|Left to right: Chambers, beard|
The president of the country's best-known Christian ministry dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer is trying to distance the group from the idea that gay people's sexual orientation can be permanently changed or "cured."This is interesting news for those who have followed Exodus International's history.
That's a significant shift for Exodus International, the 36-year-old Orlando-based group that boasts 260 member ministries around the U.S. and world. For decades, it has offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer, infuriating gay rights activists in the process.
Michael Bussee, one of the founders of Exodus, and Gary Cooper, a leader within the ministry of Exodus, left the group to be with each other in 1979. Bussee has since been a long-time critic of Exodus.
In 2007, Bussee, along with Jeremy Marks, the former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency, issued an apology to those who had been misled by Exodus. The three stated that although they acted sincerely at the time of their involvement, their message had caused isolation, shame and fear. The three had, in time, become disillusioned with promoting gay conversion.
"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," stated the three in the apology.
Another Exodus Chairman, John Paulk was removed by the board of directors when he was identified drinking and flirting at Mr. P's, a Washington, D.C. gay bar, Paulk was introducing himself to patrons of the bar as "John Clint," a name he had used in his previous life as a hustler in Ohio. Paulk was the author of "Not Afraid to Change; The Remarkable Story of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality," and was on staff with Focus on the Family, where was manager of their Homosexuality and Gender Department.
Essentially, Exodus International's ex-gay therapy doesn't work. It never did. It hasn't worked for its clients, and it hasn't worked for its leaders.
At the group's annual conference, president Alan Chambers plans to start disassociating himself and his organization from the ex-gay, or conversion therapy, movement.
"I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included," said Chambers, who is married to a woman and has children, but speaks openly about his own sexual attraction to men. "For someone to put out a shingle and say, 'I can cure homosexuality' — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth."That's great news, right? Finally, Exodus admits that ex-gay therapy is a sham and that people don't choose their sexuality. So, what will Exodus International do now? They're through, right? Kaput?
Chambers has cleared books endorsing ex-gay therapy from the Exodus online bookstore in recent months. He said he's also worked to stop member ministries from espousing it.
Of course not. If they can't convert the gays, they'll just help them live a lie.
Chambers said the ministry's emphasis should be simply helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture. For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.While we can applaud Exodus International's admission that ex-gay therapy doesn't work, it's certainly not much of an improvement to then state that gay people still need to change.
"I consider myself fortunate to be in the best marriage I know," Chambers said. "It's an amazing thing, yet I do have same-sex attractions. Those things don't overwhelm me or my marriage; they are something that informs me like any other struggle I might bring to the table."
"We appreciate any step toward open, transparent honesty that will do less harm to people," said Wayne Besen, a Vermont-based activist who has worked to discredit ex-gay therapy. "But the underlying belief is still that homosexuals are sexually broken, that something underlying is broken and needs to be fixed. That's incredibly harmful, it scars people."So, we have moved on from "it's a choice" to "it's not a choice, but it's an affront to God and must be suppressed."
It's almost like progress. Except it isn't.