Jeremy Marks was born in London, UK in 1952, the oldest of three children. He was brought up in the Anglican Church, a tradition he rejected for a time after witnessing the hypocrisy and spiteful judgement meted out to his parents when they divorced in 1968. Having discovered he was gay by the age of 13, it was fairly obvious that the Church would be hostile to homosexuality too. However, he found his faith again at the age of 21 and, thanks to the witness of a school friend, was converted. He spent the next 7 years in Guildford Baptist Church under the exceptional expository Bible teaching ministry of the Revd J. David Pawson. He was unaware at the time that this ministry was a fundamentalist evangelical ministry which was anti-gay by doctrinal conviction (though not actually hostile to those whose “behaviour was under control”! ) The attraction of this church was perhaps the sense of security in belonging to a Christian fellowship where the preaching of the Gospel and “commitment to the truth” (certainty) was paramount. In a world where coming to terms with being gay was anathema, it was strangely affirming to be counted among those who were prepared to “crucify their sinful nature” (i.e. being gay) for Christ’s sake - making a virtue of internalised homophobia!
Taking up a career in professional architectural photography, Jeremy worked for 11 years for a publishing company that involved country-wide travel, and necessitated moving to Watford UK. There he joined the charismatic House Church Movement (part of New Frontiers International), where it seemed that “healing of homosexuality” was to be expected because “nothing is impossible for God”! However, after years of receiving counselling, deliverance ministry, healing prayer and even secular psychotherapy, to no avail, Jeremy then discovered the “ex-gay” movement. Really the ex-gay movement only offered more of the same kind of abortive ministry, but as a movement travelling with other gay Christian strugglers, rather than just individual counselling, the fellowship found there seemed an important step forwards - not feeling so alone anymore. Soon an opportunity arose to visit Love in Action in San Raphael California, founded by Frank Worthen, and part of a Community Church known as “Church of the Open Door”. The Love in Action discipleship houses offered tremendous support for those gay Christians who were committed to the ex-gay process and this seemed such a radical, exciting, cutting-edge ministry, that Jeremy gave up his career in photography and spent 4 months (late 1987) working with this ministry on a training basis.
In February 1988, after Jeremy had returned home, he founded Courage UK under the auspices of his local church, at this time the New Life Church Harrow. Courage soon became one of the leading Christian ministries in the UK for gay & lesbian people committed to the ex-gay ideal. In 1991, he married his wife Bren and they continued the work together. During this period he became President of Exodus International Europe, a coalition of ex-gay ministries. However, after 6 years of running discipleship houses along the lines of the Love in Action model, Jeremy became increasingly concerned at the lack of good fruit from this form of ministry and in 1994 the live-houses were closed down. In the next few years, it became manifestly obvious to him that the ex-gay process did not work.
Twelve years after Courage was founded, in 2000, Jeremy startled the evangelical world by publicly repudiating the ex-gay approach, proclaiming that it did more harm than good, and unequivocally embracing a fundamentally gay-affirming approach (which his wife supported also), after recognising the despair that had resulted for many sincere Christian folk who had tried the “ex-gay” approach. Unsurprisingly this resulted in expulsion from Exodus International, the Evangelical Alliance and all other evangelical Christian groups he had been involved with. Their action was, however, counted a blessing by Jeremy, who then felt released to speak more openly and about his experience and new-found convictions with complete candour. He was also most grateful for a new source of moral support from Dr Ralph Blair, founder of Evangelicals Concerned (www.ecinc.org and www.ecwr.org) ; Dr Blair’s many years of experience supporting out gay Christians had clearly borne good fruit that has lasted, proving the efficacy of a gay-affirming Christian message.
Since the turn of the Millenium, Courage has continued to offer pastoral care and support to a great many gay Christians, coming mainly from evangelical backgrounds. Having felt destroyed by their Churches. these gay Christians are in the process of recovering their self-esteem and learning to accept their homosexuality as a gift from God.
(This biographical statement was written by Jeremy Marks.)