Guest author and ex-gay survivor Sean Sala appears in Oprah’s OWN “Special Report: God & Gays,” on “Our America” with Lisa Ling, which airs Thursday. Here, in this exclusive op-ed, Sala shares his experiences with Alan Chambers, the ex-gay movement, and his own faith.
Moments before I was to take my own life, I stared at the closet door in my friend’s room. Behind that door was his loaded gun. In a desperate plea before I was going to end it all, I had flashes of the decade I spent in the Church where I was told I was possessed by demons. Flashbacks of when I was walking into a Sunday service, called a “fag” and was ultimately kicked out of Christian Life Assembly in Carrollton, Texas (under the past leadership and former name) for being gay, and memories of the Exodus International “Living Waters” program where I was told time and time again that I was molested and that is what lead to me becoming gay.
“I’ve never been molested,” I repeated over and over again to the leadership who promised that “thousands had been delivered” from homosexuality. But my questioning and resistance to things that were manufactured within the therapy instantly demonized me. Since I would not “admit” I had been molested I was deemed as “rebellious, insecure and non-deliverable.” Which, in my teenage mind, damaged me and brought me to the point of suicide years later when I was 21. I believe that only the Divine stopped me from ending my life that day.
After coming out to the youth pastor I grew up with, he said to me “just go and indulge with men and come back and repent.” That was his response to my honest and transparent moment about my life. But because the political fallout to him and his effectiveness as a minister was on the line, he basically told me to be a hypocrite in order for the anti-gay church establishment to survive. This happened before Exodus International CEO Alan Chambers finally “came out” and stated that gay “reparative therapy” had caused immense damage, even though just months before he had said in an interview to Lisa Ling that “change is possible, I stand by that phrase.”
Before I came on the “The Great Reconciliation,” I had been involved in national LGBT policy activism for almost three years. In my own work as an activist, I had a growing concern for the anti-gay criminalization laws that were brewing in Uganda’s parliament, along with rumors that other African nations were cooking up genocidal policies against the LGBT community as well. Evangelical Churches in America were a large conduit — psychologically and financially — for these bills of hate to come to fruition. I desperately called my former Pastor who now served as staff of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas – the seventh largest mega-church in the nation. I believed if I could rally mega-churches against Uganda’s proposed laws (although they themselves would never condone being gay) surely they would stand up against genocide?
Well, the moment I contacted the staff of Ed Young, my former Pastor, I was unfriended on Facebook without a word. Multiple emails were never responded to, social media pleas ignored and he has ignored my calls since then. Complete radio silence from Fellowship Church. Not because I asked them to stand up for “being gay” but because I asked them to stand up against genocide. Although I can not say that Fellowship condones genocide, the silence and fear from their end echoes the damage that ex-gay therapy and the larger hatred and second class citizenship of gays has still not truly been addressed in the church. If it’s gay we can not touch it, even if it is to aid someone in need because LGBT people are “evil.”
But the moment my former Pastor found out that I mentioned their Church and their smug attitude towards LGBT Ugandan issues in this expose, I received a phone call. Which I ignored. The tide has turned and they are on the wrong side of history and frankly the wrong side of the Gospel of Christ’s mission. I don’t have time to play PR games with a so called “Church” because now their credibility is on the line, again.
When I headed into that church basement in Los Angeles to film the documentary, Alan Chambers apologized. For me though, that apology will not be enough until Exodus agrees to shut down. Although I can’t share details of the show until it airs Thursday, I am actively working to assure that the tired, old magician Alan Chambers will never be able to wield more damage than he has already done — especially in light of a recent revelation that Exodus could directly have had a ripple effect that has lead to pending genocide in Africa, as revealed by the Reverend Albert Ogle in a recent article.
The world experienced the “Great Reformation.” America has experienced the “Great Awakening.” Now I believe we as a nation stand at the point of what I call “The Great Reconciliation.” The nation has changed. Supreme Court rulings of equality are pending and the Evangelical Church that once ruled the bias against gays, the moral majority movement, has withered almost to extinction.
Standing is a minority that is spreading like a wild fire, such as churches like MissionGathering Christian Church in San Diego and others. That fire that is spreading? Gays are God’s creation. The nation is embracing it. Pastor Richard McCullen of MissionGathering, he himself a former closeted Charismatic Preacher, has come out and stayed out. Alan Chambers, the man whose eyes I stared into that night on “Our America” says he gets it … but will he? Lisa Ling who sat next to me during the expose said this:
“I am humbled to have been able to be part of one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I was in awe of the courage it took for the survivors to share their stories. My hope is that something really positive comes of it.”
The reconciliation is upon us. Whereas Evangelicals once thought that the world would turn gay, the exact opposite had occurred. Many churches are accepting of LGBT people and those that are stuck to the old ways are waning in relevance.
Chambers now stands in an opportune moment. Will he rage against the silence of Fellowship Church and Ed Young’s cronies who are so anti-gay they can’t even have a conversation about how gays should not be killed in mass numbers? Will Alan Chambers finally end the concentration camp of Exodus? Whatever happens, don’t miss it. Whatever happens, don’t let our poised moment of the reconciliation of the LGBT community and the Evangelical Church wane. This is Our America too and according to Rev. Ogle, He is “Our God, too.”
Sean Sala is a national gay, social and sexual rights activist. He was the organizer of the 2011 Active Duty Military March in San Diego in which over 250 active duty Military marched in San Diego Pride while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still national law. He also was an organizer and liaison for the 2012 Active Duty Military March in which he pressured top Military brass resulting in the Pentagon issuing a historical first time blanket certification and approved the United States Military to wear their full uniforms for the first time in a pride parade in US history; where over 450 military personnel participated. He formally was on the national leadership committee of Servicemembers United the nations largest LGBT military organization, where he participated in a White House Executive office meeting on Southern California and Gay Military issues and sparred in national news against anti-gay Republican Congressman opposed to Gay troops. He also advocated for troops battling PTSD to the San Diego City Council. He has been featured on the ‘Real World,’ MTV sponsored internet casts on gay rights, local, national and international news and an official Library of Congress documentation on the DADT repeal movement. He is a popular blogger and a columnist for San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.
After resigning from Servicemembers United he is in progress of challenging the top ten Mega Churches in United States to denounce Uganda’s Parliament from executing gays and he is the chief organizer of the San Diego rally on March 25th to demand the Supreme Court to rule for full federal marriage equality. He also has formed the “Military Freedom Coalition” to challenge the Transgender ban in the Military. He is also currently working on LGBT issues affecting the continent of Africa.
He served in the United States Navy six years for Naval Intelligence, three combat tours and is an Iraq war Veteran.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included an image that incorrectly identified Sean Sala, Lisa Ling, and Alan Chambers. We apologize for the error.
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