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Mormon Ex-gay Ministries Merge

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2014

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting this morning that Evergreen International, the predominant Mormon ex-gay group founded in 1989, has merged with North Star International, a newer LDS-affiliated group:

Combining the two groups, organizers say, will create “the largest single faith-based ministry organization for Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction or gender-identity incongruence and will also provide increased access to resources for church leaders, parents, family and friends.”

The scale and scope of the challenges facing this community “can sometimes be overwhelming,” North Star board chairman Jeff Bennion writes in a news release, “which is why I am thrilled that so many of the strong and experienced associates of Evergreen will be standing even more unitedly with us.”

Part of the “overwhelming” scale and scope of the challenges is undoubtedly the growing acceptance of LGBT people in society overall, including within the LDS church’s membership. Church officials have acknowledged that many congregations have experienced deep divisions in the wake of the church’s heavy involvement in California’s Prop 8 campaign. The church has taken several steps to try to soften its public image since the divisive 2008 campaign. In recent weeks, Utah has become the seventeenth state to offer marriage equality for same sex couples following a ruling by a federal district judge striking down the state’s ban on same sex marriage as unconstitutional.

The Tribune reports that Evergreen President David Pruden will not be joining North Star, but will remain in his role as Executive Director of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which is ostensibly the “secular” arm of the ex-gay movement. Evergreen board chair Preston Dahlgren will become a member of North Star’s board.

This move is the latest in a larger re-alignment within the ex-gay movement. Nearly two years ago, Exodus International president Alan Chambers after Chambers acknowledged that “99.9%” of ex-gay ministry members “have not experienced a change in their orientation,” disavowed the particular form of sexual orientation change therapy known as Reparative Therapy, and acknowledged that gay Christians can enter heaven. Exodus, a predominantly Evangelical-based organization, was the largest ex-gay organization in the U.S. at the time of Chambers’s statements. Over the next year and a half, Exodus struggled to find a new direction within the ex-gay movement before finally announcing its closure at its final conference last June. A newer organization, Restored Hope Network, comprised of more hard core elements of the former Exodus network, has formed in an attempt to claim Exodus’ role in the ex-gay movement.

In contrast to Restored Hope Network, North Star International appears to be taking a softer approach to the question of whether change in sexual orientation is possible:

As to the question of changing or diminishing sexual orientation, North Star takes no position, says the group’s newly named president, Ty Mansfield.

“If someone had a positive experience with reparative therapy or change, we are OK with them sharing that,” says Mansfield, a marriage and family therapist in Provo. “If they had a negative experience, they can share that, too.”

…This approach “is more consistent with national positions by the American Psychological Association that change is not possible and reparative therapy is not effective,” says Richard Ferre, an adjunct psychiatry professor at the University of Utah. “The group is still trying to provide a support for Mormon gays to maintain their connections with their religion.”

The Evergreen International web site is “being rebuilt” and provides visitors with a link to SameSexAttraction.org. North Star International, which was founded in 2006, has a lengthy announcement on its web site.

Comments

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enough already
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Total and complete nonsense. These ‘ex-gay’ groups only lead to unhappiness and suicide.

bill johnson
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

So it’s interesting that the older group merged with the newer group. That tells me that they are more interested in moving away from the baggage associated with the older group then holding on to the claim of greater experience that the older group would have. In this case that baggage would be reparative therapy and as Jim pointed out based on the article the newer group isn’t a reparative therapy group and isn’t based on a “change is possible model”. Last year David Pruden said that there was no reason to discontinue using reparative therapy so It makes sense that he would not going the new group but now would be just associated to NARTH.

More generally I expect more mergers in the ex gay world as the implosion of the industry left far more organizations then the current level of interest can support. The groups that do exist are all struggling to get their share of the same limited pool of resources and Warren Throckmorton just reported on how the IHF spent $202k more than the meager $168k they brought in. Of that 168, 140 came from donations which I expect is true for most of these organizations as they don’t really do much of anything that would bring in money. For example NARTH doesn’t really seem to do much beyond holding an annual conference, producing their one issue a year journal, and posting a handful of articles to their site.

Timothy Kincaid
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

This is a positive sign.

For a while, LDS response has been moving in the direction of acknowledgement that orientation exists (a biggie) and that it is likely largely immutable. They’ve toyed with the rather unusual approach of saying “Sure, we know you’re gay and we’re okay with that, so long as you marry someone of the opposite sex anyway.”

While I’m not overly optimistic about the long-term viability of mixed-orientation marriages, I think that they have a better chance than those based in deception and denial. And this is certainly a more honest and healthy approach than the Pray the Gay Away method.

Richard Rush
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Ever-so-slowly they seem to be recognizing the reality that the results produced by “reparative” “therapy” on gays is a lot like the results produced by some governments on prisoners of war: You can torture people into saying want you want to hear, but it doesn’t change who they are.

But, sadly, having them saying what you want to hear is still plenty good enough for many people.

Ben in Oakland
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

As far as I’m concerned, any association of NArth Vader and the Merry Band of Homobigots with any religious organization that uses the phrases “experience same sex attractions”, “gender identity I congruence”, and “I won’t say if it works and I won’t say if it doesn’t” are just rearranging the boardroom chairs at Goldman Sachs.

It’s not a change, it’s not a new direction. Some people will reap the power, the money, the glory, and the exorcising (or exercising) of their own demons. Other people will pay the price for it.

Steve
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Don’t be fooled. The Mormons are as anti-gay as ever. See Hawaii.

There might be some financial reasons here too. It’s always about the money with the Mormons and with recent advances in gay rights there are less donors and less “clients”.

cowboy
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Before too long Affirmation.org will be melded together with North Star and No More Strangers. Their delineations are too blurry now.

Lord_Byron
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Timothy the LDS seem to be adopting the position of the RCC. Not exactly the same, but pretty close. It also reminds me of the Rabbi in Israel setting up gay men and lesbian women who want a family. He says it is pretty much up to them to work out the details.

TampaZeke
January 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Utah is actually the 18th marriage equality state.

Anthony Venn-Brown
January 5th, 2014 | LINK

This is my favourite Evergreen story. Hook ups and hang ups. Undercover http://gayambassador.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/undercover-at-mormon-ex-gay-conference.html

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