Following the closure of Exodus International and the abysmal failure of a recent "ex-gay" rally, it would be easy to assume that ex-gay ministries are on the decline. Unfortunately, plenty of such ministries remain active, as one unpleasant video reminds us.
Stephanie Singer, founder of Will Not Ministries, spoke at Foresquare Church's 2013 convention in Dallas, Texas earlier this year. Truth Wins Out and Good As You have brought attention to a video excerpt of her talk, in which she vacillates between love for the LGBTQ community and condemnation of homosexuality.
Will Not Ministries resembles ex-gay ministries in its messaging. In its vision statement, Will Not Ministries stereotypes LGBTQ people as somehow broken and in need of healing. "In a culture that believes broken relationships are normal, Will Not Ministries desires to bring light to the brokenness of homosexuality and help people see complete healing and restoration," the website states. In a pamphlet entitled "What You Need to Know", Singer promotes inaccurate and outmoded theories about "same-sex attraction", arguing that "lack of healthy affirmation from the same sex" and "lack of same gender friendships at a young age" steer people toward the gay "lifestyle". In short, Will Not Ministries claims to welcome and minister to gays while condemning homosexuality as something unsound. (Sound familiar?)
Singer told listeners about the very different worlds she navigated in her youth. "I was raised by two lesbian mothers and a Christian father," she explained, as if to suggest that Christianity and lesbianism were mutually exclusive categories. Her father brought her to his church, where she felt that she didn't fit in and eventually left. Meanwhile, Singer was raised by a lesbian couple and mentored by four lesbian women, all of whom she spoke of with warmth. However, she quickly blamed those mentors for her later sexual identity and alienation from the church, arguing that because her loved ones were lesbian, "therefore I thought that I was gay. I was loved straight out of the church." She eventually joined a southern California church that accepted her despite her "butch" appearance, where God's love called her to repentance and "broke the bondage of deceit".
Singer told the audience that she prays for Christians to "take back this territory that's been stolen from us." At the 2:16 mark, Singer toggled between messages of love for the LGBTQ community and language that condemned LGBTQ people in no uncertain terms. She warned that pro-LGBTQ messages were being taught in schools and that gays are allegedly loving youth out of the church, thereby depicting gays as a threat to the young.
"There's many people like how I was that are in your churches right now that have same-sex attraction. It's all over TV now. It's become the new normal. It's being taught in our children's schools, and this cannot just be another option. There needs to be freedom and fullness. We need to not only get equipped ourselves, but we need to equip our churches for this ministry, because it's in our families, our friends, it's in our workplace now. I believe that the church needs to start loving the homosexual community back into wholeness, and stop letting them love our children out."First of all, religious homophobia, no matter how sugar-coated, will not help anyone cultivate "wholeness". It will, however, pit people's sexual orientation against their spirituality and teach them that their normal feelings are somehow pathological. Second, LGBTQ people are not inherently "broken" or spiritually lost. Singer, like other Christian ex-gay speakers, frames Christian faith and homosexuality as mutually exclusive, ignoring the fact that many people are both LGBTQ and Christian.
Finally, Singer's talk demonstrates hostility toward her lesbian mothers and mentors. Instead of accepting the female role models of her youth and using her experiences to cultivate an enlightened outlook, she had embraced homophobia. How did her mothers and mentors feel when she decried homosexuality on stage, I wonder?
Singer's talk represents a tragedy, in that it tells the story of a woman who chose intolerance over love and acceptance. Her words serve as a reminder that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric still thrives in some religious circles, as well as a call to resist prejudice.