Born in the city of Bath as Kenneth Anthony Goodenough (in Somerset England) on the 5th of January 1949, I was raised in a Christian/Salvation Army family. In fact, I believe that my deep down Christian faith stems from the moment that my mother arranged to have me dedicated to God as an infant by Col. Hamilton under the Salvation Army Flag at the Bath Citadel. Colonel Hamilton was the personal Secretary to the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth. He performed this ceremony as a special favor to my mother, shortly before he passed away.
I came to Australia at the age of 9, in 11th May 1959 with my family and attended both Sunday School and Worship Services at Nundah Salvation Army in Brisbane Queensland. As a teenager, I used to go out with a small group of friends, preaching the word of God on street corners. During my late teens, I felt the “calling” from God to become a Salvation Army Officer. I left Nundah Corps because I felt I wasn’t doing any good in such a large church, and transferred to a very tiny “Outpost” in Fortitude Valley where I really felt needed, and where I could do the most good as a Salvation Army Cadet in training for Officership. At the age of 20, I had some conflict with my Commanding Officer at Head Quarters in Brisbane when I sort counseling with him about my homosexuality and my Christianity. He told me that homosexuality was a sin, and that if I remained an active homosexual, I would not be able to go to Training Collage and become a Salvation Army Officer. Confused and upset with God and my church, I left them both behind, believing that God didn’t love me.
Obviously I had to sort things out, but looking back, God knew this also, and put certain things into play.
A few months after I left the church, I was wandering down George Street in the city of Brisbane when I discovered a plaque on the wall of a building next to a small door, which simply said “C.A.M.P. Inc” (Campaign Against Moral Persecution). My curiosity led me to enter and go up a small steep set of stairs, and at the top was a door and a security window & buzzer. I pressed the buzzer, the window opened, and I asked the person what C.A.M.P. was all about. He told me it was both a Counseling & Social Centre, for the homosexual, Bi and transgender community. It was at that point in time that I had discovered a centre, which was there to help me sort myself out.
I worked there as a volunteer, and counselor, helping others who found themselves in the same boat as myself. Giving no further thought at the time to my relationship with God and my Christianity, I learned to have a healthy respect and understanding for my “gay” lifestyle, and that there were so many others “out there” who were just like me, who also needed assistance.
After a while, it was almost as if God had said, “O.K. Kenneth, let’s throw another spanner in the works, and get you back on track – now that you’re getting that part of you sorted out.”
One Sunday evening, after working at C.A.M.P., I felt the need to go for an early evening walk, feeling a bit alone, and just wanted to think about things. I wandered further than I anticipated, from the city heart though to Fortitude Valley where I came upon an old picture theatre which was being used as a Pentecostal Church. I stopped, I heard music and singing and I felt the urge to go in and sit down for a while. Well, after the church service was over, I wondered down the centre isle (I have no idea why).
But three quarters of the way down, an old lady came up to me, whom I had never seen before, and she said “You’re Kenneth Goodenough, aren’t you?” I blushed and said that I was. She then said “God spoke to me in my prayers last night, and told me we would meet, and to give you this message.” I froze, thinking what the heck is going on here? She then went on, “God told me to tell you to ‘come back to me, as I have work for you to do!'” I rushed home, and in tears knelt down at the side of my bed, and prayed to God, asking for his guidance through all this.
Shortly after this experience, I had heard about Peter Bonsall-Boone who was running a group called “Cross Section” (Christian Gay Group) at C.A.M.P. in Sydney. I phoned him up and talked to him about my life and what had happened, then flew down to Sydney to meet with him, about the possibility of starting up a branch of “Cross Section” in Brisbane. He was a great help, and a wonderful person. He encouraged me no end. I started up a group, had special guests of understanding or known gay ministers, ran newspaper adverts, organized TV and radio interviews etc, which led to the Executive Committee of C.A.M.P. asking me to do a special job for them.
They mentioned that there was a gay minister in the U.S. named Reverend Troy D. Perry who had set up a church called Metropolitan Community Church (M.C.C.) with a special ministry to the Gay Community. He had apparently been in touch with the committee of C.A.M.P mentioning that he wanted to come to Australia for a speaking engagement. I was asked to organize his Brisbane Tour, which I jumped at the chance. I received all the information I could on him and his ministry, then sent out press releases to all the news media, arranging TV and radio interviews. I advertised for folk to “Hear Rev. Troy Perry speak about the Church and the Homosexual” on Wednesday 10th of July ’74, 8pm at 379 George Street (C.A.M.P. Headquarters) mentioning that Rev. Perry was the author of the book “The Lord is my Shepherd and He knows I’m Gay.”
Troy arrived in Brisbane, along with Rev. Lee Carlton and his lover, and everything seemed to go pretty much as planned, with the exception of a few hiccups along the way with some of the media who thought that it was all just a big joke. During his stay with us, we went for a trip on a Brisbane river cruise, singing some great gospel songs, talking about M.C.C. in LA, and I was asked by Troy to start up MCC in this city, I said I would think about that. Toward the end of Troy’s visit with us, he made some phone calls to Sydney, trying to set up interview sessions with the media down there, but seem to be having problems. The gay Catholic group “Acceptance” heard about Troy and what he was trying to do, contacted him, and the next leg of Troy’s tour was underway. The Lord God must truly have wanted this ministry in Australia, as everything fell into place in time, with the opening of MCC in Adelaide, Sydney, then with me in Brisbane, and later spread to Melbourne, Perth, and some regional centers around Australia. Just over twenty years down the track, and the Lord continues to guide us, and many Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual & seeking individuals, have been blessed by the ministry of MCC here in Australia.
I hear folk who claim to be loving and understanding Christians saying all the time that an active homosexual is an abomination to God and themselves, taking verses out of the bible which suites and strengthens their arguments against me, and all I can say to them is “Wake up and smell the roses!” I have, in so many ways, and at so many times, felt the love and presence of God in my life as a gay individual. At one particular MCC Spiritual Retreat, out on a country farm, we participated in a Holy Communion out side the house with the birds chirping and cows mooing, but in the middle of that service everything went quiet, and the birds and animals went silent for a short while. The, a member of the group gathered there started to speak in tongues (O.K. the skeptics will say that even the Devil can speak in tongues) but the message interpreted was that of assurance and of the love of God for us all meeting at that place. When I attend an MCC service, the fellowship, warmth & love felt at that place, is so sadly missing from other established churches that I have attended.
Yes I have a firm believe if a living God. And yes I know that God loves me for what I am. And yes, I truly believe with all my heart that God does not see me a practicing homosexual to be an abomination unto God’s self, or he would not have been instrumental in using me, and others like me, to help get the ministry of Metropolitan Community Church going in this country, and in so many other countries around the world. And if this was not a special plan by God to spread the good news to the Gay, lesbian, transgender, Bi & seeking individuals in this community of ours, of God’s love for us for what we are, then this ministry would not have continued past the first few years, let along the 20 plus years that it has been here in Australia.
Don’t give up on yourself, and don’t give up on your faith, live life to the full as God intended you to do, and remember that God made you the way you are, a very special and unique individual, your sexuality is just one aspect of your uniqueness.