Thursday, January 31, 2008

Out and About - January 2008

To be honest, I haven’t been “out and about” that much this past month - primarily because of the sub-zero temperatures and the often icy conditions.

Hey, I am an Australian, remember. And even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for fourteen years, I've never really acclimatized to the winters here. I guess you can take the boy out of Australia, but not Australia out of the boy!

One event that did warm me, however, was the wonderful retreat I participated in on Saturday, January 5. It was the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province’s third annual Stirring the Fire - A Midwinter Day of Reflection, and it was open to sisters, consociates and consociate candidates of the CSJ order. (I’m one of the latter! To learn what that means, click here.)

This day of retreat and reflection, always placed at the beginning of the New Year, renews a custom of the first sisters. For a more fruitful beginning of the year, the sisters would review the previous year and prepare themselves through prayer and reflection for a renewal of love of God and neighbor.

The context of reflection for this year’s Stirring the Fire retreat was unifying love, “the sacred mystery that embraces us in Communion.” The day included meaningful ritual, inspiring speakers, quiet time for reflection, and small group sharing. At one point, we were all invited to write about the ways we would strive to embody unifying love in 2008.

This prayerful day of reflection was just what I needed as I prepared to face a new year - one that will inevitably bring a range of experiences, both rewarding and challenging.

Above: Sitting (at left) with my friends Michael Douglas and Mike Murphy at a social event for the leadership of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), Catholic Rainbow Parents, and the editorial team of The Progressive Catholic Voice online journal - Saturday, January 26, 2008.

Above: Catholic Rainbow Parents Rich Kramp, Mary Lynn Murphy, Susan Kramp, Tom White, and Myrna Ohmann - January 26, 2008.

Above: Mary Beckfeld; Theresa O’Brien, CSJ; and Darlene White.

Above: Tom White; Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Tom Murr; and David McCaffrey.

Above: Standing from left: Darlene White, Mary Lynn Murphy, Mary Beckfeld, and Georgia Mueller. Sitting from left: Susan Kramp, Mike Murphy, Ron Ohmann, Rich Kramp, and Michael Douglas.

Above: Theresa O’Brien and CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey - January 26, 2008.

Above: On the evening of Tuesday, January 29, thirty-five people braved sub-zero temperatures to attend the CPCSM-sponsored program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH,” at the House of the Beloved Disciple in Minneapolis.

The towering puppet in the background is “the Brown Jesus,” which the members of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ carry with them when they participate in the annual Gay Pride Parade in June. The Brown Jesus is part of the community’s Anti-Racism Initiative, and certainly sends a powerful and beautiful message of welcome, inclusion, and celebration of diversity.

Above: One of the keynote speakers at CPCSM's program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH,” was Jeffry G. Ford, MA, a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist.

Interestingly, Jeff was formerly the executive director of OUTPOST, an “ex-gay” ministry located in Minneapolis. For ten years, Jeff claimed to be a “former homosexual,” and was a national speaker for Exodus International, the governing board and communication hub for most ex-gay ministries.

Today, however, Jeff identifies as a gay man and is a nationally known consultant and speaker on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. He specializes in addressing the complexities involved with the anti-gay theory known both as “reparative therapy” and “sexual conversion therapy,” which purports to prevent and cure homosexuality. Jeff dedicates his time and energy to challenging the unethical and dangerous use of pseudo-scientific theories associated with the ex-gay movement, a movement that includes the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH).

The story of Jeff’s journey away from the world of “ex-gay” ministry is featured with those of other “ex-gays,” in a publication entitled, Finally Free, complied by the Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign.

To be sure, Jeff has a powerful story to share, and he did so eloquently at the House of the Beloved Disciple on January 29. Without doubt, much of this power comes from the fact that Jeff speaks from experience. After all, he studied and practiced reparative therapies for years. Because of this personal and professional experience, he is now able to offer accurate answers and powerful insight into the workings and ideological underpinnings of the “ex-gay” movement.

Also, unlike many so-called “experts” in the pseudo-science of conversion and reparative therapies, Jeff’s writings have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Most recently his article, “Healing Homosexuals: A Psychologist’s Journey Through the Ex-Gay Movement and the Pseudo-Science of Reparative Therapy,” was published in The Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psycohtherapy (Haworth Press, Volume 5, No. 3/4, 2001). It was simultaneously published in the book, Sexual Conversion Therapy.

Above: The second featured speaker at CPCSM’s January 29 “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH” program was John C. Gonsiorek, PhD, a fellow of American Psychological Association (APA) Division 9 (also called the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), and Division 12 (the Society of Clinical Psychology).

John is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, and a Past-President of APA Division 44 – also known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues. For 25 years, he had an independent practice of clinical and forensic psychology in Minneapolis.

John has published widely in the areas of professional misconduct, sexual orientation and identity, and professional ethics. For many years, he provided expert witness evaluation and testimony regarding impaired clergy and professionals, standards of care, and psychological damages. He has also provided training and consultation to a variety of religious denominations and organizations.

A consulting editor for Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, John is also the author of a number of publications, including: Breach of Trust: Sexual Exploitation by Health Care Professionals and Clergy; Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy (with Weinrich); Male Sexual Abuse: A Trilogy of Intervention Strategies (with Bera and Letourneau), and Homosexuality and Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Handbook of Affirmative Models.

NOTE: In a future Wild Reed post I’ll share some of the highlights of both Jeff Ford’s and John Gonsiorek’s presentations at the House of the Beloved Disciple on January 29.

(A special thanks to CPCSM co-founder and vice-president, David McCaffrey, for compiling much of the above biographical information on both Jeff and John.)

Above: Some of the attendees at the CPCSM program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH” - January 29, 2008.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Back in the USA
It Sure Was Cold!
An Energizing and Spirited Weekend
Out and About - April 2007
Out and About - May 2007
Out and About - June 2007
Out and About - July 2007
Out and About - August 2007
Out and About - September 2007
Out and About - October 2007
Out and About - November 2007
Out and About - December 2007

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