Irvine, Calif. Exodus International, a Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, announced June 19 that it is closing its doors after 37 years. The board of directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization's place in a changing culture, the group stated.
"We're not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change and they want to be heard," Tony Moore, board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.
"Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we've ceased to be a living, breathing organism," said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. "For quite some time we've been imprisoned in a worldview that's neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we're all prodigal sons and daughters. ... God is calling us to be the Father to welcome everyone, to love unhindered."
The board unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry.
Local affiliated ministries, which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.
Last night, Alan Chambers, Executive Director of Exodus International, announced the closing of the organization, the oldest "ex-gay" ministry in the United States. Soulforce, an interfaith organization that works to free lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people from religious and political oppression, welcomes Chambers' apology to the LGBTQ community and decision to shutter the organization as the first step to reconciliation.
The following can be attributed to Rev. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce:
"I pray that Alan Chambers is truly remorseful about the damaged and lost lives as a result of Exodus interventions. Soulforce will never stop speaking up for our siblings who are vulnerable to the harm and spiritual violence caused by "ex-gay" ministries. We are grateful for this development. God loves us exactly as we arewe need no repair. Anyone who continues to try and "fix" LGBT people makes a mockery of God's love."
I am sure Chambers was motivated by many factors, including the relentless pressure of whistleblowers like Michael Busse, one of the founders of Exodus. Busse has repeatedly confronted Chambers and most recently said that Exodus should just shut down. Time and time again, individuals bravely stood up and told their stories of pain and harm by the work of Exodus. In addition, faith communities of many denominations continue to grow and progress towards including all of God's children in their congregations, including LGBT people. Chambers cannot help but see he is being left behind
This announcement is a good start but not nearly enough. We hope that Chambers will reinvent himself and his ministry. We hope he will join those of us who confront programs in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are targeted for " "fixing" "inclusion" or "affirmation" or "reconciliation." God already included us, affirmed us and reconciled us. We don't need fixing."
Opposition to so-called "reparative therapy," which seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity has been central to Soulforce's mission since its founding by former religious right ghostwriter and Exodus member Rev. Dr. Mel White in 1998. All of White's books on the religious right have addressed the tragic consequences of the false claims of organizations like Exodus International, Focus on the Family's Love Won Out conferences, and NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
As an organization, Soulforce has been relentless in opposing the notion that LGBTQ people are in any way "sick" or "sinful," and has asked all religious people to join them in condemning "ministries" intended to change God-given expressions of sexuality and gender identity.
A few of the actions by Soulforce leaders that have addressed the claims of "ex-gay therapy" have included:
2003Rev. Dr. Cindi Love appears on the Joni Show, Daystar Network to counter the claims of Ann Paulk, Exodus spokesperson
2006 The 1000 Watt March, Vigil, and Concert, in which NYU sociologist Dr. Judith Stacey called Focus on the Family to account for taking her studies on children of same-sex couples out of context to justify their anti-LGBTQ political agenda and promotion of ex-gay therapy.
2007 Soulforce co-hosts Ex-Gay Survivor's Conference with the organization Beyond Ex-Gay, attended by 200 survivors of Ex-Gay therapy. Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks, all former Exodus leaders, apologize during the conference for their involvement with the organization.
2008 Soulforce visits with Pastor Bill Hybel of Willow Creek Community Church as part of its American Family Outing campaign. Alan Chambers of Exodus International later blames Soulforce for the megachurch's cutting ties with Exodus.
2009 Soulforce organizes Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, FL, to protest a conference given at the same time by NARTH.
2010 Soulforce Symposium: The Truth About Faith, Science, Love, and Reparative Therapy, held in Philadelphia, PA.
2011 Soulforce Executive Director debates at the National Religious Broadcasters Conference with Joe Dallas, former Chair of the Exodus International board and director of Genesis Ministries, an ex-gay counseling group in California. The debate concerns conservative religious broadcasters' exporting of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric through their broadcasts in Africa.
Since 1998, through dozens of direct action campaigns, the creation and distribution of resources, meetings with ministers, laypeople, students, and public forums, Soulforce has been committed to nonviolent engagement and discussion with opponents of LGBTQ equality. The goal of all Soulforce actions has been reconciliation rather than "victory."
Soulforce is committed to relentless nonviolent resistance to bring freedom to lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, and queer people from religious & political oppression. For more information go to www.soulforce.org
WASHINGTON Yesterday, Exodus International, an organization which for years advocated for and practiced dangerous so-called therapies to change people's sexual orientation, announced it is closing its doors for good. In a written statement, the organization's president Alan Chambers apologized to the gay community for undue judgment and dishonesty.
"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," said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program. "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."
The majority of people of faith and a growing number of religious leaders support LGBT equality. A poll of people of faith across America commissioned by HRC found 70 percent of Christians agree that when religious leaders condemn LGBT people it does more harm than good. In a separate 2011 poll, only 24 percent of people believed gay people can be made straight through psychotherapy or prayer.
In Chambers' apology statement, he says for years he wasn't honest about the feelings of same-sex attraction that never left him and for being dishonest about the real ability to change one's sexual orientation. Efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression have been debunked as junk science, and have also been proven harmful to children and adults. All major medical and mental health organizations have denounced the practice including: the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American School Counselor Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Pan American Health Organization. Learn more at www.hrc.org/reparativetherapy.
"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," said Groves. "But the truth remains 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."
Metropolitan Community Churches response:
Exodus 'Ex-Gay' movement needs 'conversion to truth-telling'
"We will not be satisfied until we see Evangelicals bring the same fervor to saving our lives as they have to trying to separate our souls from our God-given sexual orientations and gender identities."
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in over 40 countries. Dr. Wilson was part of the first LGBT faith delegation to meet with a sitting president in 1979. She is currently a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
"For decades, Exodus International has been synonymous with the idea that people need to be 'cured' or 'healed' of homosexuality. 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," said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson. "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.
"What is needed is true repentance and a conversion to truth telling. 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.
"We will not be satisfied until we see Evangelicals bring the same fervor to saving our lives as they have to trying to separate our souls from our God-given sexual orientations and gender identities.
"Around the world, MCC is known as 'The Human Rights Church' because we are sometimes the only faith tradition standing up for the lives of LGBT people. Exodus has the opportunity to join us.
"In just days, MCC will celebrate 45 years of ministry and advocacy as we gather in Chicago, July 1-5, for our 25th General Conference. We exhort Exodus leaders to join us. Join us to celebrate the life of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda who risks his life every day to fight the infamous 'kill the gays' bill. We challenge you to sit at the feet of leaders who founded the Global Justice Institute and are working with LGBT leaders in Asia, Africa and Latin America."
"Words are cheap. Lives are precious," concluded Dr. Wilson. "Do not disappoint us."