(Photo: The Christian Post/Tyler O'Neil)
WASHINGTON – Following the June closing of Exodus International, other groups working with persons struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction are taking up the ex-gay banner, including Voice of the Voiceless, which hosted Monday the First Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Dinner and Reception that attracted about 60 Christian leaders and ex-gay individuals.
"When gays come out of the closet they are celebrated in the movies and on TV, when an ex-gay tells his story, he's mocked, ridiculed, defamed – and ask Trace McNutt, he gets death threats," Christopher Doyle, co-founder and president of ex-gay group Voice of the Voiceless, explained. He called for the movement to go on the offensive with the message that people can determine their sexual identity.
Doyle emphasized youth outreach, especially to Christians who suffer from same-sex attraction (SSA) but want to still maintain their faith. "Somewhere along the journey, they listened to the lie that they had to rid themselves of all homosexual feelings in order to be loved by their church, their community, and an opposite sex partner, so they gave up and went into the gay lifestyle," the VoV president explained.
"This is a battle of love, ladies and gentlemen," Doyle proclaimed. He called for Christians to welcome young people who struggle with SSA, and to bear with them as would parents of teens and twenty-somethings would bear with the struggles of straight youths. Doyle urged Christians "not to endorse their behavior, but to see their potential and look beyond the behavior to see into their hearts."
Doyle turned to Dennis Jernigan, an ex-gay singer and songwriter, to sing "the anthem of the Ex-Gay movement," a song called "Rise Up." Jernigan, whose song "You Are My All In All" is sung across the world in Evangelical circles, sang during the dinner, and broke into "Rise Up" before the final speaker.
Penned for the inauguration of the first female governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, the song champions the idea of self-determination and self-sacrifice. "Walk in deep humility, this is your identity, laying down your very life for those you lead," Jernigan sang. "Rise up! Rise up and be! Rise up, embrace your destiny!"
Mathew D. Staver, founder and chief counsel of Liberty Counsel and winner of the Ex-Gay Freedom Award, championed this idea of self-determination, in his legal argument against the recent reparative therapy bans in California and New Jersey. These bans violate justice, he argued, by "eliminating the client's right to self-determination, by enforcing on the counselor a particular viewpoint that you can talk about sexual orientation, same-sex attractions, but only if you want to affirm, not if you want to change them."
Staver told the story of clients he represents in New Jersey and California – "fourteen, fifteen-year-old boys" – who have benefitted from Christian counselors. Upon discovering their same-sex attraction, many "began to cut themselves, hate themselves, question who they are," and their relations with family and friends became fractured. After beginning counseling, however, their self-esteem improved, their same-sex attractions decreased, and their friendships improved.
Citing Luke 4, Staver argued that the freedom these boys experience from SSA is part of the freedom God promised in the scriptures in Isaiah. "What we're dealing with here is that very essence of the Gospel," the lawyer proclaimed.
Many ex-gays shared their testimonies, from former prostitute the Rev. Douglas McIntyre, founder of Acceptance Fellowship Ministries and co-founder of Homosexuals Anonymous, to former transgender the Rev. J. Grace Harley, founder and overseer of Jesus is the Answer Ministries.
"To have left homosexuality is a notable miracle," declared Greg Quinlan, an ex-gay and president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays. "I have seen the change, I have to speak of these things. It is my obligation to do that!" Citing Acts, Quinlan proclaimed his duty to preach the good news, "I will continue to declare that ex-gay is ok, you can change!"
In a particularly passionate speech, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md. and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, shared his miraculous story of surviving esophageal cancer and rededicating himself to God. "Lord, I stand in weakness, but you stand in power," Jackson, who is also known for fighting against same-sex marriage bills in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, prayed.
The pastor encouraged the ex-gays to declare passionately, "I'm going to live as a transformed ex-gay and I don't care who doesn't like it!"