Living Waters Australia closed down in 2014. It was a programme encouraging Christian discipleship for people with sexual, emotional and relational brokenness. Way back when in the US it began as a programme for Christians who were struggling with unwanted homosexual attraction and action. It developed into a programme with a broader focus, though many people still attended due to unwanted homosexual sin.
For years it operated under the radar, more, it seems to me, because the Church as a whole wasn't interested in dealing with sexual issues than anything else. But when 'gay marriage' became a hot media issue, pressure mounted and stories were run linking Living Waters to some bizzare practices (e.g. here).
...an alert reader can see how the linked article (and others like it) jump from Living Waters to reported experiences of people who experienced unsettling "ministry" with other groups. It's not accurate to put them under the same umbrella, but it's easy for the reader to do.
There are other articles that I've read that spoke of experiences with Living Waters in the 1990's that also sound a bit off. That was before Ron Brookman's leadership, and may or may not be true. I hold these disturbing (though not extreme) testimonies at arms length because of personal conversations in which examples were given by honest people of baiting, attempted traps and outright untruths published by journalists and "pro-gay Christians".
Truly, if Living Waters was undergoing even part of what these journalists were bringing against ministries that dared minister to people who had unwanted homosexual issues, then I'm not sure I would stand under the pressure.
And so Living Waters Australia closed down...
Actually, no. That is not why Living Waters closed down. For some time before this explosion of media interest the leader of Living Waters had been looking for a successor, and the lack of a sucessor plus some other issues led the leadership to conclude that it was God's timing to wind up the ministry. They made that decision, knowing full well that it would look like a defeat.
Nowadays it is extremely unfashionable in the Church to support "reparative" anything when it comes to homosexuality, which is a shame. Living Waters would have been put in the "reparative" category, but my wife's and my experience with Living Waters belied most if not all of the concerns people espouse. In fact, in the near future I'd like to go through the above article, critique it and make some suggestions as to why many voices in the Church are now so against "reparative" ministry.
In the meantime, let me reach back in time and resurrect a post I wrote just after our first experience with Living Waters - a week-long intensive.
Paula and I just spent a week in Sydney doing a Living Waters intensive.
And it was really good.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I liked:
a) It was incredibly low-key.
While there were some very charismatic/pentecostal moments during the singing (which I don't have a big problem with) hype was almost non-existent. I don't know if this is normal of all Living Waters programmes, but Ron Brookman was at pains not to get ahead of God's Spirit. If Jesus was going to do something, Jesus would initiate it. In fact, I have been so programmed to accept that hype is indispensible that for a couple of days I wondered whether God was actually doing much at all! I knew what he was doing in my heart, but there was no trumpeting about spiritual advance and experiences programmed in. In fact, at times I thought there was an over-emphasis on sin! (In retrospect, I think, that I am just not used to people being that honest).
b) It was continually cross-centred.
The whole programme was basically providing teaching as a means for God to bring up issues in a person's life and encouraging each person to respond by confessing, repenting, forgiving, letting go, and worshipping - all in the context of going to the cross of Jesus and getting his empowering and applying his substitutionary death. It was just applying Christian living to specific issues. This was done both in a whole group setting and in small groups which met twice daily.
c) The leaders were open and honest about their own struggles.
There was no encouragement toward hero worship. Ron, as the coordinator, confessed his own sins even during the week, and the other leaders were far from spit and polished, also. Related to that, in our group there was a continual checking with people to see if what was being prayed for was correct, i.e. there was a very humble attitude to hearing God's voice.
d) A safe place was created.
From the outset, there were boundaries laid down.
No one was to discuss what other people said in their small groups.
No advice was to be given by leaders in the small group - just prayer discussion and prayer.
Only the leaders were to lay hands on people and pray.
No one was to share what they thought about another person's issues in the group (and outside it), or what they thought the Lord was saying except the leaders. If another participant wanted to share with someone, they needed to talk to the leader at another time and the leader would decide if it should be shared.
People were given ample opportunity to decline the laying on of hands or anointing with oil or water (all of which were done). Leaders always asked and a participant could put an orange dot on their name badge if they didn't want that to happen.
That probably isn't all of it, but with all those boundaries in place, it became a very safe place to be honest and open.
e) There was little manipulation.
When I say little, there was none from the leaders that I can recall. Others may have felt some, but there was a concerted effort to avoid any. This definitely worked in my favour as I felt no pressure to respond to specific issues as they were raised from the front and this allowed God to bring up very real issues at times that I would not have forseen.
f) There was a whole lot of grace.
One of the questions on the application form was something like, "Do you recognise healing as a process?" This emphasis on progressive sanctification made room for an incredible amount of grace during the week. In a very orthodox fashion, sin was seen as continually with us and our victory over it something that happens gradually (usually). This encouraged people (me, I guess) to avoid the unhelpful "only holy" or "only sinful" dichotomy. We are all holy and all sinful, and falling into sin did not cast us into the "failed" category at all - we were all in the same boat.
There were things that I would have done differently, but on the whole it was a really blessed time and both Paula and I are so glad we went. The only reason we were ready to leave at the end of the week was because we were chomping at the bit to see our little girl again (she was staying with her Nana in Bowen, Queensland). It was truly a Jesus-centred week. A real blessing.