After attending an ex-gay ministry, Restoring Hope, at the Lighthouse Community Church in Dania Beach Kevin Schupp attempted suicide. It then took him two years of additional therapy to recover from the shame and guilt the group instilled in him.
“It was a disaster for me personally,” Schupp said. “The man teaching the so called ex-gay ministry had no clinical or theological training. He had been trained by Exodus International.”
Exodus is largest ex-gay organization in the country with more than 100 affiliated ministries or counselors.
“We offer programs for those struggling with interpersonal relationships, homosexuality, sexual addictions, addictive behavior, pornography/internet, emotional dependency and sexual abuse. We also offer support for those of you who have a loved one who is homosexual,” reads Restoring Hope’s website.
Schupp is exactly the type of person that Jerry Stephenson, 54, of Fort Lauderdale is hoping to help with his newly formed group, God’s Worthy Creation.
“We’re trying to provide a support group for people coming out of the ex-gay movement,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson knows all too well what Schupp went through. As a former Southern Baptist Minister, he once belonged to an ex-gay group, “Worthy Creations” in the late 80s and spent three and a half years there.
“I was engaged to be married and they would tell us to kiss and do other stuff in order to straighten me out,” he said. “Later I was asked to resign because the church couldn’t handle that I struggled with homosexuality. I went through depression and contemplated suicide.”
For Stephenson it was a straight minister that helped him accept himself.
“He basically saved my life,” he said. “He kept me from committing suicide.”
Schupp decided to join the ex-gay group in 2006 after he came out to his wife of more than 30 years. She suggested he give it a try.
“I grew up with emotional issues and they blamed the molestations on me being a homosexual,” he said. “At that time I needed people and that’s why I joined.”
During his year of ex-gay therapy he happened to meet a man with whom he developed an emotional connection with. That man later died in an accident.
“I was devastated,” he said. “They told me he died because he and I were in an inappropriate sinful relationship, even though there was no sexual contact.”
After Schupp’s wife left him he needed a roommate and found one at his church, although he later turned out to be a spy.
“They planted him there so he could report on my personal life,” he said. “I felt betrayed and hurt.”
Soon after, he left the group, and found another one in Miami to join.
“It started all over again,” he said. “But this time I decided to walk away.”
Ten days after he left though he attempted suicide.
“I just felt like what they told me. I was a filthy dirty rotten sinner, repulsive to God, an abomination,” he said. “At the time I had rather die than live my life as gay.”
Since then things have changed for the 60-year-old. Nowadays the Wilton Manors resident is out and proud and even hosts his own gay variety talk radio show out of Lake Worth called Lunch With Kevin on WPBR 1340 AM from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“I spent two years overcoming the shame, and guilt they instilled in me,” he said. “They make you hate yourself. Now I realize that God loves me and made me this way.”
He now belongs to the Church of the Holy SpiritSong in Wilton Manors.
Stephenson is hoping to help others like Schupp, who are conflicted, and have been poisoned by the ex-gay movement.
“I want people to accept themselves for whom they are as gays and lesbians and tell them God still loves them. There is nothing that needs to be changed,” he said. “A lot of emotional and spiritual damage is done by these ex-gay groups. A lot of healing has to take place.”