Although they still believe homosexuality to be a sin, leaders of a Christian organization whose mission had been to turn gays into straights have changed their stance and are saying sorry. Exodus International announced in a blog post that it will be closing its doors and beginning a new ministry that welcomes everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. The organization’s president, Alan Chambers, also apologized for the years of pain caused to the LGBT community by its judgment saying, “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
Chambers appears Thursday night on Our America With Lisa Ling, on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, delivering an 'apology' to LGBT people who’ve been harmed by ex-gay efforts.
"Recently, Chambers, who had been interviewed for Our America’s “Pray the Gay Away?” episode in 2011, contacted Ling to say he wanted to make a return appearance to issue an apology for the hurt caused by ex-gay therapy. She suggested that people who had left ex-gay groups be present. “I was really surprised that Alan agreed,” she tells The Advocate.
It resulted in a three-hour meeting that “was exhausting emotionally,” Ling says, and that is readily apparent in the portions featured in the new Our America episode, “God and Gays.” Chambers and his wife, Leslie, met with 10 survivors of ex-gay programs, including Michael Bussee, an Exodus founder who eventually left the group and became an out and proud gay man; Jerry, a former pastor who came out of the closet after a 26-year marriage; Catherine, who was a counselor with an ex-gay ministry and calls it “the greatest regret of my life”; Art, who believes his bipolar disorder was brought on by ex-gay therapy; and Christian, whose experience attests to the gender stereotyping and misconceptions about gays that permeate such therapy efforts — he was urged to give up his found-object art projects and pursue more “masculine” activities such as sports and gym workouts. They and the others were enlisted from an online support group run by Bussee.
They gathered in the basement of Hollywood Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, a congregation affiliated with the LGBT-affirming Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ex-gay movement is largely a phenomenon of fundamentalist Christianity, with mainline Protestant Christian denominations accepting gay people as they are. There is also at least one Jewish ex-gay group, and the Roman Catholic Church has a ministry that seeks to help gay people lead celibate lives.
Chambers says of Exodus, “Today we cease to be an ex-gay organization.” He apologizes for the hurt it has caused by promoting efforts to change sexual orientation, and he tells the survivors of ex-gay therapy, “You haven’t ever been my enemy, and I’m sorry I’ve been yours.” He says he recognizes the right of LGBT people to campaign for equality. But he also says he will not apologize for his beliefs about biblical constraints on sexual behavior.
The others in the room confront him about just what Exodus is. “My cynical side would say it’s the recloseting ministry,” says Jerry. He sees Exodus’s new message as “We cannot change you, we cannot give you a happy life, but we can help you get back into the closet more comfortably.”'
A snippet of Chambers' apology during the show follows below: