John Paulk Formally Renounces, Apologizes for Harmful 'Ex-Gay' Movement

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com April 24 2013 3:15 PM ET

John Paulk, one of the most recognized former leaders from the now-crumbling "ex-gay" movement, renounced his past and formally apologized for the harm he and the movement have caused in a public statement Wednesday. 

"For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the 'ex-gay movement,'" said Paulk, "where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not."

Last week, Paulk renounced his ex-gay past in an interview with a gay newspaper in Oregon, but today's statement marks Paulk's formal, public apology for his ardent involvement in the movement that claims "reparative therapy" can "cure" people of homosexual attraction.

"Today, I do not consider myself 'ex-gay,'" said Paulk. "And I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people."

Paulk's newfound belief that reparative therapy is harmful brings his opinion in line with that of every major medical and psychiatric association in the country.

"I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, " Paulk continued. "I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. ... From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God."

Paulk's statement also confirms that his much-touted, 20-year-long marriage to an "ex-gay" woman, Anne, is now ending. Paulk said he plans to retreat from the public eye in the coming months to ensure his "next actions come from a place of thrush and authenticity." Paulk said he "eagerly anticipate[s] giving back to the community," which he's been doing through donations to AIDS advocacy groups through his Portland-based catering company called Mezzaluna.

Paulk was arguably the most recognizable figurehead for ex-gay organization Love Won Out, a project of the antigay Focus on the Family. In 1999, John and Anne Paulk wrote a book called Love Won Out: How God's Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other. Paulk left Focus on the Family in 2003, when he moved from Colorado to Oregon, founded Mezzaluna, and was reportedly spotted at gay bars. 

Read Paulk's formal, public apology in full on the next page. 

A Formal Public Apology by John Paulk

For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the "ex-gay movement," where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the "ex-gay movement." I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself "ex-gay" and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, 

Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God. 

Today, I see LGBT people for who they are — beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church. 

I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting "ex-gay" programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.

This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.

Finally, I know there are still accounts of my "ex-gay" testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my "ex-gay" story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today. 

John Paulk