- Paperback: 276 pages
- Publisher: Personal Success Australia; Revised edition (September 28, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0994152418
- ISBN-13: 978-0994152411
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Life of Unlearning - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith Revised Edition
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'Anthony shares his life with us with all the colour that a story-telling evangelist can capture. The honesty of his story is compelling. His story faces the hard issues, HIV/AIDS, Suicide, Sexual Assault, Relationships, Marriage, Parenting, Domestic Violence, Loneliness, Guilt, Shame, Rejection, Love and Sex. He has nothing to hide and it is refreshing. I recommend this book as a non-threatening way to understand and process the issues of sexuality and spirituality; however, I can't say you may not experience discomfort as the honesty in these pages invites you to be honest in your own life. Read it if you dare.'
Dr Wendell Rosevear - O.A.M., M.B.,B.S., Dip. RACOG., FRACGP.,
'There is scarcely a page that does not engage you personally..........nothing is held back. Some will find Anthony's story disturbing and confrontational and others will find it liberating and an example of the triumph of the individual human spirit. For those who want to understand human frailty, courage and personal redemption it is an invaluable resource. I highly recommend it.
Roger Fedyk, Sydney Morning Herald Margo Kingston's Webdairy
'Ultimately, as the theme that emerges is about being true to yourself, 'A Life of Unlearning' should be compulsory reading for every man, woman and child in Australia, whether gay or straight, young or old, religious or non-religious.'
Gary Fishlock Editor of SX Magazine part of the Gay News Network
In this well written autobiography, Anthony Venn-Brown takes the reader on a remarkable journey ....... a heartfelt story of someone attempting to reconcile two disparate, but equally powerful, elements of his life - his sexuality and his faith. Anthony wonderfully invokes growing up in Sydney in the nineteen fifties and his prose really rings true for a first time author. As our exploration of who we truly are always affects those closest to us, and it is their pain that echoes through this book. Through it all, however, we come to see the essential nature of 'character,' despite the dramatic changes of scenery along the way.'
'Anthony's book is well-written, a 'must-read' for all (adult - though some may disagree with that) Christians, especially Christian leaders. It's confronting, occasionally (appropriately) explicit, irenic, sad, honest, and well-researched. There's a commendable integrity about his approach.'
Rev Dr Rowland Croucher, John Mark Ministries
About the Author
In a former life Anthony Venn-Brown was a famous preacher in Australia's mega-churches, such as Hillsong. It was a world that believed homosexuality is a sin and God made gay people straight. After 22 years of struggle he resigned from the ministry and came out. His bestselling autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning' has enabled 1,000's of LGBT people from Christian backgrounds to find resolution and educated others of their struggle. He co-founded Freedom2b, to provide support for LGBT people from faith backgrounds. Anthony has been at the forefront of ending ex-gay/conversion therapy in Australia through his media work, writing and social networking activities. In 2013 Anthony founded Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International to create understanding and acceptance for LGBT people and empower community members He continues to create change through behind the scenes dialogues with Christian leaders, churches and denominations and educational programs.
Top customer reviews
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At one time I was in the same church congregation with Anthony and his family. I knew/know them well although at the time of his humiliating degrading `fall from grace' standing down from ministry, episode of his life, we, my family and I had moved on to another congregation. Of course via the `Chinese whispers and smoke signals', we had heard some of the story, albeit mostly `gossipy' and just stories!
So then, to read this, his revised version of the original book, has overwhelmed me. The very institution, `the church' that is supposed to protect and nurture, at best, did no more than lip service. At worst they've turned their backs on a `friend', `college' and fellow Christian Totally unbelievable almost unforgivable.
However, Anthony, a resilient and intelligent man has over time been able to not only forgive but return to his faith through `His Life of Unlearning'. He's a brilliant man. I do admire his courage.
The Kindle version, my first Kindle read...I found easy to read albeit the subject somewhat graphic and truthful, confronting and because of this at times difficult read.
The biography has helped me with my thought process regarding the `church' and its journey of acceptance/non-acceptance of GLTB peoples within our communities.
I am for the past four years a non-church attending Christian who has made the decision to stay just that, non-attending, until there is acceptance within the institution of `church' for GLTB peoples as opposed to in `ignorance' just tolerance of them within congregations.
I wish Anthony all the best with his future of educating/nurturing those who've been damaged by the `church' and society. His is certainly a story of being able to turn a negative into a positive. Lemon to lemonade...good for you Anthony
The journey of theVenn-Brown’s was particularly harrowing. He hoped that a life of service in his faith community would deflect him from his inner urges. He was conditioned to believe they were wicked and should be driven out. With the most earnest of intentions he believed he could be made whole through service, confessions of his sinfulness, exorcism even. But after so many fresh starts, the underlying reality of his homosexuality remained.
Anthony’s story reads like a novel to me. I kept thinking this is fiction, it couldn’t have happened to one man. His style is engaging, honest and raw even, in telling it how it is to be trapped by a belief system that says his ‘condition’ is evil and the work of the devil. Anthony is a great storyteller and communication is the gift he gave in his work for his church. If you are anything like me you will be swept along by his narrative and find yourself reading late into the night.
From the darkest and most tortured times he has found peace with himself and his family. What a continuing tragedy that the Christian churches by an large are yet to make peace with our tribe.
Just read this book. Weep and rejoice in the lows and highs. If the book gives you a new understanding of how we relate to those who are ‘different’ it will have done its work.
A PS if I may. In the book ‘This Remarkable Gift: being gay and Catholic’ is a lovely warm-hearted quote by Lynne Lavner. It goes like this:
'The Bible contains six admonitions to homosexuals
and three hundred and sixty-two admonitions to heterosexuals.
That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals.
It’s just that they need more supervision.'
However the debate seems to be becoming more polarised. As I write in the UK there are reports that the Anglican Communion may split over this issue. This is drastic, as over centuries the Anglican Communion has been the ultimate “broad church”, that has somehow held itself together despite major theological differences and division over fundamental issues such as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and whether miracles like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Christ actually happened or not. It is ironic that such a body would split over an issue that is only mentioned five times in the Bible.
In this context “A Life of Unlearning” is Australian author Anthony Venn-Brown’s lifelong quest to reconcile his homosexuality with his religious faith. Anthony grew up in the Australia of the 1950s and 1960s, where male homosexuality was illegal as well as being strongly discriminated against. As a teenager he experienced a number of anonymous sexual encounters with men, and his attraction only continued to grow.
At the same time Anthony was converted to fundamentalist Pentecostal Christianity. Within this context homosexuality was regarded as a sin, indeed worse, an abomination. He was therefore compelled to hide his orientation, and became desperate to overcome this “problem”. He spent some time in a New Zealand Pentecostal Bible College led by a pastor renowned for his Donald Trump style toupee, and questionable interest in some of the young male students. On returning to Australia he experienced the worst excesses of the Christian “ex-gay” therapy movement, being admitted to a residential “therapeutic community” with some bizarre features, including a chaperone who would stand outside the bathroom door to dissuade him from masturbating!
Nevertheless at the same time Anthony’s star was rising in the Pentecostal ministry world. He married and had two daughters. After periods leading churches he was propelled into the life of an itinerant evangelist and ministry trainer, complete with the requisite luxury Ford Fairlane.
Yet the miracle he yearned for, the removal of his homosexual orientation, never happened. Occasional sexual encounters with men were followed by agonies of repentance. Eventually he started to make plans to leave his marriage and pursue a homosexual relationship. However his plans were discovered by his wife, leading to public humiliation and excommunication from his Pentecostal church. In response Anthony abandoned his faith and plunged wholeheartedly into the “gay scene”. But in his experience this was not all sweetness and light, including a relationship with a HIV+ man who chose not to disclose his status to him.
More recently Anthony has gained a mature acceptance of his orientation and re-discovered a more inclusive spirituality. He has founded an organisation Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International, which seeks to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI people, empower community members and build bridges with religious organisations and leaders.
The story is told with brutal honesty and reads with a “can’t put it down” quality. However I was left with one question. Parts of the book are written in the style of “testimony” books popular within fundamentalist Christian circles, including accounts of miracles such as people being miraculously healed at meetings he was preaching at, and provisions of significant sums of money at perfect but last minute timing to meet some specific need. Of course these experiences were interpreted through the framework of his then fundamentalist theology as God’s endorsement of the Evangelical gospel he was preaching. However he has now rejected this theology, yet there is no mention of any reflection on or re-evaluation of these experiences in the light of the more inclusive spirituality he now embraces.
Nevertheless “A Life of Unlearning” is an excellent read. Whatever theological position one wants to take on the morality of homosexual expression, surely the compassion taught and exemplified by Jesus demands us to seek to truly understand the life experience of other people, to “walk a mile in their shoes”. “A Life of Unlearning” is highly recommended as an aid to this process.