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Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Pray away the gay" has gone away (well, almost)

Exodus International, the original and largest organization to endorse the notion that gays can change has closed its doors.  Its president, Alan Chambers, who served for eleven years, announced today that their board of directors voted to end its 38 year ministry.  

It all materialized with a conversation Chambers had with several of the victims of reparative therapy and Exodus International's outreach who characterize themselves as ex-ex gay on Lisa Ling's television show, "Our America With Lisa Ling."  In other words, people who were lulled into the belief that although they considered themselves gay, they could be "returned to normal" through prayer and therapy.  Reparative therapy has been denounced by all accredited psychological and psychiatric organizations in the USA and even the courts have censured their practitioners.

Several organizations have put unrelenting pressure on Exodus International over the years and did much to create this change of heart in Exodus International.  One is Truth Wins Out, and its crusading director, Wayne Besen.  Besen has been critical of EI and reparative therapy since before Chambers came aboard. His 2003 book, Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth, is THE authoritative explanation and exposure of the ex-gay movement.  TWO's website,, is a daily chronicle of ex-gay abuses, idocies, and counter-attacks that amazes with its breadth and clarity.  Their stable of writers will keep you in touch with the latest news and analysis of things ex-gay.  Besen certainly is due credit for helping in the downfall of EI.

Another significant factor in EI's change of heart is the Ex-gay Survivors Network sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay  It was founded by Christine Bakke-O’Neill and Peterson Toscano in 2206, two survivors of the ex-gay movement, as a way to connect others who were struggling with the failure of reparative therapy and other attempts to "pray away the gay."  Over the years, Beyond Ex-Gay reached out to Exodus International and other so-called ex-gay groups sharing their stories of abuse and failure and even suicide.  Although not acknowledged by name, Chambers admits that hearing such stories was a big factor in his decision to change the direction of EI, which soon led to its demise.

A chink in EI's armor occurred during 2008-2009 when Soulforce contacted Billy Hybels, pastor of the large and highly influential Evangelical church, Willow Creek.  They poured significant money into EI, hosted their events, and supplied volunteers for their programs. The upshot of these visits with Soulforce and other contacts Willow Creek made was to sever all ties with EI.

So what's to become of Chambers, et al?  It's not like they will disappear.  The Board announced the formation of a new organization with many of EIs board and staff that has as its goal the reducing of fear, and working alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.  Whatever that means (to them).  We shall have to wait and see.  They have a lot of reparative work to do with ex-gay survivors and they note the harm they have done and I believe their remorse is genuine.  However, remorse will not undone the harm.  I can only hope that their new organization will devote themselves to cleaning up the mess they made along the way.

As a bit of self promotion, you can learn much more about the harm of ex-gay movements and therapies in my new book: church/dp/1484967127/ref=la_B00DBIZDKA_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371776563&sr=1-1  Plus a whole lot more.  I hope you check it out.

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