Exodus and “Self-Determination”
June 6th, 2012
In response to yesterday’s post about Exodus International’s statement on Reparative Therapy in response to California’s proposed curbs on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) by licensed professionals, Exodus president Alan Chambers sent me a message clarifying a point about the line referring to “an individual’s right to self determination”:
To clarify the “right to self determination”, we took that from the APA not NARTH.
The line about “an individual’s right to self-determine” is from Principle E (under General Principles) of the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics. This inclusion in the APA’s code of ethics hearkens back to past history when it was much more common for patients to be coerced or forced into various forms of psychological treatment against their will. The code now calls for special safeguards “to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making.” The code goes on:
Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.
NARTH, of course, ignores that portion of the Code of Ethics which places this right in critical context when discussing the rights of self-determination. NARTH uses the statement to justify ex-gay therapy. But as I noted in yesterday’s post, Exodus departs from NARTH by juxtaposing the language from the APA’s code of ethics with the statement, “As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” While it’s not clear that Exodus embraces the fullness of Principle E, this does appear to place Exodus on a line that is at least somewhat closer to the APA’s position than NARTH’s.
Exodus Issues Non-Committal Response To California Ex-Gay Bill
June 5th, 2012
In response to questions from the media about California’s proposed SB 1172, which would regulate the practice of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) among licensed professionals and bar providing such therapies to minors, Exodus International has issued the following position statement:
Exodus International supports an individual’s right to self-determine as they address their personal struggles related to faith, sexuality and sexual expression. As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal. Our ministry’s objective is to equip the Church to become the primary place where people of faith seek support, refuge and discipleship as they make the decision to live according to Christian principles.
We believe in a “gospel-centric” view, meaning that all people, regardless of individual life struggles, can experience freedom over the power of sin through a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment to scripture, and by being a part of a vibrant, transparent and relational community of believers found in the local church. Exodus is partnered with more than 260 churches and support-based ministries who serve individuals and families experiencing a conflict between their faith and sexuality. [Emphasis in the original.]
The closest Exodus comes to opposing the bill is in mimicking the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s formulation that Exodus “supports an individual’s right to self-determine” — a coded phrase which places the onus on determining the appropriateness of SOCE on the patient rather than the licensed therapists who should know better. Those who haven’t been closely following NARTH may not see that connection. But even for those of us who do, it appears that Exodus is happy to break that connection in the second sentence, where they distance themselves from “therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” So if Exodus intends to oppose S.B. 1172, this statement is a strange way to go about it.
[Update: Exodus president Alan Chambers has clarified that the language about “an individual’s right to self-determine” was taken from the APA, not NARTH. For more information on what that means, read this update.]
Exodus appears to have taken the position of not taking a position on S.B. 1172. This, I think, again breaks new ground for a couple of reasons. First, Exodus provides a fairly extensive list online of professional counselors who, if I’m not mistaken, probably do provide therapies in which changing sexual orientation as “a main focus or goal.” I recognize two names immediately: Phillip Sutton, who on this outdated page is listed as NARTH’s “President-elect” (NARTH’s actual president following the tenure of Julie Hamilton is Christopher Rosik), is one that I’m sure hasn’t abandoned the idea of change for change’s sake. Another counselor, Robert Brennan of San Francisco presented a workshop for parents of gay kids at the Exodus Freedom Conference in 2007. Maybe his views have changed since then, but when I attended that workshop, he was very reassuring to those parents about the likelihood for change in sexual orientation.
It seems that this is still a contradiction that Exodus has not fully worked out, but Exodus may not see it that way because it’s not a big contradiction to begin with. Exodus’s listing of licensed therapists is only twenty-four names long, less than ten percent of their “260 churches and support-based ministries. And they’ve already removed books on reparative therapy (a particular form of a broad array of ex-gay therapies), which is NARTH’s mainstay. Those facts, combined with this statement, suggests that Exodus don’t appear to be much interested in preserving their counselors’ career paths in the ex-gay movement. Increasingly, they are looking more and more like a vestigial organ, like an appendix or the tailbone that’s still a part of the body but which no longer serves a purpose. This statement also appears to portend a wider rift between NARTH and Exodus.
But the second significance of this statement, as I see it, is this: as I noted before, California’s S.B. 1172, applies only to licensed therapists, not religious ministries. And so when asked to comment on S.B. 1172, Exodus sidesteps the question altogether and shifts the focus toward churches and ministries, not licensed therapists and counselors — and not even its own licensed therapists and counselors. It wasn’t that long ago when Exodus relished jumping into a large number of public policy issues. But now, when asked to weigh in on public policy which relates to their own home turf, Exodus demurs. In reading between the lines ,they are effectively say that they don’t care one way or another about s.B. 1172 because it doesn’t affect them. They posit that people don’t exercise their “right of self-determination” on matters of religious beliefs and practices in in the offices of licensed therapists and counselors, but in churches and associated ministries. Which, I think, is as it should be. If someone wants to live according to their religious principles, then it is at church (or the synagogue or mosque) where those discussions should take place, not at a doctor’s office. After all, I don’t think very many psychologists provide intensive therapies to help flagging Orthodox Jewish patients keep a kosher home.
Exodus Condemns Family “Research” Council For Honoring Anti-Gay Pastor
May 29th, 2012
Exodus International, the world’s largest Christian ministry helping individuals and families struggling with same sex attraction, denounced the Family Research Council’s choice of pastor Ron Baity to receive its highest pro-family honor, the 2012 Watchman Award.
Baityis on record saying, “gays act worse than maggots,” will make society “more filthy,” and God had an “urban renewal plan for Sodom and Gomorrah.” Baity also compares gay and lesbian people to murderers and says gay marriage is America’s “death warrant.” Baity is founding pastor of Winston-Salem’s Berean Baptist Church and head of the pro-marriage organization, Return America.
“It’s time conservative Christians who claim biblical principles such as loving their enemies and neighbors, and considering the welfare of others first, to speak swiftly and strongly against this type of action,” says Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.
“For too long we’ve stayed silent and allowed our brothers and sisters to tip that hat toward hate. It’s a terrible witness for Christ, and clear hypocrisy to a watching world.”
Exodus hasn’t had a very close relationship with the Family “Research” Council for quite a while. Exodus has traveled more in Focus On the Family’s circle than FRC’s, and their association with FOTF has been curtailed somewhat after Exodus took over the Love Won Out travelling roadshow conference in 2009. Last fall, there were reports that Exodus would undergo a rebranding exercise in an effort to stave off bankruptcy. The first evidence for that exercise came in January when Exodus president Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel of a meeting of the Gay Christian Network and said that “99.9% of them (ex-gays) have not experienced a change in their orientation.”
That provoked a mild rebuke from NARTH. Meanwhile, Exodus removed books on Reparative Therapy,(*) NARTH’s signature form of therapy, from Exodus’s online bookstore. It now appears that Exodus has removed references to NARTH altogether from its web site.
I don’t think we can deny that changes are taking place at Exodus. What’s unclear is how deep those changes go, particularly to member ministries and churches. It’s also unclear how deep these changes are held within Exodus’s leadership. Last February, Exodus board member Mike Goeke wrote an op-ed for the Baptist Press describing why he thought homosexuality was in a special category that made it different from all the other “sins.”
That’s why I had hoped to attend another Love Won Out conference to see what, if any, changes had been made in its messaging. The last time I attended one was in 2007, and I was prepared to go to Albuquerque to attend one that had been scheduled for May. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to a lack of interest. I had also wanted to try to attend the Exodus Freedom Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota at the end of June, but finances won’t permit it.
So I’m in the same boat as the rest of you, trying to read the tea leaves from afar. And as is the case with tea-leaf reading, the result likely says more about the reader than any message contained in the leaves: Exodus is either making all the changes we’ve hoped they were making, or they are frantically trying to say or do anything to stay alive. I happen to believe the truth actually lies elsewhere — not in the tea leaves, but simply by watching and noting each development as it unfolds. To be sure, Exodus is not becoming a pro-gay or gay-affirming organizaiton. But I think today’s statement condeming the FRC’s honoree does break new ground, if for no other reason than for the fact that Exodus International has strongly criticized a very powerful and influential anti-gay organization. I’m not willing to read anything more into this statement than that. But I’m also not willing to read anything less.
[(*) NOTE: Reparative Therapy is a very specific term which describes just one particular type of therapy out of a large array of therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation. Reparative Therapy derives its name from the theory that gay men become gay because they suffered a “masculine deficit” due to the failure to form a healthy bond with their fathers. That “masculine deficit” sets up a “reparative drive” in the son, wich is defined as the son’s impulse to “repair” that masculine deficit by seeking out relationships with other men. Reparative Therapy depends on this particular theory of male homosexuality, and it is quite rigid on that point. Many ex-gay therapists are not Reparative Therapists, and some are quite emphatic on that point.
This is why we here at BTB do not use the phrase “reparative therapy” as a generic term for sexual orientation change therapies because that usage is incorrect. We only use this term when we are talking about this particular form of therapy intended to address the so-called “reparative drive.”]
The new Exodus message
May 25th, 2012
Over the past several of years we have seen Exodus International change from an organization that sought to turn gay people straight and who provided political cover for anti-gay activism into an organization that, well, let’s let them put in in their own words:
In the midst of the chaos and tired culture war mentality, Exodus International continues to serve a fast growing population of the Church that is ready to end the war and reach out in compassion to people who come to them for answers.
“Exodus is here to provide support to individuals with SSA who want to be faithful in their pursuit of living out a biblical sexual ethic,” said Chambers. “We encourage parents who desire to be faithful to their values to also love their gay or lesbian child unconditionally despite having differing worldviews. Finally we are here to help churches looking for ways to reach out to people in their congregations or across the divide to people in their communities.”
For some readers, that will still not be satisfactory; some will see the new language as repackaging for public consumption; some will worry about exactly what “reaching out to people” entails; and I suppose there may be a few who think that anything short of full endorsement should be silenced.
But I continue to be encouraged at the direction that Exodus has taken and while I may not agree with their interpretation of what a biblical sexual ethic may be, this position is one that I can live with.
Exodus Cancels Albuquerque Ex-Gay Conference; Midland, TX, Conference Dropped from Web Site
May 4th, 2012
Exodus International took the unprecedented step of canceling a “Love Won Out” conference scheduled for Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 12. The “Love Won Out” conference (which I attended in Phoenix in 2007) is a traveling roadshow conducted four to six times a year in different cities across North America, and serves as a kind of day-long infomercial for the ex-gay movement.
In an email to those pre-registered for the conference, Exodus events director David Fountain called the cancellation “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make.” He added, “Unfortunately, due to the low number of registrations we simply were unable to justify the substantial cost of bringing the LWO Conference to the Albuquerque area.”
In its heyday, LWO was a joint project of Exodus and Focus on the Family with additional participation from the National Association of Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH) During the early years, it was not unusual for LWO conferences to attract an audience of 2,000 or more. But when I attended LWO in 2007, the conference drew over a thousand people, already down some from its heyday, but still substantial enough to be counted as a success. But since then, we’ve had reports of lower attendance figures. Memphis drew only about 600 attendees in 2008, and another one in Orlando that year drew 500. Figures in the 400-600 range now appear to be the new normal. In 2009, Focus On the Family announced its withdrawal from LWO and it became the sole property of Exodus in 2010.
Last February, Exodus brought LWO to Atlanta where, as has become typical, they drew “over 500” according to Exodus. Metro Atlanta has a population of more than five million deep in the Bible belt, and is a convenient day’s drive from a dozen other cities in six states. Albuquerque,on the other hand has a metro population of 900,000, and is located in a rather sparsely populated state that is not quite the haven for Evangelical Christian activism as Atlanta. It’s hard to see how Albuquerque (or Midland) could draw a large crowd given their much smaller populations and very long distances from other population centers.
Last fall, there were reports that Exodus was undergoing a rebranding exercise in an effort to stave off bankruptcy. The first evidence for that exercise came in January when Exodus president Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel of a meeting of the Gay Christian Network and said that “99.9% of them (ex-gays) have not experienced a change in their orientation.” I wanted to attend another LWO to see how that change in direction was reflected in their conference, and with Albuquerque being a very short flight from Tucson, where I live, I had already purchased airline tickets to go. It looks like those tickets will have to go somewhere else — and they won’t be for Midland either.
The only LWO conference scheduled this year is in September near Harrisburg, PA, not far from Philadelphia. If that holds, it would be only the second LWO conference scheduled for this year. While that conference could concievably draw from a much larger population base (Philly, Baltimore/Washington, New Jersey, etc.), I would not be surprised to see that conference canceled as well. And if it is canceled, that could spell the end of “Love Won Out” altogether.
Dissention Rises Within Exodus International
April 20th, 2012
Last January, Exodus International president Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference in Orlando, and made the surprising admission that “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” At about that same time, it was noticed that Exodus International had removed several books on Reparative Therapy from their online bookstore.
[NOTE: Contrary to popular misconceptions, Reparative Therapy is not a generic term for sexual orientation change therapy. It is a term describing one particular form of therapy promoted by Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Reparative Therapy derives its name on Nicolosi’s theory of the so-called “reparative drive.” Please see this for a more complete description.]
It quickly became apparent however that the rest of Exodus may not be fully behind Chambers’s overtures. Mike Goeke, an Exodus International board member and former vice-president, published an op-ed just two days later describing homosexuality as being different — and in its way, worse — than “any sin,” a position that is in marked contrast to Chambers’s discussion of homosexuality from a theological standpoint. Now Andrew Comiskey, who heads Desert Streams Ministries, opened the debate on the clinical front by issuing a letter expressing his “concern over Exodus distancing itself from reparative therapy” and calls for changes at Exodus over Chambers’s recent comments and actions.
The letter was posted briefly at Andrew Comiskey’s web site, but it was later removed. A copy has been uploaded at Ex-Gay Watch (PDF: 180KB/7 pages). In the letter, Comiskey takes issue with Alan Chambers’s statements indicating that Exodus would de-emphasize the possibility of sexual orientation change as part of its ministry. Saying that Desert Streams Ministry (DSM) employs “the most commonly employed ‘healing’ format in (Exodus International’s) network,” he adds:
Regarding sexual orientation change, we at DSM will continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with SSA who are earnestly seeking Him and who are willing to do the hard work of resolving their gender disintegration through Christ and His healing community. (We realize that not all will graduate into a state of readiness for marriage. However, that should not preclude anyone from seeking full sexual restoration.)
Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands. To question sexual orientation change on the basis of residual struggles is weak theology and psychology. Very few who have overcome destructive, life-dominating issues live without a trace of the problem. To then describe that ‘trace’ as a reason to tone down the idea of change makes no sense to us.
As for Exodus’s drawing back from promoting Reparative Therapy in particular:
We at DSM are only indebted to the good of reparative therapy and its underpinnings in developmental psychology. How else would we understand how we become disintegrated in our gender identities, as well as gain objective markers en route to wholeness?
We cannot afford to distance ourselves from the whole healing community, which must involve solid reparative therapists. They can do what we cannot in our ministries, and vice-versa. We need them! …We would like to know how Exodus plans on representing and integrating solid clinical insight on the Board and in its offerings.
Comiskey’s disagreement with Chambers is twofold. First is the disagreement over Reparative Therapy and the prospects for change in sexual orientation. The second disagreement however is theological, and Comiskey devotes several paragraphs over those theological points. Exodus International, like Chambers, has always been Evangelical in its underpinnings. And so has Comiskey, having come from the Vineyard movement which was the genesis of the dominant Christian-based ex-gay movement in the 1970s. But lately, Comiskey appears to be leaning much more toward Catholic theology, which would mean that if Chambers is making a departure from a clinical standpoint, Comiskey is making a similarly pronounced one from a theological point of view. Nevertheless, Comiskey charges that Chambers’s particular theological positions — some of which are perfectly at home in just about any Baptist setting, for example — places Exodus in danger of “cater(ing) to the culture.”
Comiskey closes with four “recommendations,” with the third recommendation just barely stopping short of calling for Chambers’s ejection from Exodus:
1 That a distinction be made between Alan’s calling and job description, and the needs of the member ministries. Alan is not equipped to handle all that he is currently trying to do. We perceive him as neither a theologian nor a healer but as an inspirer and evangelist, a bridge-builder in need of refinement. He is being chastened for making unfortunate comments. God bless him; haven’t we all? We trust that those he trusts will help him to stay low and clarify the way forward for his renewed season of service.
2. In order for DSM to remain a member ministry, we need to see a higher caliber of commitment to theological and clinical excellence from Exodus. Consider the courage of those with SSA who are seeking genuine integration. They deserve the best! The stakes are high—we are all experiencing the fall-out from a few misplaced, well-intentioned words. We must all do our part, and could draw upon expert friends of Exodus, e.g. Nicolosi and Gagnon, and Exodus elders like the Worthens and Joe Dallas.
3. The process of distinguishing Alan’s role and that of the member ministries must be done slowly and carefully, with Alan playing a reduced role (at best) in the process. We would suggest team leadership here, and sensitive protocol between these newly distinguished expressions of Exodus.
4. Pray more and facebook less. We could all repent of a little wounded self importance. Those overcoming same-sex attraction are inclined to narcissism and its wounds. We all need to get low and give this work back to Jesus. We at DSM hesitate to follow any one person’s lead. Jesus will make such things clear as we wait together.
Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts, who first reported on plans for a re-branding effort at Exodus International last November, saw Comiskey’s letter as “the first public shot in the coming insurrection at Exodus” among Exodus member ministries who are “hard line ‘change is possible’ and reparative therapy proponents.” Warren Throckmorton, similarly, wondered aloud whether the letter marks a “schism” at Exodus. Undoubtedly it sparked some interesting conversations behind the scenes, to say the least. Comiskey has since removed the letter from his web site. He has offered no explanation for its removal.
Exodus chooses their own change
March 19th, 2012
Henry Ford once quipped that “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” And behind that bit of snark is an important idea: life always gives you choices, but sometimes the choice is limited to how you choose to respond to inevitable circumstances. You can always change things, but sometimes the change is limited to changing your own perspective.
And after many years of prayer, effort, and contemplation, Exodus International, the umbrella organization for ex-gay ministries seems to have reached that realization. When in January at a panel presentation to the Gay Christian Network it’s president, Alan Chambers, said that 99.9% of ex-gays don’t change their orientation, it was to the first half or that reality that he was speaking.
But there is always room for change. And when it came time for each of us to recognize our orientation, we all went through change. And for young Christian youth growing up in a conservative family and church, change is necessary for survival. Without reconciling your sexuality and your faith, you will never be at peace.
Most of those reading chose to question the things we had been taught. We found a path that allows for relationships and sexual expression without seeing such as eternally damning. But the change one chooses is individual and there is no “correct” response. Some choose to apply to themselves and their lives the same conservative sexual code that they would apply to single heterosexuals. And that is their right.
And within that context, “change” becomes simply that: movement from one state of being to another. The effort to achieve goals and objectives measured not by how gay or straight one is, but by whether one lives according to their chosen life plan.
In February, Alan wrote a commentary in which he discusses change and what it means to him. At that time we were going through an almost daily shift in marriage law expectations across the states and our coverage of those stories would have drowned out this issue. And as we have for many years challenged Exodus to explain “change”, I want to give Alan’s explanation an opportunity to be heard.
I have SSA but that reality is only relevant to me personally and those with whom I am in deep relationship. I choose to be faithful to my relationship with Christ and the truth that my Heavenly Father’s creative intent for human sexual expression was for one man and one woman in the bonds of heterosexual marriage. For me, anything else falls short and is to be resisted. Because I experience some level of SSA I monitor what stimuli I receive. The same is true of my relationship with other things that have consumed me in the past from food to materialism.
When it comes to orientation, attractions, desires, feelings or whatever word you choose to use, I think very little about them. They are what they are. I know them. I understand them. I know how to live with them. I also know a lot of the things that cause them to manifest. SSA isn’t a greater struggle or more concerning to me than other things in my life. Again, they just are. I guess that is why I have no problem talking about them, admitting them and feeling really great about myself even though I have them. They do not define me.
Leslie isn’t threatened by my SSA, either. She knows how I feel about my relationship with Christ first and how I feel about her followed by our kids and so on. She isn’t a surrogate for sexual acting out. She is my treasure and the object of my deepest human longings.
Have I experienced change in my life? To be sure. And to be clear, the change is primarily a matter of seeking to live out what I value most. It is centered on who I am in Christ and flows outward in a way that is specific to me and doesn’t contradict what the Bible teaches. The same was true for me as a single, celibate Christian man.
Did NARTH Just Diss Exodus?
January 28th, 2012
On Thursday, I thought there might be a split of sorts emerging between Exodus and NARTH when Exodus removed their books on Reparative Therapy from the Exodus bookstore as it seeks to change its focus towards the more religious, ministerial aspects of the ex-gay movement. Recently, Exodus president Alan Chambers said that “99.9%” of people he has known in the ex-gay movement did not experience a change in their sexual orientation, but rather changed their identity and behavior. Now NARTH, which sees itself as a “scientific” organization, has continued to cling to the promise of change in sexual orientation itself. Perhaps in response to the statements coming Chambers, NARTH’s board of directors yesterday issued a statement from their board of directors on “sexual orientation change,” which includes this shot at their erstwhile religious allies:
Finally, it also needs to be observed that reports on the potential for sexual orientation change may be unduly pessimistic based on the confounding factor of type of intervention. Most of the recent research on homosexual sexual orientation change has focused on religiously mediated outcomes which may differ significantly from outcomes derived through professional psychological care. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that the probability of change would be greater with informed psychotherapeutic care, although definitive answers to this question await further research. NARTH remains highly interested in conducting such research, pursuant only to the acquisition of sufficient funding.
Exodus International Drops “Reparative Therapy” Books
January 26th, 2012
As further evidence of a possible shift of Exodus International’s focus, Warren Throckmorton pointed the removal of books on reparative therapy from Exodus’s bookstore. When Throckmorton asked Exodus International president Alan Chambers for comment, he responded:
The reason I removed RT books from Exodus Books is because I don’t agree with using this research as a means to say that “this” is how homosexuality always develops, “this” is the primary means in which to deal with it and this is “the” outcome you can expect. Too, Exodus, as a whole, is not a scientific or psychological organization…we are a discipleship ministry and that is where I think our strength is and energy should be focused.
This comes two weeks after Chambers told an audience of gay Christians that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”
Before we jump to conclusions here, it is important to step back and unpack this a bit to understand what is happening. When most people think of the phrase “reparative therapy,” it is generally assumed that what is being “repaired” is a person’s sexual orientation. But clinically, that’s not what is meant by “reparative therapy”. Reparative Therapy is a very specific term which describes just one particular type of therapy out of a large array of therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation. Reparative Therapy in particular derives its name from the theoretical underpinnings of this particular form of therapy, which is based on the assumption that gay men become gay because they suffered a “masculine deficit” due to the failure to form a healthy bond with their fathers. That “masculine deficit” sets up a “reparative drive” in the son. That “reparative drive” is defined as the son’s impulse to “repair” that masculine deficit by his seeking out relationships with other men. As Joseph Nicolosi suscinctly sums it up: “We advise fathers, if you don’t hug your sons, some other man will.” Reparative Therapy, therefore, is aimed at addressing that “reparative drive” by ostensibly increasing the client’s self-perception as a male and reframing the boundaries of his relationships with other men.
Reparative Therapy, strictly speaking depends on one single theory of male homosexuality, and it is quite rigid on that point. This is why we here at BTB do not use the phrase “reparative therapy” as a generic term for sexual orientation change therapies. We use the term only when we are talking about this particular form of therapy intended to address the theorized “reparative drive.”
While Reparative Therapy does not describe just any form of sexual orientation change therapy, it is a central focus, almost to the point of being the exclusive focus, of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization which was co-founded by Nicolosi. He is not only known as “the father of Reparative Therapy,” but he literally wrote the book on it (see Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach). Although Reparative Theory doesn’t represent NARTH’s official position on sexual orientation development (officially, NARTH has none), it is nevertheless the predominant assumption behind much of NARTH’s literature and web site, and it is also fervently embraced by much of NARTH’s membership.
In contrast, Exodus’s official statement regarding Reparative Therapy reads:
Reparative Therapy is a specialized counseling approach that focuses on resolving relational deficits and/or trauma believed to be a contributing factor in the development of same-sex attraction. Exodus International believes that Reparative Therapy can be a beneficial tool. Exodus International is not a clinical facility but does affiliate, within the Exodus Professional Counselor Network, with licensed therapists. A minority of these professionals may ascribe to some aspects of Reparative Therapy.
Reparative Therapy has been beneficial to some within our network therefore Exodus does provide limited referrals to a select and small group of independent and licensed Christian professionals who offer this resource.
By removing Reparative Therapy books from Exodus’s bookstore, Chambers has now signaled something of a dissatisfaction with RT’s underlying assumption that the reparative drive is the only explanation for sexual orientation development. This is not a new position for Chambers. In fact, it’s not even new for him to consider the possibility that biology can play a part. When I attended the annual Exodus conference in Irvine in June 2007, I heard him challenge his audience to consider the possibility that there may be a biological basis for homosexuality. I don’t have the exact quote with me, but I do recall that he then went on to challenge his audience to remain committed to living according to what he considered to be “God’s best” for them (i.e. a life of celibacy or sexual monogamy with another person of the opposite sex in marriage) regardless of whatever sort of biological errors (my words, not his) may have occurred.
This, of course, is anathema at NARTH. But seen in the overall context of the past half-decade at least, Chambers’s recent moves do not represent a dramatic departure for Exodus. Exodus was always more ministry than psychology, and it appears that Chambers is moving to sharpen the organization’s focus toward the former and away from the latter. But those moves may signal a growing split between Exodus and NARTH (which bills itself as a “scientific” organization), both in approach and tone. That change hasn’t gone unnoticed at NARTH. As evidence, Throckmorton points to an article by David Pickup, who frequently presents at NARTH’s convention and who runs NARTH’s private Facebook page. Pickup blasts Exodus for deemphasizing Reparative Therapy:
In my experience, Exodus has, quite unintentionally for the last 20 years, failed to understand and effectively deal with the actual root causes of homosexuality and what leads to authentic change. I laud their willingness to admit their naiveté’, but I do not see anything so far that indicates they now truly understand the psychological, developmentally-based causes of homosexuality or what produces real change.
…If Chambers and Exodus do want to truly understand the nature of homosexuality, then they should be open to understanding the psychological underpinnings of these issues and start to recommending qualified therapists who are experts at facilitating significant change. If not, then Exodus will fall into deeper controversy than they are in already. They will be reduced to the myopic ministry of simply helping people to deal with their homosexuality through behavioral changes, which, by the way, reflects the American Psychological Association’s belief about Reparative Therapy: that real change is not possible and people may be helped only in the sense of conforming their behavior to reflect their religious beliefs. In short, Exodus will eventually lose even more effectiveness and begin to flounder.
For an idea of how Pickup addressed his reparative drive, check out this video.
So what does all of this mean? It’s hard to tell at this point. Exodus may not sell books on Reparative Therapy, yet a number of reparative therapists are a part of the Exodus referral network. Chambers may acknowledged that “99.9%” of people don’t change their sexual orientation, but the Exodus website says otherwise, and even dangles out there the carrot of marriage:
Exodus affirms reorientation of same sex attraction is possible. This is a process, which begins with motivation to, and self-determination to change based upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We facilitate resources for this process through our member ministries, other established networks and the Church. The key outcome of this is measured by a growing capacity to turn away from temptations, a reconciling of ones identity with Jesus Christ, being transformed into His image. This enables growth towards Godly heterosexuality. Exodus recognizes that a lifelong and healthy marriage as well as a Godly single life are good indicators of this transformation. [Emphasis mine]
But it does look like there have been some nips and tucks in other areas which may reflect Exodus’s increasing autonomy from Focus and NARTH. For example, in 2007 I attended Love Won Out, Exodus’s traveling infomercial for ex-gay ministries, which featured a detailed exposition of Reparative Theory as the only significant explanation for male homosexuality. The lecture was delivered by Nicolosi, who spent about an hour making the case first thing in the morning. When Nicolosi left LWO a year later, his place on the schedule was taken by former Exodus president Joe Dallas, who delivered Nicolosi’s talk on Reparative Therapy with only a few minor changes here and there. That was when LWO was a joint venture between Exodus and Focus On the Family. Beginning in 2010, Focus bowed out and LWO became an exclusively Exodus project. Since then, the published agenda for LWO has changed drastically. I can only assume that the changes reflect a change in Exodus’s emphasis, but I can’t be certain from this vantage point. I guess this means I’ll have to book a flight and attend another conference to get caught up to date.
Exodus Board Member: Homosexuality IS Different
With a commentary
January 13th, 2012
I don’t think Timothy is alone in detecting a change at Exodus, nor do I think he’s off in the weeds. There are plenty of encouraging signs for those who are willing to acknowledge them. I’m cautiously optimistic myself about the potential for Exodus president Alan Chambers’s personal evolution. But while I acknowledge that he has made some positive changes at Exodus over the years, I find myself considerably less sanguine about Exodus’s potential as an organization for the kind of change that would be meaningful to gay people — a people that even now Chambers identifies as those who are “impacted by homosexuality.” The reason is that for years, I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence for a conflict between where Chambers would like to take Exodus and where the ministries which make up Exodus are willing to go. And if Alan takes Exodus too far from its base — the people who pay the bills and keep the lights on — then those lights would go off. I do not believe those lights will go off without a fight.
I can find few items which better exemplify the entrenchment that would take place should Alan try to change Exodus’ position too far than a recent op-ed written by Mike Goeke. He was Exodus’s vice president under Alan Chambers until 2006 and he remains on the Exodus Board of Directors. He also heads the Midland, Texas-based Cross Power Ministries, one of many Exodus member organizations which provide Exodus with their bread and butter. In an op-ed published by the Baptist Press on Wednesday, Goeke reiterates the oft-repeated Exodus position that “homosexual behavior is no different than any sin” before going on to explain why homosexuality is different from “any sin.”
…It is different, however, in that no other sin (or, better said, an identity based primarily on sinful behavior) has impacted, or is likely to impact, culture in the dramatic way that homosexuality has done and will do.
Homosexuality is the only sinful behavior that has a cultural identity and movement surrounding it. What other sin is encouraged to be celebrated? What other sin has a “pride” movement attached to it? What other sin are people so quick to identify their lives by and to adopt as the defining characteristic of their lives? There are not greed pride parades, or people proclaiming on magazine covers “Yes, I’m a gossip.” There are not gluttony neighborhoods or bars where liars openly gather. Men and women don’t proudly self-identify as promiscuous. There are many people who are pro-choice and many who admit to having an abortion, but there are few who celebrate the fact that they had abortions. In fact, if you exclude random individuals like Charlie Sheen, few people would want their sin attached to their name and fewer would proudly boast in their sinful activity.
Homosexuality is also the only sinful behavior that has a growing, accepted theology built around it. Sure, there are fringe “religious” movements for odd things, but within the realm of Christianity there is no other revisionist theological movement based on identity primarily defined by sinful behavior. Denominations are crumbling and fracturing over how to deal with the issue of homosexuality and how to integrate people openly identified as gay or openly practicing homosexual behavior.
To Goeke, homosexuality’s threat is two-fold: it’s a threat to society and culture, and its a threat to the church. I needn’t remind you that to most Evangelicals’ minds, that’s the sum total of what makes up a civilization. And Goeke takes pains to point out that he sees no other “sin” which poses that kind of a threat. I can’t say that he speaks for most Evangelicals on that particular point (others may point to abortion, the media or the Obama administration, for example), but I do think it’s likely that he speaks for substantial numbers of Evangelicals who make up the Exodus church and member ministry networks.
In contrast, Chambers penned an op-ed for Evangelism.net in which he asks some serious questions about how to approach a hypothetical gay couple with children who join a (presumably) Evangelical church:
The question I ask myself a lot these days is, “What would Jesus do?” followed by, “What would He have me do?” They are not always one in the same. The fact is we are not Jesus. We have no power to heal or change anyone. We can point to His life and ministry through the Bible and our own experiences, but we aren’t Him. We are His representatives. Sometimes I think we are actually guilty of trying to be Him, or at least the Holy Spirit. It isn’t our job to bring conviction or judge. We fail to trust the Holy Spirit to do His job well when we attempt to usurp that role. So, in the context of a situation like the one in my dream, what are we to do?
…What if the best thing for a gay couple with children isn’t to immediately end their relationship and split their family and confuse their kids?
A very provocative question. I haven’t seen Chambers ask that question before, and it’s one that Goeke, and most churches and ministries that Exodus has cultivated over the years are not prepared to answer. If they have an answer, it would be, as Goeke puts it, to “hold firm to truth as we navigate the waters of culture.”
If Exodus is merely trying to re-brand themselves, you can see how that effort is doomed to failure. As GM demonstrated in the 1990s, it’ll take more than a shiny chrome grill up front and new wood trim on the dashboard to convince people that there’s something significantly different under the hood. But if Alan is really trying to effect change at Exodus (and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now), you need look no further than to his fellow board member to see the outlines of the looming conflict. The wildcard is whether Chambers has the stomach and wherewithal for that fight. John Smid found that he had to leave his ex-gay ministry Love In Action before he could undergo his metamorphosis. Meanwhile Love In Action, which remains an Exodus member ministry, marches on without him.
A changed Exodus
January 13th, 2012
In February 2009 we noticed that a conference was planned in Kampala, Uganda, which would address “the homosexual agenda.” Further, we noted that three Americans were planned presenters, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, ex-gay “counselor” Caleb Brundidge, and Don Schmeirer, a board member of Exodus International, the ‘ex-gay’ umbrella organization.
Knowing that Uganda’s culture is particularly vehement in its opposition to homosexuality, and aware of recent pogroms against gay people that had occurred, we tried to convince Exodus’ leadership to back away from anything that could stir up the population. And considering that this event was featuring Scott Lively, we knew that it had the potential to be explosive.
Unfortunately, our efforts were not successful – Exodus ignored our pleas – and our worst fears were realized. The conference led to contact with the legislature, a proposed bill that would impose death on various categories of gay people, a newspaper campaign that called for execution, and eventually the murder of a prominent Ugandan gay activist.
But it also led to public awareness of American conservative evangelical involvement in foreign governments, heightened European criticism of human rights abuses in Africa, and eventually declarations by the White House and State Department that the way in which a nation treated its gay citizens would impact their relationship with the United States.
And it led to a number of religious leaders and organizations reevaluating the message that they were spreading. A number of alliances with some of the more homophobic African preachers were severed by a number of conservative American churches and individuals in influence took action to explain that their theological objection to engaging in specific acts did not equate to an invitation to abuse gay people. And quite a bit of rhetoric softened.
And in the process, Exodus did some soul searching. And has become, in my opinion, a very different organization.
And so this month when I approached Alan Chambers, President of Exodus, about an ad that had run in a newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago which seemed to speak for Exodus, he was quick to respond and to seek to distance the organization from both the implied message of the ad and from its intentions.
In short, Exodus stepped up and took responsibility not only for its name but for any confusion over its message. And, in the process, Alan took pains to explain the organization in terms that speak not about cultural dominance, nor about expectations of reorientation miracles, but in language of personal discipleship.
While I believe we share the same biblical worldview with regard to sexual expression, I do not believe we share the same philosophy on how to do public outreach or an identical message for those impacted by homosexuality. The mission and ministry of Exodus International is one focused on discipleship for those pursuing Christ amidst their same-sex attractions, support and encouragement for families impacted by same-sex attraction, restoration of marriages impacted by same-sex attraction and equipping the church to serve as an authentic community to all of the above as well as to those with whom they may disagree. We are not an organization that focuses on medical issues and we are increasingly careful with helping those we serve understand what change truly means in the context of living a human life where God gives us the ability to overcome amidst ongoing struggle.
I am encouraged that Alan clearly establishes that his organization is for those who are “amidst their same-sex attractions” and does not imply that they are seeking to become heterosexual. This is language that I believe is significantly different in both tone and implication than what we have seen in years past.
No doubt many in our community will be troubled by Exodus’ continued use of language such as “change” or “overcome” or “struggle”. But this is language that is a part of the Christian lexicon and has meaning within that context. Change is a theme within Scripture and is going to remain a theme in Christian ministries. We can choose to object or we can choose to understand, but it’s not going away.
Change, within Christianity is a change of heart, a change of priorities, and change of purpose. It does not mean a change in orientation, a change in politics, or a change in personality.
I do not agree with Alan’s biblical worldview with regard to sexual expression and he does not agree with my understanding of Leviticus and Romans in context of time, place, audience, and language selection. But we needn’t agree about theology. We need only to seek to understand and respect each other.
And in Exodus’s biblical worldview, sex outside of heterosexual marriage is offensive to God. Some of us will see this as inherently offensive. Some will think it discriminatory and bigoted. But if it helps any, the message that Exodus gives to its same-sex attracted participants is the same that it would give to any heterosexual that found him or herself unable to marry. Yes, for heterosexuals there is always the hope of a spouse, but- if we are very honest – we have to acknowledge that there are heterosexuals that are even less likely to ever be in a heterosexual marriage than I am. I sat next to one at lunch yesterday.
Yes, I agree that a message that seems to equate ones orientation with sinfulness can be a message that has a toxic effect on persons who have experienced a life of condemnation and rejection. It can reinforce feelings of desperation and worthlessness. And, in the past, Exodus has contributed to that toxicity.
But I believe that this is a different Exodus International than the Exodus that has appeared at political events or which has run ads suggesting that orientation “change is possible” or parading and promoting married members. I have seen a decrease in both that behavior and that attitude. Exodus no longer treats gay Christians as though they are Satan’s tools of deception nor does it lend its name to dominionists who exploit them for political gain.
I see change in Exodus. A change of heart, a change of priorities and a change of purpose. And I can understand and respect the Exodus that I believe they are striving to become.
The reality is that there will be – for quite some time – young people who grow up in families and communities which share Alan’s biblical worldview. And the reality is that they are not going to just joyously throw their faith out the window on their way to a Pride Parade. And as much as we may wish it to be so, they aren’t going to find themselves comfortable at the Hollywood United Methodist Church.
I believe that there is a place and purpose for an organization that can give these people a place and support. Maybe they will in time come to see God differently from Alan and move on. Maybe they will remain in a place of discipleship to a conservative Christian sexual ethic and find within Exodus a fellowship and brotherhood of support. Maybe they will reject theistic belief systems altogether.
But until they come to that decision, Exodus can serve to let them know that they are not intrinsically evil or an abomination. And while I do not think that the organization is completely healthy – yet – I do have hopes for a new and improved Exodus, one that offers ministry and care to those in need.
Ex-Gay Leader: “99.9% Have Not Experienced A Change In Their Orientation”
January 9th, 2012
Exodus International President Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel Friday night at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference on Orlando with former ex-gay leader Jeremy Marks, Exodus critic and ex-gay bridge-builder Wendy Gritter, and former Love In Action executive director John Smid. The panel was announced with little notice on Friday, catching many ex-gay survivors at the conference off-guard. GCN has posted audio of that panel discussion (Part 1, part 2). In the opening minutes of part 2, Chambers addresses the criticism that Exodus and other ex-gay ministries promise change in sexual orientation:
I think it’s a fair criticism from the past. If there are member ministries today that are promising something that I’m not aware that they’re promising, I’d want to know some specifics. I hear a lot of generalities, but I value specifics. And that’s something that does concern me because the fact of the matter is, and I feel like I’ve been very upfront and clear, both in the media, at conferences, anytime I have the opportunity to write about it, about the fact that I believe the slogan “Change is Possible,” for those of us who are Christians we do understand that when you come into a relationship with Christ all sorts of things are possible.
The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know do still experience some level of same-sex attraction.
And so that’s something, I think, I can’t be any clearer about that. …I hope that we’re coming to a place where we are a much more honest group of people, that when we talk about “Change is Possible,” we are very, very clear about what change means in our lives.
Last November, there were reports that Chambers was considering a modification of their message. At that time, I noted that Exodus has flirted with the idea of retooling its message before. The main message from Exodus has centered on changing from homosexuality to heterosexuality (however loosely defined that change may be). But there has been an underlying theme “the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality, it’s holiness,” which leaves open the idea that becoming straight isn’t the goal. Chambers has been giving variations on that theme since at least 2007. He surprised supporters and critics alike in 2009 when he told the Los Angeles Times, “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete.”
It’s unclear whether this is a further tweaking of that theme or if it represents a marked change in message for the organization. So far, it looks more like a clarification similar to others that he has made when pressed about what change means. The only difference this time is his admission that “99.9%” don’t change. It will be interesting to see is if Chambers repeats his past pattern of clarifying his remarks in ways that bring them closer to more orthodox ex-gay messages. After all, If it does represent a marked change in message for Exodus International, it remains to be seen how this change would go down among the mostly-Evangelical churches which provide the bulk of financial support for Exodus International.
A concurrent story to Chambers’s appearance at GCN is the controversy that surrounded the surprise panel at the conference. A very large number of GCN members are ex-gay survivors, and many of them felt blindsided by the conference. According to some of them who took to Facebook and Twitter to vent their anger, many of them first found out about the panel not form GCN but from a post earlier that day at Ex-Gay Watch. No ex-gay survivors were part of the panel discussion to provide counterpoint to Chambers’s presence, a move which strikes this writer as reminiscent of examples in history where conferences and panels discussed the issues surrounding homosexuality as a mental illness without the participation of a single gay person.
GCN Executive Director Justin Lee spent the first fifteen minutes of the panel discussion addressing the controversy, incorrectly identifying XGW as among those who called him “naive” for hosting the panel discussion. He described the panel as an optional event, and urged those who didn’t feel comfortable remaining in the room to excuse themselves and attend an alternative event for ex-gay survivors. Insiders and social media commenters, some of whom say they are undergoing counseling for PTSD and other disorders as a result of having been part of an ex-gay ministry, complain that the alternative event was hastily organized by survivors themselves at the last minute after GCN failed to organize an alternative to the panel. Lee addressed the controversy this way:
I believe in seeing people’s humanity. I believe even in the midst of strong disagreement in saying you are my brother, you are my sister in Christ. I want to understand you. I want to understand where you’re coming from no matter how much I disagree with you because you’re a human being and God loves you. And I want to love you too even though I disagree with you. That’s important to me. That’s part of what I do.
…One part of me is I want to look at the world from Alan’s perspective and I want to say Alan I respect you as my brother, I respect what you’re trying to do what you think is right even though I disagree with you, and I love you because God loves you, and have this “kumbaya” moment. And there’s another part of me that’s like I’m really, really angry about a lot of things that have happened in Exodus and other ex-gay ministries.
Ex-Gay Group Warns: Change Or Die
December 6th, 2011
It has been reported recently that Exodus International president Alan Chambers is trying to save his organization from financial ruin by rebranding itself with some sort of a softer, kinder image. An Exodus member ministry in Bakersfield, California, however appears to have taken the opposite tack. Pastor Phillip Lee, executive director of His Way Out Ministries at Chester Avenue Community Church penned an op-ed in Sunday’s Bakersfield Californian that looks like it came straight out of 1985. The upshot is this: everyone has a choice to either become straight or die of AIDS:
While AIDS is not solely a homosexual disease, the disease was confined almost exclusively to homosexuals in the beginning years of the epidemic in the United States. I personally witnessed this horrific tragedy unfold while living in San Francisco, having several personal friends die of AIDS at the beginning stages of what is now a pandemic. Tragically, the reality and threat of AIDS has not stopped men from engaging in unprotected sex and the continued risk-taking by many does not appear to result from a lack of awareness.
There is, therefore, little to no evidence that homosexual practice can be anything other than a severe threat to the sanctity of life. That said, all efforts should and must continue to better understand and find a cure for AIDS and AIDS-related diseases. However, if the sexual behavior that is fundamental to most homosexual practice constitutes the primary means of transmitting such disease, then it only makes sense for society to do all it can to decrease such behavior, which ultimately protects the sanctity of life.
I guess gay and bisexual women are off the hook. But what Lee fails to understand is that AIDS is the result of unprotected sex — whether that sex is gay or straight. It is not the product of being gay. If it were, AIDS wouldn’t be a predominantly heterosexual disease worldwide. But there’s no sense in grounding an ex-gay message in reality when the entire ex-gay movement is predicated on training people to ignore their own reality and embark on an lifelong struggle to try to achieve what does not come naturally to them. Stigmatizing people with AIDS is no small thing for people who have still have to deal with routine ignorance, but as far as Exodus-affiliated His Way Out Ministries is concerned, that stigma is just another tool in its toolbox.
This tactic is beyond merely deplorable. It is an outrageous throwback to the hysteria of twenty years ago. If Chambers really wants to rebrand his organization’s image, he really has his work cut out for him among his own affiliates.
An Open Letter to Alan Chambers
December 3rd, 2011
Box Turtle Bulletin and Exodus have not always seen eye to eye on a number of issues. But that is not, as might be assumed, because homosexuals are afraid to hear the truth that change is possible. Nor is it because homosexual militant activists hate God and the church.
Rather, BTB has objected to specific messages, failure to own Exodus’ mistakes, and participation in efforts to deny or remove rights granted civilly. And to be honest, we didn’t much like the mean things that Exodus said about our community. (But I do want to take the opportunity to thank you for pulling Exodus out of the political arena.)
Word has reached us that Exodus International will be revisiting its purpose and positions in an effort to retool the organization into a viable and financially stable organization. As you consider changes, I’d like to propose a few recommendations.
Stop spinning about results. It isn’t fair to our community nor to your own.
It may be true that there is some tiny number of people who have changed their fundamental sexual attractions from persons of the same sex to persons of the opposite sex. But they are certainly rare, and one cannot base responsible policy on the achievements of the very few.
Surely you would not go about the country telling people about Mount Everest and the success that Sir Edmund Hillary had in conquering the mountain and encourage them to fly right off to Nepal and start climbing. That would be cruel and irresponsible and result in disappointment, wounded bodies and disillusioned spirits.
Yet Exodus has for many years testified of the reported success of some people who have struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction in terms that suggested that this could also be reality for those listening. It has been a cruel and irresponsible behavior and has resulted in disappointment, wounded souls and disillusioned spirits. It needs to stop.
Accept the discoveries, terms and language of our culture in discussing homosexuality.
Most people have come to an understanding that each of us have a sexual orientation, a direction towards which our attractions point. Furthermore, an increasing number of churches – including conservative evangelical churches – are reaching the conclusion that ones sexual orientation is not, in and of itself sinful or wrong or flawed or even intrinsically disordered.
It’s time for Exodus to join the rest of the world. Continuing to paint a homosexual orientation as though it were a moral failure (as “the opposite of holiness”) only places Exodus in the position of using language in such a way that it appears to either be delusional, dishonest, or theologically absurd.
Stop trashing my community.
At some point, when all one sees or says about a group of people is their negative attributes, when one feels pity for someone for no reason other than that they are part of that group, eventually it becomes clear to everyone else that you’re operating out of malice and prejudice.
It would be ridiculous and offensive to tearfully lament a poor soul “trapped in an Asian American lifestyle.” And you would feel petty for doing so.
It is no less offensive or illogical to talk about being “trapped in a homosexual lifestyle”. There isn’t such a thing. And using language such as “trapped” implies that one can “change” into a heterosexual lifestyle. It shames and demeans a person for what they are. It’s “sissy boy” and “look at that pansy” and “why are you so girly” all over again, just repackaged as “Christian concern”.
The gay community and Exodus need not be at war. We all know heterosexuals who have decided on celibacy until they marry and even though that prospect seems fleeting with each passing year we do not insist that they change their beliefs. We know those whose spouse may not be sexually compatible but who stay together and committed due to love for each other. Thats endearing.
And, contrary to the regular anti-gay meme, generally gay people have no problem with those who choose not to engage in sex – there are more than a few we know and love for whom this is a reality whether or not they want it to be.
Just don’t imply that the gay man ogling the hot guy is in any way more sinful than the straight man obling the hot gal. It isn’t Scriptural and it isn’t right.
Own the damage youve caused
While I appreciate that you no longer advocate for political mistreatment of gay people (thank you), that isn’t enough. Harm was done. And, more importantly, harm continues.
Invariably, whenever a politician or preacher calls for policies that harm the lives of gay people they justify it by saying that people can change. Sometimes they use Exodus by name.
To let this happen without objection is to endorse their positions. If you change nothing else, you have a moral obligation to clarify that that Expdus does not make the claims that these politicians and preachers use as their basis for discrimination and abuse.
Let go of insistence that homosexuality is in some way chosen.
When Exodus repeatedly denies the evidence in favor of the biological origins of homosexuality, it places your organization further in enmity to the mind. It build a dichotomy in which objective study, scientific research, and thoughtful analysis are pitted against unsubstantiated dogma and “faith”.
It is unnecessary and even blasphemous to insist that faith – real faith – needs to denounces the senses God gave us and to ignore what is evident. And, ultimately, it isn’t a battle that Exodus can win.
Currently, the best research we have suggests that for at least some gay men (there is less study about women), genetics contributes to their eventual orientation. Further, other factors may be biological in origin (though not genetic) or possibly other environmental factors possibly including experiences (though there is no evidence to support this). Most likely the path to each one’s orientation is unique to the individual.
Equally false – and equally offensive – is declaring that rape or early sexualization are responsible for “turning someone gay”. That one not only is absent of any evidence, it is clearly an attempt to give homosexuality a sheen of horror.
Regardless of the set of contributors, most have an orientation that is set – and often predictable – long before they are capable on conceptualizing morality or sexuality.
Let go of “change” as an expected result, a desired result, a hinted result, or even a possible result.
Exodus has strugglers. They struggle and struggle and struggle on decade after decade.
But very very few have any success in materially changing their orientation. They may change the language they use or what behavioral expectations they place upon themselves, but as the Jones and Yarhouse study showed, there just aren’t many (if any) gay men becoming straight men.
Alan, you know this. I do not doubt at all that you love your wife. I do not doubt at all that your sex life is meaningful and that your emotional connection is rewarding. I believe that you are content in your marriage and that it provides everything that you hoped – except for one thing. You remain a homosexually oriented man married to a woman.
And I have no problem with that.
But for God’s sake – and the sake of your participants – just stop struggling already. There is nothing anymore pleasing to God about trying to change one’s orientation than in trying to change any other attribute God gave you.
And furthermore, the fact that Exodus isn’t turning any strugglers straight doesn’t mean that Exodus has no purpose.
Exodus members should just accept their orientation and get on with finding out what to do about it.
So, in closing, I’d advise you to give Exodus a purpose that is theologically consistent, demonstrably possible, and which celebrates the Exodus member without trashing others. And just as important during this current problem, find a reason that potential donors are not going to have their children mock at dinner time.
Perhaps restructure Exodus into a Christian ministry that supports homosexually oriented Christian individuals to live according to their code of sexual ethics. I’m not suggesting that you change what you believe about the moral acceptability of same-sex behavior (though it wouldn’t hurt to be open to revelation). But if your faith says “no sex ever with anyone ever” to same-sex attracted people, then a reasonable and responsible role for Exodus might be to say “and here we are to help you with some tools that make this possible.”
Not every Christian kid is going to hear the message of “we can’t change you” and decide that they want to pursue eternal celibacy. But that’s a choice each must make before God, and seeking to influence that choice through false hope and empty implied promises is not an admirable goal for anyone.
But if you have real achievable goals for Conservative Christians who share your code of sexual ethics, then that – and not all the foolishness – may appeal to donors.
I hope you take this advice as sincerely meant and in the best of intentions.
Exodus International Ponders New Message To Save Itself from Bankruptcy
November 30th, 2011
That’s according to Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts, who learned of a “secret conference” held in New York in November to explore ways to keep Exodus International from going under. Exodus is saddled with enormous debt due to the purchase of their office building in 2007 at the peak of the real estate bubble, and like most non-profits, they are experiencing a sharp downturn in donations. According to Roberts, anonymous sources told him that the emphasis at this conference was on exploring ways to make Exodus more “donor accessible” — in other words, upgrades to Exodus’s fundraising programs and mechanisms. But discussions on possible turn-around plans weren’t limit to just money:
Chamber’s apparently wishes to “re-brand” Exodus into something more palatable to those with funds to give, and the general public alike. According to our sources, Chambers said that “everything is on the table.” That everything apparently includes the possibility of his resignation. It was also clear from the meeting that this is their last resort, their “Hail Mary” so to speak — they’ve tried everything else. Indeed, it seems certain that Chambers would have made pleas to anyone he knew with money before taking this drastic action. And we’ve all seen the odd inconsistencies apparent in their public face. Exodus is an organization fumbling for a solution.
Chambers mentioned how struck he was by the response to John Smid’s recent change in direction, particularly his apology. He seems to think that doing something similar might be one way that Exodus could gain some positive attention. Don’t forget, everything is on the table. We have confirmed that Smid has been in contact with Chambers recently, and has plans for more discussions in the future. It has been our understanding that there is no love lost on Smid by Chambers, so any future corroboration would likely have a more practical basis.
Exodus has flirted with the idea of retooling its message before. The main message that Exodus promotes is that changing from homosexuality to heterosexuality (however loosely defined) is possible. But more recently, an underlying theme has emerged among those who are more embedded in the ex-gay movement that “the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality, it’s holiness.” Chambers has been giving variations on that theme since at least 2007. He surprised supporters and critics alike in 2009 when he told the Los Angeles Times, “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete.”
And yet this is a long way from the direction that John Smid has taken since stepping down as Executive Director of the Memphis-based residential ex-gay program Love In Action. Smid now says that he “never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,”, and he also now says that same-sex relationships can be “a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience, a great blessing to their relationship with Christ.” He has also offered a generalized apology (although some former clients are skeptical that the apology alone is sufficient), all of which points to a dramatic transformation for him. It’s doubtful that Exodus would be able to pull off a similarly dramatic change and still keep its relationships with the network of Evangelical churches that it has built over the past several years.
Another possibility, instead, may be a stunt that was recently attempted by Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. They recently underwent a rebranding of their own, which included a very see-through thin “apology” and a new (and expensive) program they called “Coming Out Loved.” Cohen claimed his new initiative would be “the catalyst of true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all,” and that “IHF staff will assist anyone who is conflicted about their sexuality and other challenging issues that arise for many in the gay community.” But a quick review of their web site— still at “changeispossible.org” — shows that he is still peddling his own ex-gay messages, including his 2007 book Gay Children, Straight Parents which describes his twelve-step program, complete with hugging, to turn gay children straight. Any attempt by Exodus International to try to pull off that kind of a stunt will be seen through quite quickly.
Exodus will conduct its annual leadership conference in January. Roberts expects that if any changes will be announced, it will happen then, and adds:
“In the coming months when you hear of changes from Exodus, or some event that seems heartfelt and spontaneous, or whatever this re-branding may eventually consist of, remember what got the ball rolling — money.”