Ex-gay ministry may have been casualty of political endorsement

First, the Donnie McClurkin kerfuffle and now the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell endorsement. That is not a sentence, but I’ll bet a few Barack Obama supporters muttered that and more after it was recently learned that Rev. Caldwell’s church promoted Metanoia (ex-gay) Ministry on it’s church website. In a Politico.com article, Rev. Caldwell said this about the ministry:

By Monday, Caldwell’s church, Windsor Village United Methodist in Houston, scrubbed its Web site of any reference to the gay conversion program, Metanoia Ministry.

In a Politico interview Tuesday, Caldwell said his 14,000-member church – one of the largest United Methodist congregations in the country – is not affiliated with Metanoia.

“I got to tell you, this is going to sound real stupid, but I didn’t know it was on our website,” Caldwell said. “I was surprised and embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed from the standpoint that I should have known. We have 120 ministries at the church. You can’t be on top of everything.”

When asked if he opposed such programs, Caldwell said: “It’s not a ministry of the church. It is not supported financially by the church. It is not located at the church. That is pretty much where I am with it.”

The Google cache of that website is here. I have written Barbara Hicks to find out if she still is affiliated with Metanoia and how the ministry functioned. Rev. Caldwell’s statements are curious in light of the Metanoia webpage. The webpage looks and sounds like the reader is to get the impression the ministry is a part of the church.

UPDATE: The cache has been removed but here is a saved web capture and a pdf file of the Metanoia Ministry and the Windsor Avenue church.

Upcoming ex-gay documentary stirs up controversy

An upcoming documentary (Spring, 2008) regarding the ex-gay movement has created hard feelings months before release. I received this release from filmmakers Bill and Mishara Hussung responding to an email from Joanne Highley of Life Ministries in New York City. Watch the trailer on You Tube.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Bill Hussung/ Mishara Canino-Hussung

Coqui Zen Entertainment

bill@coquizen.com

mishara@coquizen.com

Ex-Gay Ministry criticizes upcoming documentary.

A New York City ministry claiming to cure homosexuals with exorcisms isn’t pleased with an upcoming documentary by filmmakers Bill Hussung and Mishara Canino-Hussung. Joanne Highly, who runs LIFE Ministry, is responding to a Youtube trailer for the upcoming documentary in a recent mailing to ministry supporters. Highley says the filmmakers are, “using our footage to make us look bad,” and she adds, “We have been made fun of before.”

A trailer for the upcoming documentary features members of LIFE Ministry singing and dancing at the groups’ annual Christmas party. The trailer also includes a sound bite from Highley saying she came to New York to minister to “homosexuals and Jews.”

Co-director Bill Hussung says he’s surprised Highley views the clips of her annual Christmas party as an effort to make the ministry look bad. “The clips show people enjoying themselves and celebrating the work of the ministry, there’s no spin or slant involved in how those clips were edited,” Hussung says.

A trailer for the film, Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement, can be found at the following website:

http://www.coquizen.com/Site/trailer.html

Bill Hussung followed up the news release with this statement in an email about the challenges of making a documentary about those who believe they have altered sexual orientation.

More than four years ago we set out to document the journeys of people belonging to the most politically incorrect subculture in America. The result is Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement, a documentary film. Spending time with those who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight can be a bit of a paradigm rattling experience. We accept that identity is largely self-defined and acknowledge that sexuality can be fluid. Mick Jagger switches back and forth between men and women for much of the 1970s and defines jet setting chic. Self-defined identity and fluid sexuality are both left of center beliefs long associated with urban elites and secular progressives. Folks like most of those in the documentary film business. But there’s a disconnect when this paradigm butts up against the ex-gay movement. If we really believe identity is self-defined and sexuality fluid, then there’s nothing surprising, or offensive, about the ex-gay ministries and reparative therapists claiming to “heal” homosexuals of their unwanted desires. But we are surprised. And often offended. The central underpinning of gay identity is the belief that people are born gay and can’t change. The ex-gays challenge these beliefs. Their claims of having changed from gay to straight challenge our understanding of identity and tolerance. But are they living a lie?

We made this film to answer that question.

Bill Hussung & Mishara Canino-Hussung

Co-directors, Coqui Zen Entertainment

Looking forward to it.

Michael Brown responds to the Southern Poverty Law Center article on ex-gays

I posted yesterday about a Southern Poverty Law Center article, titled Straight Like Me, by Casey Sanchez, which blasted the ex-gay movement. In my post, I note several inaccurate reports. In this post, I provide a brief email interview with Michael Brown, president of the FIRE School of Ministry, who was named in a companion piece, Former Ex-gay Minister Speaks Out. I emailed Dr. Brown with some questions about these statements and he was very kind to respond quickly.  

Throckmorton: In a recent SPLC article, you are referred to as giving a keynote at the latest Exodus Conference. This subject of this article asserts that you believe the Old Testament law should be followed regarding homosexuals. Is this your belief?

Brown: Absolutely not! I am not and have never been a reconstructionist or theonomist, and if we were to put practicing homosexuals to death, we would also have to put Sabbath breakers to death, among many others. 

Throckmorton: Furthermore, in that same article, you were paraphrased as saying in that same Exodus speech that  you encouraged the audience to “give up their lives” in the fight against homosexuality. 

Brown: Out of context. What I did say was that JESUS was worth living for and dying for, and I often quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to illustrate what Jesus meant when he said that if we try to save our lives we lose them but if we lose our lives for him and the gospel, we find them. King said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right; a man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice; a man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” I was encouraging those fighting unwanted SSA in their own lives to be strong in the Lord and to give themselves unconditionally to His service, then talking about the threat to our freedoms coming through an activist gay agenda as a wake up call.

Throckmorton: Could you react to the following excerpt from the SPLC article: “When you have a keynote speaker like Michael Brown, to me that’s unacceptable. It’s preaching a message of Christians not just simply opposing gay civil rights and believing a spiritual revival is necessary for this country, but actually calling on Christians to lay down their lives in a spiritual revolution to set up civil laws based on one extreme interpretation of biblical laws from the Old Testament [that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals]. It’s Christian Reconstructionism [a doctrine that calls for imposing harsh Old Testament laws on civil society], Christian dominionism. It’s abhorrent, and it’s dangerous, not just for LGBT people but for our entire society. Because if civil laws are based on [Brown]’s interpretation of the Bible, it’s not going to be a democratic society.”

Brown: Well, as a Jewish believer in Jesus and a frontline apologist, I have been accused of many things, but I don’t think I’ve been accused of calling on people to sacrifice our lives to set up OT law!  I can actually send you my power point notes from the message or get Exodus to send you the message itself. I have no clue how such a claim could be made based on my message, which completely contradicts the tone and content of my preaching. Interestingly, since the Exodus conference, I have been invited to become a regular conference speaker with Love Won Out, which is hardly known for calling for the death penalty for homosexual practice.

I was also provided with this link [Straight Like Me] in which the following was written about me: “Brown is “a millennial Jew who once described the red T-shirts worn by his ministry students at a gay rights march counter-demonstration as ‘the shed blood of Christ flowing toward the gates of hell.'” I have no idea if anyone ever said that, but it certainly was not me. Also, our red-shirted students were not part of a counter-demonstration but rather of a compassionate, one-on-one outreach during the city’s gay pride event in 2005.

I intend to send the links to the this and the other post about the SPLC article for their reaction which, if I get one, I will post.

UPDATE: Michael Brown sent a link which provides proper attribution for the quote about the red shirts and the gay pride parade. Flip Benham, head of Operation Save America wrote that in this website newsletter.

Friend of the Scinto family comments on Houston Press website

The Houston Press article by Chris Vogel reporting on the New Warriors Training Adventure has drawn much interest on the newspaper website. Yesterday, a woman identifying herself as Heather Del Rio wrote a moving tribute to Michael Scinto and his family. Scroll all the way down the page to comment #61.

I will never forget the day I came into to work and listened to my messages and heard Becky’s distraut voice. “Hi Heather, It’s Bec. I just wanted you to know Mike’s dead. Call me.” and she broke down sobbing as she hung up the phone. I immediately called her, the reality, and permanance of it all not yet hitting me. Expecting her to tell me of a car accident I was shocked to find out he had commited suicide. Mike was a great man, a man that strived for beterment of himself. He followed after his father with the strength and humor that he provided to all he knew. To say that he was a troubled man, or that his parents obviously are looking to blame someone else rather than turning the finger on themselves is obsered. Any family who has been through a suicide death always looks to themselves first, what could I have done to stop this, why didn’t I see the signs, and so forth. This family is no different. Michael trusted the advice of his AA sponser as so many do, and he attended the weekend, I had never heard of something like this until Michael’s death.

Read the rest on the Houston Press website. Also, the newspaper has a blog with many comments of interest there. Clearly, this whole issue is controversial. I am interested in this topic now as a social movement and phenomenon, in addition to the ex-gay angle on the story.

More on the New Warriors Training Adventure

Since my initial post on the New Warriors Training Adventure, I have been asking around for reactions to the weekend. Also, I have been in contact with a large group of people who have attended one of the initiations. There is much secrecy surrounding this organization and the tone often borders on fear. I plan a series of posts on this topic to provide some information about what has been a fairly popular recommendation within reparative therapy circles. In fact, a couple of years ago, there was a significant rift in the New Warriors about a local branch that hosted a talk by Joseph Nicolosi. More on that in a later post.

I start with an account by an alum of the weekend and the follow up program, used by permission but anonymously. This describes reactions to the “welcome” offered by the staff of NWTA.

My NWTA

When you arrive at the NWTA all your possessions are taken away from you and searched. I didn’t want to hand over my camera because it cost a lot of money back then and I didn’t want them to have it.

They asked me if I had a camera and I said no. Then they opened my duffle bag and emptied everything on the floor and searched it. They opened my sleeping bag too. They found the camera and were angry that I lied to them. They took everything away, including tooth brush and tooth paste. (You know after all these years it’s still a little painful to remember this.) The only thing we were allowed to keep was an extra change of clothing, extra shoes, sleeping bag and pillow. Everything else was violently taken away from us.

After they searched my belongings, then they searched me. They did a pat down frisk, like the police do to a criminal. I was told to give up wallet, car keys, cell phone, money, jewelry, wedding ring, everything. We were not allowed to keep one thing on our bodies except our clothing.

I felt like a common criminal. The whole time they yelled at us, degraded us. They wouldn’t let us look at the other men. We could only look where they told us too look. The whole time this was done by men who were dressed in total black. They also had black makeup on their faces to conceal their identities.

After this we were all taken to a small damp room and instructed to sit on a damp concrete floor. This was some kind of storage shed. There was no heat. This was in November. There was only one candle for light. After all the men were taken into this room, someone came in and yelled and cussed at us and he kicked over the candle, putting it out. We were then locked in this dark, totally lightless room for several hours.

I was cold and I was in pain sitting on the concrete floor. I didn’t know who was around me. I was separated from my friend that I came to the NWTA with. I didn’t know where he was and I wasn’t allowed to be by him. I began to cry. At last a door opened and we were allowed to go out. It was night and there was total darkness in the sky. We arrived at the NWTA at about 5 pm and it was light. Now it was after 9 pm and dark. Four hours in that lightless room. It was like I was kidnapped by a gang of terrorists.

I am aware this program is controversial and some who like NWTA might say that this is an unfair negative appraisal. However, the consistency of those who I am in contact with is significant and matches the stories of others who are more positive about the weekend. I provide this and future posts for information purposes.

Another blog that analyzes human potential groups has picked up on this issue a bit here…

Sexual orientation: Is it “that predictable?”

A reader sent this link to Richard Cohen on Universal Peace Television, a Moon controlled internet television network. Cohen is interviewed by Michael Marshall, a Unificationist and Editor of United Press International. My purpose for posting the link has little to do with the source but rather the content. We have discussed the theories of sexual orientation on this blog and noted the inadequacy of any of them to fully capture the variation of sexual orientation. The research is mixed with perplexing contradictions and modest effects.

On point, there is an amazing statement, among several, in this interview about half way through. Mr. Cohen says, “I can tell you why any man or woman has homosexual feelings. Give me three hours with him or her and I can tell you specifically what occured in their life to create these desires. It’s that predictable.”

Putting aside that Cohen is claiming an ability to reconstruct and not predict, such claims cannot really be proven or disproven. They of course would be guesses that generate from the premise that sexual orientation stems from some kind of wounding in childhood. In his new book, Gay Children, Straight Children, he even invokes “inherited wounds” as the contribution of heredity. For him, heredity is:

Inherited wounds, unresolved family issues, misinterpretations, a predilection for rejection. At the core of SSA [same-sex attraction] is a sense of not belonging, of not fitting in and of feeling different. These feelings and thoughts may be inherited from one’s racial, religious or cultural lineage. This is not the same thing as the so-called gay gene. However, these lineage issues may imbue a child with a predilection for rejection. (p. 72) 

The phrase “predilection for rejection” based on ancestry is confusing. Predilection means a preference for something. I wonder if he really meant to say that. In any event, none of this sounds like heredity in the way most researchers define it. A preference for rejection based on ethnicity or the actions of someone generations before provides the therapist with an out when no present day or childhood wounds can be found. “It must be your heritage.” Seems like identical twins would be more concordant than research shows, if this were true, since the inherited wound would be true of both children. Practically, how could you test this? In any event, if the lineage is unclear, Mr. Cohen has 9 other types of wounding that will qualify. As I read it, any wound will do.

That statement brought to mind the powers of prediction given to Karnak the Magnificent. I’ll bet Karnak would not need three hours.