Box Turtle Bulletin points out today that Latter Day Saint ex-gay group Evergreen International is merging with North Star International, a group less focused on change of orientation and more geared to living in alignment with LDS teaching. This is a significant development in that North Star has not supported reparative therapy or efforts to change orientation. The merger will not change that approach, according to a statement on the North Star website:
Recognizing the uniqueness of individual circumstance, North Star reaffirms that, with the incorporation of the Evergreen organization, it will continue to take no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual attractions or gender identity incongruence.
The English language Evergreen website
is being “rebuilt” will eventually forward to the North Star site.* The website now has a link to SameSexAttraction.org. SameSexAttraction.org is managed by Larry Richman’s Century Publishing company. Richman is the go to person for Latter Day Saint social media and web presence and was once chair of Evergreen’s board.
Apparently Evergreen International Director David Pruden will not make the switch but will remain at the helm of NARTH. I reached out to Pruden for comment but he did not return my email.
From my vantage point, it appears that the change paradigm has suffered another blow with this merger. Over the past decade, evangelical outreach to GLBT people has moved from trying to get gays to change to offering support to evangelical gays in their efforts to live in alignment with traditional teaching, what I have called the congruence paradigm. With this merger, it appears that LDS ministries are moving in the same direction.
*North Star president Ty Mansfield informed me that the Evergreen and SSAVoice websites will be owned by North Star and and will forward to their site.
In 2010, the Jewish ex-gay group Jonah began recommending the human potential group Celebration of Being to constituents as a step on the ex-gay journey. At the time, I wondered if CoB would become a “new way to ex-gay.” Now People Can Change and Mormon ex-gay group Evergreen International are joining in.
A notice from Evergreen offers:
Breakthrough Healing with Women: The Noble Man Workshop
Celebration of the Noble Man: Healing Men’s Wounds With Women. An intensive experience for men from all walks of life who are ready to heal their issues with women. For more information, see http://celebrationofbeing.com/noble_man.html
Celebration of Nobleman is one of CoB’s weekend retreats, and focuses on men gathering with female leaders to “heal old wounds with the women in your life.” For about $800 you can discover your manhood with the empowering help of women. CoB is collaborating with People Can Change for these workshops.
Read the earlier post for more about this group. Suffice to say that this is a pan-spiritual approach to finding your inner, hidden potential for masculinity while in the presence of women. While the pictures on the website indicate that hugging and physical affirmation are a part of these workshops, I don’t know if womean substitute for men in holding therapy common at People Can Change workshops. In a 2010 conversation, I asked one of the CoB leaders about such techniques but she declined to say what they do on the weekends.
CoB says they are open to men of all sexual orientations:
Celebration of Being welcomes all men seeking healing with the feminine regardless of sexual orientation or partner gender preference. Our policy is to be completely inclusive and respectful of everyone’s choice.
Lots of irony here. CoB partners with groups not offering this same kind of inclusivity. And then those groups are sending men to an experience which claims to be just fine with gay affirmation, even as the men attending are trying to change something that research demonstrates is infrequently changed.
CoB is supposed to be about acceptance of self, whereas People Can Change is about change. The ex-gay groups seem to be so sure that attraction to the same sex is about mother and father wounds that they recommend groups which claim to heal these in hopes that such healing will reduce the gay.
Often ex-gay groups claim that they only want to help people live in accord with their religious beliefs. This is what People Can Change’s Rich Wyler told NPR recently. However, recommendations to groups like CoB (and the Mankind Project) in order to change orientation seem to contradict this claim. If anything, CoB is more aligned with Buddhist and Sufi teachings. Very little that is going on in these workshops is in congruence with religious teachings of a particular faith. The aim is change, not acceptance and congruence.
My purpose is not criticize other religions. My observation is that change groups put change above congruence, while articulating a congruence message. Whether it be the Exodus ministry that articulates acceptance and faith congruence while promoting reparative therapy materials, or the topic of today’s post, it seems that the rhetoric of congruence is more common than its application.