Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz, a gay married couple, will be in Singapore on 14 August to
share their personal journey of reconciling their Christian faith and sexual orientation, and
discuss the false claims of the ex-gay movement.
They are a gay married couple on a mission. Every year since 2005, Rev. Steve Parelli, a
former evangelical Baptist pastor, and his partner Jose Ortiz – who are Executive Director and
Coordinator for Asia respectively of Other Sheep – spend July and August away from their
home in New York City to travel in Africa and Asia. Founded in 1992 by Rev. Dr. Thomas
Hanks, an American Presbyterian missionary who was and is currently still serving in Buenos
Aries, Other Sheep is an ecumenical, Christian ministry that works worldwide for the full
inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faith traditions.
Currently over a month into their two-month tour to India and Nepal, Steve and Jose will be
making a stop in Singapore on 14 August at Free Community Church to conduct a forum to
discuss the methods and claims of “change” of the ex-gay movement and their experiences
within the movement as participants seeking change.
The couple, who legally married in California in 2008, met in 1997 while attending Hope
Ministries of Calvary Baptist Church, New York City, a support group for Christians wanting to
“overcome” their same-sex attractions. At the time of their meeting, Jose was attending various
self-help groups based on AA principles, and Steve was in “reparative therapy” with Joe
Nicolosi, author and co-founder of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of
Ordained in 2008 with the Metropolitan Community Church, Steve has a Master of Divinity
(Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary) and an MA in Applied Linguistics (City University of New York)
while Jose has an MA in Applied Psychology (New York University). Steve also has four
children from a previous marriage.
Fridae catches up with Steve and Jose who were in Goa, India via email and finds out why they
have made it their life’s mission to share their journey of reconciling their faith and sexual
orientation with gay Christians, and Christian religious leaders around the world.
æ: You and Jose have travelled the world for years to share your personal stories. Why
do you do this and what motivates you?
Jose: I want to spare others the suffering that I went through… the years of confusion, self-
loathing, depression, and thinking I cannot be used of God to help others spiritually.
Steve: What motivates me personally, in part, is the sad knowledge that Christianity, in the
area of sexual minorities and human rights, is more often than not, a force for discrimination,
exclusion, ostracism, and criminalization. Uganda – largely an evangelical Christian country – is
a case in point. God’s love is universal, inclusive, and non-discriminatory. Unfortunately,
religion can be a force for ill-will, division, separation and violence.
Also, what motivates me personally is what I’ve experienced within my own circle of family,
friends and life-long associates: complete ostracism from all who have loved me (before I came
out as a gay man in my mid 40s). It is my hope that the church will someday put an end to its
spiritual persecution of LGBT people so that families and friends will not have to choose
between being faithful to their significant others versus their faith. No mother should have to
have to deny her faith in order to love her gay son. No young person should have to deny his
or her gay father in order to be accepted by the church. The church should unify family
members – including LGBT people – not divide, separate and inspire feelings of doubt,
rejection and even hate. Unfortunately, the Church’s motto “to love the sinner but hate the sin”
does not equate acceptance in the slightest degree for the homosexual: his or her sexual
orientation as homosexual is as much a part of his or her personhood as heterosexuality is for
the straight person: You cannot “love the heterosexual but hate his/her heterosexuality.” The
church is obviously awash and totally without any practical compass, having embraced a
traditional so-called Biblical approach, setting the sciences aside along with the clear
testimonies of their own LGBT members.
æ: Were you and/or Jose involved in the ex-gay ministries? If so, tell us more.
Steve: Only as members of groups; not as leaders. [Steve attended a group in NJ (New
Jersey) and in NYC (New York City) over a period of time for more than a year.]
æ: The debate about conversion therapy/ reparative therapy has been going on for
decades despite increasing social acceptance around the world and psychological
associations condemning such therapy as harmful. What is driving the ex-gay industry
and why can't it be put to rest?
Steve: The evangelical Christian church, which is to a degree an isolated community, is the
driving force of the ex-gay industry. Young people who grow up in the evangelical church
become a new crop for harvesting by the ex-gay movement; these evangelical young people
are “trapped” within an exclusive community that talks about being “born again” and have a
“victorious Christian life” over sin. Young evangelical gays (before they even know they are
gay) are indoctrinated with a theology of sin, victorious Christian living, and anti-homosexuality,
so that by the time they experience their own sexual orientation as homosexual they are
already conditioned to believe that it is sinful and that “Christ is the answer.” Couple this with
the total ostracism that comes from being openly gay as an evangelical Christian – ostracized
by family, friends, the church, status, position, career – and you have the powerful making of
the hope that one can, should change. The ex-gay movement, for the above reasons, has the
force it has because of the evangelical Christian theological mindset and its mode of
exclusivism (belonging via correct doctrine and right practice). Wherever evangelicalism has
gone (worldwide), the ex-gay movement has followed.
Jose: As long as society and its religions continue to propagate the idea that to be
homosexual is somehow less than ideal, there will be a market for these therapies that offer
change. The fact is that it is very stressful to have to justify one’s own existence and assert one’
s dignity. Who would “choose” to be different when that difference can result in disdain,
ostracism, condemnation or even abuse from the greater society and in many cases one’s own
place of worship?
æ: What is the potential for harm with reparative therapy?
Jose: The APA American Psychiatric Association, which opposes “reparative” therapies
submitted a statement which says, in part: “The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great,
including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with
societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred …” I believe there is also
potential harm in the sadness, disappointment and intense frustration that arise when the
expected success never comes. These negative feelings can lead to depression,
hopelessness and suicidal ideation. The abusive and harmful aspect of such therapy is also
manifest when they refer to studies that show that the client’s cooperation and motivation are
the determining factors to the degree of “change” experienced. Therefore, when one is not
experiencing change, one can begin to think “I am not sufficiently compliant, cooperative,
invested, or committed to the ‘therapeutic’ process. I am really messed up.” What needs to be
questioned is the “therapy” not the client. A client should not be subjected to such
unnecessary and anguishing self-doubt due to the selective use of psychological research. I
believe the rate of “success” – which could be the most minimal shift in sexual thought or
expression – to be too low and the potential for harm to high to justify reparative therapy.
æ: Some people argue that it is the right of people to undergo reparative therapy should
they want to "stop" being gay. What would you say to that? And if it were up to you, do
you think ex-gay organizations should not be allowed to operate?
Jose: There are certain practices in the medical profession that are unethical and therefore
are not allowed. Similarly, in the area of mental health there are practices that are
counterproductive and/or potentially harmful and therefore should be prohibited. In my opinion,
reparative therapy has such potential for detrimental effects that it should be banned.
Developing high self-esteem and exploring what it means to live out one’s sexuality responsibly
should be the focus of counseling for gays instead of wasting time, energy and resources on
changing that which is a natural part of one’s humanity.
Whether ex-gay groups should be allowed to operate depends on how they publicize, I believe.
If they claim to be based on solid social science research and psychological practice, then they
should not be allowed to operate. If they clearly say that they are intended on changing
outward manifestations so that one can appear to fit in, or pass as one of the heterosexual
majority, then I think they should be allowed to exist. They just should not be allowed to make
false claims of change of sexual orientation.
Steve: This is not an easy question. Since the ex-gay movement operates under the auspices
of local churches and is primarily a religious movement/ of religious sentiment, it is my view that
government agencies do not have jurisdiction to regulate their practices. On the other hand, at
some point the government does regulate in matters of health and well-being.
Just recently, in June, the New York State legislature legalized same-sex marriage; the bill they
passed included church-right protections so that churches, in the case of same-sex marriage,
could still teach and practice their same-sex marriage discrimination without penalty under law.
Of course, marriage equality and reparative therapy is not the same – but I’m trying to
illustrate that government has to be careful how it may or may not regulate religion or religious
æ: Have you received hate mail or threats by those who consider you and your ministry
to be against the "proper" Christian teachings and how do you handle it?
Steve: Christians from Africa and Asia have emailed us using religious jargon to warn or attack
us saying we are “an abomination,” that we “need to repent,” that they “are praying for us” to
change. We respond with kindness, telling them we view scriptures differently, that the Bible
does not condemn homosexuals, and that we’d be happy to discuss a particular passage of
scripture if they wish to continue the conversation. No one who writes to us in this manner
responds to our request for further study. It is a sad commentary on the Bible literacy of
Christians, and is, I believe, bibliolatry (the worship of the Bible above God).
æ: Tell us more about the forum and if it would be useful to those who aren't Christian
or who have fully accepted their sexual orientation and have no intention of
"changing"? Who should come to the seminar?
Steve: Every ex-gay Christian should be there; he or she needs a different perspective;
unfortunately, ex-gay Christians, in general, stay within the ex-gay movement out of fear (and
not out of love) of rejection and complete ostracism.
Those who aren’t Christian and who have fully accepted their sexual orientation should attend
from the standpoint of what influence they may have in organizations (or with individuals) that
address reparative therapy. What this seminar offers that may be somewhat unique is the story
from the inside: two evangelical Christians seriously attempting ex-gay therapy, and from that
vantage point, evaluating it. Also, I feel the non-Christian activist and the Christian activist need
to work together for the human rights of LGBT people.
æ: What's your advice for someone who is gay but does not want to be, or who is gay
Jose: Not everyone in Christianity believes that homosexuality is wrong. There is a “minority
report” within Christianity that argues that the Bible has been misused by religious leaders in
the Church to condemn that which they do not understand. The majority opinion in the Church
has been mistaken before thinking the earth was the center of the universe, that the earth was
flat, and slavery was acceptable, to name a few matters. We know through the social sciences
and our personal experience that there is nothing inherently evil or flawed in being gay. The
Church just needs to catch up. We must patiently, persistently, and graciously tell the Church
she is wrong about us. Also, remember that our religious institutions are NOT God. Our
Creator loves, blesses and cares for gays as much as the rest of humankind. The rulers of our
institutions through their bias attempt to block the rays of God’s love for the LGBT community
but they can no more erase God’s love for us as a person can blot out the fiery sun by
blocking it from sight with his hand.
Steve: If you are gay and don’t want to be: Accept yourself as gay; love yourself as God loves
you as gay; place your energies and resources not in repressing yourself as gay but in
creating the person you want to be as gay (education, career, associates, etc.); find the
spouse/significant other that completes you as a gay person and build a life with him or her;
live life to the fullest as a gay person; live in step with yourself and those who really love you
will congratulate you, those who will not accept you as you are you do not need in your life
If you are gay and Christian: For my part, as an evangelical gay man (and theologian), I have
had the wonderful experience of re-thinking just about everything that I’ve been taught
theologically – not just the gay-part. If you are gay and Christian, don’t just adjust yourself
theologically on the mere six passages of scripture that are used to abuse you; but re-think the
whole evangelical (Americanized) western, male, heterosexual, Reformation faith. Religion is
the story we tell ourselves again and again; perhaps you need a whole different story. For the
gay Christian – don’t just tweak your theology around the question of sexual orientation; re-do
theology from top to bottom; it is a journey once you start you will find is, perhaps, the spiritual
life worth living.
Is There Such a Thing as ‘Ex-gay’?- A Talk by Rev. Steve Parelli & Mr. Jose Ortiz from Other
Sheep -A Free Community Church Event. Sunday, 14 August 2011, 2 – 4 pm. Free
Community Church. 56 Lorong 23 Geylang, Level 3, Century Technology Building, Singapore
388381. Admission is free and all are welcome
8 Aug 2011
Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz: Is there such a
thing as ‘ex-gay’?
by Sylvia Tan
Steve and Jose
August 13 - 16, 2011
Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz: Is there
such a thing as ‘ex-gay’?
Fridae.com, by Sylvia Tan, August 8, 2011
|An interview with
Steve and Jose
relevant to the
|This web page was created in and published from the
Bronx, New York on September 8, 2011
Visits to this web page since September 8, 2011:
Steve & Jose's Other Sheep
Asia 2011 Ministry
India, Singapore and Nepal
Table of Index
India (Index Page)
July 2 - August 12, 2011
- Young Lay Leaders Conference
- Day 2 - Jose presents
psychological dynamics of
church bias towards
- Day 3 - Future projects
Singapore (Index Page)
August 13 -16, 2011
- Steve & Jose present "Is There
Such a Thing as 'Ex-gay'?"
- Steve & Jose present a
Powerpoint on their India 2011
Nepal (Index Page)
August 17 - September 1, 2011
- "Putting a Face on
Homosexuality" - Meeting with
Nepal Evaluation Report:
Above photo, left to right: Sylvia Tan of Fridae.com, Steve Parell, and
Jose Ortiz. Free Community Church. Sunday afternoon following
the Steve and Jose's presentation on the evangelical "ex-gay"
movement. August 14, 2011, Free Community Church
Above & below photos: The hotel (below) and the room (above) where Steve
and Jose wrote their answers to Sylvia Tan's questions, corresponding with
her by email. It was here Steve and Jose vacationed for two weeks. Steve
wrote articles and reports on their four weeks in Kerala while Jose kept both
his and Steve's Other Sheep inbox current.