Hope Restored, Part 1: The Anne Edward Story

For decades, Anne Edward was part of a ministry and a marriage leading the way out of homosexuality through faith. Then much of it — and many of the people around her — crumbled. This is the story of how she's stood strong to build a new life and a more effective ministry to those seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions, the first in a multi-part series.

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on June 19, 2024

For 12 years now, Anne Edward has sat at the helm of the Restored Hope Network, a coalition of Christian ministries serving those seeking to overcome relational and sexual issues in their lives, particularly homosexuality.

She and others built it from the ashes of Exodus International, which was the leading umbrella organization over such ministries for nearly four decades and was instrumental in Edward’s own journey out of lesbianism into a full and free life in Christ. It also was the ministry where she met John Paulk, to whom she was married for 21 years and who served as the poster child for the ex-gay movement, leading an effort called Love Won Out through Focus on the Family in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

John Paulk no longer considers himself to be “ex-gay” (now preferring the term “ex-ex-gay”). The same is true for nearly a dozen other ministry leaders Edward worked with and called friends during that time. The couple divorced in 2013.

And yet, despite the devastation through which she has walked, Edward has never wavered in her faith. She continues to identify as a woman of God and describe herself as attracted to men. And in that process, the Restored Hope Network has grown to include 55 member organizations and affiliates all over the U.S. that over the last 12 years have supported people looking to leave their LGBTQ identities, as well as their families. Network members and affiliates provide groups, licensed professional counseling, pastoral counseling, videos, podcasts, books, and group curricula. The network also hosts an annual HOPE conference, which will be taking place in California this Friday and Saturday. 

Growing Up with a Broken Heart

In 1982, Edward came to Christ as a 19-year-old who identified as a lesbian. She was born in Idaho, the youngest of four children. At the tender age of four, a teenage boy in her neighborhood showed her pornography and molested her.

The experience left her with a fractured sense of self. She felt vulnerable and afraid, and saw her own femininity as dangerous. She no longer wanted to wear skirts or dresses; instead, she played games boys liked and became rough — a “tomboy with a purpose,” she told Pure Passion Media in 2014. Her goal was to prevent further molestation.

As she entered puberty, she found herself distrustful of boys with romantic intentions. In junior high and high school, she began to experience attraction to girls who possessed the femininity she rejected in herself.

While at the University of California-Santa Barbra, Edward joined a group of homosexual students on campus, thinking she could find wholeness and fulfillment with the right woman. And yet she heard a still, small voice tell her, Anne, you will not find what you’re looking for here.

That thought hurt. She left in tears, knowing the voice was telling her the truth. She prayed that God would reveal Himself to her and she would find the truth.

Edward then began to have dreams about Jesus, about whom she’d heard very little. She asked her friends what Jesus said about Himself. Somehow, while she was still an unbeliever who needed the Gospel herself, she ended up attending an evangelism training class hosted by a Christian organization called Campus Ambassadors. During a prayer time in which she bowed her head and pretended to pray, God showed her His Spirit moving around the room through people — but not her. She could tell that He was full of power and authority, and yet tender and kind. Afterward, she approached the group leader and told him what God had revealed to her. 

She also told him she was a lesbian.

“I want what you have,” she said. “I’d give up anything to have this Person in my life.”

Amazed, the leader — who was a pastor — told her that God was drawing her toward Himself. He then showed her what Scripture says about homosexuality and told her how she could pray when she was ready to give it up and surrender her life to God. Whenever that day came, he said, he hoped she would let him know; he wanted to be there for her.

She Surrendered to God

That night, Edward gave her life to God, and was immediately filled with joy. She surrendered herself, including her sexuality, to God, and for the first six months of her new life in Christ, she was free from same-sex desires.

I was doing really well — and then I ended up back into a lesbian relationship,” she says. At that point she realized she needed more help.

Some time later, she found herself attending weekly meetings hosted by Frank and Anita Worthen in Marin County, California. Worthen was one of the founders of Exodus International, and over the next few years he would become a father figure to Edward.

Edward began to see the fact that “change really is possible” in the lives of the people around her. One young woman, whom Edward recalls as “rough and tumble” — once showing up at a meeting wearing a tool belt — became her close friend. “I saw her life becoming transformed by mercy and love and kindness and forgiveness,” she recalls. “That gave me a lot of courage to walk through that myself.”

A Helpful Live-in Program

After a year of driving for more than an hour to attend the meetings every Friday, Edward moved into the ministry’s discipleship house, a year-long residential program. She and other young women and men lived there together for more committed community as they worked out their issues.

Edward remembers that place as “really, really helpful” to her. The men and women were usually separated from each other for their discussions. She and the other ladies talked about the traumas that could be underlying their same-sex attractions, God’s will for sexual expression, His mercy and forgiveness, and principles for working through conflict in relationships. When someone in the group struggled with an attraction to someone of the same sex, the others helped him or her work through it.

I learned about my attractions,” Edward recalls. “I remember them asking me one time, ‘Anne, what is it that you’re attracted to in that other woman?’ And it was a sense of strength and nurturing and character and things I wished that I had.”

It became apparent to Edward that the better way to handle her attraction to the qualities she felt she lacked as a woman was actually to develop them herself.

“I am a woman and I can grow in these areas,” she learned. As she grew, she let God touch the areas of her heart that had been most deeply wounded.

Growing Up on the Inside

I had to walk through points of forgiveness [toward my molester] and walk through the pain of that experience, the emotional outcomes of that experience, the relational outcomes and identity outcomes and all sorts of things,” she says now. “And as I walked through those things, I found myself becoming more and more free to enjoy being a woman myself, because that had been pushed off. And that foundational thing made a huge difference in where I would end up.”

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Edward let God and people see the areas where she was hurt, and that allowed her to grow up on the inside. She stopped living in fear of being sexually attacked when going for a run. She suddenly discovered that she wanted to wear scarves. She didn’t mind shopping for dresses with her mom, and the idea of wearing them no longer scared her. When a young man opened the door for her at a restaurant and gave her an approving nod, she was no longer afraid. She liked feeling noticed for her beauty.

She and the other women in the house were beginning to experience degrees of change in their identities, and that was starting to reflect in changes in their attractions. Her dear friend even got married to a young man who led worship in their small group Bible study; Edward was a bridesmaid.

What I saw was transformed lives around me,” she says.

There was someone else in the house as well: A young man named John Paulk. When Edward first met him at the Friday night meetings, they were like “oil and water,” she says. They just didn’t get along. 

And then one day, that began to change as well.

Check back on June 21 for Part 2 of this multipart series.

 

Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow her on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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