World’s Biggest ‘Pray Away the Gay’ Group Closes With an Apology
Exodus International, the world’s largest ex-gay therapy group, has apologized to the gay community for the harm it has caused and announced it will now close.
The apology, written by Exodus International president Alan Chambers, came in a statement issued Wednesday, June 20, under the title “I Am Sorry.”
The statement is a personal treatise on Chambers’ evolution that in the past year saw him publicly state that though he had once claimed he was cured of his homosexuality he, as a married man with kids, still has feelings for other men and recognizing that, in the vast majority of cases, a gay “cure” or, in the parlance of Exodus, “reorientation,” is not possible.
A small excerpt to give a general impression of the apology appears below:
There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
Chasing this apology came another release just hours later announcing that, after a unanimous board of directors vote, Exodus International will now be closing its doors. The group isn’t entirely dissolving however.
The announcement also mentioned that a new ministry will be opening under the banner “Reduce Fear,” though at this stage the exact nature of the ministry remains unclear other than the given broad mission statement that it will “come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”
Exodus was founded in 1976 and functioned as an umbrella organization that spawned over 120 ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries across 17 other countries.
It advanced its mainly Protestant, somewhat literal reading of the Bible that homosexuality is sinful and that, if clients are dedicated enough, it is possible that through religious counseling they can “overcome” what they dub the choice to give in to “Same-Sex Attraction.”
While the group initially condemned homosexuality as sinful, it moved away from that in recent years to parsing itself as a group simply there to help those who wanted to change their sexuality because of their religious beliefs.
This might sound reasonable but there’s a snag: there’s no peer reviewed consensus-backed science to support you can change your sexuality. Moreover, the APA and other medical authorities have all stated that affirming sexuality is the proper way to deal with anxiety surrounding sexuality and that “change” efforts, in this regard, are not supported.
As such the ex-gay industry has been fighting a losing battle in recent years.
Industry leaders currently face lawsuits from those who have undergone the so-called therapy and have been harmed by their experiences, meanwhile legislators have moved to ban ex-gay therapy for under 18s. Specifically, Exodus’ reported part in the Ugandan conference that spawned the now infamous Kill the Gays bill has also served to expose an agenda that went far beyond just “helping” those struggling with their sexuality.
While Exodus may be making a change of direction, many of its affiliated churches will continue to, as the New York Times puts it, “attack gay men and lesbians.”
In fact, religious conservatives had already turned on Exodus for its supposed going soft on the issue and this week several commentators have said good riddance while calling for other ministries to rise up and continue the work of peddling the unfounded claim that you can choose to change your orientation.
So, while Exodus International’s remodel and redirection certainly can be seen as significant, the religious right’s profiting off this false therapy doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.
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