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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Slow Demise of Exodus International and the Rise of Gay Acceptance

When Exodus International started 37 years ago, it had the wind at its back. In 1976, the Gay Rights Movement was just beginning to be heard from, most Americans didn't give homosexuality a second thought except perhaps to condemn it, and the professional organizations, which soon would reevaluate their opinions, were treating gayness as a psychological disorder. So when Exodus International announced its program of helping LGBTs "return to normal" (heterosexuality), many were prepared to endorse it and thousands of gays submitted to reparative therapy. So what went wrong, so wrong in fact that Exodus International had to shut it doors forever?

Several factors are involved, of course. The primary one is the failure of reparative therapy to produce the results they advertised. No combination of aversion therapy, shock treatments (yes!), prayer, peer pressure or even self-loathing could make the miracle of change happen. It became clear early on that what was actually happening was gays who were horrified at the thought of spending eternity in hell were sublimating at best and ignoring at worst their same-sex desires that never went away.  In fact, Alan Chambers, the departing executive director of Exodus International confessed that 99.9% of all the gays he knew in the program did not change. So they were counseled on how to defend against these unwanted desires with spiritual practices that also did not work. This prompted a former Exodus International board member to actually suggest that Exodus International change its motto from "Change is possible through Jesus Christ," to "Come suffer with us."  And suffer they did.

Reparative therapy, itself, is based on a false theory of homosexual origination.  The repair aspect is devoted to repairing the poor relationship a gay man has with his father, which is seen as the primary reason that gays seek out other men: their fathers failed to provide proper emotional support while they were growing up. Distant fathers AND mothers are to blame. This theory is wholly unsupported by all the major professional organizations that are charged with researching and supporting psychological health. I actually heard Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the major proponent of reparative therapy in America today, tell parents of gay children that they should not blame themselves. Not because they failed in their childrearing, but because society failed them by making it so difficult to raise children.  Somehow, I don't think this was comforting.

Over time, the accumulating body of ex-ex-gays could not be ignored and their message began to overwhelm the "change" message of Exodus International  In fact, Exodus International actually changed its motto not too long before it closed to "Reaching the world in grace and truth." That is quite a departure from their original intention and may foreshadow the new direction of this ministry, albeit, under a different name and institutional configuration.

Then in 1973 the wind left their back: the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychological Association followed in 1975. Other major mental health organizations followed and eventually the World Health Organization declassified it in 1990. Exodus International and its reparative therapy allies no longer had a leg to stand on.  All they could do was help the deeply religious  to cope with their situation.

Yesterday's post details those people and organizations that confronted Exodus International over the years with their abysmal failure to achieve their goal of transformation. No longer could Exodus International trot out their "success stories" because too many of them denounced the program and admitted they did not change.  There was no place for them to go except to close.

Although I am ecstatic over this news, I also feel a sense of honor is due to Chambers and his board.  Yes, Chambers engaged in hyperbole (if not outright lying) in leading his organization, and yes, many lives were destroyed in the process. In the end, Chambers admitted all this, asked for forgiveness and called a stop to the program. This is so much more than Nicolosi of NARTH, Joe Dallas of Genesis Counseling, Andrew Comiskey of Desert Stream Ministries, and dozens of fellow-travelers are willing to do--and should. Only the future activities of Chambers will confirm his sincerity. One thing is for sure: he is off to a good start.

So it turns out that the most important reason Exodus International closed its doors is that its most celebrated  example of "change through the power of Jesus Christ" hasn't changed, can't change, and finally admits it. With that truth staring Chambers in his own face, how could he, with any integrity, continue the deception? He details his apology in the video below. I hope that it will be taken to heart by the many, many others in the false hope of change business so that countless lives will be spared this evil delusion.

Exodus Head Alan Chambers' Full Apology to the LGBT Community
In an unprecedented admission, Alan Chambers, president of the so-called "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, apologizes to survivors of "reparative therapy" who feel they were harmed by the organization. Watch the full, uncut apology here. More videos and information can be found here, thanks to Lisa Ling and

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