In a stunning ( or perhaps not ) revelation, John Paulk – who was once the face of the so-called ‘gay conversion therapy movement’ – has left his wife and says he’s gay – AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN GAY- despite his claims in the 90s that he had ‘turned straight.’
How famous was Paulk? In 1998, he appeared on the cover of Newsweek alongside his then wife Ann with a headline that asked the provocative question: ‘Gay for Life?’ Paulk was thrust into the national spotlight after he founded and ran a ministry called Love Won Out based on what he called ‘reparative therapy.’ He was also chairman of the board of Exodus International, one of the best well-known ex-gay organizations.
“My beliefs have changed,” Paulk, now 50, told PQ Monthly, which stands for Proud Queer. “Today, I do not consider myself ‘ex-gay,’ and I no longer support or promote the movement.”
This month, Paulk issued a formal apology via a press release distributed by GLAAD. It reads:
“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.”
His estranged wife Ann remains a vocal proponent within the ‘reparative therapy’ movement. She too has issued a statement:
“Challenges have been mine over the past several years… not of my own design, but I have stood true in the profound strength I found in Christ Jesus. I have walked the path that God has put before me, alongside those I love. There are also certain paths I have refused to walk down, dark and dangerous paths of deceit and sin. Someone dear to me has made different choices followed by very different words. And there, on that path, our ways part sadly.
Many of you already know, and some have yet to know, that John and I are in the process of divorce. I do pray the very best for John and I have a greater love and affection than can be expressed in words. He is the father of my children, the man with whom I spent the past 21 years building a life together. His conclusions and mine are very different in key ways. I would ask that you join me in praying for his decisions regarding his future, hope, God’s truest freedom, and love to direct his decisions. Please also pray for the boys and myself as we also find our way forward.
Besides the personal statement above, I will be releasing a public statement as it becomes relevant. This is all that I would like to share concerning my marriage on Facebook… As I do media interviews, my focus is on getting the word out about Restored Hope Network and what God can do in a surrendered life. Christ is still at work changing lives into conformity with God’s will expressed in the Bible. I also realize that my life experiences have given me an invaluable empathy for those who suffer various types of grief and loss.”
She later added this additional statement:
“All questions regarding John’s personal life and words should be directed to him. I have been true to my marriage vows and true to Christ. Though my heart has been tremendously grieved by John’s words and moral choices, I have chosen–and will continue to choose–to follow Christ, care for my boys, and serve Restored Hope Network. Please pray for John as he makes choices regarding his future.”
In addition to his ministry, Paulk also wrote two books on gay conversion with his wife — Not Afraid To Change: The Remarkable Story Of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality and Love Won Out, which he wrote with his wife, who also claimed to have rid herself of her own homosexuality.
Paulk now lives in Portland, Oregon and works as a caterer.