Statement of Apology by Former Ex-Gay Leader
Hello. My name is Darlene Bogle. Thank you for this opportunity to share our stories. First, I will tell you why I am here. I directed Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral ministry in Hayward, California, which incorporated prayer, Bible study, and individual counseling. I was also the assistant pastor of the Foursquare church. As an Exodus leader, I traveled the country, speaking and appearing on many local and national television shows such as Sally Jesse Raphael, Jerry Springer, and CBS 48 hours. I taught workshops at the annual Exodus conferences on the process of being “delivered from homosexuality” and the benefits of healing the inner child through prayer. I authored two books, Long Road to Love, and Strangers in a Christian Land. My message was clear: being gay is a choice, and you can and should change in order to be Christian. I was sincere in the message I delivered. God didn’t hate gays, but homosexuality was not His perfect plan for our lives.
For over ten years, my role in Exodus and the local church, combined with speaking and book promotions, contributed to my having no private life. Somewhere along the line, I was so focused on helping others in conflict that I lost the ability to feel anything about my own life. I thought this lack of emotion was the confirmation that I was truly ex-gay, in spite of the fact that I never desired a relationship with a man and held same-sex friendships at arm’s length.
Then, in l990, while teaching at a Foursquare women's retreat in California, I had an experience that changed my theology, my life, and my ministry!
I had just begun my workshop on “Healing the Crumpled Spirit,” when a woman walked in and sat on the front row. She had long curly black hair and an infectious smile. Her eyes locked with mine, and although the books say there is no such thing as love at first sight, my heart knew better. Her name was Des. I walked to the other side of the room, recounting my journey of healing by rote, but my brain was whirling with thoughts and emotions that I thought were dead. Imagine, if you can, my shock and horror when I realized in that moment, that what I had been teaching was a lie!
I knew instantly that God had brought us together! We prayed and read the Bible with the intent of defining love, not sin. Every scripture we read was in support of the love we now shared. I realized for the first time how restrictive and limiting my message of grace had become. I was free for the first time in over 15 years.
Within weeks, I was asked to resign from the church, and removed from Exodus ministry! Des and I began a 12-year journey together, which is told in my new book, A Christian Lesbian Journey. I discovered a large world of gay Christians, and as with Saul in the New Testament, the scales fell from my eyes! I wasn’t put out to ministerial pasture, but found many opportunities to share God’s unconditional love and healing truth with the lesbian and gay community.
In 2005, after a long struggle, Des passed away from breast cancer. Before she died, she charged me to tell our story and to be a voice for the gay and lesbian community.
Before I met Des, I considered myself “ex-gay” because I had ceased sexual activity, and I spent my time promoting “change” in others. When these changes did not occur, the people in my care frequently asked how long it would take for desires to change. I lied and encouraged them to keep praying and reading their Bible. When they asked how long it took for me, I avoided the question. My heart was in the right place, but my message was not. I apologize to those individuals and families who believed my message that change was necessary to be acceptable to God. In recent years I have seen the resulting damage from rejection, shame, and conditional love. I apologize for my part in presenting a God of conditional love, and ask forgiveness for the message of broken truth I spoke on behalf of Exodus.
My heart breaks as I hear the many stories of abuse and suicide from men and women who couldn’t change their orientation, regardless of what Exodus and other Christian ministries told them. One of our female attendees became so depressed over her inability to change that she jumped off a bridge rather than continue the struggle. I was told it wasn’t my fault, but my heart knew better.
My call today is for those ministries to hear these stories with their heart, and to cease spewing messages that damage the families and individuals who are homosexual. Stand up for truth, but not the broken truth of mandated change to be acceptable to God. There does need to be change in our lives, but our sexual orientation is not what needs to be healed. I call for a time of healing within the body of faith that will celebrate Christ’s life within all His children.
If there are other former Ex-gay leaders who have come to understand and embrace God’s grace as gay and lesbian men and women, I encourage them to step forward and join the healing and reconciliation process. This is the reason I am now stepping up and accepting responsibility for my past message, and speaking out a message of hope for our future as gay and lesbians in the community, and in the church.
Darlene Bogle was the founder and director of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral in Hayward California. She was also the assisting pastor of the Foursquare church where the ministry was based. As an Exodus leader, she traveled the country, speaking and appearing on many national television shows. In 1990, while teaching at a women's retreat in California, she had an experience that changed her theology, and her ministry. She met Des in her workshop and knew instantly that God had brought them together. Within weeks, Darlene was asked to resign from the church, and removed from Exodus ministry. Des and Darlene spent 12 years together on an incredible journey, which is told in her new book, A Christian Lesbian Journey (2007). In 2005, Des passed away from breast cancer, but charged Darlene with the responsibility to tell their story, and be a voice for the GLBT community.