UPDATE: A response from The Evangelical Network now appears below the statements made by John and Ann Paulk.
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
John Paulk, a Portland caterer and former poster boy for the ex-gay movement, renounced his past in a recent interview with PQ Monthly (read the exclusive here). Today, Paulk issued a formal apology via a press release distributed by GLAAD.
“For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.
So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the “ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.
I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.
From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.
Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.
I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting “ex-gay” programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.
This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.
Finally, I know there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.”
His wife, Ann, released a statement of her own on April 22 through the Restored Hope Network — an organization “committed to serving those seeking Christ-centered answers for sexual and relational problems” — in response to her estranged husband’s “interview with certain members of the gay press”:
“Challenges have been mine over the past several years… not of my own design, but I have stood true in the profound strength I found in Christ Jesus. I have walked the path that God has put before me, alongside those I love. There are also certain paths I have refused to walk down, dark and dangerous paths of deceit and sin. Someone dear to me has made different choices followed by very different words. And there, on that path, our ways part sadly.
Many of you already know, and some have yet to know, that John and I are in the process of divorce. I do pray the very best for John and I have a greater love and affection than can be expressed in words. He is the father of my children, the man with whom I spent the past 21 years building a life together. His conclusions and mine are very different in key ways. I would ask that you join me in praying for his decisions regarding his future, hope, God’s truest freedom, and love to direct his decisions. Please also pray for the boys and myself as we also find our way forward.
Besides the personal statement above, I will be releasing a public statement as it becomes relevant. This is all that I would like to share concerning my marriage on Facebook… As I do media interviews, my focus is on getting the word out about Restored Hope Network and what God can do in a surrendered life. Christ is still at work changing lives into conformity with God’s will expressed in the Bible. I also realize that my life experiences have given me an invaluable empathy for those who suffer various types of grief and loss.”
She added later in the day:
“All questions regarding John’s personal life and words should be directed to him. I have been true to my marriage vows and true to Christ. Though my heart has been tremendously grieved by John’s words and moral choices, I have chosen–and will continue to choose–to follow Christ, care for my boys, and serve Restored Hope Network. Please pray for John as he makes choices regarding his future.”
What’s your take on the apology, and his wife’s continued work with ex-gay ministries?
UPDATE: The Evangelical Network, “an association of LGBT&S affirming evangelical ministries and individuals,” today released the following response to Paulk’s statement:
The Evangelical Network on John Paulk, Ex-Gay Therapy
To admit that you have made a mistake is difficult for most people. Acknowledging that you have hurt people can be even harder. In such circumstances the repercussions often include a high price, but this can also be necessary in truly understanding God’s grace. John Paulk’s apology to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community for his involvement in Exodus and ex-gay or reparative therapy programs is a big step in that direction.
Todd Ferrell, President, The Evangelical Network explained, “In 2012 I engaged in an ongoing dialog with John Paulk. It was obvious that he had been on a journey toward self-acceptance as a Christian gay man. No doubt that has been a difficult journey. Many of us have struggled with self-acceptance. I am glad that he recognizes the hurt that he has caused people in the past and is willing to publicly apologize for his past stance opposing homosexuality, and diverse gender identities.”
Paulk’s apology will not erase the pain suffered by many Christian LGBT people who believed the false teachings which claimed through prayer, counseling, and group therapy that their sexual orientation or gender identity would change. This will take time. Ferrell concluded, “People who were impacted by Paulk should be able to voice their frustrations, and release those emotions. It is important to remember however that we are all human. We have all made mistakes. We should reflect that Jesus taught forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the core of how we as Christians are to interact with each other, including those who have hurt us. John, the road ahead will no doubt be perhaps the roughest you have ever traveled. The Evangelical Network will always be there to listen and not judge you as you move forward.”
Since 1988 The Evangelical Network has been a support organization for LGBT Christians and especially those who come from an evangelical background. If someone is struggling with reconciling their Christian faith with their sexual orientation or gender identity please feel free to contact us. We believe there is no conflict with being Christian and LGBT.
PQ Editor-in-chief Julie Cortez contributed to this report.