Beliefs Culture Ethics Politics

John Paulk, former Christian ex-gay spokesman, recants and apologizes

John and Anne Paulk's book "Love Won Out" photo courtesy John Paulk.

(RNS) John Paulk, who for years was known as the poster boy for the Christian “ex-gay” movement, has formally renounced his past and says he is “truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused” in preaching that gays and lesbians could become straight through prayer and counseling.

John and Anne Paulk's book "Love Won Out" photo courtesy John Paulk.

John and Anne Paulk’s book “Love Won Out” photo courtesy John Paulk.

In a series of rapid developments over recent days, Paulk also said in a statement on Wednesday (April 24) that his 20-year marriage to his wife Anne, who describes herself as an ex-lesbian, is ending.

“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,” Paulk said in a lengthy apology distributed to various gay publications.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Paulk is the former chairman of Exodus International, a Christian ministry that was devoted to what is called “reparative therapy” by supporters and derided as the “pray away the gay” movement by critics. Paulk’s troubles with the ministry began when he was spotted at a gay bar in Washington in September 2000, and he eventually left the ex-gay movement in 2003.

Since then, the reparative therapy field has steadily crumbled under the weight of scandals, defections, and a growing body of research that has undermined its basic claims.

After his 2003 departure from an ex-gay ministry affiliated with Focus on the Family, Paulk remained married to his wife and the couple started a catering business in Portland, Ore., which included a number of clients in the city’s gay community.

An April 18 story in PQ Monthly, a local gay magazine, revealed that Paulk was frequenting gay bars in the city and had gay clients. He was challenged to formally renounce his past and apologize, which he had never done. Paulk was quoted as saying he had refrained from taking that step to protect the couple’s three sons, and he indicated that only in recent years has he come to accept his own sexuality.

Still, Paulk was criticized for not going further in expressing repentance, and on Wednesday (April 24) he issued his formal apology.

Paulk, who co-wrote the book “Love Won Out: How God’s Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other,” with his wife, also said people should not buy or promote his past writings.

Anne Paulk responded by issuing her own statement through the Restored Hope Network — a Christian ministry that seeks to change sexual orientation through faith and counseling — acknowledging that the couple is divorcing. But she stood by her views.

“His conclusions and mine are very different in key ways,” she said of her husband. “Christ is still at work changing lives into conformity with God’s will expressed in the Bible.”

In his statement Paulk said he wants “to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity.” He said he would be “drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.”

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • Very, very sorry to hear this news. This is one more tragic headline following two or three weeks’ worth of tragic headlines. It’s as though Hell itself has declared war on this nation AND it’s winning.

    The only bright spot in this dark story is Anne Paulk continuing to make a strong stand for Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, prayers for the family and for all of us.

  • I’m sorry, but this man deciding to own up to who he really is should not be compared to the hundreds of people killed, injured, and displaced all over the globe these past 3 weeks.

  • These are just some of the very good attitudes about how the whole world should think about and treat all gays and lesbians and transgender folks —

    1. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way…….Romans 14:13

    2. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God……Romans 15:7

    3. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love…….Ephesians 4:2

    4. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble…….1 Peter 3:8

    5. Man’s ways are of the Lord,…………Proverbs 20:24

    6. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing or how you feel about yourself, so keep it between yourself and God. BLESSED are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something or thinking of themselves in the way they know is best……….Romans 14:22

    7. All things are allowable, all things are lawful, all things are permissible…..1 Corinthians 6:12…..1 Corinthians 10:23

    8. And don’t forget what Jesus said, “The Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us into the future…..John 16:13

    The Holy Spirit is what’s helping all of us LGBT’s navigate our lives in this world today.


  • tHE BIBLE says: (9) What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, (10) nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. (11) And yet that is what some of YOU were. But YOU have been washed clean, but YOU have been sanctified, but YOU have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.- (1Cor.6:9-11)
    The phrase “that is what some of you WERE” shows that these had repented and QUIT doing those things and had brought their lives into line with GOD’S way and commands. It’s not a matter of “praying away the gay” (that’s ridiculous) It’s a matter of making the CHOICE to take up your torture stake and deny the flesh and live by spirit. Do you think people with anger issues (genetic source) should not get control over themselves both physically and emotionally and live like God prescribes? Will God “love” them if they are beating people up all the time without even trying to stop? Again the Bible answers this at Gal.5:19-21: (19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, (20) idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, (21) envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning YOU, the same way as I did forewarn YOU, that those who practice such things WILL NOT INHERIT GOD’S KINGDOM.

  • I am sorry also, but I believe the comparison is apt, although I do not expect and do not seek agreement on that issue. This is not only a time of tragic physical deaths occurring in our nation, but also a time of tragic spiritual deaths, and the deaths of priceless family relationships, and the tragic demise of people’s personal faith in Jesus Christ. The horrific news about John Paulk clearly fits these latter categories.

  • “With all my heart” I will say that change in sexuality is possible, and it’s possible with AUTHENTIC Reparative Therapy. John Paulk never undertook real RT. No one has the right to judge another. However, change is indeed possible. See and if you like. The fact that John stated he never felt loved, even through Exodus and “reparative therapy,” suggests that he indeed never experienced, or didn’t know how to experience, the marvelous love and authentic male self that comes from true change. (Read his bio of his early life of extreme gender confusion.) Of course, there are varying degrees of change for various people, and change is extremely difficult because we are dealing with deeply rooted gender identity inferiority and severely unmet male emotional needs. My heart goes out to John, especially since I know his wife and other circumstances. But change can happen. Just read the over 100 stories of THERAPEUTIC change on

  • No, Lan, I am not…. what I said was not a judgement from ME. I just stated facts that are in GOD’S WORD. He is righteous and would never destroy someone without warning them first and then giving enough time for them to make a change. He desires ALL to attain to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9-17) But there will come the day when there is no more time left and anyone not willing to live by HIS standards will not remain on this earth (nor in heaven). 2 Peter 3:5-7 states:  For, according to their wish, this fact escapes their notice, that there were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God;  and by those [means] the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.  But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.

  • Here are a few things to consider —

    The Bible, as all holy text, has its limitations.

    Paul put it this way —

    “The Kingdom of God is not in “word” (that means scripture verse), but “power” (that means the loving and protecting divine presence in all of us, especially those that believe)………….it’s not food and drink but “righteousness” (that means doing good works and deeds) and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.

    I think that sums it up in a simplified way.

    The “Spirit” and the “Spirit” alone is all that really matters, said Bruce Barton, of “The Man Nobody Knows” fame.

    The Bible doesn’t determine what the Holy Spirit does and the Spirit doesn’t consult what is written down as it goes about its work.

    Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will guide and lead us all into all good and truthful things.”

    That is our authority, being led and moved by the Holy Spirit, to constantly review the things that are revealed and make decisions about their importance and applicability.

    All scripture verses are not equal.

    Some verses are more important than others.

    Few people know a considerable amount about the scriptures and that doesn’t adversely affect their lives.

    Holy books are good guides, but make poor Gods.

    All holy books have their cobwebs and hype and loose ends.

    It is written that all scripture is inspired, but that doesn’t mean that all scripture is complete, concise, without issues, applicable to all and with excellent clarity.

    We all must rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  • Why do you assume that if John turns back he can’t be “making a stand for Jesus Christ?” He’s humbly apologizing, hasn’t renounced Christ, but only renounced ways of interpreting the Bible that don’t take into account history, culture, and original language and context. There’s a body of biblical and historical evidence out there that supports the acceptance of gays and lesbians as full members of the body of Christ without manipulating them into pursuing an ex-gay “solution.”

  • What biblical and historical evidence is there for gays and lesbians, who continue in their homosexual actions, being accepted into the body of Christ, Michael? Where’s the evidence? I’m truly interested.

  • CM, Have you considered the people “God” killed with the “great flood”, or those who lived in Sodom or Gomorrah, or the many people who were the victims of genocide at the hands of the Jews (except for the virgin women of course), or the many billions of people who have lived n this world who have had almost no chance to hear the carefully spun “message” preached by the believers of this cobbled together book that your cult believes is the word of the creator of all merely because of the where they were born? Honestly. you’re self righteous arrogance offends me, as does your narcissistic belief that there is a creator of all, who “lovingly” gave us chance at redemption from actions he called “sins”, which he enabled man to commit, and brought this message in the iron age to a minutely small uneducated segment of the world. Wake up, this book you call the word of god is nothing but fables and myth. Read the bible, not with the blinders of faith, but with self-honesty and a reasoning mind you think your God gave you, and you may realize it isn’t necessary to believe in either an after life in nirvana or one tortured by the boogie man, in order to treat your fellow human beings with respect and love.

  • Oh yeah, NARTH, the same group that had George Rekers (google him). They are SO reliable *sarcasm*

  • Our God says we should hate the sin but love the sinner,that’s what we Christians are doing,we can’t sit and watch sin contaminate the world..we are the salt of the earth,and salt as we all know has a strong influence on anything it comes in contact with,that is why we oppose homosexuality…Open your eyes to the truth,the devil is really destroying you all

  • Anyone who comes to Jesus has to take up their cross and deny themselves. Crucify the old self with its passions and desires. Your Identity as a Christian is Jesus not your passions or desires that lead you into sin and indulging self.

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