It looks like the gay-straightening business isn’t what it used to be, since word around Sydney is that financial constraints have forced the erroneously-named Liberty Christian Ministries Incorporated to retrench their professional straightener Simon Riches, who’s been doing whatever it is a full-time “Pastoral Support Coordinator” does for the past four years.
Nothing’s been announced on their web site, although that doesn’t mean much since it doesn’t appear to have been updated since December 2008, but anyone out there who’d like to accuse me of making this up should drop along to the farewell, which will be held on 19 November. Email me for details, oh ye of little faith: this could be your last chance to become one of the countless people who’ve received nothing more from these evangelical sexuality salesmen than a profound sense of failure and a whole lot more guilt.
For now Liberty’s management committee is claiming things will continue through the voluntary efforts of “a range of people
experienced in this ministry”, but organisations of this type rarely survive downsizing – at least I pray this one doesn’t. I’ve actually had some personal experience of one “expert” they’ll be relying upon: it’s someone from whom I sought help in another capacity when I first began suffering from depression. Perhaps someday I’ll write about the experience: suffice it for now to say that those who helped me through those darkest of days are still appalled by that “counsellor” and his antics (yep: the “treatment” really did involve me getting nude)…
As far as I’m aware the Diocese never funded Liberty, so their closure has nothing to do with the recent financial hubris/incompetence. Which can’t help but make me wonder, since “ex-gay” ministries are like the proverbial better mouse trap: it you really can invent one the world would beat a path to your door. Given the number of guilt-crushed young Christians (and their distraught parents) there’s no doubt that if someone’s program really could change people’s sexuality it would be flooded with participants. There aren’t many teenage kids who welcome the discovery that they’re “different”, especially not in fundamentalist and/or evangelical churches, and there’s no shortage of people in such places who’d give everything they’ve got to anyone who could honestly make them “normal”.
So when I hear of groups like Liberty struggling for money it only confirms what I’ve long believed about them – they can’t and don’t help people unsure of their sexuality their find what they’re looking for, and potential victims are growing wise to this fact. The motives might (but not always) be sincere, but this doesn’t make the claims and promises any less spurious. Nor does it change the fact that at the heart of such “ministries” - their raison d'etre - is something Jesus never once mentioned. “Come to me and I will give you rest” has no proviso regarding a person’s sexuality.
Good riddance Liberty. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…