Revoice and Again I Say Revoice

Revoice is a new organization composed of people who seek “to encourage, support, and empower gay, lesbian, and other same-sex attracted Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic, Christian sexual ethic.” The group encourages same-sex attracted people to be open about their orientation in traditional church but to remain celibate.

Despite the emphasis on celibacy, they are open about their experiences and they reject efforts to change orientation. They also openly describe themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Revoice has scheduled a conference in late July that has generated some controversy, especially among those restless reformed folk who brought us the Nashville Statement.

A quick critic of the conference has emerged in Owen Strachan. In a post at the Center for Public Theology, Strachan begins with a case study of a divorced couple who parted ways over the husband’s homosexuality. He suggests that Revoice will teach things that lead to such divorces. Strachan then offers his own answers which he claims lead to hope.

The Rest of Many Stories

Strachan tells us that a person dealing with same-sex attraction is “not a special case.” He adds that the “key to victory in this area” is “understanding this, and rejecting the now-common spirit of victimhood.” Strachan assures the reader that Jesus is bigger than “any attraction, any lust, any unbiblical identity. ”

Without contesting his theological rhetoric at this point, I think it is only fair to offer some contrasting vignettes to his story. In fact, I suspect Revoice has emerged because the approach that Strachan advocates hasn’t worked very well. This is the practical problem for those who criticize Revoice. Despite the theological precision, there is a long history of damage which  cannot be denied.

Ex-Gay History

I have been researching and counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals since 1998. Initially, I defended reorientation therapy and ex-gay ministries. Yet, after much clinical experience and a reevaluation of the evidence, I changed my views. Here are just a few vignettes and points which should make Rev. Strachan reconsider his confident critique of Revoice. The men below once advocated an approach to victory over what they once considered sin which is very much like what Strachan wrote about in his critique of Revoice.

Michael Bussee

One of the founders of Exodus International, Michael Bussee and his eventual lover Gary Cooper left Exodus when they admitted to each other that they hadn’t changed orientation. They had been advised by their Christian ministry to believe God was giving them victory over their temptations but the victory never came.

John Paulk

The founder of Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out program, John Paulk was described by Christianity Today as the “poster boy” for the ex-gay movement. He was photographed in a gay bar while leading the movement and then after he left FOTF in 2003, he later divorced his wife Anne in 2013 and came out again as gay.

John Smid

John Smid was the director of Love in Action in Memphis TN, one of the flagship ministries of Exodus International. LIA was very much geared toward avoiding temptation, the appearance of evil, mortification of the flesh and generally following the kind of advice articulated by Strachen. However, sometime after Exodus closed down in 2013, Smid and his wife divorced and he later married a man.

Randy Thomas

Randy Thomas was for many years a leader in Exodus International and was Vice-President at the time it closed. Exodus rejected identity labels like gay or lesbian. While with Exodua, Thomas spoke to groups and exhorted them to victory over the flesh with slogans like “the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality but holiness.” Five years after the closing of Exodus, Randy is out as bisexual and in a same-sex relationship.

I could go on. There are many such stories. I also know people who manage to adhere to their traditional views. Some go along with Strachan’s views whereas more lean toward Revoice’s approach.

Get Real

Like so many from the Exodus International era, Strachan throws out theological language which sounds hopeful in theory but doesn’t work out so well in practice when applied to LGBT people.  Comparing sexual orientation to greed or anger just shows how little one understands about the subject and the real people involved.

Strachan has every right to advocate for his theological understanding of sexual orientation. However, my objection is the rhetoric which promises victory, without defining what that means. When I read that Jesus is “bigger” than something, I think He is going to conquer it or take it away. When I read victory, I think actual winning.

Strachan then promises that his way is better than Revoice’s way. Reality and experience say otherwise. This is a real problem which he doesn’t confront. Maybe he doesn’t know enough GLBT people to know it is a problem. But it is definitely is a problem because in actual practice, real people infrequently get the results promised by the rhetoric used in the article.

Instead of criticizing his brothers and sisters, perhaps Strachan should work on making his own message a little clearer. Tell his readers that people rarely change and that there are just as many failures as he defines them using his method as use the others he dislikes. That would at least be more honest.

People who want to remain traditional in their actions have a hard enough time without being severely criticized by those who are, in many ways, ideologically similar. Indeed, it might be that exclusionary attitude that makes progressives look attractive.

Southern Baptist Seminary Leaders Reject Reparative Therapy

Let me just say that I opposed reparative therapy before it was cool to oppose it.
Yesterday, Al Mohler and others articulated their position against reparative therapy, also known as sexual orientation change efforts.
Atlantic has an article on Alan Chambers’ new book and chronicles the demise of the ex-gay movement from Alan’s point of view.
Essentially, Mohler and colleagues believe changing orientation is not the Christian goal. Rather, avoidance of same-sex sexual relations is the objective in the narrow sense, and more broadly, pursuit of a spiritual life is what Christians should seek. Some same-sex attracted people are bisexual and others sometimes fall in love cross-orientation to form a mixed orientation marriage.
Although it is dated, I have a page on reparative therapy which demonstrates my approach to the issues in the professional sense.

From Change to Congruence: Evergreen International to Merge with North Star International

Box Turtle Bulletin points out today that Latter Day Saint ex-gay group Evergreen International is merging with North Star International, a group less focused on change of orientation and more geared to living in alignment with LDS teaching. This is a significant development in that North Star has not supported reparative therapy or efforts to change orientation. The merger will not change that approach, according to a statement on the North Star website:

Recognizing the uniqueness of individual circumstance, North Star reaffirms that, with the incorporation of the Evergreen organization, it will continue to take no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual attractions or gender identity incongruence.

The English language Evergreen website is being “rebuilt” will eventually forward to the North Star site.*  The website now has a link to SameSexAttraction.org. SameSexAttraction.org is managed by Larry Richman’s Century Publishing company. Richman is the go to person for Latter Day Saint social media and web presence and was once chair of Evergreen’s board.
Apparently Evergreen International Director David Pruden will not make the switch but will remain at the helm of NARTH. I reached out to Pruden for comment but he did not return my email.
From my vantage point, it appears that the change paradigm has suffered another blow with this merger. Over the past decade, evangelical outreach to GLBT people has moved from trying to get gays to change to offering support to evangelical gays in their efforts to live in alignment with traditional teaching, what I have called the congruence paradigm. With this merger, it appears that LDS ministries are moving in the same direction.
*North Star president Ty Mansfield informed me that the Evergreen and SSAVoice websites will be owned by North Star and and will forward to their site.

The Closing of Exodus International: Open Forum

Through the weekend, I am going to post reaction to the closing of Exodus International in this space. Consider it an open forum to discuss the closing, the new ministry, positive and negative reactions, etc. Feel free to post links to articles on the topic.
I am going to start things off with a video of Anderson Cooper discussing Exodus with Lisa Ling.

I was unable to watch the Lisa Ling special on OWN last night but those who did can weigh in. For those who didn’t see it, OWN has several clips available.
More coverage:
The Daily Beast provides some analysis, quoting me in the process.
This Religion News Service article is being cited often.
New York Times
UPDATE: NARTH issued a statement about Exodus.
This line is highly questionable: ?The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a multi-disciplinary professional and scientific organization that is not affiliated with religious ministries in any way.”
NARTH’s lifeblood has always been religious advocates (most of their membership) and religious clinicians. They aren’t the arm of a church but they have clearly marched in step with the conservative wings of several groups (Jewish, LDS, Christian) over the years. Given how many people know what NARTH is about, it is astounding to me that they continue to make that claim.
 

Alan Chambers: Reparative therapy one factor in downfall of Exodus International

In 2003, I spoke at the annual conference of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) on public opinion and homosexuality. In that talk, I noted that favorable shifts in attitudes toward gays were associated with having a gay person as a friend or family member. I added that increased public support for gays would mean that more people would develop friendships with gays, thus building up a momentum for public acceptance of gays and bisexuals. Seeking to make the talk relevant to the audience, I predicted that the public would become more skeptical and critical of various NARTH claims about homosexuality as a consequence of more people knowing and accepting gays as friends. I noted that as the non-gay population became more aware of gays in their families and as friends, they would doubt the claims that gays are incapable of happy lives and/or that their homosexuality derived from problematic family relationships. People will know by their own gay friends and family members that the stereotypes are not generally true. Thus, for NARTH to survive, I suggested that the group incorporate biological research, and stop promoting the view of homosexuality common to reparative therapists (e.g., distant same sex parent, overbearing opposite sex parent).
As I continue to document here, NARTH didn’t listen.
My history with NARTH is for another post, but I was reminded of that 2003 talk and the negative reaction to it from NARTH and eventually from Exodus when I read this attributed to Alan Chambers:

But the belief in “reparative therapy was one of the things that led to the downfall of this organization,” Chambers said in an interview, noting that Exodus in recent years redirected its focus to helping men and women work through their sexual identity.
“I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said in the announcement. “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.”

Alan is sorry about the problems caused by these therapies but he apparently also sees the damage done to the organization as well.
Alan is on HuffPo Live now…

Exodus International to Shut Down and Start Over

The news is coming fast and furious today.
On their blog, Exodus International announced that the organization will be shut down with a new organization to follow. Here is the press release:

Exodus International to Shut Down

Thirty-seven-year-old ministry for those with same-sex attraction marks its last national conference 

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.
“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 (www.exodusinternational.org/apology) 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.”
Chambers continued: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”
For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”
Local affiliated ministries, which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.
Exodus President, Alan Chambers, is available for interviews. For press credentials or to set up an interview, contact Amy Tracy at 407/808-9831 or 719/355-9075; amytracybusiness@gmail.com. For additional information and a schedule of activities, please go to http://www.exodusfreedom.org 
###

Alan Chambers Apologizes to the LGBTQ Community

Alan Chambers is a guy in process.
In January, 2012, Chambers made news by acknowledging the rarity of sexual reorientation (“99.9% of them haven’t experienced change”). Since then, he and Exodus International have removed themselves from the reparative therapy world entirely. Today, on the eve of what promises to be a riveting television appearance on the Oprah Network, Chambers has issued a written apology to the LGBTQ community.
Please do go read the whole article, but let me pull out an extraordinary paragraph:

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. 

Here Alan has really turned the corner on his earlier support for Love Won Out and NARTH.

Exodus International Withdraws from Exodus Global Alliance

From the Exodus blog:
Exodus International Withdraws from Exodus Global Alliance

The Exodus International Board of Directors officially voted to withdraw from the Exodus Global Alliance (EGA) May 28, 2013 after 18 years of membership.  Exodus International was a founding member of EGA in 1995.  This change in relationship releases both ministries to serve the Lord, the Church and their constituents in ways that honor their respective calling.

EGA is the worldwide coalition of “Exodus” ministries, which seek to work together under one umbrella structure.  In 2005 Exodus Europe withdrew from EGA, as well.
Exodus International wishes to thank Bryan Kliewer, the EGA Board and network of ministries for their longstanding partnership and friendship.
This is a significant move as Exodus Global Alliance is more geared to the orientation change paradigm. Since Exodus is moving away from that paradigm, this move makes sense.

Preview: Lisa Ling's God and Gays to Feature Alan Chambers, Ex-gay Survivors on June 20

We don’t get this network but I hope to find a way to see this program. It airs Thursday, June 20 at 10pm eastern time. Below is a preview.

Sneak Peak: Lisa Ling’s Special Report – God & Gays

The story of Exodus International, the LGBT men and women who have been affected by the organization and the nationwide dialogue that surrounds this topic continues in an Our America special report.

For almost 40 years, Exodus International claimed to offer a “cure” for homosexuality. Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus, decided last year to stop endorsing the controversial practice of gay-reparative therapy. And now, he has a new message: an apology.
In a special episode, Lisa Ling is joined by a group of survivors of the condemned and damaging practice of “reparative therapy” as they confront Alan Chambers. Chambers recently asked Ling to help orchestrate an opportunity in which he could formally apologize to those who felt deceived and defrauded by Exodus’ practices and to announce that the organization will cease to be an “ex gay” organization.
Tune in Thursday, June 20th at 10/9c for a special presentation of this powerful report.
To watch clips and read comments from the original “Pray the Gay Away?” episodes, click here.

Top Ten Posts in 2012

The ten 2012 posts with the most views are listed here.  These posts were all posted since the last top ten list in 2011. Some posts prior to 2012 received more views. However, here I am listing just those posts written from 12/28/11 to today.

The post with the most views in 2012 was written in 2011: The Trail of Tears Remembered. In fact that post about Trail of Tears is by far the most popular post of all time on my blog.

1.  Alan Chambers: 99.9% have not experienced a change in their orientation

2.  Monumental Question: Did Signers of the Declaration and Constitution Finance a Bible for Every American Family?

3.  Ron Paul touts endorsement of pastor who defends death penalty for gays, delinquent children & adultery

4.  My Response to David Barton

5.  Note to Kirk Cameron: If you don’t want a fight, then don’t start one

6.  Barton, Birther featured in Kirk Cameron’s new Monumental movie

7.  Kirk Cameron’s Monumental Revision of Thomas Jefferson

8.  Founders’ Bible Rewrites Exodus 18 to Fit Christian Nation Narrative

9.  Rick and Kay Warren condemn the denial of link between HIV and AIDS as promoted by the AFA’s Bryan Fischer

10. David Barton’s whitewash of Thomas Jefferson as a slave owner

Thanks for reading. Also thanks for the regular group of commenters who show up and support my fact checking efforts.