Through the weekend, I am going to post reaction to the closing of Exodus International in this space. Consider it an open forum to discuss the closing, the new ministry, positive and negative reactions, etc. Feel free to post links to articles on the topic.
I was unable to watch the Lisa Ling special on OWN last night but those who did can weigh in. For those who didn’t see it, OWN has several clips available.
The Daily Beast provides some analysis, quoting me in the process.
This Religion News Service article is being cited often.
New York Times
UPDATE: NARTH issued a statement about Exodus.
This line is highly questionable: “The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a multi-disciplinary professional and scientific organization that is not affiliated with religious ministries in any way.”
NARTH’s lifeblood has always been religious advocates (most of their membership) and religious clinicians. They aren’t the arm of a church but they have clearly marched in step with the conservative wings of several groups (Jewish, LDS, Christian) over the years. Given how many people know what NARTH is about, it is astounding to me that they continue to make that claim.
In 2003, I spoke at the annual conference of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) on public opinion and homosexuality. In that talk, I noted that favorable shifts in attitudes toward gays were associated with having a gay person as a friend or family member. I added that increased public support for gays would mean that more people would develop friendships with gays, thus building up a momentum for public acceptance of gays and bisexuals. Seeking to make the talk relevant to the audience, I predicted that the public would become more skeptical and critical of various NARTH claims about homosexuality as a consequence of more people knowing and accepting gays as friends. I noted that as the non-gay population became more aware of gays in their families and as friends, they would doubt the claims that gays are incapable of happy lives and/or that their homosexuality derived from problematic family relationships. People will know by their own gay friends and family members that the stereotypes are not generally true. Thus, for NARTH to survive, I suggested that the group incorporate biological research, and stop promoting the view of homosexuality common to reparative therapists (e.g., distant same sex parent, overbearing opposite sex parent).
As I continue to document here, NARTH didn’t listen.
My history with NARTH is for another post, but I was reminded of that 2003 talk and the negative reaction to it from NARTH and eventually from Exodus when I read this attributed to Alan Chambers:
But the belief in “reparative therapy was one of the things that led to the downfall of this organization,” Chambers said in an interview, noting that Exodus in recent years redirected its focus to helping men and women work through their sexual identity.
“I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said in the announcement. “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.”
Alan is sorry about the problems caused by these therapies but he apparently also sees the damage done to the organization as well.
Alan is on HuffPo Live now…
The news is coming fast and furious today.
On their blog, Exodus International announced that the organization will be shut down with a new organization to follow. Here is the press release:
Exodus International to Shut Down
Thirty-seven-year-old ministry for those with same-sex attraction marks its last national conference
Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.
“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing (www.exodusinternational.org/apology) to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.
“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
Chambers continued: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”
For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”
Local affiliated ministries, which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.
Exodus President, Alan Chambers, is available for interviews. For press credentials or to set up an interview, contact Amy Tracy at 407/808-9831 or 719/355-9075; [email protected]. For additional information and a schedule of activities, please go to http://www.exodusfreedom.org.
Alan Chambers is a guy in process.
In January, 2012, Chambers made news by acknowledging the rarity of sexual reorientation (“99.9% of them haven’t experienced change”). Since then, he and Exodus International have removed themselves from the reparative therapy world entirely. Today, on the eve of what promises to be a riveting television appearance on the Oprah Network, Chambers has issued a written apology to the LGBTQ community.
Please do go read the whole article, but let me pull out an extraordinary paragraph:
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.
Here Alan has really turned the corner on his earlier support for Love Won Out and NARTH.
We don’t get this network but I hope to find a way to see this program. It airs Thursday, June 20 at 10pm eastern time. Below is a preview.
For almost 40 years, Exodus International claimed to offer a “cure” for homosexuality. Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus, decided last year to stop endorsing the controversial practice of gay-reparative therapy. And now, he has a new message: an apology.
In a special episode, Lisa Ling is joined by a group of survivors of the condemned and damaging practice of “reparative therapy” as they confront Alan Chambers. Chambers recently asked Ling to help orchestrate an opportunity in which he could formally apologize to those who felt deceived and defrauded by Exodus’ practices and to announce that the organization will cease to be an “ex gay” organization.
Tune in Thursday, June 20th at 10/9c for a special presentation of this powerful report.
To watch clips and read comments from the original “Pray the Gay Away?” episodes, click here.