Jay's got hope

Stuff’s changing in the sexual identity world. Early in 2008, Wendy Gritter talks up some new directions and all along the way College Jay has been waxing eloquent about his journey. He has a post that I am linking to because it illustrates a fresh, clear Evangelical perspective on sexual identity development.
Here is a bit to get you started:

I like Wendy Gritter, and I like New Direction. She’s a sweet and Christ-focused woman and I think New Direction is one of the most Christ-centered ministries for people that deal with same-sex attraction. I was upset when I read her recent blog post about a colleague that has been claiming New Direction “doesn’t offer hope anymore.”
Now, I’m not going to refute that statement here. Ms. Gritter has already done extremely well with that in the linked post, and I highly suggest you read it. I will offer my own personal story, though. I’ve never been involved with New Direction (sadly, I’m not Canadian), and the only contact I’ve had with Ms. Gritter is through comments on her blog. However, I think out of all these types of ministries, New Direction’s philosopy most closely resembles my own, and even I have been accused, in a round-about way, of not having enough hope.
Usually when someone makes that kind of snarky remark about hope, what they mean to say is that I’m not falling over myself in an effort to be straight. I’m comfortable and happy as I am. I’m not comfortable with my sins or my temptations, mind you, but at the same time I’m not stressed about how I dress, or how I talk, or how I express my emotions, or whether or not a pretty young woman turns my head. The way some of the ex-gay ministries talk, you’d think that a “normal” heterosexual existence with a dog, yard, and three kids was a Biblical mandate.

Now go read the rest and send some love toward Mr. Jay.

I think ACA violated its policies so I complained

On Wednesday, I sent a letter of complaint to the American Counseling Association along with over 400 of my closest colleagues (getting close to 500 by now, in part thanks to the American Association of Christian Counselors). In brief, I believe the ACA violated Policy 301.7 when the ACA Ethics Committee said

There are treatments endorsed by the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling (see http://www.aglbic.org/resources/competencies.html), a division of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association (see http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/guidelines.html) that have been successful in helping clients with their sexual orientation. These treatments are gay affirmative and help a client reconcile his/her same-sex attractions with religious beliefs.

Policy 301.7 states:

Policy 301.7

Policy and Role on Non-Consensus Social Issues of Conscience

Having respect for the individual’s values and integrity in no way restricts us as individuals from finding legitimate avenues to express and support our views to others, who decide and make policy around these issues.  To this end, it will be ACA Governing Council policy to encourage its members to find and use every legitimate means to examine, discuss, and share their views on such matters within the Association.  We also endorse the member’s right to support social, political, religious, and professional actions groups whose values and positions on such issues are congruent with their own.  Through such affiliations, every member has an opportunity to participate in shaping of government policies which guide public action.

To truly celebrate our diversity, we must be united in our respect for the differences in our membership.  To this end, the role of the Association in such matters is to support the rights of members to hold contrary points of views, to provide forums for developing understanding and consensus building, and to maintain equal status and respect for all members and groups within the organization. Following this philosophy, the Governing Council considers it inappropriate for this body to officially take sides on issues which transcend professional identity and membership affiliation, and which substantially divide our membership, at least until such time that there can be a visible consensus produced among the membership.

Approved: 7/15/90

Now read this full Ethics Committee opinion and see if you think 301.7 is violated. I suspect my readers will break along ideological lines but, in my mind, this is just one of several issues where ACA has taken positions in absence of consensus.

The Alliance Defense Fund is also supporting my view of the situation with this letter. President Brian Canfield contacted me to say that the issue will be brought before the ACA Governing Council at the March meeting. Just to be clear, I am not taking issue with the responsibility of the ACA to identify questionable treatments but I am disturbed by their assertion that one religious view should be preferred over another by counselors.

The ADF just put out a press release on this matter.

NOTE TO READERS REFERRED FROM OTHER BLOGS: The insinuation that this complaint has any relevance to the Winnepeg “counselor” who used “holding therapy” to initiate sexual assault is false. In fact, I wish the ACA would explicitly prohibit holding therapy and have written frequently on that subject here. However, the ACA should not favor one religious resolution over another on matters where research consensus does not exist. We asked the ACA back in July for some discussion and clarification on this and we had no official response. I will have more to say about that in a future post. However, to suggest that what my complaint asks for is freedom to do “holding therapy” is absolutely false and misleading and should be corrected.

Christianity Today on “The Transgender Moment”

Christianity Today has an article (The Transgender Moment) and sidebar (Walking a Fine Line) (apparently these are in the print and online editions) quoting me and many others regarding transgender issues. Some have contacted me to ask if I was quoted correctly, feeling perhaps that my comments were inconsistent with my views expressed elsewhere. Here are my comments from “The Transgender Moment:”

Whether mentioned in Scripture or not, the transgender movement clashes with traditional Christian theology that teaches the only God-given expression of human sexuality is between a man and woman who are married.

“Transgender impulses are strong, but they don’t match up with the Christian sexual ethic,” says Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. “Desires must be brought into alignment with biblical teachings, but it will be inconvenient and distressful.”

Throckmorton, past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, says he has advised transgendered people who are in absolute agony over their state. Typically, such individuals are desperately in search of hope and acceptance, he says. It may be uncomfortable to tell transgendered individuals that their desires don’t align with the Bible, Throckmorton says, but pastors must do so. “Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth,” Throckmorton says, “even if there are prenatal influences, we can’t set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings.”

While I don’t remember saying these exact things, I think the biggest problem in order to understand my views on this topic is the absence of the context for these remarks. I do remember saying in my interview with John Kennedy that each situation was different and that each person experiencing gender conflict should consult with medical specialists, psychological professionals, and clergy. Some people may come to the conclusion that the Scriptures are silent on what they should do about their feelings. However, for those who do come to the conclusion that various options are not permitted by Christian teaching, the conflict can be agonizing. For those people, bringing desires into alignment with the teaching they believe to be correct is difficult but these individuals may come to see it as their calling to live out. In this article, I am speaking as if this context has already been set. 

In practice, I believe mental health professionals should take the same perspective regarding transgender issues as I have advised with sexual orientation in the sexual identity framework – the client sets the value direction. Pastors, however, are more likely and indeed are called upon to interpret doctrine and the relevance of doctrine for action. I do not think research findings supporting an innate source of gender identity conflict is likely to sway pastoral advice much, in the same way that finding an innate source of homosexual attractions is unlikely to change traditional views.

Perhaps the quote that I feel the most troubled by is this one: “Transgender impulses are strong, but they don’t match up with the Christian sexual ethic.” I don’t remember saying it that way but if I did, I would certainly say it differently now. As I see it, impulses are not of the same moral significance as behavior, especially chosen behavior. I do not see sexual or gender inclinations as being chosen. What one does may or may not match up with a Christian sexual ethic, but I do not view feelings in the same manner. In any case, I want to emphasize that persons who experience gender identity conflicts should reach out and seek advice from medical and mental health professionals, as well as their spiritual advisors. 

Now I suspect for some this will not be a sufficient reaction to this article. I invite readers to discuss the issues raised in the article. I invite clergy and transgender advocates to comment and offer rationale for their views. Some think I need educated; so educate me.  

 

New Direction for Exodus?

The title is a bit of a word play in that I call attention to a keynote address (caution: large mp3 file) by Wendy Gritter at the 2008 Exodus Leadership Conference. Introduced by Exodus President, Alan Chambers, Mrs. Gritter is leader of the New Direction ministries in Canada. The mission of New Direction is “creating a safe place for same-gender-attracted people to journey towards wholeness in Christ.” The focus of New Direction appears to be much more focused on Christian ministry to same-sex attracted people as opposed to mediating change of sexual orientation.

The address is about an hour long and should be heard completely to get the message but I pulled out a couple of quotes to portray the tone:

What would it mean to stop seeing the gay affirming church as our enemy?

…when we look at those who now have their stories on the Beyond Ex-gay website…we also ought not to be patronizing?   There can be this subtle sense that ‘you just didn’t try hard enough….but see we did.’ How can we engage relationally with those who have come to different theological understanding than we have?

I think we need to relinquish a defensive posture that would focus on what we are against instead of what we are for.

What the culture sees is that you guys are about reorientation.

We shoot ourselves in the foot when we put second things first.

There is much more and you can get a sense of the direction from the Power Point as well. The general tone is that Exodus would be wise to avoid political entanglements that prevent optimal Christian ministry. Ministry should be the main (sole?) focus. In addition, she takes on the messaging of Exodus that change is possible and causation is not inherent. She believes those issues should be secondary to actual Christian formation and living. With reorientation as the focus, Christian ministry can take a backseat. In other words, Exodus should not be a “poster child for straightness” as the main message.

There is much to unpack here so let’s talk…

Year in review: Top Ten Stories from 2007

Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.

1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.

2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008.

3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September.  Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.

4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquainted via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.

5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.

6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.

7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International.

8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton.  Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November.

9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.

10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.

Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.

Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?

Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!

Salt Lake City program examines cruising behavior, sexual identity

Here is an article that bring together several topics covered here on the blog. The Healthy Self-Expressions program works to curb sexual cruising in Salt Lake City and is run by Pride Counseling, a GLBT oriented counseling center. Many men are married and identify as straight.

Buie says many of the program’s participants identify themselves as straight. Many are also active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and roughly 40 percent are married, he says. The average length of those marriages is 23 years. Two of the men with whom he is currently working have been married for more than 40 years…

…”Just because you have an attraction to men doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to those attractions,” he says. “As a therapist I try to encourage people to be honest with themselves.”