By Darlene Bogle
I arrived about 7 pm, was picked up by an Equality Rider and ushered off to the SoulForce life rally at Love Park in downtown Philly. The last ten hours on the plane had been filled with fine tuning my workshop on “Living your truth” and sharing your story with a sometimes hostile world.
This weekend was dedicated to telling the truth about Faith, Science, Love and Reparative Therapy. Many nationally known leaders were joining together to share their insights.
As the former director of an Exodus ministry, I have been speaking out for several years on the harm that such groups as Exodus and Narth do with their message and promise to “fix the broken and hurting people who are sent to them for help.” I had been proclaiming that same message for over ten years. I was the assistant pastor of a Foursquare Church, and a national speaker for Exodus.
That was another lifetime ago, and now I am committed to telling the truth about Reparative Therapy. “It doesn’t work” and more importantly, the harm that is done to individuals who are told there is something wrong with them for having a homosexual orientation, is toxic and leads to emotional, spiritual and physical suicide. I came to reinforce the message of God’s unconditional love for all His children and tell a message of being created just as we are, by God’s design.
Something happened to me in Love Park on Friday night. I was listening to stories of young people committed to speaking out for their “right to be” and I was changed. I listened to Ray Boltz sing his new song of “Who would Jesus love.”…and I was changed. I listened to Azariah Southworth read emails from youth who identified with his struggle, and thank him for coming out—and tears streamed down my cheeks. People, God’s people, rejected for who they are, are finding a voice! They are finding that truth does in fact set us free!
Saturday brought more listening opportunities. Jay Bakker, a straight preacher from New York reminded us that no one can afford to keep silent in this battle for the lives of the youth of the LGBT community. (and for our faith as gay Christians) Silence breeds violence and we have lost too many youth because we have not spoken out to provide a safe place.
I listened not only to the presenters at the SoulForce Symposium…but to the stories of why people gave up a weekend to seek answers for their journey, or to find out what the truth is and how they can heal from the harmful rejection by their families and faith families. As I listened, I was overwhelmed by the awareness that no matter how valid the truth that we share this weekend, it is going to take many more people speaking out to confront the harm that continues to be inflicted by Narth and Exodus.
I listened to the stories from a Transsexual who has been cut off from family and friends; a bi-sexual who is minimized and almost invisible because she has no official “place” to declare her sexuality; a gay married man who loves his wife, but longs for the freedom to embrace a man. I listened and realized I am just one of many scratching the surface of equality for all!
I was changed by this symposium, because I thought I was coming to share answers, and left knowing there are many more questions with no answers. The message I share is that God loves you as you are created, even if you have no faith at all, and you are accepted by many who have grown to know that God is larger than any box we use to contain our understanding of truth.
I listened. I spoke. I wept. But most of all my changing understanding is not limited. The truth is…God is still speaking and we must speak out when words are spoken that are not consistent with God’s nature. Who would Jesus Love? Everyone!
Darlene Bogle is a former leader in Exodus International and directed an ex-gay ministry in Hayward, California in the 1980’s and early l990’s where she was an assistant pastor in a Foursquare Church. Her story is featured in the documentary, God and GaysBridging the Gap and she has traveled throughout the country to promote reconciliation between faith and sexual orientation. Her book, A Christian Lesbian Journey was published in Feb. 2007.