AACC Defends Choice of Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow as Plenary Speaker

The American Association of Christian Counselors continues to indirectly respond to charges that the organization owned by Tim Clinton has become politicized. One focus of criticism has been AACC’s choice to feature one of President Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow (see the AACC petition here). Yesterday, the AACC amended a promotional email by changing Jay Sekulow’s bio to include a statement about why he is speaking at a conference of counselors.
Sekulow AACC bio 2
Compare this to the prior bio:
Jay Sekulow AACC
As a lawyer, Sekulow can speak to these legal issues. However, I don’t believe he could make a good case that his organization is on the cutting edge of mental health and counseling issues. Most of the important cases relating to what religious counselors can and can’t do have been litigated by Alliance Defending Freedom. A search of Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice doesn’t show any cases or news items involving counselors over the past two years, and that was a pro-life “sidewalk counselor” case. The ACLJ has focused on politics, opposition to abortion, and immigration.
“Getting involved in public policy discussions” is not the primary objection in the Change.org petition to remove politics from the AACC. The issue relates to one-sided partisan politics and the perception that the AACC has been silent in the face of statements and actions from the president which make the work of counselors more difficult. Sekulow isn’t known right now as an expert on the intersection of religious liberty and mental health. He is known as a defender of Trump’s actions and statements.
If Tim Clinton wanted to address these concerns, he could diversify the ideological offerings at the Conference. For instance, host a forum on healthcare and invite speakers of all ideologies to address counselors. Have single-payer advocates, Obama care advocates, and radical free market advocates address the paying customers. AACC right now is incredibly one-sided and heavily weighted with ideological mates of owner Tim Clinton.
See all articles regarding the American Association of Christian Counselors here: AACC

To Christian Today, Tim Clinton and AACC Deny Being Politicized

BBB AACC
In today’s edition of Christian Today, owner of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton and advisory board member Ron Hawkins both deny the AACC has become politicized. Although they do not mention Trump, neither express regret for past support for Trump.
About politics, Clinton told CT, “[W]e do care about, speak to and advocate for certain policies that effect our members’ ability to integrate their faith with their respective, professional disciplines.” Specifically mentioned by Clinton include issues relating to “religious liberty, ethical standards and certain regulatory considerations as it relates to training, practice, accreditation, and licensure as Christian practitioners.” He added that he was interested in “…government policies and programs effecting suicide prevention, the opioid crisis, support for military families, trauma recovery, managed care, mental health benefits, client rights and self determination in mental and relational healthcare and more.”
On behalf of AACC, Hawkins said the executive board expects AACC leadership to engage national leaders in order to benefit members. However, like Clinton, Hawkins did not specify what policies were being advocated via the obvious access to the Oval Office Clinton now enjoys.
After these statements, we still don’t know what Clinton supports when it comes to mental health care in health insurance reform. Clinton didn’t address one of the key concerns expressed in Dr. New’s letter and some signers of the Change.org petition – that of Donald Trump’s rhetoric involving women and those with disabilities.
I assumed AACC spokespeople would eventually deny the observations of the current and former members, but I had hoped they might be a little more specific regarding what the organization supports. Now, we know the leaders are “interested” but we don’t know what that means in practice.
For more on AACC, see this post.

Better Business Bureau: The American Association of Christian Counselors Gets a D-

BBB AACC
Recently, the president and owner of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton has come under some scrutiny from former and current AACC members due to his support for President Donald Trump. In response to the petition at Change.org, some former and current members have written to me with complaints about other aspects of the organization. One common complaint relates to poor customer service and lack of responsiveness from the organization. Looking into this a little, I found that the AACC is rated “D-” by the Better Business Bureau.
The basis for the BBB’s rating is a high volume of complaints, poor reviews, and the length of time for AACC to respond to the complaints. BBB has received 105 complaints about the AACC over the past three years. Many of the complaints have to do with unacceptably slow refunds (e.g., two years!) for a cancelled conference.
The author of the petition regarding AACC and president Tim Clinton’s move into partisan politics — Dr. Aaron New — has had almost no response to his inquiries. I have not received even a no comment to questions about AACC’s position on healthcare reform.

The AACC is a Business

To me, it is a little surprising that the AACC is unresponsive. The corporation is in the business of selling counseling services and training materials. A business that relies on satisfied customers should work hard to satisfy them. Perhaps, AACC’s leaders are unresponsive because they have a near monopoly in their field. The only other group in that space is the Christian Association for Psychological Studies which is much smaller and not as glitzy.
Unlike other mental health professional groups (e.g., APA, ACA, NASW), AACC is a for-profit business owned by Tim Clinton. According to a 2003 SEC filing, Tim Clinton is the sole shareholder of the AACC. The BBB website lists the following officers (information supplied by the AACC):

  • Mr. Tim Clinton, President
  • Mr. Ben Allison
  • Ms. Sharon Naylor, Accounting Manager
  • Mr. Jimmy D Queen, COO
  • Mr. Eric Scalise, CEO
  • Mr. Alexander Smith, CFO
  • Mr. C. L. Stewart, Bookkeeper
There is also a nonprofit AACC Foundation which, according to the AACC website:

IS OUR NON-PROFIT WORLDWIDE RESOURCE that exists to encourage the development of Christian counseling worldwide through funding of various programs that are not priorities in a for-profit, business model, but are nonetheless crucial to the comprehensive development of a Christian counseling ministry.

According to the latest IRS 990 form available on Guidestar, the board of AACC Foundation consisted of Jimmy Queen and Ron Hawkins. Queen is the COO of the for-profit AACC and Hawkins is on the AACC “Executive Board.” In light of “arms length” guidelines, it seems questionable to have the same board members on the for-profit and nonprofit boards. According to the 2015 990, AACC Foundation paid the for-profit AACC, Inc. over $500,000 for employee leasing, printing and other services. If you donate to the AACC Foundation, you can get a tax deduction but it is a safe bet that much of your donation will go toward buying materials and services produced by the for-profit AACC.
On the AACC website, what is called the Executive Board has no decision making power and only advises if asked. The website gives the appearance of a professional trade association with various divisions and advisory boards but in fact, AACC is a for-profit business. The members don’t vote for officers to set policy for the practice and professionalization of Christian counseling. Tim Clinton is and will always be president.

AACC: Is This the Best Way to Organize a Trade Association?

The lack of responsiveness and transparency at AACC may lead some Christian mental health professionals to question more than the political movements there. It is a fair to ask if a for-profit model is the best way for Christian mental health professionals to organize their professional interests. Let me close with one possible conflict of interests which I hope to discuss more in a future post.
In the view of many working mental health professionals, mental health care is a necessity in any insurance plan. There are beneficial medical cost offsets when mental health concerns are properly treated. Also, it is both counter to scientific evidence and inhumane to discriminate against coverage of mental disorders in insurance plans. Furthermore, to oppose mental health parity is counter to the business interests of mental health providers who rely on third party payments for their income. However, if AACC is committed to supporting Trump’s or the GOP’s minimalist approach to health benefits because the owner is a Trump supporter, then is AACC working in the best interests of members or the owner? Members can’t vote and the leaders don’t answer legitimate questions about AACC policy and advocacy. This would not be tolerated in a member-driven nonprofit trade association. At some point, I wonder if members will ask if they should continue to labor within the current paradigm.
To sign the petition calling for removal of politics from the AACC, go to Change.org.

Current and Former Members of Christian Counseling Group Upset by Owner's Political Moves

4f900e54 (1)_optTim Clinton is the owner and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors. There is a non-profit side to the enterprise but the AACC is a for profit business. Clinton has become a key supporter of Donald Trump and like many evangelical leaders has remained silent in the face of Trump’s more outrageous episodes.
One former member, Aaron New, a psychology and counseling professor at a Christian college and former AACC member was upset to hear nothing from Clinton about Donald Trump’s descriptions of his actions on the infamous Access Hollywood audio. After trying to get a response from Clinton at the time, New sought answers from the board of directors. After hearing nothing from them, he decided to allow me to publish the letter.  Together we are launching a petition at Change.org for those who also want to express their concerns.
Although this may seem like an anti-Trump effort, it is not inherently so. The petition is for Trump supporters and those who might have opposed him. The aim is political neutrality in AACC and AACC events. We advocate for speakers who are involved in counseling, not known as partisans or campaigners for specific political positions in the culture wars.

AACC Doesn’t Want to Talk About This

Throckmorton: Why did you decide to write the executive board?
New: I had already attempted to contact Dr. Clinton via Twitter with the concerns expressed in the letter. I have no email address for him. He did not reply so I thought I might get some information from the board. However, I am still having a hard time understanding who is on the board. For instance, the list for the advisory board includes the name of a man who died in 2005. Customer service told me after several inquiries that the list is the most current they have. I have not heard from any leaders of AACC.
Throckmorton: So is that why you decided to publish it as an open letter?
New: Yes, as we have discussed, AACC has not been very responsive to me as a member. I think the concerns of the letter are valid and should be addressed by a group supposedly dedicated to advancing Christian counseling.
Throckmorton: What do you hope to accomplish?
New: I still think there could be value in the AACC but it needs to be more responsive to member concerns and stay out of partisan politics. Jay Sekulow is a plenary speaker at this year’s world conference. I don’t understand his place at the conference at all. He is now one of President Trump’s attorneys and in the thick of the political and legal defense of the president. I would like to see AACC become a professional home for counselors of all political persuasions. Although I am definitely a conservative, I don’t think Christian leaders should provide silent approval for actions which in the end make our work more difficult. Until something changes, I don’t think I can rejoin the AACC. I’ll have to look elsewhere for an organization to invest in.

Below is New’s letter along with co-signers

I am writing as a previous member of AACC and as one who teaches about and is passionate about Christian Counseling.  I have attended many regional and world conferences, enjoying the fellowship and education/training they provided.  I appreciated their publications and advocacy for Christian Counselors around the world.  For a very long time, the AACC was my professional home.  
But I allowed my membership expire due to concerns about its recent direction and mission.  I miss being a part of the AACC and I am still weighing the benefits of calling it my home.  As I do so, I wonder if you would be willing to address some of my concerns.
In May of 2016, Dr. Clinton joined the Evangelical Executive Advisory Board for then presidential candidate Donald Trump.  In every instance I found, Dr. Clinton was not just mentioned by name, but also as the President of the AACC.  This certainly seemed to me to be a politicization of the AACC.  I expressed my concern about this at the time and have been watching Dr. Clinton’s involvement (among others) rather carefully since then.
Dr. Clinton has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump through his candidacy and presidency.  As far as I can tell, he has never offered any public criticism of Trump’s character, behavior, or policies.  He has, however, gone out of his way to publicly confirm and praise him.  Just one example (but of particular concern) was Dr. Clinton’s silence during the controversy that surrounded Trump after the release of the Access Hollywood video.  As the leader of the flagship Christian Counseling organization, it seemed unconscionable to me that Dr. Clinton refused to condemn such harmful words and behaviors – the very kinds of words and behaviors that we work against in our offices and with our clients every day. 
 I believe that the members of the AACC deserve better leadership and guidance than this. At a minimum (and in my clinical opinion), Trump exhibits the character and behaviors of a person who, if in our offices, would be challenged not celebrated.  But much beyond that (and still in my clinical opinion), Trump’s character and behaviors are the kind that cause wounds and trauma to the very people that end up needing the care of Christian Counselors.  It seems hypocritical to celebrate Trumpish character and behavior because of political power or expediency and simultaneously try to care for the people who are harmed by them.  Even if Dr. Clinton feels justified in maintaining his support of Trump, the very least he could do is address these concerns for members of the AACC. The president of the AACC should be willing and able to offer guidance to Christian Counselors for how to think about these issues, but as of today has been unwilling or unable to publicly do so.
 In my estimation, Dr. Clinton’s support of Donald Trump and the politicization of the AACC has only grown with time.  Most recently, the AACC announced the addition of several keynote speakers to the 2017 World Conference. Among them were Jack Graham and Jay Sekulow. While Jack Graham is another member of the Evangelical Executive Advisory Board and a vocal supporter of Trump, I am not terribly surprised by his addition.  But asking Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney and public advocate, to speak at the World Conference is, well, simply unbelievable. 
I miss the AACC, but if I am ever to return I would like to know more about the Board of Directors (both as individuals and as a body). 
Do you personally support this kind of politicization of the AACC?
Is Dr. Clinton’s support of Donald Trump reflective of you and/or the Board of Directors as a whole?
Has the Board of Directors approved of the current politicization of the AACC?
Is there a policy about the AACC being a political body?  And if so, is that policy available for review?
What, if anything, would you say to others like me who are gravely concerned about the current politicization of the AACC?
 Thank you for your leadership of the AACC.  And thank you for taking the time to listen and respond. 
 Aaron A. New, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Counseling

After New wrote the letter, he showed it a few colleagues who requested inclusion. They asked that this sentence be attached to the letter:

The following is a list of cosigners who have similar concerns about AACC direction and are reconsidering their membership.

They are:

Dr. Andrew Graham, LMHC, NCC, BCPCC, current member
Jon Priest, LPE-I, Christian Perspective Counseling, potential member
Jodi Tipton, graduate student, current member
David R. Wells, LPC-S, Wells Counseling Services, PLLC, College Station, TX, member since 1997

Broader Concerns about Member Services

I am a former member of the AACC advisory board. I was removed without notice several years ago. It really didn’t matter since we did no advising anyway. One of the issues beyond the politics is that the members are pretty far removed from the ownership. In this regard, AACC isn’t really a professional association as much as it is a business. Professional associations have elections for officers and bring members into the decision making. In AACC, it seems to me that members are principally consumers of the AACC products sold at conventions and on the website.
AACC current, former, or potentional members who would like to sign on to this letter can leave your name in the comments and sign the petition here.

The American Association of Christian Counselors Conference Features Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelical picThe American Association of Christian Counselors hosts a regular conference in September which is often as much glitz as professional development. Contemporary Christian music artists sing (Mercy Me this year) and big name speakers speak (e.g., Eric Metaxas). There are also professional workshops and training sessions and materials to buy galore. Full disclosure, I have presented workshops at these conferences and once upon a time was on the AACC advisory board even though we rarely advised anyone about anything.
This year’s conference looks almost like a meeting of President Trump’s court evangelicals and religious defense team. Eric Metaxas is a keynoter and the leaders just added Jack Graham and Jay Sekulow. AACC owner Tim Clinton is right in the middle of the court in the image to the right.

See below for the Trump court evangelicals just added:

 
Jack Graham AACC
Jay Sekulow AACC
I got this information from an AACC member who is tired of how politically focused AACC has become. Although I don’t think a mass exodus is coming, I am hearing rumblings that at least some counselors have dropped membership and others are considering it.
I hope there will be a session on healthcare reform and the persistent demand of Republicans to drop basic benefits like mental health coverage which many of the AACC members rely on for their livelihood and their clients need to get treatment. I also hope there is a session on narcissism and that it is well attended.
Perhaps, Trump’s new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci can give a session on clean communication and dealing with the press. Court evangelicals would just eat that up.
 

AACC is not larger than the APA

Yesterday, Right Wing Watch pointed to a broadcast  from Liberty Counsel and a tweet from the same group saying that the American Association of Christian Counselors is larger than the American Psychological Association. Here is the still-uncorrected tweet:
As RWW pointed out, that is simply not true. The non-profit APA has “more than 154,000 members” and the for profit AACC has said they have “nearly 50,000 members” for several years.
There is another aspect to the claims made by Liberty Counsel that should be pointed out. Mat Staver said on the broadcast that the AACC has produced “the most definitive, most recent research that’s come out that says change is possible.” I assume he is talking about Jones and Yarhouse’s study of Exodus participants (and even there the changes were minimal and not in keeping with the claims made by Staver). However, the Liberty lawyers should also know that a more recent study published in Edification, a journal of the AACC, found that a group of heterosexually married sexual minorities reported no change on average in homosexual attractions.
I pointed this out in this post.

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.
1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.
2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.
3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.
4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.
5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.
6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.
7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.
8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.
9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.
10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.
I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)
Happy New Year!

Year in review: Top Ten Stories from 2007

Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.

1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.

2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008. 

3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September.  Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.   

4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquaited via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.

5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.

6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.

7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International. 

8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton.  Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November. 

9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.

10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.    

Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.

Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?

Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!

Jones and Yarhouse release Exodus longitudinal study

Today at 2:15pm in Nashville, Stan Jones and Mark Yarhouse presented the results of their study of religiously mediated change of sexual orientation. To a packed house, the researchers outlined the methods of sampling, the measures used and the results. Following the presentation, Intervarsity Press hosted a brief press conference.

Key points and findings:

The study sought to address two questions: Is change of sexual orientation, specifically homosexual orientation, possible? And, is the attempt intrinsically harmful? The authors were careful to point out that the participants were not engaged in professional therapy and so the variable of interest was participation in Exodus. Jones and Yarhouse began with 98 subjects and at time 3 assessment had 73. The retention rate of 74.5% is respectable as compared with other longitudinal studies.

Using several measures of sexual orientation (including Kinsey scale, Klein scales, Shively and Dececco and self-report of categorical change), the authors report change in several different ways. I’ll note three here. First of all, when simply asked how the participants thought of themselves, the results were as follows from Time 1 to Time 3 (over 4 years).

– 33 people reported change in the desired manner (from gay at time 1 in the heterosexual direction at time 3)

– 29 reported no change

– 8 reported change in the undesired direction

– 3 were unsure how to describe their experience of change

Jones and Yarhouse segmented a subgroup they called “Truly Gay.” This group was expected to show less change since they had more settled homosexual attractions, a gay identity and past homosexual activity. However, this group demonstrated a larger degree of change. Since multiple measures were used, it is difficult to summarize the degree of change they reported. However, I will report one example dimension here. For the entire population, a Kinsey self-rating was developed with one item used to inform the rating. For the whole population, an average rating of 5.07 was reported at Time 1 (the beginning). At time three, the average was 4.08, or almost one point decline which is a significant result. Some people reported lots of change, others not so much as noted above. On average, the changes were statistically significant. However, observers might wonder if these changes are of a sufficient practical different to warrant optimism about claims of change. My response is that even some change with little evidence of harm is of great importance to people who are seeking great congruence with their values and beliefs. The authors were quite careful to note that the changes reported were modest for most. They also noted that diminishment of homosexual attractions were more pronounced than acquisition of heterosexual attractions.

Other categories reported were:

– Success: Conversion – There were subjects who reported that they felt their change to be successful and reported substantial reduction in homosexual desire and addition of heterosexual attraction and functioning at Time 3. 15% met these criteria.

– Success: Chastity – These people experienced satisfactory reductions in homosexual desire and were living chaste lives. 23% were in this category.

– Continuing – These persons experienced only modest change in the desired direction but expressed commitment to continue. 29% were in this category.

– No-response – These people experienced no change and were conflicted about the future even though they had not given up. 15% were here.

– Failure (from their perspective): Confused – No change reported and had given up but did not label themselves gay. 4% were in this group

– Failure: Gay identity – No change, no pursuit and had come as gay. 8% were in this category.

Regarding harm, results of the Symptom Check List – 90 – Revised (SCL-90) were changed little from Time 1 to Time 3. The entire sample was in better mental health shape than outpatient averages at Time 1 and improved slightly by Time 3.

The authors are to be commended for their candor and the tentative way of describing their results. They clearly noted the limitations and the strength and made appropriate qualifications. They were careful to acknowledge the reality of harm that can occur from poor practices and made no attempt to minimize the harm that has been reported (e.g., the ex-ex-gays).

More information is available at the IVPress website, e.g., this video of Stan Jones talking about the study. Christianity Today also has an article as does Citizen Link.

Music city conference report: Day One

In Nashville and spent the afternoon and much of the evening getting ready for the Pre-conference workshop on Sexual Identity Therapy tomorrow morning. Musicians and microphones are everywhere here — even the airport — which in my mind is a good thing.

I was initially scheduled to be on the Mike and Juliet Morning Show thursday morning but was replaced by ex-gay therapist Jayson Graves. Although I think Jayson is a thoughtful guy, I was deemed a bit too measured for the event. And besides, he is younger and has more hair. I think that was the real reason. I was somewhat disappointed though because I wanted to tell my Juliet Huddy story. So y’all get to read it. Quite awhile back, I was interviewing a young man who was in distress over his homosexual attractions. In the interview, as is customary, I did a full assessment of sexuality and in so doing asked if he had any opposite sex attractions. He thought for a bit and said, he generally didn’t but there was one woman on TV he was attracted to “in that way.” When I asked who it was, he said, Juliet Huddy. I wonder if she would have blushed?

In honor of my surroundings, here is a bunch of country music talent all in one place…