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Posts for June, 2013

Andrew Comiskey Doesn’t Believe In Apologies

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2013

Exodus International’s annual “Freedom Conference” begins tonight at Concordia University in Irvine, California. The rival, hard-core Restored Hope Network network will begin what it bills as its second annual conference  at Cherokee Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City on Friday, with leadership meetings taking place today and tomorrow. Oklahoma City is home to Stephen Black’s First Stone ministries, which had been one of the founding ministries of Exodus International in 1976, and is also one of the founding ministries of RHN after leaving Exodus over disagreements with Exodus moving away from the “change” model.

Andrew Comiskey, who fired the first salvo against Exodus’ change in direction and is now RHN’s board chairman, is still furious, over a lot of things really — Kinky Boots getting a bunch of Tony Awards, the lesbian-themed film La Vie d’Adele getting top honors at Cannes (he calls it “a lesbian porn film”), and Exodus president Alan Chambers’s upcoming apology to former ex-gay ministry members who were harmed by their experience:

Yet the most disturbing deception for me was not played out on a 36-foot screen or on a Broadway stage or even in the fracturing of the Boy Scouts. It occurred in a church basement in Los Angeles, where Exodus head Alan Chambers gathered with a group of ‘ex-ex-gays’ to apologize to them for hurting them. With doubtless good intention that has now exposed itself as the deception that it is, Alan has sought to placate them for the last couple years.

I am troubled by Christians who now claim that God made them gay and cry victim at anyone who believes otherwise. Doubtless some have been treated heavy-handedly by churches or promised quick cures by homely, uninformed ministries. But instead of submitting their wounds to God and trustworthy healers, these ones allow bitterness to transform them into the most virulent proponents of gay identity and practice. And in Jesus’ Name and Authority! The wounded become deceived then deceivers.

These ones do not want friendship with Alan or Exodus; they want the demise of any ministry that claims transformation of persons with unwanted same-sex attraction. The sneak preview of Lisa Ling’s taping of the whole ridiculous affair demonstrated this beyond a doubt. One ex-ex-gay blasted Alan: “Exodus needs to be shut down—not tweaked, not improved, but shut down!” His demonized plea is becoming true as Exodus staggers along the untenable path of seeking to reconcile good with evil.

It’s important to remember that Comiskey, despite professing himself as a Christian, doesn’t believe in apologies. Several years ago, when Comiskey learned that a staffer at his Desert Stream Ministries had sexually abused at least one teenager under their “care,” Comiskey’s reaction was to complain about how horrible the entire affair was — to him. He griped about the police investigations and tangles with his liability insurance providers, but thanked his God that not a word of the sad affair leaked to the press. Comiskey has since converted to Catholicism, which knows a thing or two about sweeping sexual abuse scandals under the rug and dismissing its victims.

Restored Hope’s Andrew Comiskey Addresses Exodus Split

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2012

The Sacramento News & Review’s Kel Munger went to the inaugural conference of the Restored Hope ex-gay network in Sacramento on September 21-22. The Restored Hope Network is made up mostly of several ex-gay ministries that have broken away from Exodus International over Exodus president Alan Chambers’s statements acknowledging that “99.9%” of ex-gay ministry members “have not experienced a change in their orientation,” disavowing the particular form of sexual orientation change therapy known as Reparative Therapy, and recognizing that gay Christians may enter heaven.

You can read Munger’s report here, and an interview with Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen here. More interesting, I think, is her interview with Andrew Comiskey, who is the president of Restored Hope. He is also the director of Desert Stream Ministries, which had been one of largest ministries of the Exodus International. Comiskey, who had also served as Exodus president, was the first to publicly break with Exodus last spring over its change in direction, stating that “Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands.” But in Comiskey’s talk with Munger, the “enemy” talk was dropped in favor of a somewhat lighter, more “reasonable” tone. On Restored Hope versus Exodus International, Comiskey said:

The unique aspect of Exodus is that it was founded on the hope that individuals who were Christian and who were motivated and who had good pastoral support could actually affect significant change in their sexual identity. So the term “change is possible” was a term that Exodus coined and that we all believed in and took heart in—and again, that being an increasingly counter-cultural point of view, we particularly needed each other to be on the same page.

The leader of Exodus, like a lot of us, having been under fire for a number of years, capitulated a bit, and basically has removed the “change” portion of the hope for people seeking Jesus Christ in light of their same-sex attractions. So having removed this dimension of change, the hope of change, was something that for many of us, including myself, runs contrary to our understanding of what Jesus Christ can effect in people’s lives, and it is a major reason and motivating factor for our gathering and seeking the Lord together.

So basically, Exodus stopped representing why we had bought in as a network in the first place. So it didn’t fundamentally change any of our individual ministries and their focus, but it did necessitate that we establish a new network around which we could find the solidarity to support each other in the belief that change is possible.

…This is not to denigrate Exodus in any way. It’s simply to say that Exodus as a network ceased to represent what we were about.

Munger also brought up California’s S.B. 1172, which would prohibit licensed therapists from providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last Saturday, but at the time this interview took place it was still awaiting the governor’s signature. The bill only covers licensed professionals, which means that unlicensed counselors and ministries are unaffected by the bill. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which bills itself as the professional, secular, and irreligious wing of the ex-gay movement, denounced the bill as “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty,” despite the fact that the new law only covers licensed professionals, which means that unlicensed counselors and ministries remain unaffected. Exodus, on the other hand, declined to oppose the bill. Comiskey appears to have staked out middle position, supporting SOCE, but declining to oppose the bill:

I’m aware, through my own study and so on, that there are different approaches psychologically to understanding and treating homosexuality. So I’m not inclined to either high-five or discount however this bill is understanding reparative therapy. I think the question of age is a factor; I think the question of motivation is a factor. I think psychotherapy is a soft social science, and so to approach it from the standpoint that everything objectively has to be in this hard-drive understanding of the impact of the “talking cure”—that is, the seeking of an advocate to achieve certain goals based on one’s conscience and ethical beliefs—I think to slam that or to illegalize on the basis that there is no hard evidence would actually call into question many forms of interventions for different kinds of psychological disorder.

So what I’m saying is I think there are good therapists who work with people based upon that person’s point of view, and I think that in a free society, there should be a freedom for a person to find a clinical advocate to pursue his or her ethical goals. If there is coercion, if there is manipulation, or if there is control—of course, it’s diabolical, regardless of your faith.

Restored Hope Network’s Leadership Named

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2012

Restored Hope Network, the breakaway collection of ex-gay ministries from Exodus International, appears to have solidified at least part of his leadership. In a Facebook post, Robert Gagnon announced that he had been elected to the nascent group’s board of directors. In a follow-up comment, Gagnon provided additional details on the new group’s leadership:

Andy Comiskey is president (chair of the Board); also on the board: Anne Paulk, David Kyle Foster, Stephen Black, Ron Smith, Jason Thompson.

I’ve posted this information before, but here’s a rundown again on the named players:

Andrew Comiskey has been a major player in Exodus International from its earliest days when it started as an outgrowth of an early Southern California church movement known as the Vineyard. The Vinyard itself has roots in the late 1960s’ Jesus Movement which stood at the intersection of early contemporary Evangelical Christianity and the hippie subculture. Comiskey once served as president at Exodus International, and his Desert Stream Ministries has been among the largest and most prominent ministries in the Exodus International netwo. Its popular Living Waters program is used by many ex-gay ministries throughout the world. In April, Comiskey issued a letter to Exodus president Alan Chambers calling on him to “continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with (same-sex attraction).” Citing Chambers’s comments before the Gay Christian Network, Comiskey worried that “Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands.”

Robert Gagnon’s association with the ex-gay movement has been somewhat less extensive, mainly focused in providing theological support. He spoke at a Wednesday morning plenary session at a 2009 Exodus annual conference in Wheaton, Illinois. He also provided two workshops at that conference, the first on homosexuality and the Bible, and the second on the church’s response to homosexuality. In late June,Gagnon wrote an exhausting 35-page response to Alan Chambers’s recent changes at Exodus, and he has emerged as one of the sharpest and loudest critics in the popular media of Chambers’s change of direction.

Anne Pauk, an ex-lesbian and wife of former ex-gay spokesman John Paulk, is a prominent author and speaker in the ex-gay movement. She and John were a featured couple in a massive national publicity campaign in 1998 on behalf of the ex-gay movement, a campaign that landed them on the cover of Newsweek. John Paulk was serving as chairman of the board of Exodus International from 1995 to 2000 when he was photographed by Wayne Besen while leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Despite the scandal, John Paul remained active in the ex-gay movement until 2003, when he left Focus On the Family and the couple resettled in Portland, Oregon and John started a catering business. Anne has continued to write books and lecture as an “ex-lesbian.”

David Kyle Foster operates Mastering Life Ministries, the television ministry behind Pure Passion, a television program broadcast on the Internet and several Christian television channels. Foster does not describe himself as ex-gay in particular, but instead points to his struggle “with a serious bondage to pornography and other sexually addictive behaviors” as his link to the ex-gay movement.

Stephen Black is the founder of Oklahoma City-based First Stone Ministry, another of the founding ministries of Exodus International in 1976. Has also been highly active in Exodus, including providing a workshop at Exodus’s annual conferences from 2008 to 2011. Black announced that his ministry officially resigned from Exodus in April, which is at about the same time of Comisky’s letter to Chambers. Further signs of Black and Comisky joining forces arose when Black announced that Comisky would be speaking at a church outside of Oklahoma City in an event sponsored and promoted by First Stone.

Ron Smith is now the director of New Hope Ministry and a member of San Rafael’s Church of the Open Door, another product of the Jesus Movement from the late 1960s. This church has a very longstanding history with the ex-gay movement going all the way back to its earliest days in the early 1970s. Frank Worthen founded New Hope as an outgrowth of the church’s “outreach” to gay people. Worthen’s ministry was one of the founding ministries of Exodus International back in 1976. Worthen also founded Love In Action, a residential ex-gay ministry which eventually became an independent organization and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where it now operates as Restoration Path. Since Wothen’s retirement from New Hope, Smith has assumed the duties as the ministry’s director. You can find Smith’s YouTube testimony here.

Jason Thompson heads Portland Fellowship, a former Exodus International ministry which had, for a while, a reputation for avoiding at least the appearance of some of the worst excesses of the ex-gay movement. Portland Fellowship had been an Exodus Member ministry since 1988 until last month, when Thompson announced that he was pulling his ministry out of the Exodus network and aligning it with the much more hard-line Restored Hope.

Rival Ex-Gay Group Forms to Challenge Exodus

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2012

Poster for the Restoring Hope conference in Sacramento (Click to enlarge).

Michael Bussee this morning alerted me to a new group that is forming to challenge Exodus International as the dominant ex-gay organization in Evangelical Christianity. Restored Hope Network has announced via Facebook and an Eventbrite page that there will be a weekend gathering in the Sacramento, California, area for a short conference called “Restoring Hope: Healing for the Sexually and Relationally Broken” on September 21 and 22. Three announced speakers include Robert Gagnon, Frank Worthen, and Andrew Comiskey, and the entire event is being billed as the “inaugural conference” for the nascent group. The conference is taking place at Sunrise Community Church, which sponsors HIS Ministry, one of eleven ex-gay ministries which has left Exodus International over the past few months.

The Facebook page, which indicates the group was founded on May 2, lists several important name as founding members of Restored Hope:

With the election of the forming committee in early May, the work to begin this new network began. The forming committee consists of Frank Worthen, Anne Paulk, Andy and Annette Comiskey, Dr. Robert Gagnon, Joe Dallas, Stephen Black, David Kyle Foster, and Michael Newman.

These names include some of the most prominent names of the ex-gay movement, and many of them have long historic ties to Exodus:

Frank Worthen’s New Hope Ministry was one of the founding ministries of Exodus International back in 1976. Worthen also founded Love In Action, a residential ex-gay ministry which eventually became an independent organization and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where it now operates as Restoration Path.

Anne Pauk, an ex-lesbian and wife of former ex-gay spokesman John Paulk, is a prominent author and speaker in the ex-gay movement. She and John were a featured couple in a massive national publicity campaign in 1998 on behalf of the ex-gay movement, a campaign that landed them on the cover of Newsweek. John Paulk was serving as chairman of the board of Exodus International from 1995 to 2000 when he was photographed by Wayne Besen while leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Despite the scandal, John Paul remained active in the ex-gay movement until 2003, when he left Focus On the Family and the couple resettled in Portland, Oregon and John started a catering business. Anne has continued to write books and lecture as an “ex-lesbian.” Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen has been told that the Paulks may have separated.

Andrew Comiskey has been a major player in Exodus International from its earliest days as an outgrowth of an early Southern California church movement known as the Vineyard. He once served as president at Exodus International, and his Desert Stream Ministries has been among the largest and most prominent ministries in the Exodus International network, and its popular Living Waters program is used by many ex-gay ministries throughout the world.  In April, Comiskey issued a letter to Exodus president Alan Chambers calling on him  to “continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with (same-sex attraction).” Citing Chambers’s comments before the Gay Christian Network, Comiskey worried that “Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands.”

Robert Gagnon’s association with the ex-gay movement has been somewhat less extensive, mainly focused in providing theological support. He spoke at a Wednesday morning plenary session at a 2009 Exodus annual conference in Wheaton, Illinois. He also provided two workshops at that conference, the first on homosexuality and the Bible, and the second on the church’s response to homosexuality. In late June,Gagnon wrote an exhausting 35-page response to Alan Chambers’s recent changes at Exodus, and he has emerged as one of the sharpest and loudest critics in the popular media of Chambers’s change of direction.

Joe Dallas may be the most surprising founding member of Restored Hope, although I suspected something was up when he was nowhere to be found at the Exodus conference this year in Minneapolis. (His wife, Rene Dallas, was there to provide workshops for spouses of “strugglers.”) He served as Exodus International president from 1991 to 1993. Dallas has spoken at every Exodus conference for the last five years that I’m able to track down, including during plenary sessions in 2011, 2010 and 2007. Dallas has also been a longtime speaker at the Love Won Out conferences.  Dallas’s Genesis Counseling is still listed as an Exodus member ministry.

Stephen Black is the founder of Oklahoma City-based First Stone Ministry, another of the founding ministries of Exodus International in 1976. Has also been highly active in Exodus, including providing a workshop at Exodus’s annual conferences from 2008 to 2011. Black announced that his ministry officially resigned from Exodus in April, which is at about the same time of Comisky’s letter to Chambers. Further signs of Black and Comisky joining forces arose when Black announced that Comisky would be speaking at a church outside of Oklahoma City in an event sponsored and promoted by First Stone.

David Kyle Foster operates Mastering Life Ministries, the television ministry behind Pure Passion, a television program broadcast on the internet and several Christian television channels. Foster does not describe himself as ex-gay in particular, but instead points to his struggle “with a serious bondage to pornography and other sexually addictive behaviors” as his link to the ex-gay movement.

Michael Newman, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, is founder of the Houston-based Christian Coalition for Reconciliation, “an educational, support, and discipling ministry for those struggling with homosexuality.” It is another former Exodus member ministry that withdrew from the network earlier this year.

The entire “Restoring Hope” theme of the new network is an apparent jab at Exodus International’s changes in message and focus over the last several months, beginning with Alan Chambers’s acknowledgment last January that, “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” His later repudiation of the particular type of counseling intended to change sexual orientation known as Reparative Therapy led to a further break from Exodus’s past. It also led to a break between Exodus and  nearly a dozen member ministries in Exodus’s network, notably including Comiskey’s Desert Streams Ministries and Worthen’s New Hope Ministries.

Andrew Comiskey To Speak at Catholic Ex-Gay Conference

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2012

As I mentioned in today’s Daily Agenda, the Catholic ex-gay organization Courage will be holding its annual conference on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Most of the speakers lined up for the conference are relatively unknown outside of the Catholic/Courage world, but one names stands out: Andrew Comiskey, Executive Director of Desert Stream Ministries, who recently pulled out of the Exodus umbrella. As I noted before, Comiskey appears to be leaning much more toward Catholic theology, which made his theological dispute with Exodus president Alan Chambers rather interesting, to say the least.

Comiskey also split with Exodus over the latter organization’s decision to distance itself from Reparative Therapy, which remains an important component in DSM. While Courage has typically shied away from encouraging members to seek sexual orientation change as a goal, it has nevertheless promoted the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), including a direct link to “NARTH testimonies” under Courage’s “Member Testimonies” web page.

Comiskey will give two talks at the Courage conference. On Friday, he will deliver the evening plenary talk, “Naked Surrender: Coming Home to Our True Sexuality”, and on Saturday he will give a workshop on “Restoring Relational Integrity through the Broken Body of Christ.”

It’s probably not unprecedented for a non-Catholic to give a talk at a Courage Conference, but it’s also hard to image Comiskey being given a platform for either of these two talks unless they are fully in line with Catholic teachings. If it turns out that Comiskey is increasingly finding a home in the Catholic world, it remains to be seen what kinds of strains Comiskey’s theological outlook may induce within Desert Stream’s far-flung ministries or with potential tie-ups with other ex-gay ministries which have recently left Exodus, all of which have deep historic roots in Protestant Evangelicalism.

Update: I had missed this, but as William commented below, Comiskey announced in January that he converted to Catholicism the prior Easter. He should fit in well. In 2010, Comiskey posted an admission on his blog that a staffer at DSM had sexually abused at least one teenager under their care. But instead of publicly apologizing for the appalling transgression or expressing anguish over the teen’s abuse, he lamented his trauma from having been interrogated by police and worrying about liability insurers. And he expressed gratitude that “God spared us” from the humiliation of the story appearing in the newspapers. He’s only been a Catholic for a little over a year, but already he’s qualified to be a Bishop.

Dissention Rises Within Exodus International

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2012

Last January, Exodus International president Alan Chambers appeared on  a surprise panel at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference in Orlando, and made the surprising admission that “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” At about that same time, it was noticed that Exodus International had removed several books on Reparative Therapy from their online bookstore.

[NOTE: Contrary to popular misconceptions, Reparative Therapy is not a generic term for sexual orientation change therapy. It is a term describing one particular form of therapy promoted by Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Reparative Therapy derives its name on Nicolosi’s theory of the so-called “reparative drive.” Please see this for a  more complete description.]

It quickly became apparent however that the rest of Exodus may not be fully behind Chambers’s overtures. Mike Goeke, an Exodus International board member and former vice-president, published an op-ed just two days later describing homosexuality as being different — and in its way, worse — than “any sin,” a position that is in marked contrast to Chambers’s discussion of homosexuality from a theological standpoint. Now Andrew Comiskey, who heads Desert Streams Ministries, opened the debate on the clinical front by issuing a letter expressing his “concern over Exodus distancing itself from reparative therapy” and calls for changes at Exodus over Chambers’s recent comments and actions.

The letter was posted briefly at Andrew Comiskey’s web site, but it was later removed. A copy has been uploaded at Ex-Gay Watch (PDF: 180KB/7 pages). In the letter, Comiskey takes issue with Alan Chambers’s statements indicating that Exodus would de-emphasize the possibility of sexual orientation change as part of its ministry. Saying that Desert Streams Ministry (DSM) employs “the most commonly employed ‘healing’ format in (Exodus International’s) network,” he adds:

Regarding sexual orientation change, we at DSM will continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with SSA who are earnestly seeking Him and who are willing to do the hard work of resolving their gender disintegration through Christ and His healing community. (We realize that not all will graduate into a state of readiness for marriage. However, that should not preclude anyone from seeking full sexual restoration.)

Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands. To question sexual orientation change on the basis of residual struggles is weak theology and psychology. Very few who have overcome destructive, life-dominating issues live without a trace of the problem. To then describe that ‘trace’ as a reason to tone down the idea of change makes no sense to us.

As for Exodus’s drawing back from promoting Reparative Therapy in particular:

We at DSM are only indebted to the good of reparative therapy and its underpinnings in developmental psychology. How else would we understand how we become disintegrated in our gender identities, as well as gain objective markers en route to wholeness?

We cannot afford to distance ourselves from the whole healing community, which must involve solid reparative therapists. They can do what we cannot in our ministries, and vice-versa. We need them! …We would like to know how Exodus plans on representing and integrating solid clinical insight on the Board and in its offerings.

Comiskey’s disagreement with Chambers is twofold. First is the disagreement over Reparative Therapy and the prospects for change in sexual orientation. The second disagreement however is theological, and Comiskey devotes several paragraphs over those theological points. Exodus International, like Chambers, has always been Evangelical in its underpinnings. And so has Comiskey, having come from the Vineyard movement which was the genesis of the dominant Christian-based ex-gay movement in the 1970s. But lately, Comiskey appears to be leaning much more toward Catholic theology, which would mean that if Chambers is making a departure from a clinical standpoint, Comiskey is making a similarly pronounced one from a theological point of view. Nevertheless, Comiskey charges that Chambers’s particular theological positions — some of which are perfectly at home in just about any Baptist setting, for example — places Exodus in danger of “cater(ing) to the culture.”

Comiskey closes with four “recommendations,” with the third recommendation just barely stopping short of calling for Chambers’s ejection from Exodus:

1 That a distinction be made between Alan’s calling and job description, and the needs of the member ministries. Alan is not equipped to handle all that he is currently trying to do. We perceive him as neither a theologian nor a healer but as an inspirer and evangelist, a bridge-builder in need of refinement. He is being chastened for making unfortunate comments. God bless him; haven’t we all? We trust that those he trusts will help him to stay low and clarify the way forward for his renewed season of service.

2. In order for DSM to remain a member ministry, we need to see a higher caliber of commitment to theological and clinical excellence from Exodus. Consider the courage of those with SSA who are seeking genuine integration. They deserve the best! The stakes are high—we are all experiencing the fall-out from a few misplaced, well-intentioned words. We must all do our part, and could draw upon expert friends of Exodus, e.g. Nicolosi and Gagnon, and Exodus elders like the Worthens and Joe Dallas.

3. The process of distinguishing Alan’s role and that of the member ministries must be done slowly and carefully, with Alan playing a reduced role (at best) in the process. We would suggest team leadership here, and sensitive protocol between these newly distinguished expressions of Exodus.

4. Pray more and facebook less. We could all repent of a little wounded self importance. Those overcoming same-sex attraction are inclined to narcissism and its wounds. We all need to get low and give this work back to Jesus. We at DSM hesitate to follow any one person’s lead. Jesus will make such things clear as we wait together.

Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts, who first reported on plans for a re-branding effort at Exodus International last November, saw Comiskey’s letter as “the first public shot in the coming insurrection at Exodus” among Exodus member ministries who are “hard line ‘change is possible’ and reparative therapy proponents.” Warren Throckmorton, similarly, wondered aloud whether the letter marks a “schism” at Exodus. Undoubtedly it sparked some interesting conversations behind the scenes, to say the least. Comiskey has since removed the letter from his web site. He has offered no explanation for its removal.

French Protest American Ex-Gay Program in Tolouse

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2011

Organizers of Rainbow Toulouse had hoped that maybe a hundred people at the most might to show up in front of a small Evangelical church to protest a planned ex-gay seminar. Instead, they were pleasantly surprised to see between 200 and 300 protesters turning out. Michel Megnin, secretary of Rainbow Toulouse, called the showing “the most important LGBT gathering in Toulouse aside from Gay Pride.” Protesters denounced the ministry, saying “we are not sick.” Another sardonically noted the price of an ex-gay seminar that was scheduled for last weekend and said,  “At €330 (US$400), I am too poor to become straight.”

The scheduled seminar, scheduled for last weekend, is affiliated with Andrew Comiskey’s Living Waters program in the U.S.  Comiskey, a former president of Exodus International, has been aggressively expanding his Desert Stream Ministries and its Living Waters program in Canada and Europe. Former ex-gay leader Vonnie Pits issued an apology for her role in a Living Waters-based program she set up in New South Wales, Australia. Last year, Comiskey posted an admission on his blog that a staffer at DSM had sexually abused at least one teenager under their care. But instead of publicly apologizing for the appalling transgression or expressing anguish over the teen’s abuse, he talked about his own anguish over having been interrogated by police and liability insurers, and he thanked his god that “God spared us” from the humiliation of their story appearing in the newspapers. In 2005, DSM moved to Kansas City where Comiskey announcedhe was partnering with Dominionist theologian Mike Bickle (organizer of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s crusade in Houston) and the International House of Prayer. DSM  reportedly uses “extreme methods that involve forms of exorcism (deliverance/healing prayer) and rely on teachings that believe that people become gay through demonic influences and the sins of ancestors.”  

You can see a video testimony of an ex-gay survivor of Living Waters here.

Ex-Gay Ministry Admits Sexual Abuse; Grateful At Not Being Found Out

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2010

Andrew ComiskeyAndrew Comiskey, of the ex-gay group Desert Stream Ministries, posted an admission on his blog that a staffer at DSM was found to have sexually abused at least one teenager under their “care.” But instead of an apology to either the teenager, his family, Comiskey’s church or the ex-gay movement, Comiskey pens a strange, rambling post in which he portrays himself as a victim of a blackmail attempt and expresses gratitude that the entire episode escape public scrutiny in the press:

Before we as a ministry even knew what had actually happened, one relative of the boy, savvy in the ways of insurance, insisted on a face-to-face meeting with Jonathan Hunter and I. He wrote down an astronomical figure that he insisted we pay out to him, or else. He threatened to take the case to the press and a flamboyant celebrity lawyer in LA. (He assumed that our large and prominent new home–Vineyard Anaheim—had millions for such settlements).

The post goes on to express Comiskey’s anguish over the sad affair. Not the anguish for the molestation that the teens experienced, mind you, but the anguish of the humiliating police interrogations, anguish at being interrogated by their liability insurers and their lawyers., the anguish of facing church elders at Vinyard Anaheim (with which the ministry was affiliated at the time), and the anguish of losing a valued staffer who abused the teens. Apparently, the unnamed staffer was a key player in the ministry, as well as a close personal friend to Comiskey and his wife.

But what about the anguish the teens faced? And what about the anguish they must assuredly feel again should they come across this post? If Comiskey had an ounce of compassion for what those teens experienced, it’s hard to see it here. What possible good could a post like this serve anyone, except to aggrandize Comiskey’s own standing before a god who, according to Comiskey, saved his ministry from his enemies:

At the end of 3 years, the case was settled. Our insurance covered most of the costs. Our groups were reinstated at the Vineyard, with new boundaries and requirements intact. Not one story was printed about the tragedy. God spared us. His mercy leveled and sustained DSM.

Good for you, Andy. Your god smiled upon you. But God bless the teens who were left to pick up the pieces afterward.

According to a comment by Ex-Gay Watch‘s David Roberts left at Love Is An Orientation, the incident described in the post occurred in 1997. Another allegation of sexual abuse was lodged five years later. In 2005, Comiskey moved his ministry to Kansas City, where he became associated with the extremist charismatic group known as the International House of Prayer. According to ex-gay Survivor Peterson Toscano, Desert Stream’s Living Waters program “uses extreme methods that involve forms of exorcism (deliverance/healing prayer) and rely on teachings that believe that people become gay through demonic influences and the sins of ancestors.” Desert Stream is an affiliated ministry of Exodus International.

[Hat tip: Love Is An Orientation and several BTB readers]

Founder of Desert Stream Complains about Gay Wedding Coverage

Timothy Kincaid

July 11th, 2008

comiskey.jpg
On July 4, the Kansas City Star published an article by Derrik J. Lang with the headline At California’s gay weddings, traditions remain strong. In the article, Lang investigated whether same-sex weddings were similar to opposite-sex weddings and found that gay couples are opting mostly to follow tradition.

Rhodes said most wedding conventions — invitations, music, formal attire, cake, Champagne — are finding their way into the same-sex ceremonies that her full-service wedding and events planning company has been hired for since the California Supreme Court’s ruling in May.

The article didn’t touch on whether gay people should marry or delve into discussions about civil rights, religion, philosophy, politics or other contentious matters that often surround discussions around same-sex marriage.

But nonetheless, this article didn’t sit well with Andrew Comiskey. Comiskey is the ex-gay who founded Desert Stream ministries and will be a keynote speaker for Exodus International’s Freedom Conference next week in Asheville, NC.

He wrote a letter to the editor objecting to the use of certain words when discussing gay unions.

Soothing readers with words like “tradition,” “commitment” and “marriage equality,” Lang tried to normalize the gay marriage experience, even implying that these unions are so authentic, they don’t have to “hide behind a basic ritual.”

They cannot hide, because anyone with common sense knows that a wedding and a marriage celebrates only one thing: the audacious effort of a man and a woman to become one unit for life, a truth lost on the California Supreme Court when it overturned the will of the people and mandated gay marriage last May.

Wordplay matters in the battle for marriage, and Lang showed his hand shamelessly. I urge The Star to opt for more objective reporting on this crucial topic.

Now I’ve seen plenty of anti-gays use snear quotes aroung the words “gay” or “marriage”. But it really takes a truly bigoted mindset to insist that the words “tradition” and “commitment” are the exclusive property of heterosexuality.

Living Waters Ex-Gay Ministry In Montreal

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2007

Peterson Toscano has learned that the Living Waters ex-gay ministry will be giving a twenty-five week “healing program” at a conservative Anglican church in Montreal, Canada. Headed by Andrew Comiskey, a former president of Exodus International, Living Waters has been expanding aggressively, with a presence in Canada and Europe. Former ex-gay leader Vonnie Pits issued an apology for her role in a Living Waters-based program she set up in New South Wales, Australia.  Peterson observes:

Often Living Waters uses extreme methods that involve forms of exorcism (deliverance/healing prayer) and rely on teachings that believe that people become gay through demonic influences and the sins of ancestors. This is a simple explanation of what they believe, but you get the idea. This is a group that is far far off the radar and not based in science or reality. They also charge for their services.

Read the stories of Christine, Eric, Euguene and Tom (a former Living Waters leader) to find out a little about their times at Living Waters programs.