Lavender magazine, a gay publication based in Minneapolis-St Paul, has sent shock waves through the American gay press. Their latest cover story was written by an undercover reporter and details Pastor Tom Brock’s struggles with his sexuality as told to an anonymous Catholic-run support group which claims to help gay men who are “struggling with chastity”.
Lavender reporter John Townsend was referred to the programme by a Catholic Priest, Father James Livingston, without revealing he was a journalist. It was at the meeting he encountered Pastor Brock, who made headlines last year when he famously linked a tornado that hit Minneapolis to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s decision to accept gay relationships and ordain gay ministers who were in monogamous relationships.
However, many people, including some in the gay community, have questioned the ethics of the magazine in betraying the anonymity agreement which characterises support groups.
A blogger for the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association called the magazine’s ethics “suspect” and a local former journalist Karl Reichert said that the article’s effect on gay men who attend 12-step programs for substance abuse might now be put off attending such gatherings for fear of their anonymity being betrayed.
Despite this, Lavender’s media president and CEO Stephen Rocheford says he has no regrets about running the article. Mr Rocheford added that although he didn’t personally believe in the action of “outing” people, he did believe “there’s one exception: a public figure who says one thing and does another. This is not the first homosexual minister who denounces homosexuality in public and engages in it in private.”
Pastor Brock’s supervisor, Tom Parrish, has not denied Mr Brock has problems dealing with his sexuality and says he has spoken of it with him. He said, “Tom has been very open about his own personal struggles, [with confidants]”.
Father Livingston, who referred John Townsend to the program, says Lavender’s decision, “wasn’t so much an ethical decision as a hate crime. They didn’t like [Brock’s] values and belief system and went after him personally.”
Pastor Brock has not been available for comment.