Dr. Wendy VanderWal Gritter
My first QCF (then GCN) conference was in 2007 when I was still the Exodus regional rep for Canada. I came with an open heart and mind having already committed to do what I could to discourage conversion therapy efforts within Exodus. At that conference I met Christine Bakke, who with Peterson Toscano, developed the Beyond Ex-Gay website, held the first survivors conference, and brought together several former ex-gay leaders who made public apologies for the harm and trauma perpetrated by ex-gay ministries.
In the 12 years since that conference, I have sat with and listened deeply to the traumatic stories of 100’s of ex-gay survivors. I belong to a group of former ex-gay leaders and we regularly advocate to ban the practice of conversion therapy and to educate the broader public on the incredible harm such efforts cause. In the Canadian context where I serve with Generous Space Ministries, I have written our Prime Minister and submitted briefs to our government committee addressing LGBTQ+ health. We are preparing to launch a campaign that will invite, and challenge, pastors to sign on to a statement acknowledging the harm of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOGICE). In my ongoing work, I seek to be a living apology for the harm done in Jesus’ name in the recognition that nothing can be done retroactively to compensate for the loss and damage of SOGICE.
To see a resurgence of re-packaged ex-gay ministry is infuriating and devastating given the pain and distress so many of us experienced from these efforts. SOGICE are not a faithful expression of Christian discipleship. It leverages fear and shame and elicits profound self-hatred, depression, and suicidal ideation. Many of us personally grieve friends we have lost to suicide due to pressure and expectation of change.
While I accompany many LGBTQ+ people through significant spiritual transformation, this only happens in the context of the safety and security of embracing their belovedness and receiving the affirmation of God’s delight in them as they are. LGBTQ+ people are a unique and essential part of the Body of Christ and any attempt to eradicate their particular identity and experience fails to recognize and receive God’s gift.