It’s never just prayer, it’s prayer and spiritual threats about losing God’s love, or hell, or being labelled a child abuser. It’s prayer and what amounts to spiritual bullying.
My first experience of ‘deliverance’ ministry occurred on a Birmingham high street. I had thought I was just meeting someone for prayer, and first realised I might be wrong and in danger when three men greeted me instead of one. They took me to some rented rooms above a shop on the high street. Immediately I knew I was in a bad place.
I just wanted to be accepted, welcomed in Church, and to have some friends.
My relationship with faith had started when I was 18. I had come from a non-church background and felt sad and lonely. I had known I was only attracted to men when I was at Junior school but didn’t know how to tell anyone. Homophobia was very common and – like many others – I was scared.
When I came to faith I told my new Methodist Minister that I was gay, that I had no male friends and was scared to make any. I hoped he would help me. I was hugely mistaken.
He told me I couldn’t be gay because that was ‘not of God’. It was evil, a perversion – I must be possessed.
He also told me I was a potential child abuser. I couldn’t have been more shocked.
Naively, I trusted him. I just wanted to be accepted, welcomed in Church, and to have some friends. I was desperate not to lose my new faith.
He suggested I go to a Pentecostal Church he was associated with in Birmingham, which had ‘experience of dealing with Gay people.’ Desperate for help and acceptance, I consented, eagerly. And just like that, I found myself alone in a room with three men, cut off from all outside help.
They spoke kindly while we walked up the stairs, but as soon as the door shut, this very quickly changed. They became aggressive and spoke over each other louder and louder, pushing me and shouting that gay men only existed because of abuse and therefore I had been raped by my dad or grandfather. I was an abused and broken person who had been preyed on and would prey on others, they said.
I remember trying to stand up and say that this was rubbish; they shoved and shouted more. The next thing I knew I was on the ground where they continued to attack me.
They commanded demons of homosexuality to leave me, and hit me again and again.
I was absolutely terrified.
I pretended that it was working and that they had made me different. I left as quickly as I could and remember running to my car. I collapsed inside, locked the doors and cried.
I drove back home and promised I would hide this and never speak of it again, but the Methodist Minister told me that was not the end of it. I was clearly a serious potential child abuser and I couldn’t volunteer as a Boys Brigade Officer anymore, unless I told the BB Captain so that I could be monitored at all times. If I didn’t tell him, then the Church would have to be informed and I would be in essence outed to all the congregation.
I felt so dirty. I wanted to die.
He went on to say that I needed to find a nice girl, marry and have children, and that the gay would go away. I told a girl all this – we were friends and it was so hard to do. I loved her – and still do – so we married. We thought we could complete the cure. We had children and were together for almost 25 years.
God has such an amazing sense of humour as I was training as a Methodist Minister myself within about 5 years of the gay conversion experience. I hid my true self deep within myself, so that no-one could see how much I hated myself.
From the outside, we looked like a perfect family, but underneath it was hell for me and (I think) my ex-wife. I was lonely and suicidal. I felt like I was always pretending and was never good enough for God or my ex-wife.
When we split and I came out it felt like a huge weight had been removed – I could breathe freely for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, as an out gay Minister I encountered homophobia.
One retired minister said that gays in church were a disgrace and if she was still a minister she would resign.
One church where I was meant to be observing a local preacher I was training rang twice to inform me that if I entered they would all walk out in protest at my ‘sin’. The abuse they gave me and the language they shouted down the phone left me shocked and shaken. The Circuit told me not to go but said nothing to the people at the Church. I was told to just accept that this was normal, acceptable behaviour.
As I was coming to the end of my 5 years there I was initially offered an extension. However, I was then told by a church full-time lay worker that I was ‘hated and detested’ and that I ‘should go where people like you are tolerated.’ Shocked, I reported the incident to the Circuit / District. I was then told that I should leave, because the other church worker had to stay. They withdrew my own extension to stay, and just like that, I had been forced out.
Now, we live in fear. Where will we end up? Is there anywhere we will be accepted?
I’ve been told to stop complaining, that people are allowed to express homophobic views.
There aren’t enough words to describe all the other incidents I’ve encountered since then. I’ve been told to stop complaining, that people are allowed to express homophobic views. I’ve been told by people in senior ordained national roles that that ‘we shouldn’t rock the boat’. They said that black people had to accept racism within the Methodist Church, that women had to accept sexism and that I had to accept this.
It’s never just prayer, it’s prayer and spiritual threats about losing God’s love, or hell, or being labelled a child abuser or any other nonsense. It’s prayer and what amounts to spiritual bullying.
I’m left with a multitude of questions. How much is too much? Is it wrong for me to tell the truth? Could even writing this post be accused of rocking the boat?
I feel powerless and live in fear.