The Sacramento News & Review’s Kel Munger went to the inaugural conference of the Restored Hope ex-gay network in Sacramento on September 21-22. The Restored Hope Network is made up mostly of several ex-gay ministries that have broken away from Exodus International over Exodus president Alan Chambers’s statements acknowledging that “99.9%” of ex-gay ministry members “have not experienced a change in their orientation,” disavowing the particular form of sexual orientation change therapy known as Reparative Therapy, and recognizing that gay Christians may enter heaven.
You can read Munger’s report here, and an interview with Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen here. More interesting, I think, is her interview with Andrew Comiskey, who is the president of Restored Hope. He is also the director of Desert Stream Ministries, which had been one of largest ministries of the Exodus International. Comiskey, who had also served as Exodus president, was the first to publicly break with Exodus last spring over its change in direction, stating that “Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands.” But in Comiskey’s talk with Munger, the “enemy” talk was dropped in favor of a somewhat lighter, more “reasonable” tone. On Restored Hope versus Exodus International, Comiskey said:
The unique aspect of Exodus is that it was founded on the hope that individuals who were Christian and who were motivated and who had good pastoral support could actually affect significant change in their sexual identity. So the term “change is possible” was a term that Exodus coined and that we all believed in and took heart in—and again, that being an increasingly counter-cultural point of view, we particularly needed each other to be on the same page.
The leader of Exodus, like a lot of us, having been under fire for a number of years, capitulated a bit, and basically has removed the “change” portion of the hope for people seeking Jesus Christ in light of their same-sex attractions. So having removed this dimension of change, the hope of change, was something that for many of us, including myself, runs contrary to our understanding of what Jesus Christ can effect in people’s lives, and it is a major reason and motivating factor for our gathering and seeking the Lord together.
So basically, Exodus stopped representing why we had bought in as a network in the first place. So it didn’t fundamentally change any of our individual ministries and their focus, but it did necessitate that we establish a new network around which we could find the solidarity to support each other in the belief that change is possible.
…This is not to denigrate Exodus in any way. It’s simply to say that Exodus as a network ceased to represent what we were about.
Munger also brought up California’s S.B. 1172, which would prohibit licensed therapists from providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last Saturday, but at the time this interview took place it was still awaiting the governor’s signature. The bill only covers licensed professionals, which means that unlicensed counselors and ministries are unaffected by the bill. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which bills itself as the professional, secular, and irreligious wing of the ex-gay movement, denounced the bill as “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty,” despite the fact that the new law only covers licensed professionals, which means that unlicensed counselors and ministries remain unaffected. Exodus, on the other hand, declined to oppose the bill. Comiskey appears to have staked out middle position, supporting SOCE, but declining to oppose the bill:
I’m aware, through my own study and so on, that there are different approaches psychologically to understanding and treating homosexuality. So I’m not inclined to either high-five or discount however this bill is understanding reparative therapy. I think the question of age is a factor; I think the question of motivation is a factor. I think psychotherapy is a soft social science, and so to approach it from the standpoint that everything objectively has to be in this hard-drive understanding of the impact of the “talking cure”—that is, the seeking of an advocate to achieve certain goals based on one’s conscience and ethical beliefs—I think to slam that or to illegalize on the basis that there is no hard evidence would actually call into question many forms of interventions for different kinds of psychological disorder.
So what I’m saying is I think there are good therapists who work with people based upon that person’s point of view, and I think that in a free society, there should be a freedom for a person to find a clinical advocate to pursue his or her ethical goals. If there is coercion, if there is manipulation, or if there is control—of course, it’s diabolical, regardless of your faith.