Antigay Lutheran Pastor Protests Too Much

Reverend Tom Brock’s “Courage” Falters When Faced With Exposure

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
—Queen Gertrude in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

It’s a common human foible to say one thing, and then do the exact opposite. For example, a mother who smokes forbids her child to do so, or a father who watches violent television programs won’t let his child do so. In these cases, a double standard is perfectly defensible.

However, in a free society of consenting adult citizens, “live and let live” should remain the common baseline. I may not like what you do or believe, but as long as you’re not hurting anyone, destroying common property, or infringing on the rights or life of others, including myself, then it’s no problem. As the New Testament holds: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

 

Unfortunately, petty demagogues of various religious faiths will claim that it’s their way to heaven, or the highway to hell—black and white, with no gray. If you disagree, you’re deemed to be a moral relativist who at the very least will be trivialized. At worst, like Joan of Arc in the Middle Ages, you’ll be burned at the stake by the Catholic Church as a crossdressing heretic. Or, in 21st-Century Iran, you’ll be hanged for being a gay teen under Islamic law.

Of course, these are extreme examples, but they caution that zealotry, too long unchecked, can be disastrous. They’re reminders that two of the world’s largest religions have barbaric cruelty in their legacies.

That said, the major religions and countless minor ones have adherents who contribute assiduously in myriad ways toward bettering the human condition. But the faithful of any sect or movement always should be on guard against demagoguery.

The Ethics of Outing

As cantankerous and varied as GLBT activism is, virtually everyone holds privacy sacred. The exception is if someone in a public position of political, social, or theological influence engages in homosexual or transgender activity while at the same time denouncing the basic civil rights of GLBT citizens. Former Senator Larry Craig’s restroom cruising and Dr. George Rekers’s Rentboy.com allegations come to mind.

The GLBT community and its allies have a wide variety of principled viewpoints, often conflicting, on just how out a GLBT person should or should not be, as well as what constitutes healthy sexuality or sexual excess. Both sides of these big philosophical questions are discussed and argued conscientiously every day.

However, it’s a universal consensus among GLBT individuals and straight allies that to bash GLBT persons physically and/or sociopolitically—but then turn around, and be homosexually active oneself—is hypocrisy.

Reverend Tom Brock Versus ELCA

Reverend Tom Brock is the Associate Pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis. He is known for his denunciations of homosexuality and GLBT rights on his daily KKMS AM 980 radio program, The Pastor’s Study. His video series lambastes with outrage the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for progressive attitudes toward women’s reproductive rights, racial equality, ecological stewardship—and, worst of all in his view, openly gay or lesbian pastors having the right to minister if they are in a committed monogamous relationship with a member of the same sex.

The latter breakthrough, which ELCA enacted last year, led to the Hope congregation’s breaking with ELCA, and affiliating with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC).

Last August, on the day ELCA began debate over whether gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships would be ordained as pastors, a tornado that had not been forecast ripped off part of the roof at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where the national ELCA conference was being held, as well as the cross on the roof of Central Lutheran Church, the conference host, across the street. As put forth in his video series, Brock saw this as a sign from God that Lutherans must break away from ELCA.

Brock, who finds omens in any number of things, noted that what he calls the ELCA “sex statement” passed by 66.6 percent—a reference to 666, the “Number of the Beast” (the Antichrist) in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. The actual vote was 559 to 451.

Amid Brock’s panic over gays in the video series is a lower-intensity level of distress about Lutheran Church financial duress supposedly caused by liberal attitudes. He seems to doubt that God will provide.

Internalizing Homophobic Shame, Twelve-Step Style

In stunning contrast to all this homophobic vitriol, I observed firsthand that the words spoken by the 49-year-old, unmarried Brock from his ivory bully pulpits do not match his actions.

My first encounter with Brock was at a confidential meeting of gay men “struggling with chastity” at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in St. Anthony, a suburb northeast of Minneapolis. It’s not a Lutheran church, but rather a Catholic one. This group is sponsored by Faith in Action (FIA), Minnesota’s official arm of the global Catholic gay-chastity-maintenance organization called Courage. It models itself after the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

FIA holds a two-hour support group at St. Charles every Friday evening from 7 to 9 PM, facilitated by a Catholic priest. It sometimes starts a few minutes late, giving participants a chance to settle in, and grab a cup of coffee or a soda. The men gather around a long table. The priest begins with a scripturally inspired reading—which in one session was referred to as a homily—followed by recitations spoken by participants, and prayer.

Once this opening ritual concludes, the next phase commences, as each person directly shares how well or not he fared during the previous week, or since the last meeting he attended, in his struggle to maintain homosexual chastity. He reports any homosexual fantasies or feelings; any resistance or nonresistance to masturbation; any homosexual contact or activity experienced; and/or any encounter with homoerotic or arousal-inducing images of men. He also may digress to other topics triggered by his “sharing”—which is within permissible parameters.

A group for women meets separately. On one occasion, a middle-aged lesbian fondly regarded by members sat in with us.

After the first round, conversation continues, ranging from discussions about a particular homosexual rut one of the members was in, to financial worries, criticism of progay political efforts, and defenses of Catholicism. The term “gay” is eschewed in favor of words like “disorder” or “gender disorder.” However, very occasionally, unsquelched comments cropped up about homophobic bigotry, plus even grudging admiration for the tenacity of out gay men facing societal ridicule.

When Brock was in attendance, the conversation inevitably would turn political, focusing on gay and church issues, and beyond—not only during his first round, but also in his sharing time, and before the session commenced.

My First Meeting

I encountered Brock at my very first FIA meeting on April 16.

Having arrived 10 minutes early, I was greeted amicably outside St. Charles Church by its Pastor, Father Paul A. La Fontaine. He escorted me inside, down some stairs, through a kitchen, and into a meeting room.

At 7 PM, Brock entered with two younger men, who immediately swooped toward where I was seated. They grilled me to ferret out if I was Catholic, or at least Christian, and how I found out about the meeting. I was taken aback, as Father Jim Livingston, in my initial interview at North Memorial Hospital through which I was granted access to participate, gave the impression that the group was comparatively low-key and easygoing. I told the two that I was Baptist, not Catholic, but that I had great respect for Catholicism, having defended the Catholic Church to friends and family. I added that I had Googled to find the location.

One of the two younger men laughed, teasing that “now, Tom isn’t the only non-Catholic in the group.”

At one end of the table, Brock sat adjacent to me. At the opposite end was La Fontaine. After opening remarks, reading, recitation, and prayer, he asked how we had been faring—over the past week, since we last attended, or in my case since my interview—with what participants were calling a “gender disorder.”

Brock recounted that it had been “a good week.” He had been on a trip to the East Coast, and had kept his mind off men.

Following the first round were moments when attendees brought up feeling excluded and stigmatized as boys for being inept at sports.

Brock observed that he sometimes “feels effeminate” because he has no interest in the sports page, and that he feels deficient because he finds society’s mass interest in sports to be a bore.

On the other hand, most of the men, including Brock, expressed a deep love for opera and classical music. He related that he was especially fond of a Ralph Vaughan Williams composition.

When the topic of same-sex marriage came up, Brock stated, “The world needs [heterosexual] marriage.”

Another person chimed in, calling same-sex marriage “a cult of mutual masturbation”—oblivious to the unintentional humor.

At one point, Brock became very intense in talking about some recent statistics that the percentage of HIV/AIDS cases caused by homosexual contact had increased. He was accurate, which is why safer-sex information should be widely available—something the group certainly would oppose.

Brock Wrestles With “Weird” Demons

At the May 28 meeting, as usual, the priest facilitator—this time, Livingston—opened with a reading and prayer. The individual participants then shared how well or not their efforts to maintain chastity had been over the past week, or since their last attendance.

Brock looked buffer than previously, in a tight-fitting, short-sleeve shirt that accentuated biceps and triceps more ripped than the month before.

When it was Brock’s turn to share, he related that he recently had been on “a preaching mission to Slovakia,” where he met with other clergy.

Then, Brock admitted, “I fell into temptation. I was weak. That place has this really, really weird, demonic energy. I just got weak, and I had been so good for a long time. Things had been going so well for a long time. There’s a lot of gypsies there.”

According to Brock, he confessed the foregoing to someone at Hope Lutheran Church.

Brock clearly was put off by the gypsy presence in Slovakia, continuing with a sense of revulsion in his voice, “They’re toothless, filthy; they smell, stink; and the gypsies are trained in how to pick your pocket.”

In his video series, Brock slams ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson for his call to “combat racism” at a New Orleans youth conference.

However, Brock did clarify that as a pastor, he got to meet a group of Christian gypsies who “were so in love with God.”

Brock’s admission of his Slovakian sexual breakdown seemed to have had a subtly stunning effect on the group. Livingston made no comment.

Brock went on to tell about a side trip on to Salzburg and Vienna, Austria, then to Bavaria, Germany, where he visited Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat at Berchtesgaden. He joked about a “fat woman tour guide,” and how the food was good, but heavy with meat and potatoes.

In what seemed like an effort to break the ice over the shock of Brock’s sexual stumbling in Slovakia, one fellow made a coy comment about German composer Richard Wagner, a favorite among the Nazis. He started intoning the notes of Flight of the Valkyries. A smiling Brock joined in wafting his hand as if he were a conductor with a baton.

Lutheran Pastor Picks Catholic Priest’s Brain

Before the May 28 meeting started, Brock wondered if Livingston ever got hostile feedback from seriously ill patients at North Memorial. Always on an even keel, Livingston responded that when it does occur, some patients will claim they are all right with God, and don’t really need a priest.

Shaking his head with condescending affirmation, Brock declared, “Yeah, they think they can do it all on their own, and don’t need anyone to help them.”

Later on, Brock told of a Catholic priest in St. Michael, Minnesota, who recently officiated the funeral of a man who had lived with a longtime same-sex partner. Brock questioned the rightness of this situation, pointing out if he were in the priest’s shoes, he would have been reluctant to conduct the funeral.

Livingston countered that it could be done as “an act of charity.”

Brock on Women

Later in the session, Brock remarked that even though he is “against the ordination of women pastors,” he presented a workshop to female Lutheran pastors in Slovakia. But, in his words, “I didn’t tell these women that I actually don’t believe in women being pastors.” However, he learned that many women pastors there were “assistant pastors to their husband, who was the head pastor,” and that ultimately, “nature takes over, when they have children, and they then assume their role as mother and leave ministry behind.”

That very day, on The Pastor’s Study, in describing the plight of an abused wife, Brock asserted that one “is to suffer for Christ. Her husband was a stinker, but she stuck it out for the sake of Christ.” In the same episode, he also railed against ELCA’s GLBT tolerance.

Homophobia or Heterosexism?

When I asked Dr. Steve Burns, a Licensed Psychologist, about the internalized homophobia of closeted gay and bisexual men, he explained that it was not homophobia, but rather “heterosexism—that the only truly normal way to believe is heterosexual. So, it follows, then, that if you were anything other than heterosexual—gay, for instance—growing up in the culture, then every image you get is that there’s something wrong with you, and you need to hide it.”

Burns stressed that help is available at every level of being closeted, and that capable therapists will not push anyone toward some agenda.

One thing I noticed is that all FIA participants held a sweepingly generalized caricature view of how they thought gay men interacted and lived in general. The myth of the so-called “gay agenda,” along with a basic ignorance of myriad differences between gay men, was intrinsic.

Lutheran Rupture/Lutheran Healing

In his video series, seething with disgust, Brock stirs his viewers to leave ELCA because of its inclusion of gay and lesbian pastors in committed relationships. He exhorts his flock: “Game over!”

The fourth stated AFLC principle is: “It is therefore the sacred obligation of the congregation to purify itself by the quickening preaching of the Word of God, by earnest admonition and exhortation, and by expelling the openly sinful and perverse.”

This grim, abject theology is echoed in two films, Fanny and Alexander and The White Ribbon. In both, the internalized horror of Lutheran pastors over eternal damnation is projected unmercifully onto those they deem foul. And in doing so, they actually contradict themselves—because if God is perfect, He does not make mistakes.

French novelist Romain Gary once remarked about the Iowa Lutheran upbringing of his tormented ex-wife, actress Jean Seberg, that it indoctrinated her with “its inbred poison of original sin.”

ELCA wisely and urgently has intuited this contradiction between spiritual colonialism and spiritual wholeness. The GLBT controversies are only symptomatic of a larger obstinacy that seems more fitting not in a free society, but in a fear-based culture where adherents congregate in secret to ward off Satanic spirits. ELCA’s loving moral courage and serious efforts toward restoring compassion, as well as a concept maligned a lot lately by reactionary rhetoric—“justice”—serve to rescue Christianity from the pre-Enlightenment crowd. It’s cause for optimism.

The Twelve Steps of Courage
(taken from the Courage Handbook)

We admitted that we were powerless over homosexuality and our lives had become unmanageable.*
We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
We made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood Him.
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.
We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.
We made the direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of God’s Will for us and the power to carry it out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

99 Responses to Antigay Lutheran Pastor Protests Too Much

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  1. Jay says:

    Mike, I am sorry that you feel so bad that you have to seek help from a group like Courage. The American Psychological Association has determined that reparative therapy is not only unsuccessful, but actually harmful, increasing depression and sometimes leads to suicide. Please seek help from an ethical and principled psychologist or counselor who will help you deal responsibly and lovingly with your homosexuality. As for Brock, he is a hypocrite not because he would like to (but apparently can’t) live a celibate life, but because he tells other people what to do but cannot do what he tells them. He deserves outing because he is a public figure who has built his life on a lie, and has spent his career hurting people. Not only is he self-loathing (which is just sad), but he wants to impose his self-loathing on others (which is reprehensible). He deserves no sympathy. There is no journalistic breach to refuse to honor the confidentiality clause of a cultish group that cloaks itself in secrecy in order to shield itself from proper questions about their practices. In any case, it is important to realize that Townsend did not reveal the identities of any of the private individuals who attended the group, only the facilitator and the public figure who was the target of his investigation. Kudos to Lavender for publishing a much-needed article.

  2. David says:

    From “Good Question: Is It Ethical To Out Someone?” by Jason DeRusha of WCCO: “The pastor has said he’s never had sex with men or women. He does struggle with thoughts. That’s why he was going to the support group,” said Tom Parrish, Executive Pastor at Hope Lutheran.

    Townsend writes above: “Then, Brock admitted, ‘I fell into temptation. I was weak. That place has this really, really weird, demonic energy. I just got weak, and I had been so good for a long time. Things had been going so well for a long time. There’s a lot of gypsies there.’

    According to Brock, he confessed the foregoing to someone at Hope Lutheran Church.”

    Townsend says nothing about Pastor Brock confessing of engaging in homosexual activity, and by Pastor Brock’s admission, he’s never has sex with anyone else, but struggled with thoughts (which we all have to struggle with).

    The reason for this article is to expose a hypocrite (by the admission of Lavender magazine), but Pastor Brock is no hypocrite. Though I have not heard it from him, knowing Pastor Brock, I would assume he has continually repented of sinful thoughts and asked God to give him strength to deal with them over and over again.

    He has spoken out against unrepentant homosexuality in the church- both people who call themselves Christians and Clergy themselves. He speaks out against them because of his firm belief that the Word of God tells us what is best for us. In God’s condemnation of homosexuality (most notibly Leviticus 18:22 in the Old Testament and Romans 1:20-27 in the New Testament), he shows us His love in telling us that there is a wrong way to act. Also, Jesus paid the penalty for our sinful behavior, and gives us strength to struggle with it. To disregard that gift is an example of our supreme arrogance.

    Because Pastor Brock desires to fight his sinful thoughts, he is in accord with what he preaches. If he, like many misguided Pastors wished to live an open, unrepentant homosexual life, then he would be a hypocrite.

    Pastor Brock demonstrates in this article that he practices what he preaches and is not the hypocrite that the magazine wishes to portray him as. God will use this terrible act on the part of the slimy Mr. Townsend for good.

  3. Steve Brown says:

    The first time I happened upon this guy’s tv show “The Pastor’s Study” while scrolling through stations I thought to myself, “This guy is as gay as a picnic basket”. I am not at all surprised about any of this.

  4. Luke says:

    I commented on the other article as well, but I attended Courage in my early 20′s while I was struggling to sort out how my gay identity mixed with my Catholic identity. I ultimately decided that it wasn’t for me and that I didn’t agree with what Courage is promoting, and today I’m much more at peace with that.

    Still, I’m disgusted that the reporter would go this far to “expose” a man’s inner turmoil. There are lots of gay people who don’t believe their inclinations are right or natural, and while I hope that they’ll come to peace with themselves, I can’t understand why anybody would believe they’re doing a service by humiliating such people. If you want to convince people that it’s okay to be gay, then don’t be a jerk and mock your opposition; this article crosses the line, and at the end of the day it’s just mean.

  5. Pat O'Brien says:

    Anyone who poses in a group that they are seeking help and then writes about the group members, espesically what he heard from the lips of Mr. Brock, is reprenhensible. The magazine is a joke. I would encourage people to stay away from buying and reading such journalist trash. The author ought to be fired. Problem is, he’s the owner of the magazine. He should fire himself.

  6. Paul Anthony says:

    Brock declared war on gays! Are we supposed to let him annihilate us because he hides behind religion?

    As others have posted; this is a sham of a 12 step program. Those programs are designed to deal with addictions and illnesses. Being gay is neither.

    8th step:
    “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.”

    Brock is not only violating that step, he is actively harming gay people’s right to love, safety, non-discrimination and the pursuit of happiness. He wants gays’ authentic-integral-self destroyed and replaced with a self-lothing false-self. Misery indeed loves company.

    It is the responsibility of every healthy gay person to out self-loathing homosexuals who are campaigning and influencing others against their very lives.

    Lavender did Tom Brock a favor. He can now take pause and do an honest inventory of his life.

    “To thine own self be true.”

  7. Ben says:

    Keep up this important work. Hypocrites with power over
    lgbt citizens must be outed.

  8. Leslie says:

    Will there ever be an outing of the recruiting done by Mindy Benowitz and Irene Green at the U of M in the 90′s? They advertized in the Strib for Rape and Incest Survivors and offered them group sex as a cure. When oh when will this “come out?” Never I’m guessing. Double standard Hypocrytes anyone? They still have their licenses because they didn’t have penises…

  9. Xtine says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m torn about the ethics regarding outing Brock in this manner. Part of me believes NOTHING is sacred and anti-gay counseling groups do so much harm that the public has the right to know if someone in a position of power wallows in hypocrisy. However, I fear that this will do little more than rally the troops on both sides and what goes around will come around. I’m guessing Brock’s congregation will stand by their man regardless and might be less likely to respect the boundaries of anonymity when it suits their agenda. As much needed as this exposure might be, the Golden Rule is a two-way street. I admire the guts of the author while not envying the position he’s in.

  10. Anon says:

    Look. I’m a very strong GLBT ally. And I know you think you did good here, but I know Tom Brock, and I know his flock, and you did nothing good for their views of the GLBT community. And what’s the point if not to change their minds? You’re just preaching to a choir, not anybody who would openly disagree with you. You have no idea the pain you have caused to do it. The kind of judgment that goes on in that environment. You just don’t know enough about this culture to interact ethically with it.

    It’s easy to stand on your out pedestal and out somebody else “for their own good”. Sure, I think his views are stupid and bigoted too, I’ve sat in his church and thought his views were stupid, but that would never give me just cause to out a man without his permission. Be the better person.

  11. Bob says:

    Extremely unprofessional. I get what Lavender was trying to do, but when you give up your morals for the sake of fighting “the war,” as a previous poster has described, you’re always the loser.

  12. Snuggarunt says:

    Townsend is a gay who desires justice, not mercy. Brock is a gay who desires mercy, not justice. So what’s the problem?

  13. Jim says:

    A very good article. Thanks. I wonder what the real Tom Brock would say – he was a gay porn star.

  14. jake says:

    Well done outing this revolting man.

    As to the group? The Catholic church has conducted a stealth campaign against civil rights for LGBT men and women for years; CA and Maine, eg. Courage is a group used by that church to define us by calling us sinful or disordered. It is part of the larger disinformation campaign to make the idea of ex-gay respectable. For any gay man in the group you have my profound sympathy but not my respect. We don’t have to live in fear any more. Not only does a reporter have a right to get into such a group to get the story- he has a duty.

  15. JANE says:

    An interfiew with a Philadelphia Talk Show this morning completely changed my mind regarding the so called Outing of Pastor Brock. Not because he is Homosexual, but because he NOT homosexual. He is using an organization, the Catholic Church, for his personal political Agenda, and I for one am sick of the Catholic Church either knowingly or unknowingly allowing my church to be used for a radical Evangelical Political Agenca. The Pastor’s remarks regarding Gypsies, keyword “Christian Gypsies” was very telling. Gypsies on the whole are Catholic,,,, the Christian ones were the ones Brock and his Evangelicals decided only in the past five years to accept. As a Social Worker/volunteer to Romania, I met the “Brocks” of Christianity almost immediately after the Wall Fell. They considered Rommania a Pagan Country, and used American Dollars, Orphanages and hopes for employment to convince Town Leaders to allow them to start a Mission. They became totally entrenched in the Town. Employment in the Building, Maintenance, and anything connected with the Orphanage and Clinic,,used partially with donations as well Romanian Government money was limited to “Christians”. Here in America, it’s called Bribe Money. Town Fathers in this predominently Orthodox Country were clear-Gypsies were not welcome and would be taken care of by “The Catholica”. Although I was able to travel to Romania for three years, as the Group which called itself non-sectarian grew. Twelve years ago on a vote,,, only “Christians” be welcome on the Trip. As a Catholic therefore NOT Christian, I could stay in the organization but could not travel with them. As a Catholic who has watched the absolute hi-jacking of the catholic Church by Politically motivated Evangelicals only to willing to carry their water,,, I have a different feeling regarding the Outing. As catholics, at least one of the members of this organization should have had the courage to state clearly the Church does not speak of ANYONE like Pastor Brock spoke of the Gypsies,,,, and defended the Priest who buried a “Gay” man. At what point will the Catholic Church again recognize anti-Catholicism in the for of Reverand Brock. We are not a Your Enemy/My Friend Church. If the catholic Church wants to continue to be considered a Faith Based and not Politically based Church, it better take back alot of the authority a politically motivated laity has grabbed before it’s too late. When an Evangelical organization defends our faith,our Educational and Hospital System as well our Charities or our Pope — not our Political Leaders,,,,, I will consider them Faith rather than Politically based. Until then….

  16. Jay says:

    A supposed ally of ours wrote above: “I know Tom Brock, and I know his flock, and you did nothing good for their views of the GLBT community. And what’s the point if not to change their minds? You’re just preaching to a choir, not anybody who would openly disagree with you. You have no idea the pain you have caused to do it. The kind of judgment that goes on in that environment. You just don’t know enough about this culture to interact ethically with it.”

    I don’t expect to change the minds of the crazy people at Brock’s church. If they had any sense, they wouldn’t be attending that church. While I don’t care what they think, I do care about the enormous pain that Tom Brock has caused. Why don’t you care about that? I wonder how many young gays and lesbians have come to hate themselves as a result of the fulminations of Brock? I wonder how many have committed suicide. I doubt that someone like Brock is going to feel any more pain than he already does. Sure, his church will stick by him (though, of course, they condemn ELCA for having gay and lesbian pastors), but I suspect they will look at him differently. I doubt anyone will take seriously his screeds against homosexuality. He is just another hypocrite in a long line that includes Larry Craig, George Rekers, Ted Haggard, et al.

  17. Ben says:

    As others have noted above, this isn’t a legitimate 12-step group — it’s a sham. Now, I didn’t know about this article until I saw the NYTimes blog post (even though I’m a Twin Cities native) but it became obvious to me very rapidly that this was well within ethical bounds. To the commented above who felt the description of Brock was on the verge of romance novelising, you removed the passage from its context; Brock had muscled up on his trip, and had gay sex on the trip — he was, in a way, becoming more like what he hated, even as he denounced it. That’s why it was included, because it revealed another aspect of his involvement in this ex-gay monstrosity.

  18. CC423 says:

    If you consider this a true “12 step program” then you too believe that homosexuality is an addiction that can be cured.

  19. Don says:

    Horrible journalism. I can’t believe that the privacy of a support group is violated. For us in support groups (alcohol, drugs, sex, etc) this is a terrible breach of confidentiality. Revolting journalism for self gratification.

  20. Joe says:

    A guy who thinks being gay is undesirable attends an ex-gay therapy group, and people think he is a hypocrite? ROFLOL. Really. He may be strident or over the top, but at least he knows a disorder when he sees one, one that defies the most basic biology of male and female. The comments here betray the gay movement’s uglier side. Despite their furious protests, I know countless happy ex-gays. How annoying! I feel sorry for gays, and think they do get a raw deal. But their campaigning and insistence that it’s all good. How about a reality check. Sheesh.

  21. Adam says:

    This is very troubling. Well, ok: the idea of outing a bigoted hypocrite? Fine, for sure. But breeching the confidentiality of these meetings at which the pastor was in attendance? I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of comments both by readers and by the author himself that they don’t consider this a “real” Twelve Step program, and I’d agree with them. However, regardless of the legitimacy of the group’s mission toward “self-help,” it is the pastor, not the organization, that the article intends to indict, and so the confidentiality of the meetings should still be respected, in my opinion. Merely reporting that Brock attends the meetings in the first place would have been enough. But the author proceeds to use quotations that reveal very personal details about Brock’s pathetic, self-loathing private life. I’m all for the exposure of hypocrisy by whatever means necessary for a just societal cause, but the author seems intent on not only doing that but also humiliating this sad creature on a personal level. And that, to me, seems smugly mean-spirited as well as journalistically unethical.

  22. Adam says:

    Moreover, I realize that Townsend does indeed indict the Courage organization in the adjoining article, calling its practices into question but maintaining the anonymity of its meetings’ attendees in his quotations. On its own terms, the article makes a case for itself in breeching the terms of confidentiality, especially since Courage does not require its members to make any legal agreement to maintain those terms. So I suppose that on ethical grounds, Lavender has covered their bases. Still, the intent of the Brock article seems more interested in humiliating Brock than on merely outing him, as if to exact years’ worth of revenge upon such an antagonistic figure to the GLBT community. And, really, is that a journalist’s duty? I suppose that’s up for debate, but I think Townsend went too far toward sensationalism for the sake of giving Lavender’s readers a better sense of comeuppance for Brock.

  23. Jason says:

    Townsend invokes “moral courage” and “optimism” at the end of his article, no doubt attempting to designate his work within some sort of valorized narrative of a war on homophobia. If that’s the case, and if we accept that war requires combat, then I understand why Townsend embarked on this kind of project, but I’m also obliged to call into question exactly what kind of strategy he’s employing (sorry to belabor the militia metaphor). In other words, how does this kind of investigative report serve as anything but another example of religious sex panic and hypocrisy? The ex-gay (and ex-ex-gay) conversations have been going on for years now, and ruptures within politics and “the Church” have recently become pervasive in the mainstream, with documentaries like “Outrage” and any average edition of the National Enquirer.

    I suppose one could argue that by outing these folks as queers will convince others that sexuality is inescapable and therefore should be embraced. However, Townsend seems bent on outing Brock not as a gay man but as a hypocrite. He smartly disclaims the issue of ethics early in the article, but justifies his decision to proceed with the report by citing a so-called “universal consensus among GLBT individuals and straight allies” that hypocrisy is the culprit here. That’s fine, but it’s naive and incomplete. History shows us how revealing hypocrisy creates nothing but polarized sides to complicated issues. That’s because hypocrisy isn’t the real culprit. The insightful bit from Dr. Steve Burns gestures toward such a notion–that hypocrisy comes from those who face such seemingly insurmountable cultural anxiety, reinforced in the media, public policy, even the very language we use. Eradicating hypocrisy means eliminating the conditions from which hypocrisies arise–systematic, institutional, mass-mediated. By exposing the private turmoil of public figures, we risk upholding a model of society limited to good-guys (those who are honest) and bad-guys (those who are hypocrites), all the while losing sight that in the end, everyone suffers under these conditions. Townsend’s ostensible endorsement of “healing” is totally undercut by his binary politics, effectively conquering the hypocrite whilst liberating no one.

  24. Jason says:

    Also–let me be clear–I won’t make much of a statement on whether his report was “ethical” or not, because that discussion is always such a slippery slope, totally contingent on particularities of the situation to which we’re never fully privy. I mean that the report ultimately does little for the betterment of the oppressed people in question, which is a fact symptomatic of most contemporary journalism–but shouldn’t that be the point?

  25. Bart says:

    Please post a link to Paypal so we can send money to your paper. Thank you for the excellent reporting.

  26. DanO says:

    Affording Courage the title of a self-help group or a 12-step group legitimizes the claim that homosexuality is something that needs to be cured. Yes, the others in the group are victimized, but it’s not by this publication, it’s by the Catholic Church. Tom Brock on the other hand should be exposed for his hypocrisy.

  27. Shawna K. says:

    Another sinner in need of a Savior,who is Jesus Christ. I personally do not see the news in this. As a Christian I understand ALL men and women are born in sin, no one is excluded. No one.

  28. Paula Coyle says:

    Well I guess my hopes were not to be. I still see no hypocrisy here however, as he was at worst seeking help for something he knew to be wrong.

    Christians don’t pretend never to sin. But they should not consider sin to be OK even if they do.

  29. Mel says:

    As a civilization…as a humanity…all we have is each other. Whether we agree or disagree, hate or love, we are what we have. There’s not another planet of humans we can go to in order to escape.

    If you cannot afford someone any confidentiality in a support group, whether you agree it is legitimate or not, you just help with the downfall of civilization. You are no better than Brock in destroying people…in destroying the connections of our common humanity…of destroying any common ground and tolerance we could reach, instead of engendering it.

    This is well beyond a gay issue or even a journalistic issue…this is about maintaining the very frayed boundaries we have left in this world as we continue to devolve. I wish I could say all this more clearly, but I’m heartsick at watching yet another line be crossed that maintains the slim veneer of civilized society.

  30. Lee says:

    Poor journalism, completely unethical, and not helping the image of the gay community. Getting attacked now from all directions for the totally unethical means used here.

  31. Harry C says:

    12 Step traditions clearly state that personal anonymity must always exist at the level of press,radio and film. It also states that the group/organization has no opinion on outside issues and should never be brought into “Public Contoversy”.This subject was debated on Almanac by the Lavender editor and a teacher of Journalism at the University of Minnesota. My feeling is that Lavender was within journalistic boundary’s in researching the story. They got edgy with profiling activity at a meeting using names and titles of speakers and thier postions on politic’s,religion and sexual orientation. The bottom line is that this is a flash point topic. I read the article with great interest on both sides of the issue. As a member of a 12 step group myself I think I would have been upset if my name had been used in the bit but overall I think it was good press for the group. Lavender may have a “backfire” from this article as closeted gays will flock for help to this type of gathering.

  32. JJ says:

    Ok – I’m gay, not in the closet, and don’t don’t believe it can be ‘cured’.

    That said, obviously these people are struggling. No, this group isn’t going to cure them, but they have people to talk to who are struggling with the same thing. In this way, it may be of help to them. Granted, it will probably do more damage than good, but it’s a place where they felt safe and the author crapped on what was probably the only place these guys could talk about the issue openly. Nice job.

    I think Brock is a guy with more problems than being unwillingly gay. He’s got problems, period. I don’t know that you can label him a hypocrite, because obviously he believes homosexuality is wrong and tries to live in accordance with that belief (however misguided). If you encountered him at gay bars on the weekend or cruising a park frequently or whatever, I think you’d have a better case.

    Is he a vile, nasty person? Seems so. He appears to be bigoted, narrow minded, fearful, hateful, arrogant and narcissistic. But really not hypocritical.

    So you exposed that he’s trying not to be gay. So what? Plus, you hurt a bunch of other people in the process. How does that come out on the balance sheet?

  33. Nik says:

    Yes, I think Brock’s teachings are wrong, but I also think decieving a group of men and writing what they shared with you in confidence is much worse. And what just blows my mind is that this article got past everyone on the lavender staff without raising any red flags. I know there is such a thing as freedom of press, but there is also a thing called ethics and I think everyone that let this article go to print not only owes Brock an apology, but also owes all of the other guys in that group an apology aswell.

  34. Bill says:

    “My first encounter with Brock was at a confidential meeting…” so, what part of CONFIDENTIAL did you miss here? Don’t worry, it will come back around to you too. God is funny that way.

  35. Andy says:

    I disagree with the claim that Tom Brock is a hypocrite. He is definitely conflicted, but not a hypocrite. He has preached that homosexual sex is a sin. His participation in this group shows that he believed that. I don’t recall him having said before all this that he had never been attracted to a man, so there is no hypocrisy in the fact that he is. He is a man with homosexual desires whose theological commitments tell him that those desires are disordered. A very sad situation but not hypocritical.

  36. T says:

    I really, really don’t feel good about this at all. I really, really don’t.

    As far as Tom Brock is concerned, my view here is that at the end of the day, he’s on his own. If you spend your time and efforts making other people’s sexual identities a public issue–as these anti-gay public figures do by taking to the airwaves and cable news channels and internet forums and halls of government to rail against the immorality of homosexuality, lobby for same-sex marriage bans, complain about laws that in any way recognize same-sex relationships, oppose hate-crime or anti-bullying legislation aimed at preventing violence against LGBT people, etc.–then you don’t really have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to your own sexual identity. You don’t get to bring your bullhorn to the public square and start scrutinizing and criticizing and condemning the way other people live and expect not to be scrutinized or criticized or condemned in return. Brock attending this group might be somewhat less hypocritical than the Rekers business–if nothing else, it seems like he’s attempting to practice the anti-gay message he preaches–but at the end of the day, I don’t see it as inappropriate to discuss his sexual identity in a public forum like this because he has made it clear that he has zero problem discussing our sexual identities in public forums and, further, advocating for the prevention of our living full, equal lives within those identities. At the end of the day, like I said, he’s on his own.

    But what about any of the other men in attendance at the meetings infiltrated by Townsend? Are they as well on their own and fair game for being outed? If so, why? I realize that Townsend’s article didn’t mention anyone by name other than Brock and Frs. LaFontaine and Livingston, but as commenter Homogenius mentioned earlier, he identified the exact day, time, and place of the group’s meetings. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that nowhere on the St. Charles Borromeo website, among all the information on the myriad groups and programs that meet there, is there any mention of this particular group existing, let alone information on when and where it meets. I’m personally familiar with the St. Charles community. It is insular, and it is small. If any of the men attending those meetings (or any of the women attending the separate but presumably concurrent women’s meetings–if those also take place at the same time on Friday evenings, then Townsend has released identifying information about them, too) are St. Charles parishioners, it is extremely likely that damned near any of his fellow parishioners and neighbors who read this article will now know exactly why it is that they see him heading over to church every Friday at 7PM. Group members from outside the parish may or may not fare better; for any member of that group, there’s now a real, legitimate chance of friends and families hearing about this and figuring out that their friend or brother or son or boyfriend or husband or dad hasn’t really been spending his Friday nights doing basic Bible study. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that a lot of these men probably don’t tend to have open, candid discussions with the people around them about their struggle to resist same-sex attraction, and I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that having their presence at these meetings revealed to some of the people around them would be absolutely devastating to them.

    I hate to see anyone living a life predicated upon the belief that who they are is fundamentally not okay and must be fought and suppressed and changed. It makes me deeply sad, and I don’t believe that it’s healthy or right. I also find it unfortunate, in the broader context of bringing mainstream culture to a point at which non-heterosexual identities and relationships are not only tolerated but embraced as every bit as valid and worthy as heterosexual ones, that there are LGBT people out there who really do adhere to the belief that that shouldn’t happen–that non-heterosexual identities and relationships are not every bit as valid and worthy as heterosexual ones and should not be embraced as such but rather dealt with as a personal flaw or weakness to overcome. But people have a right to live their own lives according to the values they hold. I have no more right to tell someone that he cannot view his attraction to other men as something that he needs to resist indulging in order to remain okay with his God than he would have a right to tell me that I’m not really queer, just confused, and that what I need is psychological help, not the freedom to form a recognized, respected relationship with a partner of my choosing regardless of that partner’s gender. The question of whether Brock has the right to use his influence as head of a congregation to work against the rights and interests of LGBT people is, to my mind, wholly separate from the question of whether an individual has a right to choose to embrace his/her religious beliefs over his/her sexual identity. Again, to my mind, the answer to that second question is yes: an individual absolutely has a right to choose to embrace his/her religious beliefs (or any other beliefs, frankly) over his/her sexual identity and to live his/her life accordingly, and we don’t have a right to persecute them for that. Doing so does nothing to help refute or dismantle the ex-gay industry; it does nothing but inflict pain and terror on people who have enough to deal with as it is.

    I have to wonder whether Townsend thought this through before forging ahead with his infiltration and reporting, and whether Lavender’s editors thought this through before publishing his article. If they did, I’d be fascinated to hear how they see this in terms of what it does to all the non-Tom-Brock men at that meeting (and the non-Tom-Brock women who may have been at a similar meeting at the same time) and why exactly they feel that those men and women deserved this.

  37. David says:

    It saddens me that this was the only way that Townsend felt he could respond to Brock’s bigotry. In spite of Brock’s vitriol, he is first and foremost a fellow human being needing liberation like the rest of us. As a person of faith, I believe that liberation can only happen once the oppressed and the oppressor are both free from their chains (remember, bigotry takes its toll on your soul as well). The minute we dismiss others’ humanity by trivializing their struggle or justifying our own unethical journalism, we wander off of the path of reconciliation and onto another path altogether. In order to restore people’s faith in your magazine, it is important that you apologize to Brock and to anyone in the recovery movement who considers the pledge of confidentiality sacred. Compassionate love is what will move the LGBTQQA cause forward. Not vitriolic retribution. We must not become the hate that hate produces.

  38. TH says:

    He who squawks the loudest against gay people is usually gay. I knew this guy was gay the first time I happened upon his cable show a couple of years ago… Funny how things work…

  39. Timothy P. Ross says:

    This is not that suprising. For anyone who ever watched this gentleman for even fifteen minutes, he is clearly someone who is NOT in the mainstream of Protestant theology, and even in his own denomination. The brand of fundamentalist biblical “literalism” that he spouts in very simplistic terms, with his “chiup on his shoulder” angry manner is appropriate for second graders. Even though he is very enamoured of his own voice, he actually is fairly embarrasing to many christians, who try to think in adult terms, and have studied the NT and OT canon in some depth. The article does explain what his obvious anger, that he wears on his sleve is all about.

    Thanks for outing him. He is a hypocrite of the first order. Those who spout the sort of disingenuous nonsense he does publicly, give up the right to privacy, and are fair game for this sort of reporting.

Links to this post
  1. [...] Ethics of Outing Courage Posted on June 18, 2010 by Michael R. Triplett A provocative piece in Lavender magazine in Minnesota where a reporter attended meetings of Courage, the Catholic [...]

  2. [...] known in the Twin Cities for his denunciations of homosexuality on his radio program — has been outed by reporter John Townsend, who ran into Brock at a confidential meeting of gay men [...]

  3. [...] Minnesota Post’s media critic David Brauer has done some digging into the Lavender magazine profile of Rev. Tom Brock and provides some additional insight into the magazine’s justification for sending a reporter [...]

  4. [...] by msewall on June 23, 2010 Lavender magazine recently outed Minneapolis Lutheran pastor Tom Brock, who has made homophobic claims in the past. Outing a [...]

  5. [...] Read the rest: Lavender Magazine – Minnesota’s GLBT Magazine – Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Ne…. [...]

  6. [...] Magazine, in one of its rare moments of political investigative reporting, outed the Rev.Tom Brock, a Catholic with a penchant for slamming gays and lesbians. It turns out, Brock had been attending [...]

  7. [...] Lavender Magazine recently published an article that ousted an outspoken anti-gay pastor in Minneapolis. This should be a good thing right? Exposing an obvious hypocrite, so why all the controversy? Well the information from the article was obtained based on a tip and some good old fashioned undercover reporting, and some considered the way the information was obtained to be unethical. The pastor in question was attending a support group for people who struggled with same-sex attraction, but did not want to act on their urges. The reporter went undercover and joined the support group. Do you think this is unethical from a journalistic standpoint? [...]

  8. [...] he’s been a bit less vocal on the fact that a magazine infiltrated his gay “chastity” support group, where participants used a version of the [...]

  9. [...] Brock, the Lutheran preacher outed by Lavender’s John Townsend back in June, has now returned to the pulpit. A church committee [...]

  10. [...] summer when a reporter for Lavender magazine outed a local Lutheran minister. John Townsend, the article’s author, attended several meetings of Courage, an organization of the Roman Catholic Church that [...]