While I am thankful for the ministry I went to for support — there was no other place for gay Christians to go in 1991 to admit the truth — I am sorry that they and I prescribed a one-size-fits-all story for every gay and lesbian person. I’m sorry we preached an incomplete gospel and wrongly told LGBTQ people they could and should do more to be acceptable to God. Doing so was deeply hurtful and damaging to many who never experienced the kind of change we thought possible.
For too long, same-sex attraction has been categorized as sinful and in need of repairing. Such stigma has caused LGBTQ people crippling shame and fear. As a child I experienced and as an adult I perpetuated that stigma. I profoundly regret my support for and promotion of reparative therapy.
And that’s why I stand with President Obama in calling for a ban on this practice for minors and for greater measures to protect adults seeking this niche therapeutic intervention.
This ban is in no way an attempt to strip parents of their ability to be good parents or to keep them from helping their child to navigate the complexities of sex and sexuality. Nor is it an infringement on religious liberties.
Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has denounced reparative therapy, the controversial idea that people who are gay or have same-sex attraction could become straight.
Joining a chorus of other religious leaders who have departed from a once-popular therapy, some evangelical attempts at reparative therapy have been “severely counterproductive,” Moore told a group of journalists during a press conference at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference in Nashville on Oct. 28. He also gave similar remarks to the conference of about 1,300 people.
“The utopian idea if you come to Christ and if you go through our program, you’re going to immediately set free from attraction or anything you’re struggling with, I don’t think that’s a Christian idea,” Moore told journalists. “Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ. It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to change.”
Moore said evangelicals had an “inadequate view” of what same-sex attraction looks like.
When Julie Rodgers came out as a lesbian at age 17, her mom responded by taking her to an ex-gay ministry in Dallas. Rodgers had grown up in a nondenominational evangelical church where she assumed being gay wasn’t an option.
“With ex-gay ministries, it gave me the space to be honest about my sexuality,” said Rodgers, now 28. Yet that same honesty eventually led her away from ex-gay ministries.
Rodgers spent several years in Exodus, the now-defunct ex-gay ministry, before deciding she couldn’t become straight after trying to date men. Instead, she has chosen celibacy.
When Exodus shut down in 2013, some said it spelled the end of ex-gay ministries that encourage reparative or conversion therapy for gays to become straight. Ex-gay groups such as Restored Hope Network stepped in to the gap, but many religious leaders are now encouraging those with same-sex orientation or attraction to consider a life of celibacy.
For years, those who were gay or struggled with homosexuality felt like they had few good options: leave their faith, ignore their sexuality or try to change. But as groups like Exodus have become increasingly unpopular, Rodgers is among those who embrace a different model: celibate gay Christians, who seek to be true to both their sexuality and their faith.
Straddling one of America’s deepest cultural divides, Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart wrote in a recent piece for Slate that celibate gay Christians present a challenge to the tolerance of both their churches and the secular LGBT community. Those celibate gay Christians often find themselves trying to translate one side for the other.
But frequently, neither side really understands what it’s hearing.
New Jersey’s newly enacted ban on gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors violates a licensed therapist’s obligation to “respect the rights of clients to make decisions,” according to a federal lawsuit filed by a Christian counselors group and professionals who use the practice.
The law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug 19, bars any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor from using therapies to change sexual orientation of children under age 18. Offenders jeopardize their licensed status under the new law, which does not apply to clergy or anyone who is not licensed by the state.
New Jersey is the second state in the nation to ban therapy that purports to change a child’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. California enacted the first ban, but Liberty Counsel, a national religious-based legal and public policy group, filed an injunction it before it took effect earlier this year. A judge overseeing the case heard arguments in April and has not issued a decision.
Jesus never said “I’m sorry.” Sure, when he was being crucified, he cried out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (NIV).” But technically he was apologizing on behalf of others and not for a sin he actually committed.
Apologizing is one of the only Christian virtues Jesus didn’t do himself.
Maybe this is why Christians rarely hear sermons or teachings about apologizing to non-Christians. Mainstream Christian culture teaches the opposite: believers are always right. The inner-circle perception is that Christians don’t make mistakes — only non-Christians do.
As children we’re taught to apologize for lying, stealing, hitting our little brother, budging in line, cheating on a test, and swearing (among other things). Most people with common decency apologize to each other for these trivial wrongdoings, but when it comes to spiritual things — especially on a widespread and corporate level — Christians rarely apologize to people beyond their faith.
After almost 40 years, Exodus International is closing its doors. It was the oldest Christian services group of its kind and a market leader in reparative/ex-gay/sexual orientation change therapy.
It harmed countless people, not just those in the programs but also their families, friends, and communities. Exodus took a heavy toll emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Too many end their lives feeling hopeless and alone because of homophobia and rejection.
Throughout its tenure, Exodus claimed its professionals and programs could “heal” people of homosexuality. They were successful in enrolling eager clients.
For more than a generation, the gay conversion organization known as Exodus International has been one of the most prominent Christian symbols of LGBT intolerance. They have practiced what is commonly called “reparative therapy” to supposedly remove the urges of same-sex attraction from those who seek to become straight. I have personally written at great length about the damage done by such religiously fueled zealotry, but never in my lifetime did I anticipate that the leader of this infamous anti-gay organization would concede as much to the public in the form of a confession.
What’s more, at their 38th annual convention, Exodus International’s director, Alan Chambers, announced plans to close the organization and cease its mission for good. You can read Mr. Chambers’ full of apology HERE, as well as the formal closure announcement HERE.
I’m not prone to emotional hyperbole, but I read these announcements and confessions with a nearly overwhelming admixture of shock, disbelief, compassion, and hope. I also try not to fill my blog posts with too much content from other sources, but this is one of those occasions when the original source material should be seen without adaptation. Following are several excerpts for Mr. Chambers’ open apology to the public, along with my thoughts:
Exodus International, a group that bills itself as “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality,” announced late Wednesday that it’s shutting its doors.
Exodus’s board unanimously agreed to close the ministry and begin a separate one, though details about the new ministry were unavailable at the time of the organization’s press release.
The announcement came just after Exodus president Alan Chambers released a statement apologizing to the gay community for many actions, including the organization’s promotion of efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.