We kick off our brand new website and Blogs section with a guest post about so-called Gay Conversion Therapy written by Justin Kennedy, a Baptist Minister in Training in Manchester. This subject has been in the news more and more in recent years, with calls just this week for it to be outlawed in the UK. A number of excellent films have also been released in the last few years which detail real people’s experiences within this damaging and abhorrent practice. Some suggestions of films to watch are listed below.
Justin went through a damaging conversion programme as a young Christian adult; he shares his experiences in the hope that by shining light on these despicable practices the church can begin to move away from them.
My ‘pray the gay away’ journey by Justin Kennedy
Like many of you, I was once that lively, passionate, charismatic Christian. I stood out, I was bold and courageous, but like many of you there was something deeply hidden and shameful about me (or so I thought). Yes, I was, I am Gay, G-A-Y, good as you!
Being ‘born again’ at 17 in an evangelical charismatic church seemed natural to me, I knew I had attractions to men before this but I’d never known what to do about it so when Jesus came along it felt like this was it, salvation, escape, life in all its fullness! I spent five years as that lively, passionate, charismatic Jesus freak until a monster came from the deep to the surface of my life.
I couldn’t believe it, me, the pioneer, the firebrand still had this thing, I couldn’t even say it at the time, but I was still gay! I secretly hoped God would have healed me in this new ‘born again’ life but it didn’t happen. I shared with close Christian friends and church leaders alike and I became ‘project Justin.’ The order of the day was ‘conversion therapy!’ We charismatics believe in God’s power but also Satan’s ability to corrupt too and I had been corrupted; deliverance was what I needed.
Whilst the practice is more commonly known and reported within the US, it is estimated that 1 in 20 (5%) LGBT people in Britain have been pressured to use such services to question or change their sexual orientation.
This figure rises to 9% amongst people aged 18-24 years and those classed as BAME and 8% for LGBT disabled people.
One in 5 (20%) of trans people have been pressured to suppress their gender identity, an aspect of this barbaric practice which is often under-reported.
My journey wasn’t a summer camp, an ex-gay ministry but rather two people who specialised in deliverance, that means they could get the gay demons out of me. From the age of 22 through to about 28, every three months or so I would stay for a weekend in this couple’s house for my sessions. Each session we talked, from childhood to present seeking to find the places where Satan might have infiltrated my life, if I’d had sex, we had to name the person and pray to be delivered from the demons they may have passed onto me. At first, I was excited thinking this was the answer, but as time passed, I realised how torturous this was all becoming!
Every session was digging up shame, making me feel shame and then leaving me with shame. God wasn’t doing anything! The more I tried to engage with this ministry the greater my sexual desires grew; it wasn’t doing anything at all! In desperation I went along with everything, I discovered my Mum was to blame, then my dad, my childhood, which actually was very happy, was also to blame. I learnt to hate the very ones who loved me and to view all the good I had as rotten and bad. It was torture, it screwed me up.
After six years I gave up and left this ministry having been told I couldn’t be delivered because I wasn’t willing to change! I left this but sadly it never left me. The God I loved, hated me, in fact he didn’t lift a finger to help, so I left him too; if he hates me, I hate him. The family I thought loved me were to blame for all of this, so on the hate list they go! Sadly, I hated myself, deliverance ministry, pray the gay away, conversion therapy whatever we call it ripped the life out of me and left me as a dead man walking with no hope! Justin ‘the project’ became Justin ‘the problem,’ and a big one at that!
Church was no longer home, family was no longer home, nowhere was safe anymore! What a lie I had been sold! And sadly, this is a lie a lot of my LGBTQIA+ friends get sold too! But it causes greater harm than good, in some cases suicide can be the result! It needs to stop!
A selection of recent films exploring the reality and harm caused by so-called Gay Conversion Therapy (images link to the IMDB page for each film)
The good news is it can but it’s going to be a long hard struggle. I have now returned to my faith, I’m a minister in training, God in his grace has been transforming me and ‘project Justin’ who became ‘problem Justin’ is now ‘loved and affirmed Justin!’ And I have accepted God’s call to rid this world of such practices and so I have to speak out.
Yes, we want the government to ban conversion therapy, but I too want the church to listen to us, to hear us, to see that bespoke charismatic packages of deliverance are the torture devices of hell. I don’t just want a ban but a real heart cry of sorry to come from within charismatic circles for what they have done as they have operated under the radar. We must continue to fight and stand together against this my friends, we are loved, we are affirmed, we are accepted, and we have a future in our faith communities.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post, we highly recommend visiting the Stonewall website at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/campaign-groups/conversion-therapy
You are also welcome to Contact Us and we’ll do our best to put you in touch with local support. We also have a safe space group on Facebook which you can join – just get in touch and we’ll get you connected.