Christian Post reports on changing focus

This morning, the Christian Post’s Lillian Kwon writes about the spate of recent articles on changes in sexual identity ministries and therapy. Note that the article frames the issues in terms of change (life?, sexual orientation?) but gets around to including most of the recent news reports involving Exodus and the “ex-gay controversy.”

Of late, the Christian Post has taken a lead among Christian news sources in reporting about sexual identity.

Alan Chambers on CNN’s The Situation Room

What a difference a day (seems to) makes.

First, the LA Times article and then this afternoon, Alan Chambers appeared on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. Apparently stimulated by the LA Times article, CNN’s Mary Snow interviewed Alan about the term ex-gay and what is meant by change. Jack Drescher was on briefly to indicate his surprise at the shift (which regular readers of this blog will know has been developing over time). Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America was on to suggest there was no evidence for innateness of sexual orientation. Clearly Alan was cast as breaking with the tide.

See the video here…

LA Times article features ex-gay debate and sexual identity therapy

NOTE: This article is archived here now… 

This morning’s LA Times pulls together a host of factors to suggest that there is “New ground in debate on ‘curing’ gays.” Written by Stephanie Simon, the article cites or quotes numerous sources as evidence that changes are happening in the dialogue regarding sexual orientation, ministry and therapy.

The article begins with a bang:

Alan Chambers directs Exodus International, widely described as the nation’s largest ex-gay ministry. But when he addresses the group’s Freedom Conference at Concordia University in Irvine this month, Chambers won’t celebrate successful “ex-gays.”

Truth is, he’s not sure he’s ever met one.

With years of therapy, Chambers says, he has mostly conquered his own attraction to men; he’s a husband and a father, and he identifies as straight. But lately, he’s come to resent the term “ex-gay”: It’s too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete,” Chambers said.

His personal denunciation of the term “ex-gay” — his organization has yet to follow suit — is just one example of shifting ground in the polarizing debate on homosexuality.

While I am not sure Alan would categorize his process as “years of therapy,” this section reprises many discussions on this blog about ex-gay as a term and the changing focus at Exodus.

Speaking of blog discussions, Michael Bussee adds his perspective:

“Something’s happening. And I think it’s very positive,” agreed Michael Bussee, who founded Exodus in 1976, only to fall in love with another man — a fellow ex-gay counselor.

Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee regularly speaks out against ex-gay therapies and is scheduled to address the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference at UC Irvine at the end of the month.

But Bussee put aside his protest agenda recently to endorse new guidelines to sexual identity therapy, co-written by two professors at conservative Christian colleges.

Lee Beckstead gives a fine description of sexual identity therapy:

“It’s about helping clients accept that they have these same-sex attractions and then allowing them the space, free from bias, to choose how they want to act,” said Lee Beckstead, a gay psychologist in Salt Lake City who uses this approach.

Speaking of the sexual identity therapy framework, I think this might the first public mention of their endorsement by Robert Spitzer.

The guidelines for this type of therapy — written by Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College and Mark Yarhouse of Regent University — have been endorsed by representatives on both the left and right. The list includes the provost of a conservative evangelical college and the psychiatrist whose gay-rights advocacy in the 1970s got homosexuality removed from the official medical list of mental disorders.

“What appeals to me is that it moves away from the total polarization” common in the field, said Dr. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist.

While not in this article, his complete statement to me about the framework is:

I have reviewed the sexual identity framework written by Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse. This framework provides a very necessary outline to help therapists address the important concerns of clients who are in conflict over their homosexual attractions. The work of Drs. Throckmorton and Yarhouse transcend polarized debates about whether gays can change their sexual orientation. Rather, this framework helps therapists work with clients to craft solutions tailored to their individual situations and personal beliefs and values. I support this framework and hope it is widely implemented.

You heard it here first

UPDATE: The article has been reprinted by Newsday and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, the San Mateo County Times, the Chicago Tribune Redeye edition, AM New York and the Advocate.

Does this say anything about sexual orientation?

I received this email from a trusted source. It describes a parent’s view of a daughter’s sexuality after a trauma. This appears to represent some kind of shift in behavior and even desire due to a life experience. With Lisa Diamond, I submit that some women may be more likely to experience such a shift than most males.

After our young adult daughter was raped, she went into counseling. Her counselor recommended a support group with women who had similar experiences. It was one of those groups that believed retelling the trauma of her experience was helpful. After awhile she began to really generalize her anger toward all men. After several weeks of this, after her anger toward men became generalized, her individual counselor suggested that she try dating women. Before her sexual assault, our daughter had no interest in women sexually. This was not our assumption; this is what she told us.

She believed she had decided carefully about a counselor so, she thought, ‘perhaps this is a good idea,’ since her feelings toward men were not accepting. Several of the women in her group were open to dating women in order to not feel lonely and learn to receive affection. An older woman who was a lesbian took her under her wing. During this time, our daughter never shared about what was happening, as she knew it was far from her Christian world view, but she was desperate to move on from her pain and her counselor suggested this as a means to do so.

Since then she has come to believe her counselor was right and being with women is the only safe way to give and get love. She sees herself as a bisexual but hasn’t had relationships with men recently.

PFLAG reaction to the Chicago Trib article

PFLAG president John Cepek today posted a particularly vigorous reaction on the Chicago Tribune’s blog regarding the June 11 Tribune article about sexual identity therapy.

In one sense, I can understand that he lumps me in with reparative therapists. The article was not particularly clear on that point. I made it a point to differentiate myself from reparative or conversion therapists. I referred to ACT as a therapeutic foundation for my work. These distinctions were not reported or were edited out.

Troubling though was Mr. Cepek’s reference to Shidlo and Schroeder’s 2002 study as follows:

The outcome that alleged Jeff had flies in the face of the peer-reviewed assessments of the practice. A 2002 study interviewed 202 participants in such treatments. Only 26 reported success – and of those, only eight reported not having “slips” into homosexuality. Even more disturbing were the reports from those who said that the treatment failed. Of the 176 who did not change, 155 had long-term harm from conversion – ranging from the physical effects of shock therapy to inability to maintain relationships with family and friends, to a loss of their faith.

I have written about the misuse of Shidlo and Schroeder before in relation to its reference on the Montel Williams Show by Alicia Salzer.

Exodus Position Statement on Bullying and Violence

Alan Chambers sent the following in an email this afternoon.

“Exodus Position Statement on Bullying and Violence

Exodus International affirms that gay-identified individuals and those who struggle with same-sex attraction are persons for whom Jesus Christ died and loves equally. Therefore, we strongly oppose bullying, name calling and acts of aggression against any individual or group of individuals for any reason. These actions have no place in our society and we must, instead, affirm behavior that validates the personal worth and dignity God bestows upon every human being.

“In addition, every individual deserves equal protection and every offender should receive equal punishment. We call upon other organizations concerned with preserving the essential equality of all individuals to exhibit impartiality in their policies, rather than singling out some for special treatment.”

Amen.

UPDATE – 6/12/07 – See Alan Chamber’s blog entry today for some context for today’s statement. I, for one, am very glad to see this statement.

Chicago Tribune article almost features sexual identity therapy

Today’s Chicago Tribune has an article by Sean Hamill that comes close to differentiating sexual identity therapy from conversion therapy. I say close because Mr. Hamill interviews antagonists of conversion therapy but then comes pretty close to describing the work I do as the other side of the issue. Here is one quote from me that I apparently did not survive the editing process:

“I don’t say, ‘Here’s how you become straight,’ ” Throckmorton said. “I say, ‘Can you move forward with a value and do the things that are good to do and right to do, that you believe in?'”

I remember saying this: “I don’t say, ‘Here’s how you become straight,’ ” Throckmorton said. “I say, ‘Can you move forward with a life you value and do the things that you believe are good to do and right to do, that you believe in?'”

The article also places our work (Yarhouse and me) in the context of the ex-gay movement. I supposed that is fair given that I often work with people who desire to live according their Evangelical beliefs. However, readers might also assume that what we do is synonymous with conversion or reparative therapy, which would be unfortunate. I do know Mr. Hamill faced heavy editing on this one and the title is not chosen by the author.

Exodus statement about “sudden, radical and complete” change

There have been a few mentions in comments on this blog and elsewhere about an Exodus radio spot suggesting “sudden, radical and complete change” of some kind.

I received the following statement in an email from David Fountain, Director of Conference Services, earlier today:

Here is an email blast that went out to everyone on our conference list on Friday:

Wow, the 2007 Exodus Freedom Conference is less than 18 days away! The Exodus staff is very excited about seeing you and what God has in store for all of us at this year’s Freedom Conference.

We are expecting Him to do nothing less than move in revolutionary ways in and through our lives. In the midst of all the noise and confusing messages from the world today, we are choosing to pursue God. We are making a decision to follow and surrender everything to Him, even our struggle with homosexuality. Our President Alan Chambers recently said, “A life of freedom doesn’t equal a life absent of struggle. As long as we live on this earth, we will continue to struggle with our own humanity. A life of freedom is actually found in the midst of the struggle, when we choose to fight. Especially, when it is difficult to do so.”

The rewards and benefits of living a revolutionary life for the ultimate revolutionary, Jesus, is worth it! In John 10:6b He says, “Anyone who goes through me will be cared for-will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” We will settle for nothing less than the life of freedom Jesus offers all of

us!

Exodus is also calling for a revolution within the church: a sudden, radical, complete change where the body of Christ begins ministering grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. We will continue to advocate for those struggling with unwanted homosexuality, for those who are gay identified, and for those who love them.

Join us for this life-changing eye-opening week of learning and healing!

We will also be placing this statement by the promo on the website:

A Word from Our President About REVOLUTION

“Exodus International exists to mobilize the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. As such, we are calling upon the evangelical church to undergo a sudden, radical and complete change in the way it has dealt with the issue of homosexuality in the past. “As former homosexuals, we know that the process of transformation is often a long, difficult journey towards healing and holiness. If the body of Christ will embrace and demonstrate the compassionate truth and grace of Jesus Christ-then we will witness a true revolution in our generation.”

-Alan Chambers, President, Exodus International

UPDATE – June 12, 2007: I received the following note today from Alan Chambers:

A month or so ago I took note of a comment by Timothy Kinkaid that was posted on either XGW or Warren Throckmorton’s blog regarding terminology.

Having grown up in church I understand and fluently speak Christianese. The culture at large doesn’t always understand the way we speak. This is something that we are aware of at Exodus and are making a more concerted effort to change. I struggle to find words that explain “healing” and “change” and “transformation”. Those are applicable to my life and story. However, I do recognize that they can and do unintentionally mislead people.

Our public service announcement highlighting our annual conference is being played on one Christian radio station in California. This PSA references our conference theme, Revolution, and its definition: sudden, complete and radical. We want to emphasize that we are calling for such change within the evangelical church and the way it has typically dealt with the issue of homosexuality. By no means is it our belief that change from the complexity of issues surrounding homosexuality is often sudden or complete.

In an effort to clarify our message, we have produced a statement that appears on our website and has been sent to the station running the ads.

Messaging is important as is honesty. Our intention with this ad was simply to call the church to sudden, radical and complete change regarding how we have traditionally dealt with the issue of homosexuality.

I am truly sorry for any confusion this caused.

Alan Chambers

President, Exodus International

I thank Alan for this note and clarification.