong-willed ladies. If the theory was correct, then Moombara was a breeding ground for homosexuals.

Shirley interrupted my thoughts, “To be transformed permanently from homosexuality will take at least twelve months, possibly two years.” My heart sank. Shirley walked me through the rules I was to live by for the coming months of full-time rehab.

“We’ve found,” Shirley added, “that homosexual men like bikini underwear.” Any bikini underwear I had would be taken from me and destroyed as it was too sexual. Y-fronts only. New underwear would be purchased for me. I understood what she meant though. They were sexy. I knew I’d lingered a little too long in the men’s underwear aisles admiring the models with their bulges and well-defined torsos on the packets. It was the closest thing to porn that I knew of.

In addition, I was not to be alone at any time—if Paul wasn’t with me, someone else would be assigned to look after me. I was to be up promptly at 6 o’clock in the morning, so I didn’t lie in bed and masturbate; another downfall of the homosexual. While in the shower Paul or one of the other counsellors would be standing by to make sure I didn’t masturbate. I would work hard all day so that when I went to bed at night, I would fall asleep immediately. And, finally, I was to ensure that I urinated directly before going to bed so that the pressure on my bladder didn’t arouse me and—I was beginning to get the picture—cause me to masturbate. Shirley’s bluntness was embarrassing but I was already acutely aware of this sin in my life. I had kept records in the back of my Bible monitoring how frequently I ‘self-abused’ with the intent of finally eliminating it completely. The Bible was clear that sex was only available to a man and a woman in the confines of marriage and semen belonged in a vagina.

Paul took me to the upstairs bunkroom I was to share with four other guys. I wondered if any of my roommates were here for the same reason I was but that was something I was never to find out. Another rule, you only speak to leaders about your problems, never to others in the program. Paul stood by as I unpacked my suitcase and took every piece of offensive homosexual clothing, including my new trendy pink shirt and matching socks. Real men don’t wear pink. Even in gaol all your belongings are returned when you’re released but I never saw those items again.

I spent the first week adapting to the structure of the daily program. After breakfast I began the day by listening to tapes of the Bible, while I read the same verses from the Bible in front of me. This double reinforcement—the aural and the visual—was to reprogram and ‘renew my mind’ as the Bible said[10]. The rest of the day was occupied with chores including gardening and maintenance work around the properties, manual labour or working with tools—always male chores that would help me become a ‘normal’ man. Never cooking—I was told that homosexuals love to cook and, besides, that was women’s work.

The entire church consisted of about one hundred and fifty people. Approximately twenty ‘lived-in’ at Moombara while another thirty lived at the other property another fifty or so kilometres away at the secluded beach of Bundeena. Being a Bible training centre, Bundeena would be the next stop for me in my rehabilitation program. The remainder of the congregation consisted of locals.

All church meetings were compulsory: Sunday morning service was at Bundeena then back to Moombara for the evening service; Monday night was prayer meeting; Wednesday night was family dinner at Moombara; Thursday night was worship night back at Bundeena; and the Saturday night youth group was also held at Moombara. Not much time left! The basic philosophy was that, by living in a totally protected environment, you were able to gain more control and overcome your sin. Once you learnt not to sin then you would be given more freedom, eventually being strong enough to live victoriously in the outside world.

I was angry that I had allowed myself to get to a point where I had to give total control of my life over to other people.

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Moombara leaders had embraced a current trendy theology that was based on the Greek word for love, agape, which is the highest form of love, the unconditional love of God; different from eros (physical) or phileo (brotherly) love. According to this theology, loving someone with the agape love of God meant you could do anything as long as your intention was for their highest good. Moombara took this teaching to new extremes and desiring a person’s highest good was used to justify humiliation, deprivation and manipulation. The leaders’ authoritative methods and motives were never questioned. To question was rebellion and ‘rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft’.[11]

One example of the way they showed their agape love involved Sharon, who had come to Moombara just before me. She had been sexually abused by her stepfather and other family members and was finally thrown out of home by her mother. Her mother saw Sharon as a threat to her marriage and accused her of leading the abusive stepfather on. Sharon had come to Moombara seeking help and a way out of her life of drugs and prostitution. It had taken her at least a week to feel comfortable in the new household, as this was the first time in her life she had been with people who seemed genuinely concerned for her welfare. Fifteen of us sat around the large kitchen table —for Sharon and I it was our first compulsory Wednesday family dinner. At the conclusion of the meal it was time to give a special greeting to the newcomers.

‘I’d like to introduce you to Sharon,’ Shirley commenced, ‘But you really wouldn’t like to know Sharon.’ What did she mean? I thought. Knowing she now had everyone’s attention Shirley continued, ‘You see, Sharon is selfish and not a very nice person. She’s proud, conceited and a slut. After some time here, if she lets God work in her life, she will change.’ Sitting opposite Sharon, I watched her face change from smiling, to shock, to tears and finally to hanging her head, sobbing. She was devastated and so was I, and I wondered why I’d been spared a similar ordeal. That was to come later.

After a few weeks of compliant behaviour, I was allowed to venture out into the real world and get a job that would help pay for my rehabilitation and the next step, training college at Bundeena. Moombara had an arrangement with the human resources manager of the Brownbuilt factory a couple of suburbs away and selected inmates could get work on the production line making office furniture without being asked too many questions. On the production line I was given the mind-numbing job of screwing handles on wardrobes all day. Being dropped off and picked up for work, it was a relief to get away from the oppressive, restrictive environment for eight hours.

Another reward for my compliance was a trip to the south coast for a Saturday outing with three other people from the church, to see the sights and spend time being normal. Most of all though, it was a test of trust. We stopped for lunch at a little town where the main street was called Queen Street. Being the clown I usually was, I ran over to the street sign, leant against the post, and assumed the position of a hooker. One of my companions took a photo, unaware that this moment of frivolity was going to be my downfall.

The next Sunday night a carload of my friends came to see me— the select few who really knew what was going on. We hadn’t had any contact for six weeks and I knew they were concerned about me so it was great to see them again. We were standing together chatting in the lounge room after the service, surrounded by about sixty other people, when Shirley suddenly stormed into the room. Her dramatic entry ensured that all conversations subsided and heads turned in her direction. I knew I was in trouble as she marched towards me.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she screamed, having no regard for my friends standing with me. In fact, I think she had particularly chosen this time to ensure my humiliation had maximum impact. She knew how guarded and embarrassed I was about letting people know about the real me. I felt ill when I caught a glimpse of what was in her hand. “I suppose you think this is funny?” she yelled, waving the photo in the air for all to see and pausing for a moment to ensure that everyone in the room was focused on what was to come. She continued her barrage as she tore the photo to shreds in front of us all.

“So you’re a queen, are you? Well, if you want to be queer we can certainly arrange that for you. If I ever catch you doing something like this again, I’ll get that photo and put it on the noticeboard so the whole church can see. Un—der—stand?” She poked me in the chest with her finger with each syllable for added emphasis.

I tried to speak and defend myself but nothing came out; I was numb. My friends stood in shock, wondering what horribly evil deed I had done to deserve such a tirade. Explanations were useless.

“You’d better go,” I said quickly to my shocked friends, trying to hold back my tears. I escaped to the kitchen immediately and cried like a little child. I remember thinking how infantile my response was but I couldn’t stop sobbing for the next three hours. I knew some people at Moombara felt sorry for me but no-one dared console me or challenge Shirley’s tactics. Greg, my roommate, came into the kitchen on the pretext of getting a glass of water and quickly looked around to make sure no-one would see or hear. A simple, “You’ll be okay, mate,” and he disappeared again back into the lounge room for safety. As long as I was in the kitchen it was the enemy’s camp and siding with me would mean rejection from the others. And anyway, Shirley was showing me agape love because she was dealing with my homosexuality. Whatever it took.

The next Friday after my public humiliation was pay-day at the factory and, still feeling fragile and frustrated, I was ready to break out—I’d had enough. Originally, I had been driven to and from work but a new privilege I had been given was to catch public transport. So, as soon as I picked up my pay envelope, instead of taking it to Moombara and handing it over, I boarded the train to the city.

Arriving at Town Hall Station I had a five-minute masturbation with a stranger in a cubicle. It wasn’t fancy but did the trick of relieving the tension and stress that had built up. Next thing to do was to get a drink. I knew there was a homosexual underground somewhere in the city, probably at Kings Cross, but I had no idea how to find it. I went to a nearby hotel and drank until I could hardly stand. My brief moments of freedom only reinforcing what I had been told and how desperately I needed help. I’d just done what the Bible says a fool does; ‘like a dog returns to his vomit[12]. I thought briefly of going to my friends or home to Mum, Dad and the family but I was a mess. I put myself back on the train to Moombara, the only place I believed that help was available.

I was still very drunk when I arrived by taxi at 10.30pm with my reduced pay packet. Paul greeted me at the door with a predictably displeased look and took me to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. We were both sitting in silence when Shirley appeared with Paul’s wife Rachael. Paul rose to his feet and the three stood over me.

“What have you been doing?” Shirley asked gruffly. I started to cry again and apologised for what I had done.

“Did you have sex with anyone?” Shirley continued.

“Yes,” I simply replied, knowing it was useless giving any further details or justification.

“Was it good?” she asked, knowing that the guilt and shame ensured I never really enjoyed what I did. To allow myself to actually enjoy the moment meant I would be giving myself over completely to my sin.

“No.” I knew I was being painted into a corner.

“Well, that was a waste of time and money, wasn’t it?” she said gleefully.

“Please let me stay, I’ve nowhere else to get help,” I pleaded. “I’ve got to keep trying.”

“Go to bed, we’ll talk in the morning,” was all that was said. I was expecting much more.

The next day I had a shocking hangover. Summoned to the office, I was given my schedule for the day. First of all, no work; I was pleased about that. An appointment had been made for me with a doctor at Cronulla at 11am so that I could have a VD (venereal disease) test. This was necessary as there were children at Moombara, I was told, though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Did it mean that they subscribed to a belief, prevalent at that time, that homosexuals were not really attracted to the same sex but were actually paedophile predators who wanted to molest little boys? I didn’t question their reasoning, but as uneducated as I was about sexual things, I really didn’t think I could get an STD from masturbating with someone. Maybe it was just another way of humiliating me and reminding me of how disgusting and dirty I was. The doctor was more reassuring and, after questioning me about what actually happened, obviously felt this was an unnecessary degradation. Of course, when the results came back I was pronounced clean.

I had no more relapses for several weeks so Bundeena Christian Training Centre was to be my next step, but it would cost money Shirley reminded me. Several thousand dollars for the three-month program. I rang a couple I knew from Christian Faith Centre to see if they would help me out and add to what I had saved from my time at the factory.

After another a couple of months at Bundeena Bible Training Centre, I had lost all desire to fight my homosexuality. I was tired and just wanted to get out of the oppressive environment. But how? I had already run away once and my money was kept in trust – inaccessible.

I asked to see Shirley and Enid and was granted an audience.

“I’m finding it hard to fight my homosexuality,” I began. “I’ve never really known what it is like to be a true homosexual. Maybe if I go out and find out what it’s like, I’ll learn to really hate my sin and then when I come back, I’ll have more motivation.” This was only half true. I had lost motivation but I still wanted to be free from homosexuality and was hoping there would be another way other than Moombara. Shirley and Enid knew it was impossible to work with someone who had lost their motivation so agreed I should leave. They reminded me of my future as a homosexual, which included never finding love, happiness or having a lasting relationship. “It’s a shallow world of bitchy, dysfunctional, nasty, lonely people,” they said.

I was allowed to make a call and arrange for my sister and brother-in-law to pick me up the next Sunday (they weren’t allowed to come immediately— the hope was that I would change my mind). As with every call I had made previously, Paul sat next to me to make sure I said the right things.

From that point, people treated me as if I was unclean, except for a couple of friends I had made. According to the Apostle Paul’s instructions they were to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.’[13] I had wilfully rejected the grace of God and was to be treated as an outsider. The few signs of compassion now faded into coldness.

When Sunday morning arrived at the Bundeena property, I purposely sat at the back of the congregation so I could see when the family arrived and make a quick getaway. The service was almost over when I saw my sister Sue, already showing signs of her first pregnancy, with her husband Ian on the verandah and I quickly escaped to the balcony to greet them. Shirley caught the movement out of the corner of her eye and was hot on my heels. Just before I had reached my sister, Shirley grabbed my arm and held me back; even though she was skinny she had a surprising strength.

“Do you know your brother is one of Sydney’s worst homosexuals?” she began. “He is filthy and disgusting and does …” She told them everything I had done but exaggerated wildly making every detail sound as sordid as possible. It was incomprehensible to think that she could lie so blatantly in front of me to say nothing of confidentiality. She knew that I had never even been inside a gay club or bar. Sue and Ian were having trouble hearing such things; so was I.

It was important not to cry this time as I was determined to show Shirley she couldn’t break me anymore.

My sister Sue straightened herself up and with the strength and integrity that my older sister possesses, said, “Well, there’s a lot of love in our family, I’m sure we’ll work it out.” I was so proud of her. Good on you, Sue, I thought. Shirley persisted in assassinating my character but Sue refused to be intimidated. “Well, there’s a lot of love in our family,” she kept repeating. Ian, a quiet natured man, feeling a little embarrassed at the openness and confrontational nature of the conversation, picked up my bags, indicating it was time to move on.

We walked to the car in silence but when I sat in the back seat I breathed a sigh of relief and broke down. Even though it was so good to at last be free, I wondered how this might affect my salvation. What if I should die while I’m away from God? I’d go to hell. I knew I was taking a huge risk.

****************************************

When I walked off the Bundeena verandah that morning in 1972, I had no way of knowing the path that lay before me. Within a couple of years my hopes and dreams would be fulfilled. I would be married, have children and become a famous Australian preacher but all this would come crashing down and I would lose everything amidst scandal in 1991. Walking away from it all, I believed I was destined for hell. It would be another six years before I found resolution of my faith and sexuality and eventually became a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community leader. But that’s another story[14].

Shirley and Enid had a falling out, Moombara and Bundeena Christian Fellowship finally imploded and many of the gay men and lesbians who were a part of the community went on to live fulfilling lives, completely at peace with their sexual orientation that once caused them so much angst. As with most of these gay conversion programs, there were also those who never made it. The sense of failure and shame mixed with the trauma of their experience spiralling them into hopelessness and depression, they ended their lives.

At a Bundeena reunion, thirty-five years later in 2007, many were there to recall the positive impact and healing the church and centre had on their lives. Some just couldn’t come as it would have been too traumatising. I saw Shirley on the other side of the room. Some I’d spoken to had chosen to avoid her but I knew it was important to face my fears and take back my power I had willingly handed over all those years before. I walked purposely across the room, unsure if she would even remember me. A lot of people had gone through the program before and after me.

“Hi Shirley,” I said with a smile, sort of hoping that over the years, like so many of us, she’d become more enlightened. “I just wanted to let you know that I found peace with God and myself and I’m very happy being a gay man.”

“Yes,” she replied in a firm tone. “I’ve heard about what you’ve been up to you. Well you know what I believe.”

I did. It was clear. Nothing had changed at all.

****************************************

What I had experienced at Moombara and Bundeena Christian Fellowship in 1972 didn’t have a label that I was aware of; actually there was none. Not ex-gay, reparative, conversion therapy or gay conversion therapy. I just wanted to be free of the sin of homosexuality I seemed to give into so easily.

My experience that year was pretty unique. Over the next four decades though, it would be the experience of countless thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals throughout the world. Hundreds of organisations, the vast majority Christian ministries, would offer ‘hope for homosexuals’ and the promise that ‘change is possible.’ It is impossible to realistically estimate the number of individuals who became involved in the ‘ex-gay’ world at some point. Claims from ‘ex-gay’ leaders such as the president of Exodus, Alan Chambers of ‘hundreds of thousands’[15] of ‘ex-gays’, were always unsubstantiated. Considering the number of organisations and ministries that came and went over time, the number involved is substantial and the horrendous damage on individual lives enormous, as you’ll no doubt see in later chapters.

An analogy that will help explain our journey through this book is that the phenomena of LGBT conversion practices is like a river. A river has a source. Patriarchy, ignorance, hatred, fear and shame are our sources; both internal in the individual and external in society. The source is not religion though. As the river flows through the mountains and valleys it is fed by many streams. The streams that flowed into the mighty LGBT conversion movement ARE many. In the early days the mainstream media played their part as did law enforcement, politics and mental health professionals.

As we go on this journey, you’ll see the switch to religion came in the 1960s. The Jesus Revolution and the Charismatic movement, modern Bible translations, Christian publications and of course along this journey of many decades, individual’s personalities and egos played a significant role. As these are all developed later, the pathway on the map will become clear. Sometimes the river runs strong and steady, other times through turbulent rapids, finally spreading out in the delta finding new forms and expressions. I believe you’ll also see how the fundamentals of what we knew as the ‘ex-gay’ movement still exist in many churches today and even though in a more sanitised version, will continue to bring destruction to countless thousands of young LGBT lives. The solution, to what can only be described as a slow and silent genocide, is education, acceptance and affirmation. Every other avenue has been tried and devastatingly failed.

“Following the history of the LGBT conversion movement it becomes abundantly clear that these three things abide; denial, deception and wilful ignorance. But the greatest of these is wilful ignorance.” Anthony Venn-Brown

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[1] Genesis 6:3

[2]Ephesians 4:30

[3] Laurie Guy, “Spirit Possession, Theology, and Identity: A Pacific Exploration “Spirit Possession” and “Deliverance Ministry” in the Auckland Assembly of God, 1970-1983. ,” in Possession, Theology, and Identity: A Pacific Exploration, ed. Philip Culbertson & Susan Smith (eds) Elaine Wainwright (ATF Press, , 2010).

[4] Matthew 12:43-45.

[5] 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

[6] David R. Wilkerson, John L. Sherrill, and Elizabeth Sherrill, The cross and the switchblade (New York: Random House, 1963).

[7] https://web.archive.org/web/20070307024609/http://www.loveinaction.org/default.aspx?pid=103

[8] J.J. Smid, Ex’d Out: How I Fired the Shame Committee (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012).

[9] Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co, 1948.

[10] Romans 12:2

[11] 1 Samuel 15:23

[12] Proverbs 26:11

[13] 1 Corinthians 5:5

[14] Venn-Brown, Anthony. A Life of Unlearning: A Preacher’s Struggle with His Homosexuality, Church and Faith. 3rd ed. N.p.: Personal Success Australia, 2015. Print.

[15] W Buchanan, “‘Ex-gay’ therapy claims deceptive,” SFGate Report March 3, 2006, http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Report-Ex-gay-therapy-claims-deceptive-2540440.php#ixzz1sGkwcYLv

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