(RNS) After almost 40 years, Exodus International is closing its doors. It was the oldest Christian services group of its kind and a market leader in reparative/ex-gay/sexual orientation change therapy.
It harmed countless people, not just those in the programs but also their families, friends and communities. Exodus took a heavy toll emotionally, spiritually and physically. Too many end their lives feeling hopeless and alone because of homophobia and rejection.
Throughout its tenure, Exodus claimed its professionals and programs could “heal” people of homosexuality. They were successful in enrolling eager clients.
Unfortunately, they misled the people they claimed to want to “help.” Last year, Exodus President Alan Chambers reported that 99.9 percent of people who engaged in reparative therapy did not change their orientation.
Earlier this week, Chambers issued a public apology for trying to fix people who weren’t broken. He enlisted “Our America with Lisa Ling” to broadcast a meeting Thursday (June 20) in which he apologized to those who felt deceived and defrauded by Exodus’ practices.
Simultaneously the Exodus board announced the launch of a new ministry with the goal of reducing fear (reducefear.org) and working alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.
Unfortunately, human lives can’t be “recalled” to the factory for in-warranty repair like cars. While Chambers and Exodus have taken the first and very critical steps in restorative justice, it is not clear how they can make reparations.
I pray that Chambers is truly remorseful about the damaged lives and lost lives as a result of Exodus interventions, but I will never stop being vigilant about his work.
Chambers has not publicly changed his position on biblical prohibition of same-sex relationships. As long as he believes a lie, people are vulnerable to his gift for manipulation.
We know that Chambers is a very savvy market analyst. He read the tea leaves. His product/service didn’t work. America is tired of gay bashing and bullying. Perhaps Chambers was worried about the challenges coming for the charitable status of groups such as Exodus Global Alliance in Canada and the fact that New Zealand denied this former affiliate of Exodus International nonprofit status.
Chambers needed a new, fresh, reframed approach. He will land on his feet. He’s a smart guy. He planned all of the announcements this week during the biggest conversation about gay marriage in our history. He scrubbed the Exodus website of blatantly anti-gay rhetoric. He published public policy statements that denounced the criminalization of homosexuality and exorcisms intended to heal people of homosexuality.
He invited people who had been harmed to speak at the final conference of Exodus.
A good start. And, not nearly enough. I hope Chambers will find it in his heart to use his gifts to confront any ministry in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are targeted for “fixing,” “inclusion,” “affirmation” or “reconciliation.”
God already included us, affirmed us and reconciled us. We don’t need fixing.
(The Rev. Cindi Love is the executive director of Soulforce, a member of the Faith & Religion Council of the Human Rights Campaign and the United Nations Compass Coalition for LGBT Human Rights.)