Jul 12, 2015

Information on conversion therapy in Australia

You will find relevant and up to date information on Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International website and on our blog.  All media inquiries go here 

Mar 22, 2014

Living Waters, Australia's oldest ex-gay/conversion therapy organization, to close

Living Waters Australia (LWA), one of the foremost and longest running ex-gay/conversion therapy programs in this country will cease operations next month. Ron Brookman, the Australian director, made the announcement in a newsletter to followers last week.  Many in the gay community are applauding this move as it means only a small number of these organisations remain.

Anthony Venn-Brown, founder of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International, who has been monitoring Australian ex-gay activities for nearly two decades, welcomed the news.

"For the last fifteen years ex-gay ministries have been in decline in this country. Living Waters Australia closure means we are near the end. The tipping point was reached some time ago but a handful of these organisations, including LWA, declared they would continue or operate after Exodus International closed its doors last year.  What is particularly significant is that LWA has been one of Australia's most prominent and long lasting organisations. In many ways LWA's closure is  equivalent to Exodus International in the US shutting down" Venn-Brown said.

"Participants in these 'change is possible' programs are often emotionally and psychologically damaged.  It can take years to work through the trauma, shame and self-loathing.  Some have even taken their own lives. The closure does mean that Christian people 'struggling with unwanted same sex attraction' will have fewer options and less people will be harmed. But it also means that we have to build bridges to the strugglers to help them reconcile faith and sexuality instead of being told they have to choose one or the other. Sadly, for the next twenty years we will no doubt be working with those previously damaged by the out dated message that homosexuality is a sin and God changes gay people to straight"  Venn-Brown added.

"The remaining organisations days are well and truly numbered. The gay Christian movement grows exponentially, the number or LGBTI welcoming, accepting and affirming churches increases annually. The vast majority of Australians have an out, proud gay or lesbian brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, parent or grandparent, friend or work colleague. And to hear churches or religious organisations label them as sick, dysfunctional and broken is abhorrent, offensive and ignorant" Venn-Brown said.

LWA is winding up the organization with a Thanksgiving Service at the Ramsgate Community Church on Saturday 12th April.

On the same day, Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International will be holding a vigil "to remember those we have taken their own lives because of the conflict of their faith and sexuality and also celebrate those who have come out the other end of ex-gay programs and are now living openly proud lives as gay women and men" Venn-Brown concluded.

Media inquires

M: +61 (0)416 015 231+61 (0)416 015 231
Twitter: @gayambassador

Nov 16, 2013

What does an ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy leaders job look like?

One of few remaining Australia's ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy ministries, Liberty Christian Ministries, is advertising for someone to work for the organisation (advertisement above). 

After 15 years of monitoring ex-gay organisations and knowing many ex-gay leaders (former and current), it made me think what a realistic job description might look like. Probably something like this.

A Christian ministry, working with 'unwanted same sex attractions', seeks new leader.

Selection Criteria
  • Your same-sex-attraction must be unwanted 
  • Supernatural faith that God can make all people 'normal' (turn green eyes to blue, red hair to brown, make left handed people right handed and, of course, homosexuals heterosexual) 
  • Excellent double-speak communication skills. Example 1: Say heterosexuality is not the goal but constantly talk about being married and having children with 'proves' you are no longer gay. Example 2: Say you are a 'former homosexual' and that any thoughts or feelings you have now towards the same sex are just thoughts and temptations. 
  • Good knowledge of appropriate wording (appropriate words - homosexual, homosexuality, unwanted same-sex-attraction, sexual/relational brokenness. Inappropriate words – gay, lesbian, LGBT, sexual orientation. You can use the word gay when referring to gay activists or the 'gay lifestyle' however.) 
  • Clearly understand the 'no-one is born gay' theory but that homosexuality is caused by a strong mother/weak father and/or sexual abuse and be able to source websites and articles that demonstrate you are right (whilst ignoring latest scientific research).
  • Ability to link an individual's sexual addiction and abuse to their homosexuality and not be confused these as separate issues.
  • Be prepared to accept the highest levels of accountability to make sure you are not secretly playing up behind the scenes. 
  • Confidently and assertively communicate to people struggling with same-sex-attraction that they can never experience falling in love or having a life partner (celibacy is their calling). 
  • Highly motivated to work with people who eventually give up. 
  • Exceptional organisational skills to build a ministry that is becoming increasingly irrelevant
  • Must be able to quote the Sodom and Gomorrah story, Lev 18:22 & 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9 by heart. And also demonstrate that these verses are about homosexuals today and have nothing to do with rape, pagan practices or temple prostitution.
    Successful applicants will have to answer these 20 questions
    NB: No formal psychological or counseling accreditation required.
    For more information on the work of Liberty Christian Ministries read here.

    © Anthony Venn-Brown 
    Twitter: @gayambassador 

    Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and  was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.

    Oct 28, 2013

    New South Wales parliament passes motion against ex-gay therapies

    The Legislative Assembly of the Australian state of New South Wales passed a motion today condemning attempts to treat homosexuality as a treatable condition
    24 October 2013 | By Andrew Potts

    Openly gay independent MP for Sydney has had a motion opposing attempts to treat homosexuality as a treatable condition passed by the New South Wales (NSW) state Parliament.

    Greenwich’s motion, passed by the NSW Lower House, states that therapies attempting to turn gay people straight do not work, stigmatize gay men and lesbians and are fundamentally damaging to mental health.

    ‘Reparative therapy has been condemned by Australian, New Zealand and US psychological organizations, yet at least 10 organizations still practice it in Australia,’ Greenwich said today.

    ‘Embedded in its theory is the notion that homosexuality is somehow a disorder that can be “fixed” and an immorality that must be healed. Many who have experienced reparative therapy develop psychological conditions including obsessive addictive behaviors, depression and suicidal ideation.

    ‘Today the NSW Parliament delivered a strong statement that there is nothing wrong or abnormal about being gay. I hope this message gets to vulnerable and isolated LGBTI youth in rural and regional NSW.

    ‘Homosexuality is neither a disorder nor immoral and most Australians find reparative therapy offensive. I welcome the agreement of the NSW Parliament on this. I believe that we should move to protect vulnerable people coming to terms with their sexuality, promote support and acceptance within faith communities and schools and outlaw this futile and damaging practice.'

    MPs who spoke on the motion included openly gay Liberal MP for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith, Labor MP for Macquarie Fields Dr Andrew Macdonald, Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker, and independent MP for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper.

    All the MPs who spoke to the motion highlighted the dangers of ex-gay reparative therapy and the damage it causes vulnerable gay and lesbian people.

    Greenwich will now refer the transcript of the debate to the parliament’s Health Care Complaint Committee inquiry into the promotion of false or misleading health related information or practices in the hope that it will recommend formal action against so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapists.

    Jul 24, 2013

    Exodus VP Says Sorry and Living Waters Greatest Regret

    From Randy Thomas's blog (bold emphasis mine)

    When Alan Chambers made his apology to the gay community, I couldn’t have been more supportive. I am so proud of my friend and fully agree with what he shared.

    I, too, have been taking a personal moral inventory. So many eye-opening experiences have occurred in the past twenty-four months – including the suicide of a beloved friend and former partner this past January. The loss of Michael forced me to face some issues I had not been willing to deal with until that time. And it’s through this process that I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to apologize to the gay community.

    Public Policy

    My understanding of public policy at that time was limited to the talking points I was given to tailor my testimony around. I did not do much research beyond these talking points – and as a result, my perspective was limited and nearsighted. I am very sorry that my uncritical perspective contributed to the hurt that many LGBT persons were already feeling.

    I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus’ commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I’m disappointed in myself. Please forgive me.

    I directly empowered people to co-opt my testimony and use it against the gay community. There were a few times I almost worked up the nerve to confront them, only to hear them invoke my name at an opportune moment. “Of course I love gay people,” they would say. “Just look at my good friend Randy…” It was very selfish of me to back down in these situations. I apologize.

    I was, in a sense, attracted to this kind of power and allowed my conscience to be numbed so I could have a seat at their table. In the name of trying to positively affect Christian leaders, I willingly became one of their pawns. Again, I was selfish and prideful. Please forgive me.

    The only thing I don’t regret about my past public policy efforts are some of the friends I made during that time. These few trusted Christians are in the public policy realm for all the right reasons.

    Keeping The Peace – Putting Out Fires at Exodus 

    In 1992, I was part of an Exodus affiliated ministry in Texas that believed being in relationship with Jesus alone was our goal. I never felt pressured to change my same sex orientation. I saw my life greatly improved by having the freedom to question my sexuality and identity. I assumed this was what happened at every Exodus group, and I ended up idealizing the entire ministry based on my singular experiences in Texas. However, after joining the Exodus staff, I was confronted with the reality that some methods used by some of our local ministries ended up bringing hurt and pain to the very people they were trying to comfort.

    There are many good people in the broader Exodus movement that I didn’t want to hurt by sharing the bad we’d uncovered. Other staff members and I dealt with some of these ills privately. But by keeping quiet, and not even letting our own leaders know the depths of what concerned us, I contributed to the negative response surrounding Alan’s recent apology. To protect some leaders, which wasn’t totally inappropriate, others didn’t know how bad some things had gotten. Therefore, some have been shocked that Alan apologized and that I, among others, were supportive. In order to protect the reputation of some, I chose silence. I apologize for remaining silent and passive. Looking back on my time with Exodus, it seems I was always waiting for a convenient time to discuss some of my concerns publicly. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

    Past Teachings 

    When I look back at some of my old interviews, group meetings, and keynotes over the past twenty years, I realize there are many things I would communicate differently today. In the past I taught quite a mixture of performance-based accomplishment along with God’s grace. I taught that God is always present, but if we don’t manage our sin properly, it could negatively impact our relationship with Him.

    That’s not grace. It doesn’t take seriously the finished work of the Cross.

    I look back on my time as a Living Waters coordinator (eleven years ago) with the most remorse. Even though there is some good in this program, it often ripped open old wounds in the name of healing by attempting to manufacture an environment for the Lord to work in. I have to apologize for the times some people may have felt manipulated to bare their souls to a group full of strangers. I apologize for any pressure we, on the Living Waters team I led, might have placed on group participants as we tried to help them cultivate “authentic experiences.”

    As a trained Living Waters coordinator, I used to hang on to every word Andrew Comiskey said. I even did some online consulting work for him. But today, over a year after leaving his employ as a consultant, I look back and recognize there were signs that something was wrong. In retrospect, I realize I helped build Andrew Comiskey’s online platforms – platforms which have increasingly gotten more vitriolic and stigmatizing toward the LGBT community. I regret that and I’m sorry.


    I apologize to the gay community for idealizing and reinforcing the institutional groupthink of Exodus. I apologize for remaining publicly silent about the hurt caused by some of Exodus’ leaders and actions. I also apologize for my inexperienced participation in public policy, placing my personal ambition over truly serving the gay community as a Christian friend.

    Moving forward, I pray the Lord helps keep me humble and reveals any issues/situations that require my consideration. I will keep an open heart and ear, and if and when action is necessary, I pray to find the grace and courage to quickly apologize and/or make amends.
    Randy Thomas & Anthony Venn-Brown after the final meeting of the final Exodus Conference June 203

    Jul 5, 2013

    Exodus Global Alliance Australia continues to crumble

    Recent mainstream media reports about the closing down of world's leading 'gay cure' organisation, Exodus International, and its impact on Australia have been misleading claims Anthony Venn-Brown.

    The Sydney Morning Herald's headline, which went out to hundreds of Fairfax outlets, read 'Gay cure' therapy will continue is lacking two more words says Venn-Brown "it should have read 'Gay cure' therapy will continue ....to disappear"

    Anthony Venn-Brown, the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International has been monitoring ex-gay organisations activities in Australia for over thirteen years. Venn-Brown has just returned from attending the final Exodus conference in Orange County CA, He was invited by Exodus International's president, Alan Chambers to hear the historic announcement "it's over".

    According to Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International research released this time last year, two thirds of organisations offering help to people with "unwanted same sex attraction" in Australia and New Zealand no longer exist.

    "Since that research there have been further ground breaking developments and even more organisations have shut up shop" Venn-Brown said. 

    Australian and New Zealand "ex-gay" organisations have been a part of the Exodus Global Alliance which is a loose affiliation of ministries outside North America who believe that homosexuality is a sin, a choice and can be changed.

    "Even though the Sydney Morning Herald article stated that these groups will continue the work it failed to mention what little there is left of the crumbling Alliance" Venn-Brown commented.

    "Mosaic Ministries website has been taken down after the tragic suicide of one of its participants and the only worker at Liberty Christian Ministries, Haydn Sennitt, just resigned. Last year, Haydn admitted that he had only seen less than a dozen people.  Ministry One is another organisation that has gone from the Asia Pacific Global Alliance website as the founder and director, Simon Tinkler, came out as gay and been living with his male partner since 2009.  I released his story and apology last week after the Exodus conference", Venn-Brown added.

    Not only did Tinkler apologise for leading others astray he said "Above all I encourage gay people not to get married for the sake of the precious other person involved and to avoid ex-gay ministries like the plague".

    One of the few remaining members of the Global Alliance is Living Waters and the director, Ron Brookman vows to continue his work to see homosexuals change.

    Venn-Brown says this ministry will also disappear as he has also released a statement from a former straight Living Waters leader, Alan Le May. In the statement and apology Le May says he was "well meaning but misguided" and added "After approximately 3 years facilitation and subsequently many more years observation of other similar programs I have seen these hopes dashed rather than fulfilled and the consequence being a range of social, emotional and psychological problems for those whom we were compelled to help".

    "The vast majority of Australians don't see being gay as an issue and an increasing number of Christian churches are welcoming and affirming. The struggling Australian ex-gay organisations are swimming upstream against a tsunami. Considering the tragedies I've seen these organisations create in lives, the end can't come soon enough". Venn-Brown concluded.

    Media inquires

    M: +61 (0)416 015 231
    Twitter: @gayambassador

    Jun 26, 2013

    The final Exodus Conference

    The Secret Mission is no longer a secret

    Jim Burroway, Alan Chambers, Anthony Venn-Brown (L to R)
    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 the historic announcement.
    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.

    © Anthony Venn-Brown 
    Twitter: @gayambassador 

    Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and  was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.

    Jun 20, 2013

    Alan Chambers, President of Exodus, says sorry to the LGBTQ community

    I Am Sorry  June 19, 2013 By  

    To Members of the LGBTQ Community:

    In 1993 I caused a four-car pileup. In a hurry to get to a friend’s house, I was driving when a bee started buzzing around the inside of my windshield. I hit the bee and it fell on the dashboard. A minute later it started buzzing again with a fury. Trying to swat it again I completely missed the fact that a city bus had stopped three cars in front of me. I also missed that those three cars were stopping, as well. Going 40 miles an hour I slammed into the car in front of me causing a chain reaction. I was injured and so were several others. I never intended for the accident to happen. I would never have knowingly hurt anyone. But I did. And it was my fault. In my rush to get to my destination, fear of being stung by a silly bee, and selfish distraction, I injured others.

    I have no idea if any of the people injured in that accident have suffered long term effects. While I did not mean to hurt them, I did. The fact that my heart wasn’t malicious did not lessen their pain or their suffering. I am very sorry that I chose to be distracted that fall afternoon, and that I caused so much damage to people and property. If I could take it all back I absolutely would. But I cannot. I pray that everyone involved in the crash has been restored to health.

    Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.

    And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

    Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.

    Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.

    Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

    More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

    I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.

    You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.

    Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

    Read full apology here and here