In 2018, when Assembly Bill 2943 was being proposed in the California legislature, Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning knew they couldn’t sit back and do nothing.
AB 2943 attempted to declare “sexual orientation change efforts” to be an “unlawful business practice.” The bill would have had broad implications, including making it against the law for any person to sell books, counseling services or anything else to help an individual overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion.
“We realized this bill could completely block our ability to reach people that were like us, people that have a desire to follow God out of homosexuality,” Woning says.
Williams and Woning, both former homosexuals, have been married to their respective spouses for over a decade and have both experienced radical transformation through the redemptive power of Christ. To them, AB 2943 was personal. It was a direct attack on the ministries and resources that had been so instrumental in their own journeys out of the LGBTQ lifestyle.
“[AB 2943] would have blocked resources, therapy,” Woning explains. “We felt that we had no choice but to stand up and use our testimonies in government hearings, in the media, on social media and through press conferences.”
Williams and Woning approached state assembly members, sharing their personal testimonies, but were consistently met with doubt.
“Most were incredulous,” Woning says. “We heard assembly members say, ‘I don’t believe your testimony’ and ‘I don’t believe there are other people like you.’”
Williams and Woning set out to prove that there was indeed a large community of people who have experienced a change in their sexual orientation through an active, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
They called several of their friends who had left the LGBTQ subculture and published a book of 37 testimonies titled “CHANGED: #ONCEGAY STORIES.”
Those featured in the book were invited to travel to Sacramento, where they personally delivered a copy to every senator’s office ahead of the Senate hearing. They also took the time to visit with legislators and their staffs to share personal testimonies face to face.
The next day, the group held a rally on the steps of the California State Capitol building, where each person briefly shared their testimony. It turned out to be about 2½ hours of public testimony of men and women who had come out of the LGBTQ lifestyle. The California Family Council livestreamed the event, prompting responses from all over the world.
“People began contacting us saying, ‘Hey, that’s my testimony!’” Woning says.
Others that had left the LGBTQ lifestyle saw what the group was doing and contacted Williams and Woning in droves. Out of those connections, the CHANGED Movement, a Christ-centered network of men and women who have left the LGBTQ subculture behind, was founded.
“Like 1 Corinthians 13:6 says, love rejoices with truth,” Williams says. “Our heart is that every person would experience the freedom that comes from living in alignment with God’s truth. Not merely out of adherence to rules, but because the relationship we have with Him has compelled us to walk closely with Him.”
The group’s Facebook page has more than 1,600 members, most of whom have publicly left the LGBTQ lifestyle, and that number grows more each month, Williams and Woning say.
“Some continue to experience same-sex attraction but are pursuing God for wholeness, and others are like Ken and me; they haven’t experienced same-sex attraction in years,” Woning says.
The purpose of CHANGED Movement is twofold. First, that by sharing testimonies, those entrenched in homosexuality but who don’t resonate with an LGBTQ identity would have the opportunity to experience transformation through God’s love.
“It’s a complete misnomer to say people out there are thrilled with their same-sex desires,” Williams explains. “There are tons of people out there who find themselves with same-sex desires and are not at peace with that.”
Williams and Woning firmly believe that the Gospel offers complete redemption from any kind of sexual brokenness and that God’s heart is to restore individuals in their sexuality.
The second goal of CHANGED Movement is simply to show others that there is a growing community of people who have turned from homosexuality and have intentionally chosen their identity in Christ above that of LGBTQ.
From its inception, CHANGED Movement has aimed to accomplish these goals through entering the public arena. In October, members of the movement visited another capitol building—this time the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Sixteen former LGBTQ individuals held a press conference where they shared their stories of transformation in an effort to show Congress and the media that homosexuality doesn’t have to be permanent.
CHANGED Movement member Jim Domen, now a pastor, husband and father of three, was once in a long-term relationship with a man who was infected with Hepatitis C, as well as HIV-positive. In 2002, Domen’s boyfriend ended their relationship and kicked him out of their house. Broke, homeless and desperate, Domen found that Christ was able to fill the void left by his complicated relationship with his father, which he felt was the impetus for his same-sex attraction.
Domen surrendered his life to the Lord, and through intensive counseling and church-based support groups, began to walk in the righteousness that God had called him to. He founded an organization called Church United and now shares his story around the world, joining his passions for government and God’s Kingdom to advocate for former LGBTQ individuals.
While at the Capitol, Janet Boynes, another member of CHANGED Movement and founder of Janet Boynes Ministries, had a chance encounter with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Boynes spoke briefly with Pelosi before giving her a CHANGED book.
“I hope she takes the time to read it,” Boynes said.
Two bills that CHANGED openly opposes, and Pelosi has the power to influence, are HR 5 (the so-called “Equality Act”) and HR 3570 (The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act).
“[HR 3570] says that sexual orientation cannot change, and therefore because it cannot change, any suggestion or encouragement to pursue change should be considered fraud,” Woning explains. “Well, that flies in the face of many, many people who have experienced change.”
“It’s a really harmful bill because it’s basically saying there can be no dissent,” she continues. “That anyone who is really struggling or suffering, they are not allowed to get professional care. That’s just un-American.”
As damaging as HR 3570 would be for those hoping to escape the homosexual lifestyle, HR 5—the Equality Act—has the potential to change society as we know it.
“To the average person, even maybe the average Christian, it would not necessarily be obvious that HR 5 would be so dangerous to our religious freedoms. But it would elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to the same protected class as age or race,” Williams warns.
“It’s the most assertive form of discrimination today, because it would be an ideology that would reign supreme, usurping religious freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech. It’s incredible that a very small group of people would be able to dictate all of those things for the rest of the population.”
“We have a situation where ideology is able to stifle the truth,” Woning adds.
But Williams and Woning trust that God is sovereign and is opening doors to share the Gospel in the public arena.
“The LGBTQ issue is much more complex than is being represented,” Woning says. “People’s experiences are broad. So, legislating so narrowly is unwise. But by us speaking on this level, it allows us to say Jesus changes lives. Jesus’ love is powerful and has brought us wholeness. We’re thriving and we wouldn’t be if we didn’t have Jesus in our lives.”
“Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, CHANGED Movement is advocating for our people group—those people who have left homosexuality behind,” Williams says. “God wants to rescue all of us, regardless of where we come from.” ©2019 BGEA
To learn more about CHANGED Movement, visit changedmovement.com.
Photo: Courtesy of CHANGED Movement