Hope Restored, Part 2: Anne Meets John

For decades, Anne Edward was part of a ministry and a marriage leading the way out of homosexuality through faith. Then most 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.

Anne and John Paulk had three boys together. This photo was taken when their second son was young, circa 2000.

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on June 21, 2024

Note: This is the second article in a multipart series. Click here to read Part 1, which details how Edward came to the Lord and later found freedom from same-sex attraction.

While Anne Edward and the other young women at the residential program were processing their attractions and identity and healing together, the men in the house were going through their own accountability process. Over time, one of the men’s group members, John Paulk, became one of its leaders.

While Paulk and Edward initially clashed, Edward’s heart was becoming ready to be pursued by a man — and she began to notice Paulk in less-irritating ways. One day he sang at a couple’s vow renewal ceremony.

He was communicating the heart of God in song over this couple,” Edward recalls. “It was beautiful. And my heart [thumped]. And I thought, What is wrong with me? Because I hadn’t liked him before.”

She Was Ready and He Was Motivated

Edward assumed Paulk had experienced the same degrees of change she had, and maybe worked through deeper issues in his life. But in hindsight, she says she doesn’t really know how far his healing process had progressed before they started dating.

“He was very set on dating me,” Edward recalls. “He pursued me.”

But she noticed some red flags along the way.

“There were times when I almost broke off our dating relationship or we were getting close to engagement and I was like, ‘Whoa, I see some problems. I want to address these,’” she says. But “he would push right past those and convince other people to convince me to push past them. This guy was motivated. Really motivated, and my heart was drawn to him.”

Edward recalls Paulk as an emotionally expressive man who gave her a lot of attention. And “I was ready for being pursued.”

As a result, they married in 1992.

Still Struggling, But Not Admitting It

Not long afterward, Paulk confessed to Edward that he had been looking at “materials that were not appropriate related to homosexuality.”

“He was feeling terrible about it, so he let me know,” she recalls. She forgave him, and his transparency with her built trust within their fledgling marriage.

Paulk developed a public persona of experiencing total freedom from homosexual desires. In 1998, Paulk wrote a book, Not Afraid to Change: The Remarkable Story of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality. Also that year the couple was featured on the cover of Newsweek, and appeared on several TV programs, including 60 Minutes and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

When Winfrey asked the couple on her show if they struggled with homosexual tendencies or desires, Paulk said, “Absolutely not.” Edward said she occasionally had to bat away such temptations, but she no longer faced consuming same-sex desires that she didn’t know how to handle.

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My argument was, ‘Hey, I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m gonna be real,’” Edward recalls. “John decided not to be real at that point. He later admitted to me that my answer was a good one.”

Hired to Lead Conferences

Paulk had been serving on staff at an Exodus-affiliated ministry in Oregon called Portland Fellowship. When Paulk began gaining public attention in the late 1990s, Focus on the Family recruited him to join a new initiative to support people grappling with same-sex attraction, as well as their families. Soon, Paulk was hired full-time to work on public policy and to help create what would be known as the Love Won Out conferences.

Focus on the Family did its due diligence, putting Paulk through seven interviews and even interviewing Edward as his wife before offering him the staff position. Nonetheless, Paulk would get himself into a scandal while working there.

Note, June 24, 2024: There’s a minor discrepancy between Edward’s and Paulk’s accounts; Paulk said in a May 1 video he created for his YouTube channel that he spent seven hours in one day doing 11 interviews with various people at Focus on the Family.

Look for Part 3 of this series, coming out in early July.

 

 

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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