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Exodus reverses their beliefs and abandons reparative therapy!

Part 5: 2013-JUN:
Reactions to Exodus International's decision to close

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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In this web site, "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays and bisexuals

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Reactions by former Exodus leaders to the agency's closing:

According to Citizenlink, an affiliate of the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family:

  • Andy Comiskey worked with Exodus in the 1980s and is the fonder of Desert Stream Ministries. He said:

    "[Exodus] ... has undergone significant change. [President Chambers] became unusually sensitive to those critical of Exodus. He began to take up their case as more important than transformation.

    "God has enabled people to develop whole relationships — and understand whole relationships with the opposite gender. ... [Some people discover] that heterosexual relationships become an option, if they choose to pursue that. We believe this is part of what Jesus has to offer us if we surrender to Him."

  • Joe Dallas was president of Exodus from 1991 to 1993. He is now an evangelical author who leads a ministry called Genesis Counseling. He was saddened to hear of the impending closure of the organization. He said:

    "When we come to Christ we can overcome these (temptations). I do think if people repent, they have the ability to resist the temptation to homosexuality and have the capacity for heterosexual response." 1

Webmaster's note: [Bias alert]:

I suspect that Cominskey and Dallas are both referring to clients of their agencies with a bisexual orientation. A religious experience and counseling may facilitate their bisexual clients to restrict their sexual relationships to members of the opposite gender. However, for adults with a homosexual orientation, a change to a bisexual orientation appears to be extremely rare and may be non-existent.

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Reactions by organizations promoting LGBT equality:

  • Truth Wins Out (TWO) describes themselves as:

    "... a non-profit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism. TWO monitors anti-LGBT organizations, documents their lies and exposes their leaders as charlatans. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality. TWO’s goal is to create a world where LGBT individuals can live openly, honestly and true to themselves." 2

TWO’s Associate Director Evan Hurst wrote:

"We applaud and congratulate Alan Chambers for his willingness to approach this decision with honesty, integrity and authenticity. It takes a real man [sic] to publicly confront the people whose lives were destroyed by his organization’s work, and to take real, concrete action to begin to repair that damage, and to work to ensure that no more lives are destroyed by harmful, discredited ‘ex-gay’ therapy. We look forward to a day when we can truly consider Alan to be an ally." 3

  • The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) describes themselves as: "... the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans..." 4

Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC's Human Religion and Faith Program said:

"We are encouraged that Exodus International has made the right decision to close down their doors and spare the next generation of the psychological and spiritual trauma they have caused to so many – particularly vulnerable young people. This is a welcome first step in honestly addressing the harm the organization and its leaders have caused over the past 37 years.  Now we need them to take the next step of leadership and persuade all other religious-based institutions that they got it wrong.  This is the right kind of reparative work that is left for them to do.

Exodus was the oldest and largest pseudo-religious organization telling vulnerable people there was something wrong with them, when in fact they are God’s children. But the truth remains [that] there are other organizations out there perpetuating the same myths, telling young people they aren’t loved and perfect the way they are, and causing grave harm in so many people." 5 

  • Dan Savage created the "It Gets Better Project," to give LGBT youth hope that the bullying and harassment they suffer will eventually dissipate. With brutal honesty, he tweeted:

"Alan's work destroyed people. Sorry is nice, I guess, but it won't raise the dead. 6

To which LGBT activist Daniel Gonzales added:

"'Sorry' also requires you stop what you're doing that hurts people and is wrong. Exodus hasn't stopped."

  • Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, a moderator with the Metropolitan Community Church, issued a press release saying:

    "This week’s historic apology from Exodus leader, Alan Chambers, for the harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by Exodus is encouraging. Sadly, nothing will bring back the lives lost to suicide based on pseudo-psychology and corrupt theology. Any apology for past suicides, lost years and damage to families is only as good as real actions to counter the lies spread throughout the world by past Exodus action. ... The theology of condemnation must be replaced with a theology of grace in the service of God’s good creation-including LGBT people. The trail of emotional, psychological and spiritual damage must be mitigated by evangelistic outreach around the world where the lives of LGBT people hang in the balance at the hands of religious and political leaders who would shed their blood, rape their bodies, and crucify their spirits for their own careers." 7

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Reactions by the media:

  • Jeff Chu of The Atlantic

    "Since the 1970s, Exodus, in line with its conservative reading of the Bible, had taught that homosexuality was unholy and that through counseling and prayer, you could change your sexual orientation. But critics said that Exodus's core message -- one of its longtime taglines was 'change is possible' -- and its embrace of 'conversion' therapy did enormous emotional, spiritual and psychological damage, perpetuated outdated stereotypes and wholly wrong theories about the origins of homosexuality, and even led to countless suicides." 6

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An interview of Alan Chambers by Jeff Chu of The Atlantic:

Shortly after President Alan Chambers announced the closing of Exodus International at their annual meeting, he was interviewed by Jeff Chu. We strongly recommend that you read the interview on The Atlantic web site. 6

Chambers said:

"From the moment of my hiring, I've said that success for me would look like Exodus going out of business because the church was doing its job, whether that's helping people with a story like mine or people with a story like yours. I never thought in my lifetime that I would see this, and yet I did. About 18 months ago, we revisited this. There were four options we saw. One was to stay the same, which wasn't really an option. The second was to rebrand, which became not an option. The third was to modify Exodus, which is what we tried to do, and I think we did some good. The fourth was to shut down Exodus. For many, many months now, that's something I knew would happen. In my heart and mind, I've been clearly hearing God say it's time for this to be done. The good that could have been done is done. ..."

"It's been traumatic for many people. It's been horrific. And it's not just Exodus. It's the church. It's a religious system that has taught us how to be contrary to the heart of Christ, to treat people who are sinners in ways that God himself wouldn't ever treat them. He sent Jesus. He loves us. He wants amazing things for us, and he wouldn't treat us in the ways that religion has taught us to treat people. I hear and understand why people are hurting and why they are in pain. ..."

"I renounce the whole gay-to-straight process. That the goal is changing your sexual orientation, which we realized isn't something that happens. That that's what makes you acceptable to God. And that gay people couldn't ever be acceptable to God. ..."

"Realizing that the deepest part of the Exodus narrative is really a religious church narrative has been the biggest change. We are a church that has mostly been about waging war and battle. But I believe God has called us to be a people of peace. I've realized he can love a gay person or a lesbian person the same as anyone. For me as a Christian, those aren't boundaries or barriers, and I don't believe they are barriers for God. We felt it was absolutely necessary to close the ministry of Exodus and do what people who have been hurt are asking us to do: make amends in a way that makes a difference."

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Bethany Monk, "Former Exodus Leaders: Change is Still Possible," CitizenLink, 2013-JUN-20, at: http://www.citizenlink.com/
  2. "Mission Statement," Truth Wins Out, at: http://www.truthwinsout.org/
  3. Evan Hurst, "Truth Wins Out Applauds Alan Chambers’ Decision To Shut Down Exodus International," Truth Wins Out, 2013-JUN-20, at: http://www.truthwinsout.org
  4. "The HRC Story," Human Rights Campaign, at: http://www.hrc.org/the-hrc-story/
  5. "Anti-gay Exodus International to Close," Human Rights Campaign, 2013-JUN-20, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  6. Jeff Chu, " 'Let's Do Something Different': The End of the World's Leading 'Ex-Gay' Ministry," The Atlantic, 2013-JUN-20, at: http://www.theatlantic.com/
  7. Paul P. Jesep, "Faith, family, and God: Despite Apology, Exodus Continues Spiritual Abuse," The Rainbow Times, 2013-JUN-30, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/

Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2013-JUN-20

Latest update: 2013-JUN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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