An open letter to faith leaders about reparative therapy – by Anthony Hinds
5 October 2018
Dear brothers and sisters,
I write that you might consider my story as you review and reassess your commitment to reparative therapy, or gay conversion therapy as some know it. For most of my 20s I actively and consistently sought God’s help to change my sexual orientation through prayer and ministry.
Born into a conservative evangelical family, I inherited a wonderful faith tradition. My paternal grandfather, and my father, were heavily involved in lay leadership in the Victorian Presbyterian church. For a number of years my father directed stewardship campaigns and was for a time the director of Stewardship and Promotion for the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. My mother came from committed Congregationalist stock and we were a faithful church-attending family.
In my teenage years I made a personal commitment to faith in Jesus Christ, guided by an evangelistic tract written by John Stott. I attended The Avenue Uniting Church and my faith grew – I hungered to know God better, and to have Him change and affect every area of my life – my service and my heart. In university I joined Student Life, the Australian arm of Campus Crusade for Christ. I was looking for faith instruction that not only told me how I should live, but also how I might be healed of my emotional scars and hindrances, so that I might achieve that life.
When I was 24 I joined Youth with a Mission or YWAM (with my wife), because they promoted this kind of healing as part of their work to “Know God and Make Him Known”. On reflection I think I was trying to deal with a number of personal emotional issues that included my same-sex attractedness. We went through a Discipleship Training School and joined staff, living and working as volunteers in two centres for a total of 14 years. In much of that time I actively sought healing from my homosexuality, as I will outline below.
Because of YWAM’s grounding in the Charismatic tradition, in those years I also experienced prayer for healing from my same-sex attractedness in a number of Charismatic and Pentecostal churches and settings. In addition guest speakers attended our centres who would pray for people as part of their ministry.
While at YWAM we also worshipped at St Hilary’s Anglican Church Kew. In time I became a worship leader and a key volunteer and member. I attended every Sunday; the church was a huge part of our social life too. For a number of the 21 years that I was at St Hilary’s, I continued to seek healing from my homosexuality through reading, reflection and prayer.
Much later my wife encouraged us to both participate in a program called Cleansing Streams. By that stage I was not actively seeking to change my sexual orientation, and the program covered a wide range of topics and issues. However, there was prayer for the changing of orientation and I willingly participated, open to whatever God might do for me in that time.
I list these contexts and experiences because I want to outline my religious literacy and spiritual commitment, and show the range of settings in which I actively tried to change my sexual orientation. Below I list the kinds of ministry and interventions in which I participated over nearly ten years:
- Consistent regular prayer by me for changing my orientation, including through the speaking of tongues
- Repeated prayer by others for the changing of my sexual orientation, including with the laying on of hands
- Charismatic prayer ministry for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent changing of my orientation
- My repeated public renunciation of my attraction to men
- Personal application of the principles of spiritual warfare in relation to the demons of homosexuality
- Exorcisms (aka deliverance) conducted by others with significant experience in such ministry
- Prayer by others and self for the ministration of the Father Heart of God
- Prayer by others and self for my ‘re-parenting’ by God to address the allegedly underlying causes of a ‘dominant mother and absent father’
- Exhortation by others, adopted by self, to assume physical stances that would send myself positive messages about changing my orientation e.g. standing up straight with hands by the side and chest out – trying to encourage positive feedback loops and ultimately change behaviour and orientation
- Controlling my thought life through not looking at pornography or any other ‘unhelpful’ images
- Controlling my thought life through praying each time I had an ‘unclean’ thought
- Actively seeking and promoting healthy friendships with straight men and being emotionally open and vulnerable with them, and allowing their acceptance and friendship to minister to me
- Participating in accountability relationships with other men where I would seek help and prayer if I felt I was being tempted in the area of homosexuality
- Studying books on the psychological causes of homosexuality
- Through personal prayer, reflection and meditation seeking to allow God to minister to what I believed were unmet needs in childhood related to my relationship with significant authority figures
- Developing a strong and intimate prayer life with Christ to receive His comfort in the manner some describe as ‘the Divine Lover’.
Please note that at no time before or during my marriage did I act on my homosexual orientation and I enjoyed the full support and comfort of my wife in my struggles.
My exhortation to you is that I tried many, many different strategies, on my own and with learned and mature leaders, with great faith and passion and desire for change – and nothing worked. My sexual orientation did not change. I experienced times where I felt more ‘straight’, but ultimately those feelings were a mirage. I remained, and remain, fundamentally attracted physically and romantically to men. For this reason alone – the lack of efficacy – I implore you to reconsider your belief in the wisdom of these ministries.
But these practices are not only ineffective, they are unsafe. I did a huge amount of psychological damage to myself, and allowed others to do damage to me. The message I sent myself was that a massive and core part of me was unacceptable, and it took me years to recover. Thankfully I kept my Christian faith through it, but I take this to be a miracle when I consider what the outcome might have been for my Christian walk.
What about Scripture? How can we neglect what the Bible says? I am not a theologian so I will not attempt to answer this, except to say that my faith in the truth of The Word was a key driver for my many years of trying to change my orientation. In years hence I have been able to reconcile the two.
But you don’t know me, and you have only my word in this letter to attest to my faith and my faithfulness. Do you know many gay people? Ones who have come to love and accept who they are? What about gay Christians who are healthy and happy? There are many, and when you come to know them you may realise that the fruit of their lives does in fact show the infilling of the Spirit, the ongoing work of Christ, and the love of God. You might get to know me – I would love to meet you and for you to get to know this happy and healthy gay person of deep spirituality.
As reparative therapy has only brought me pain and harm, and has not changed my sexual orientation,
I implore you to reconsider your support for it.