Crusade to cure gays was wrong, says founder

AN evangelical Christian charity founded to "heal" homosexuals has declared that its mission was wrong and that same-sex love is "God-given".

The charity, Courage Trust, is expected to be expelled from the Evangelical Alliance as a result of its change of direction. The trust's founder, Jeremy Marks, 48, announced his change of heart in this month's issue of Lesbian and Gay Christians which he once regarded as enemy territory. Mr Marks, who has admitted to gay inclinations but married "for companionship" 10 years ago, admitted he had been wrong in believing homosexuality "was not of God" and could be healed.

He wrote: "I have come to the conclusion that we have been quite wrong to dismiss all same-sex love (other than platonic) as sinful." The charity, founded in 1990 and based in High Wycombe, Bucks, used to run residential courses in "safe houses" with sessions of healing prayer and counselling. The charity now holds weekly meetings in London for about 150 men.

Courage used to teach that man was made in God's image and was "naturally heterosexual". Members prayed to reach the "wholeness" of heterosexuality. Mr Marks said: "For the gay or lesbian Christian there was only one view to take - homosexuality is not of God. The practising homosexual had to repent and stop it."

Mr Marks said his doubt in the Trust's mission stemmed from a relationship with another man, which was never sexual and was over before he was married. "I found it the most healing experience I have ever known, restoring my confidence in God. Because God acknowledged and met my desire for another man's love, my self-confidence was also restored.

"Prior to that relationship I had tried every route of "deliverance" open to me from psychotherapy to Christian counselling, healing prayer, even exorcism. All to no avail." Mr Marks said the changes had been "traumatic". He had lost most of his financial support from evangelicals and had had to dismiss his administrative staff.

He said he would decide the charity's future during a six-month sabbatical in which he will write a book about his "ex-gay ministry". He added: "We want to get away from the emphasis on sex. People don't get married for heterosexual sex; they marry for love. The same is true for many homosexual relationships."

He plans to stay married despite his change of mind on homosexual relationships, adding that he married in 1991 because a gay relationship would have been "unthinkable" with his evangelical background. He added: "The foundations of my marriage were friendship, respect and a developing love, more than heterosexual desire."

The True Freedom Trust, with 1,200 supporters, is now the only evangelical ministry which sets out to help homosexuals "seeking to live a Godly and celibate lifestyle". Richard Kirker, secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, praised Mr Marks's "genuinely courageous decision".

John Smith, the director of the Evangelical Alliance, said a decision on the trust's membership would be made in the next two weeks. "On the face of it, Courage seems completely out of synch with the Biblical perspective on homosexuality."