Exodus International, perviously known as the group that's tried everything — including iPhone apps — to "cure" gay people, issued a long apology today for "having hurt so many," for promoting "sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents," and for essentially their entire decades-old mission of attempting to "cure" gays and lesbians of their sexual orientations. (UPDATE: Exodus International announced late Wednesday that they'd "close," too. See more)
The apology isn't exactly sudden, and it's not a total reversal for the entire movement inspired by Exodus's work. Last year, Exodus International president Alan Chambers renounced the idea of a gay "cure," but not everyone agreed with him, causing a split in the ex-gay movement. Exodus International was until recently part of a larger global network of similarly named groups. Those groups, like this one from Latin America, are still sticking to the original plan to "cure" gays across the world.
Chambers cites a three-year conversation with a presenter on Oprah's OWN network as the catalyst. "Our America's" Lisa Ling did a series of reports on the group, focusing on Chambers. He namedrops her at the start of his apology. OWN posted a preview of Chambers's apology, which will air in full on Thursday:
Let's be clear, here: Chambers, and Exodus International, still believe homosexuality is a sin. His beliefs, as far as the apology is concerned, have not changed. It looks like Chambers, however, seems to be distancing himself dramatically from the notion that sexual orientation can be erased and remade, and seems to be pledging to back out of the political fight over gay rights in the U.S., too. "You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours," Chambers writes. While his apology indicates that the North American wing of the ministry will become more generally evangelical instead of a one-issue group, it's not clear what they'll focus on instead, if anything — the website's "fact sheet" still portrays them as a Christian organization concerned with homosexuality. Here's more from the apology:
I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me...
...Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
Chambers also admits to lying about his "cured" orientation — publicly, he presented himself as evidence that their programs worked, something he first admitted to in 2012.
It doesn't look like everyone is ready to forgive the ministry, however, which used to promote a form of "therapy" that involved trying to convince LGBT individuals that they'd been molested and "turned" gay by the experience. One therapy participant who was present for the OWN reconciliation wrote an editorial to this effect, arguing that the only thing he'd like to see Exodus do at this point is close.
Update: 11:25 p.m.: Late Wednesday night, Exodus International announced that they would "shut down" in the wake of their change of heart. But according to the statement, it looks like a lot of the infrastructure of the organization will stay in place, just under a new name, as a "new ministry—" so it could just be a heavy rebranding. The statement points readers towards a website called reducefear.org, which has little content on it.