Evergreen International bills itself as “the most complete resource for Latter-day Saints on same-sex attraction.” As one of the larger ex-gay organizations after Exodus International, a number of familiar names in that arena hail from Evergreen. Outgoing NARTH President Dean Byrd is one example.
While they exist to serve other Mormons, there is a curious ecumenical cooperation between Evergreen and Evangelical organizations such as Exodus. Exodus President Alan Chambers and Vice President Randy Thomas have spoken at Evergreen’s annual conference in the past, and Exodus speaker Janelle Hallman was a keynote speaker, both in 2003 and just last month.
From this the reader should understand that Evergreen is not a small, back-woods ministry — it’s a big deal in the ex-gay world. This fact only serves to intensify our shock at finding convicted sex offender Chris Austin listed
as a resource,* (archived) right along with the aforementioned Exodus staff and many others. Chris Austin is an ex-gay therapist who was convicted of sexual assault on a client last year. He is listed under the heading “Keynote Speakers and Frequent Presenters at Evergreen conferences, Firesides, and Workshops.”
Christopher Austin is a therapist specializing in homosexual and sexual addiction recovery. He and his wife are therapists at Christian counseling centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He is the creator of RENEW, a multi-dimensional treatment approach for men struggling with homosexuality, and has written a treatment program called Cleaning Out the Closet. His wife Karla runs programs for spouses of husbands who struggle with homosexuality. They are the parents of three boys.
Although (thankfully) it appears Austin has not spoken at an event since 1996, this would be little solace to someone in Irving, Texas who might find this reference and consider it a validation of Austin’s credentials. As we reported last year, even after being sentenced to 10 years (reduced to 7 years probation), Austin was still answering the phone as “Dr. Austin, Counseling Center.” With the unwitting assistance of organizations like Evergreen, Austin could conceivably pick up where he left off.
Incidents like this emphasize the generally haphazard way so many ex-gay organizations conduct business. These are largely not professional therapeutic programs, but ministries in the loosest sense. They are often rife with factual assertions which have no basis in fact, or scriptural interpretations which substitute for therapeutic training. Anyone can establish and run one of these groups — they are not required to be accountable to anyone.
Evergreen does not respond to emails from XGW. We publicly call for them to edit Austin’s reference to reflect his conviction and thereby help inform those who may have thought him a good resource by way of Evergreen’s negligent reference. To simply remove his name with no explanation would be an attempt avoid responsibility for this negligence entirely.
We also call on Evergreen to explain how this happened in a transparent manner; do they have anyone monitoring their resources for accuracy? If not, why not, and if so, what happened? These are serious questions that demand a public reply.
Since ex-gay ministries so often stand as cover for the covert practice of psychiatry, should they be monitored and regulated as such?
*Update: (Oct 9, 2:00am ET) – It appears that Evergreen has finally removed the reference to Chris Austin, however they provided no explanation and no warning to those who might have seen and trusted it over the past year. We emailed Evergreen again yesterday to ask them to take it down, but commenter Bill Rice says he called them as well. Whichever worked, at least it is finally down.