My Exodus from Exodus
Words are strange. Exodus refers to a “coming out” leaving the desert experience behind. Of course, “they” would view that as leaving homosexuality and coming into the promised land of heterosexuality.
My name is Darlene Bogle. I attended a Christian College in Seattle and had studied for the ministry. I believed that God had laid His hand upon my life and called me to be a voice of His Grace to the wounded and emotionally crumpled children who were just outside the traditional church ministry. I believed that Christ came to love all of his children and make them whole. In that Christian college, I not only experienced His call upon my life, but I experienced my first Lesbian relationship. I was in love with the Lord, and fell in love with Linda. Six months later, Linda committed suicide because she couldn’t handle family, church and society’s rejection of her sexuality. She was 17 years old.
I was devastated, went for counseling for the next few years to deal with my own journey of sexual abuse and the brokenness of my wounded and crumpled spirit.
For several years I lived a yo-yo experience of being in church or being in the gay bars. Both lives had degrees of rejection for the other. In l977 I determined to return to an active relationship with the Lord and leave my gay friends and longings behind. I finished my degree, and became a licensed minister with the Foursquare church. I started writing articles, speaking in Churches, and working on a book of my journey. In 1985, Long Road to Love was published and was followed in 1990 by Strangers in a Christian Land.
I was involved with Exodus International by this time because they were the only group offering support of Ex-gay folks. That is what I thought I was, because I was not involved with women. I soon formed a ministry called Paraklete, in Hayward, California. We were an Exodus referral ministry. I began to speak at Exodus conferences, teach nationally, and was on several TV programs such as Jerry Springer, Sally Jessie Raphael, CBS 48 hours, the 700 club and many local television shows.
I held a full time job as an Insurance Underwriter and was assistant pastor of my church. I directed the ministry, wrote and spoke at conferences or churches at every opportunity. I KNEW I was ex-gay because I any longer felt attraction for women. Of course, I had no attraction for men either, and in fact, I was pretty much a non-feeling person. I knew that sexual behavior could be changed, because I had changed my own behavior for several years. I preached that sexual orientation was a choice also, and for that, I NOW APOLOGIZE!
In 1988, Exodus LA (the Exodus conference in Los Angeles) had a picture taken with about 200 attendees. The Title across the photo was: Can Homosexuals change? We did. Now, as I look at this poster, more than half of the people in the photo are no longer in ex-gay ministry or involved in the Church. Their orientation wasn’t really changed, and neither was mine! We wanted to change behavior that we were told would separate us from a loving God. We were never told that we had an option, that God would still love us as Gay and Lesbian people. What grieves me is that so many have left the church because they believed that lie. I have come to believe that God not only accepts us but wants to bless our relationship with our same-sex partner.
Words again: The Gospel, correctly translated, means the good news. The good news as I believe it, is that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but that he came into the World to reveal the heart of a loving God.
I preached the Exodus message of change for God’s approval until 1990. I was speaking at a Western States conference of Foursquare women when my life and my message was turned upside down. A woman came to one of my meetings and sat in the front row. She caught my eye…and my heart by the time that workshop ended. It’s a long story, but Des and I became lovers within 2 months. She was one of the most dedicated Christian woman I had met in years. I knew instantly, that I not only still had God's approval, and his love, but that this woman was His gift. He had blessed our lives and our love. I was “outed” to Exodus, my church and my publisher and they gave me the "left foot of fellowship." I was compelled to resign my ministerial license. I felt like it was God who had called me in to ministry, not a church or an organization, and I knew that I still wanted to share the message of God’s love for all people.
During the next 12 years, Des and I grew in our love for one another and in our ministry for the Lord. I was not active in a traditional church setting, but we did attend some GLBT fellowships in the San Francisco Bay area. Then, Des was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1996 and that journey continued until February 2005 when Jesus took her home. Three months later, a new love journey began when I realized that Becky, my new partner, was God’s special gift for this later part of my life. She is a special Christian woman and support for me now, as she was during Des’s illness, and I know that we have just begun our life journey and ministry together. I believe that treating others with love and respect and getting to know them as people, is the ministry that God has placed on my heart. If I can help others to know that they are loved and valued by God and some of His kids, then I am doing the good news of the gospel.
Exodus believes that homosexuality is a sin and God needs to deliver you from that sin. I know that Jesus didn’t specify homosexuality as a “sin” or an evil to be delivered from, or a lifestyle to change before He will love anyone. I have experienced only loving acceptance in the gift of the life partners that He has provided. My life has been changed at the core, since God revealed His unconditional love through the unconditional love of Des, and now, my life partner, Becky.
I recently wrote to Alan Chambers at the Exodus Office. I asked him why we have to be so divisive when it comes to a topic that Jesus never addressed. There are so many things that we can agree on, and these are things that would help people love themselves and God.
So why do we exclude, condemn, reject, wound and attack those who believe that their sexual orientation is God’s gift to them, and to the church? We have no right to bring condemnation where Jesus has not brought it!
My Exodus days taught me many things…but my post-Exodus days have taught me to walk in love and forgiveness toward those who think they need to speak for God. I believe that My heavenly Father is not silent, and He is still speaking to all of His children. I believe that He wants us to love Him, and one another. If I can help, please contact me.
Darlene can be contacted at Turtlehrt @ aol.com (without the spaces). She is the author of a new book, A Christian Lesbian Journey.
Darlene was part of the historic moment when three former Exodus leaders issued a public apology for their part in the ex-gay movement. She also issued an individual statement to the press. See the collage that Darlene presented to Narth on July 2, 2007 as part of Soulforce's Survivor's Initiative.