Article at Exgaywatch this morning:
Exclusive: Secret Conference Held to ‘Save Exodus International’ from Ruin
The crux of the article is this:
Exodus President Alan Chambers called a meeting together this past November 16. The subject was quite simply how to keep Exodus International from social and financial oblivion. In attendance were Exodus leadership, prominent religious leaders (such as Gabe Lyons) and lay people. The latter were mostly those who once counted themselves in the ex-gay camp but now are either in the process of changing their views or are fully gay affirming.
Go read the details at the link above.
Gabe Lyons is the co-author of unChristian, a book which documented the widespread perception that evangelicals are known for their anti-gay attitudes.
This is worth watching.
In 2000, I presented a paper at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association outlining studies which referred to ex-gays, i.e., people who rejected gay as an identity for religious reasons. That presentation was part of a larger symposium organized by Mark Yarhouse and Doug Haldeman on religious and GLB issues. In 2002, that paper was published in the APA journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.* That was the same year I was given the Freud Award at the NARTH conference.
In that paper, I summarized a study by psychiatrist E. Mansell Pattison and his wife Myrna Loy Pattison, titled “‘Ex-gays’: Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals.” The Pattisons interviewed 11 men in the Melodyland church in Anaheim, CA who claimed to have changed from gay to straight. One of those men was frequent commenter here Michael Bussee. Another was Gary Cooper, the man who left that ministry and Exodus with Bussee when they both acknowledged that they had not changed their orientation. In other words, two of the 11 had not changed at all.
Today, on the Religion Dispatches website, I describe that study in more detail and interview Michael Bussee about his participation. I encourage you to go read it and comment here or there.
The study continues to be used by NARTH as well as other groups to claim sexual reorientation works. The problems with the study provide more evidence that NARTH’s use of old data (125 year landscape review) is flawed.
*Throckmorton, W. (2002). Initial empirical and clinical findings concerning the change process for ex-gays. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 33, 242-248.
Today, the New York Times examined the conflict in the Anoka-Hennepin school district over bullying prevention. The school district in Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district has lost eight students to suicide in the last two years. Critics of the district say that some of the suicides are due to anti-gay bullying and want the school district to renounce a policy of neutrality toward discussions of sexual orientation. A parent’s group, using ex-gay literature and arguments, is fighting to keep the policy in place.
Although not named in the article, the group is called the Parents Action League. They claim to disapprove of bullying for any reason; however, I believe they are a part of the problem. Their website does not do what they claim — “to…equip citizens with current and accurate information” — and in fact adds to harmful sterotyping of GLB people.
You can read what they have to say about homosexuality on their FAQs page. Most of it is outdated criticisms of old studies. I have addressed these issues in prior posts. My focus now is to point out what appears to me to be the real focus of this group. One of the questions asked and answered is:
If we don’t approve of homosexual behavior and affirm same-sex attraction, won’t we be causing depression and unhappiness for “gay” teens?
On the contrary, when a child has been deliberately misinformed about the causes of homosexuality and told that homosexual acts are normal and natural, all hope for recovery is taken away. Hopelessness can lead to depression and affect a child’s ability to be happy. If we really love someone, we’ll tell him or her the truth that change is possible.
After deliberately misinforming their readers about homosexuality, the PAL people then get to their bottom line. The depression felt by bullied kids at Anoka-Hennepin is not due to disapproval and vilification, it is due to the fact that no one has given you the ex-gay message – change is possible.
PAL claims it wants a neutrality policy but it really doesn’t. PAL people want kids told that there is hope for change. Not neutral; and mostly wrong.
As I wrote on the CNN Belief Blog last year, I believe the school should name the problem and specifically forbid bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation. The Olweus Bullying prevention program should be implemented.
I also believe that groups like NARTH and Exodus should take some responsibility for the information they promote. Speaking directly to NARTH and Exodus: Parent’s are obstructing the well being of children because of the information you disseminate. You promote change as happening more frequently than it actually does, and I believe you know it. Many people do decide to channel their actions in alignment with their beliefs, but it is infrequent that someone goes from gay to straight in attractions, fantasies and actions. You should end your silence and communicate the real situation to these groups. Part of the reason they obstruct progress in addressing bullying is because of the distorted narrative you have helped to create.
I believe there are caring people with the PAL, but they think that being attracted to the same sex is due to deliberate choice of a lifestyle or the result of bad parenting or a wicked culture. If they knew that many same-sex attracted kids have great loving parents, attend church, live moral lives and are simply trying to understand what is happening to them, they might become part of the solution and not the problem. Why do PAL people think what they think? Many reasons probably, but the intellectual source nearly always comes back to NARTH or Exodus.
UPDATE: To be consistent, I need to add Mission America, PFOX, Focus on the Family and the American College of Pediatricians to the two groups listed above. Regarding Exodus, there is only one item (Janet Boynes’ book) directly related to an Exodus affiliate. However, the organization does offer for sale books which are listed on the PAL website, including Joseph Nicolosi’s Parents Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.
I have received several emails on this post, most supporting this call for groups to evaluate how their message is working against bullying prevention. A couple have criticized me saying that I advocate censorship of a valid point of view. I don’t see it that way. I see it as advocating responsibility. When a group like PAL is using the belief that gays are by definition disordered, depressed and the products of bad parenting and/or abuse in order to offset bullying prevention efforts, then I think it is time to re-evaluate the situation.
On a smaller scale, I know how Willow feels.
Reminds me of that old Steelers Wheels’ song:
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
So the Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz declined to speak at Willow Creek Church’s Leadership Summit because the church once affiliated with Exodus International. A petition at Change.org with just under 800 signatures provoked the CEO to change his plans. I must admit I am puzzled over this. I can understand a gay activist viewing Exodus as a gay change organization but the relationship with Willow Creek ended in 2009.
Now here is why the title of the post says that Willow is under more than one gun. At the same time the Change.org petition took Willow to task for ever being affiliated with Exodus, Peter LaBarbera is protesting, with a sign and everything, outside the church’s Leadership conference because Willow broke with Exodus.
What is odd about AFTAH’s protest is that Exodus has not been particularly high on AFTAH’s list of groups either. In 2010, AFTAH accused Exodus of capitulating to gay interests when they dropped the Day of Truth.
Through all of this, Willow Creek reacted in a pretty classy manner. Bill Hybels gave praise to Schultz, wants to meet with the Change.org people and to my knowledge has said nothing about AFTAH’s sign. He maintained his beliefs, repeated his view that all people are welcome at Willow and even said buy Starbucks coffee.
Clearly, in America, there is tension between gay rights and traditional religious views of sexuality and we are sorting all of this out in real time. Regarding this particular dust up, I think Willow could have handled the break with Exodus better. I think it should have been made public when it happened and clear reasons given. Also, when it did come to light, they did not comment about accusations that they had gone soft on homosexuality, nor make it clear what the issues were.
However, in the present, I like how Hybels handled Schultz’s decision. Reacting with grace is a much better reflection of what he says he believes than retaliation or defensiveness.
Exodus International announced today that the organization will no longer sponsor the Day of Truth (website has been disabled). In an article on CNN’s Belief’s Blog posted by Dan Gilgoff, Exodus leader, Alan Chambers tells the tale:
“All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they’d like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the group that sponsored the event this year.
Probably surprised by the move, GLSEN’s Eliza Byard welcomed the news.
“I thank Exodus for making this very important step,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on Wednesday after hearing of Exodus’ decision. “The Day of Truth was an effort to push a very specific set of opinions about homosexuality into schools in a way that was inappropriate and divisive.”
On the Day of Truth, middle and high school students are encouraged to wear Day of Truth T-shirts and to distribute cards that say “It’s time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality,” according to Exodus’ manual for this year’s event.
“I don’t think it’s necessary anymore,” Chambers said of the event on Wednesday. “We want to help the church to be respectful of all its neighbors, to help those who want help and to be compassionate toward people who may hold a different worldview from us.”
As I noted in the article, I think this is a very significant move. Over the past three years, I have been documenting a split in the evangelical world over how to relate to the gay community. With this decision, Exodus has moved even farther away from the side of fear and stigma. I welcome it as quite consistent with the article I wrote yesterday for CNN.