Late last month, a Christian ministry dedicated to helping people with unwanted same-sex attractions closed its doors after nearly 40 years. Mainstream media outlets used Exodus International’s closure as an opportunity to denounce both its previous work and similar ministries.
What was left out, however, were the voices of those who have found hope and transformation out of homosexuality. Those affiliated with Exodus told CitizenLink that its president, Alan Chambers, changed the organization’s message over the years.
Anne Paulk — who sought and received help from Exodus some years ago — is one of those voices. Recently, she helped begin the Restored Hope Network to help others who have unwanted same-sex attractions. Although she is saddened by Exodus’ closure, she remains hopeful and encouraged by the work of her ministry and others like it. She took some time to chat with CitizenLink about Restored Hope and the transformation she continues to see in those who seek and want help.
CitizenLink: What is your role in Restored Hope?
Anne Paulk: It is my absolute delight to be the executive director of Restored Hope Network. The name really shows what we were craving. We saw Exodus walking down a path of hopelessness for people who were struggling, and we were desperate to reclaim our inheritance. We provide hope for those who struggle with same-sex attractions and we have birthed a new network of ministries. We have 17 different ministries around the country. They are very dynamic in doing much in their area of the country. The abandoned ministries are coming to join with Restored Hope as well. We continue to offer hope. We are not relinquishing our inheritance for a bowl of soup. We are not relinquishing the hope of Christ and we are not severing the biblical understanding of the lordship of Christ and the salvation of the Savior.
CL: What was your reaction to the closure of Exodus?
AP: I find the closure of Exodus to be utterly tragic. It’s like the unnecessary death of a dear friend. It is really difficult. I am sad for those who looked to Exodus for help, for those ministries under the leadership care of Exodus, and for those who remain under the new ministry they are starting, who will be getting a half-hearted gospel.
CL: Can you explain your history with Exodus?
AP: I have been involved with Exodus for at least 25 years. I first came as someone seeking help from leaving homosexuality. Five years after, I received enough care and healing in my soul to be interested in men, to get married and to start a family. I was on the board of Exodus; I have been a media and national representative for Exodus; I have been a speaker for Exodus, and most of my friends have been in Exodus for many years. I know the founders of Exodus, the teachers, the former presidents and the regional directors. These are people that have been directly impacted by this change and the tragedy that has occurred.
CL: How would you respond to those who claim that people with same-sex attractions cannot change?
AP: There are people that claim others cannot leave homosexuality. They claim they are born that way, they are stuck with it and they need to accept it. I have heard this from Christian counselors and churches. Quite honestly, I find that to be in error, because I know so many people who have successfully left homosexuality, including me. I have been out of it for 27 years. I came to Christ 30 years ago and stumbled three years into my beginning of my new life for Christ. Since that time I have found help and healing. It seems like people are trying to minimize the tremendous work of God in a person’s soul as He restores their life and their original image. He always intended a man to be secure in his masculinity and to be in a proper relationship with other men and women. That is exciting. He intended this for women also. He made both male and female in His image. He gave us proper ways to relate to one another and defined improper ways that break down relationships, as well as the core of our being. Today it seems that our entire culture is being broken down. This is tremendously sad to me. We have abandoned scripture so far as to forget the well-being God intends for us through His own perfect will and His clearly communicated Word.
CL: What is the church’s role in helping someone — who wants help — out of these unwanted same-sex attractions?
AP: If someone comes to a church and is looking for help in dealing with same sex attraction, first of all: They may or may not know Christ, so that would be the first consideration. The Holy Spirit of God reveals the hurt and wrong beliefs. The process is pretty profound. Without Christ or the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it is very difficult to walk through that process. The church should offer a place of safety and of loving care. It should be a healing hospital for the hurt and the wounded amongst us. Each one of us is wounded and hurt in different ways, but the person with same-sex attraction usually has some pretty specific wounds with their same-sex parent, their peers, their self-identity and their understanding of who the opposite gender is. They usually have some childhood wounding. There is a lot going on and a lot of care is needed. Churches can offer help because they have the biblical hope right in their hand. What Christ calls sins, He also redeems from sin and provides for the overcoming of sin. He delights in a repentant sinner even someone dealing with same-sex attraction. He can change that attraction over time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the Restored Hope Network.
Read “Former Exodus Leaders: Change is Still Possible.”
View “Understanding Homosexuality” to find articles about same-sex attractions and stories of hope and change.
Read “Childhood Sexual Abuse and Male Homosexuality.”