Statement: Exodus International has no involvement in Scott Lively’s Oklahoma City event

Because Draper Park Christian Church has a history of involvement with Exodus International ministries (e.g., First Stone Ministries in OK), I asked Exodus President, Alan Chambers, for a comment about the upcoming series of talks at Draper Park by Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively.

Chambers quickly sent the following reply:

We have learned that Scott Lively is slated to speak on April 27-29 at Draper Park Christian Church, a location where Exodus International held a regional conference in 2009. We want to say clearly and without question that Exodus International has no connection to this event. Furthermore, due to our vast differences with Mr. Lively’s viewpoints, including his stance on the criminalization of homosexuality, we will not participate in, support or promote any event involving Mr. Lively.

Lively often says his opposition derives from gay fascism; however, I don’t believe anyone could say that Exodus is such an organization. The opposition to Holocaust revisionism is not a gay vs. straight issue, it is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. Mr. Lively is not being opposed because he is preaching the evangelical gospel; he is opposed because he promotes a revision in the historical record regarding the Holocaust and for his support of criminalization  of homosexual behavior. These are not gospel issues, but rather positions which are unpopular among those or many religious views.

NARTH at odds with Exodus over reparative therapy

Historically, the National Association for the Research and Therapy (NARTH) has considered Exodus an ally in the social discussion of sexual orientation change efforts. Until recently, Exodus sold reparative therapy books in their bookstore but recently removed them. Also, Alan Chambers recently told an audience at the Gay Christian Network conference that

The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could  never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.

I asked Alan Chambers about the reason for the removal of the reparative therapy books and he told me that Exodus wants to be clear that Christian discipleship is how they want to be known. He also said that he has respect for reparative therapy observations but added

The reason I removed RT books from Exodus Books is because I don’t agree with using this research as a means to say that “this” is how homosexuality always develops, “this” is the primary means in which to deal with it and this is “the” outcome you can expect.  Too, Exodus, as a whole, is not a scientific or psychological organization…we are a discipleship ministry and that is where I think our strength is and energy should be focused.

Apparently, these developments are troubling to NARTH leaders. One of them, David Pickup, recently penned an article at the Anglican Mainstream in defense of reparative therapy.  He wrote the article in direct response to the comments by Alan Chambers, noted above. Pickup writes:

Authentic Reparative Therapy really works. It works to help men change their sexual orientation, naturally dissipate their homoerotic feelings, and maximize their heterosexual potential.

However, there is evidence from the Exodus ministry that could be signaling an unawareness of this important message. Exodus has indicated a significant change in their views and policies as evidenced by the remarks of Exodus President Alan Chambers at the Gay Christian Network Conference last week. The official commentary on the peter-ould.net website has brought this to our attention. I believe their interpretation of Alan Chamber’s remarks is correct.

Chambers’ remarks essentially indicate that:

1. Exodus will no longer indicate or specifically claim that change from Gay to 100% straight is possible for anyone except for a few rare cases.

2. Exodus has apologized and will continue to do so for making these unrealistic claims, which they now believe have contributed toward misinformation, hurtfulness and homophobia.

3. Exodus will work to achieve a deeper understanding of the truth of homosexuality, which will allow them to minister more effectively and compassionately to those dealing with homosexuality.

Pickup then says something that will leave Exodus and NARTH watchers in disbelief.

In my experience, Exodus has, quite unintentionally for the last 20 years, failed to understand and effectively deal with the actual root causes of homosexuality and what leads to authentic change. I laud their willingness to admit their naiveté’, but I do not see anything so far that indicates they now truly understand the psychological, developmentally-based causes of homosexuality or what produces real change.

According to Pickup, not only is Exodus clueless now, they have been for 20 years. I imagine that will come as a shock to those in Exodus who have been given talks straight out the reparative playbook for all those years.

Pickup then offers his slant on why change in orientation should be recognized even if a same-sex attracted person is still same-sex attracted after they say they have changed.

(Parenthetically, let me state it is important that we recognize that just because a man might feel occasional sexual attractions towards men does NOT mean significant and real change has not occurred. Let’s take other challenges common to many people: depression or anxiety for instance. How many people who have successfully dealt with these issues are 100% changed so that they are not susceptible to later feelings of depression or anxiety? Can a therapist guarantee a client will never have those feelings again? Of course not. The same is true for homosexuality. Real change has occurred; however, no apologies should be made if much successful change has occurred even though homosexual feelings occasionally surface.)

I asked Alan Chambers what he meant by saying “99.9” don’t change and he said:

I cannot speak for others who say that temptation or attraction don’t equal orientation.  As a layman with regards to that issue, I tend to link them all together and that is where that 99.9%, non-scientifc/anecdotal/experiential statement comes from.

So what does it matter if some same-sex attraction remains? Doesn’t even a little shift deserve the word change attached to it? Alan seems to want to extract himself from this semantic debate by sticking to experience – the vast majority of people he knows retain attractions to the same sex. Pickup wants to explain that away by making sexual attraction analogous to depression or anxiety. Since he sees same-sex attraction as a disorder which stems from childhood wounds, that may work for him, but it won’t work for those who do not see it that way.

One problem here is political. NARTH wants to be able to say SSA people have changed if they experience a reduction in awareness of SSA and perhaps an experience of opposite sex attraction. This is a kind of change and if left in the therapeutic context, I would not quarrel too much with this (except to say that I don’t agree with the kind of techniques often used to push people this way). However, NARTH does not stay in the therapeutic context. They provide support for political groups who want change to mean complete change from gay to straight. Change is such a volatile concept because a modicum of change in the therapeutic setting is then exaggerated in the political and legal settings to argue against same-sex attraction as something intrinsic to the vast majority of people who experience it.

Pickup then lectures Exodus about theology and calls on them to align closer with reparative therapists.

If Chambers and Exodus do want to truly understand the nature of homosexuality, then they should be open to understanding the psychological underpinnings of these issues and start to recommending qualified therapists who are experts at facilitating significant change. If not, then Exodus will fall into deeper controversy than they are in already. They will be reduced to the myopic ministry of simply helping people to deal with their homosexuality through behavioral changes, which, by the way, reflects the American Psychological Association’s belief about Reparative Therapy: that real change is not possible and people may be helped only in the sense of conforming their behavior to reflect their religious beliefs. In short, Exodus will eventually lose even more effectiveness and begin to flounder.

Pickup even claims that reparative therapy is biblical:

Generally, many Exodus members cannot or will not see that Reparative Therapy is reflective of sound biblical principles. They do not understand shame and its role in the etiology of homosexuality. Not knowing this has led to the unintentional shaming of many same-sex attracted individuals for years, and has actually impeded their progress!

So Exodus has been part of the problem all these years?! I have been to several Exodus conferences over the years, and I can say they work hard not to shame people. The only sessions where I heard any shaming take place was in the sessions where reparative therapists told their audiences that the reason they were SSA was because their fathers didn’t love them and their mothers were smother mothers.

After chastising Exodus for shaming people, he engages in the practice by blaming parents and indicting parents and churches for causing the gay.

Many people of faith do not understand the root causes of homosexuality, which are primarily experienced in childhood. If they did understand, they would have to deal with the truth that they may have contributed to the development of their child’s homosexuality by not supplying enough of their emotional and identity formation needs. In general, parents find it very hard to believe how their child’s upbringing could possibly have been so injurious to them since they loved their child so much. However, loving a child and giving the child the love he needs can be two entirely different things. Parents and churches often find this idea to be unbelievable.

All I can say to Pickup’s last sentence there is: if only. If it were true that evangelicals were more skeptical of these ideas, then I believe Exodus would have changed the tune a long time ago. If only evangelicals were more skeptical, we would not be in such a polarized society where Christianity is synonymous with anti-gay.

As if a few anecdotes prove anything, Pickup closes by citing come quotes he says come from satisfied change customers.

“This is really hard work, but when I focus on healing the pain of what I didn’t get from my father or my friends, something in me heals. Then when I get my male needs met, the SSA just goes away by itself.”

“I really feel more attracted to women now. I want to love a woman and have a family.”

“I still have shame issues, and I once in a while feel attracted to a man, but I know how to work on that and feel affirmed by other men now.” I see myself as a man like other men, and the sexual attractions just sort of go away.”

“This affirmation work and the needs I’m getting filled feels a lot better than sex with a guy.”

I have no doubt that healing from real wounds in life can be beneficial emotionally and it can also lead to a better sense of self-control. So when people who are sexually compulsive find some way to understand themselves better, they can resist whatever pressures push them to risky behavior. However, as Alan Chambers recently noted, such benefit infrequently leads to an elimination of same-sex attraction.

Now if four quotes are sufficient for Mr. Pickup, I will end with four statements from my clients about reparative therapy and their experience.

Our therapist told us after taking our money that there was nothing he could do for us because our family didn’t fit the typical family for a homosexual. He even said that our son would grow out of it because we didn’t fit the mold. (He didn’t grow out of it)

I quit going to Journey into Manhood because it just didn’t last. After a weekend, I did lose some of the same-sex attraction but it always came back. I went to a support group, and saw a reparative therapist and it just didn’t change.

When we took our son to the reparative therapist, he told us that same-sex attraction invariably arises due to a broken relationship with me, his father, and a mother who compensates for this. We were devastated; the man said he was describing our family but he was wrong. My son and I have always been close.

You know, I used to want to change my attractions. I felt like a failure when I saw a hot guy. But the last 3 years have been awesome, I don’t have to pretend or anything. I am who I am and that is an SSA man who loves his wife and kids.

I believe it is possible that Pickup’s clients find an adjustment that suits them. However, the mischief starts when reparative therapists generalize those experiences to gay people as a group.

I am sure it obvious that I think Chambers is much more on the right track than Pickup. Although Exodus continues to refer to reparative therapists and there are member ministries that are quite reparative in their approach, I think a move toward honesty about what people can expect is valuable.

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

As noted Friday, President of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, spoke that evening as a part of a panel discussion at the annual conference of the Gay Christian Network.  Audio of the panel is now up at GCN (Part 1, part 2). During part 2, about 5:30 into the file, Alan Chambers is asked, I think by GCN Executive Director Justin Lee,  about the way Exodus and member ministries describe the work they do. Specifically, Lee asked about the slogan “change is possible.” Chambers responds by discussing his views of sexual orientation change, saying

The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could  never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know will experience some level of same-sex attraction.

There was also some discussion of change meaning a change of viewpoint and behavior but the consensus was that Chambers was giving an honest appraisal of the aspect of sexuality that involves essential attractions. As one who once defended sexual reorientation change efforts, I have to agree with Chambers’ assessment. Credible reports of change are rare and do come more often from women than men.

Now, I wonder. Will this news be reported by Christian media, or become part of the evangelical blackout?

 

Alan Chambers to be part of a panel at Gay Christian Network conference

Tonight, if you are around Orlando, FL, you could take in a panel discussion (tip XGW) at the Gay Christian Network conference featuring Alan Chambers, Jeremy Marks, Wendy Gritter, and John Smid. I am told that a video will be made of the event and available on the GCN website.

Marks, Gritter and Smid have issued apologies for their advocacy of the ex-gay movement over the past several years. Smid today sent an email to his mailing list linking to another apology on his website.

I will watch the video when it is posted. Marks, Gritter and Smid have moved away from the change paradigm in clear ways. Chambers has also distanced himself and Exodus from the “change is possible” language. Another interesting change at Exodus, recently reported by XGW, has been the removal of reparative therapy books by Joseph Nicolosi from the organization’s website. Other change paradigm books remain (e.g., What’s a Father to Do?). Chambers did not comment on the reasons for the removal when I asked about it.

 

 

Is Exodus International set to rebrand?

Article at Exgaywatch this morning:

Exclusive: Secret Conference Held to ‘Save Exodus International’ from Ruin

The crux of the article is this:

Exodus President Alan Chambers called a meeting together this past November 16. The subject was quite simply how to keep Exodus International from social and financial oblivion. In attendance were Exodus leadership, prominent religious leaders (such as Gabe Lyons) and lay people. The latter were mostly those who once counted themselves in the ex-gay camp but now are either in the process of changing their views or are fully gay affirming.

Go read the details at the link above.

Gabe Lyons is the co-author of unChristian, a book which documented the widespread perception that evangelicals are known for their anti-gay attitudes.

This is worth watching.

The Jones and Yarhouse study: What does it mean?

Let me begin by saying that I endorsed the book, Ex-Gays, A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse which contained the first report of their longitudinal study. Since the publication of the book, Jones and Yarhouse have released results of their final follow up, first in 2009 at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, and then most recently in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. With the follow up, I believe the study remains an important investigation into the interplay of religion, sexual orientation and personal identity. I give them credit for the perseverance required to explore a topic which is highly controversial and to report their findings in detail.

Since the release of the peer-reviewed article, socially conservative groups have described the study as proof that gays can change orientation. For instance, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, one of the worst offenders, claims that the study proves gays can change and that they weren’t born gay. Also, Citizenlink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family reported:

Of the 98 subjects, more than half were reported as successful; 23 percent reported a complete change in orientation after six years. Also, 20 percent reported giving up the struggle to change.

This claim is misleading. Jones and Yarhouse did not report “complete change in orientation.” Instead they cautioned against misinterpreting their findings by saying

These results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather that meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some. The results do not prove that no one is harmed by the attempt to change, but rather that the attempt does not appear to be harmful on average or inherently harmful. The authors urge caution in projecting success rates from these findings, as they are likely overly optimistic estimates of anticipated success. Further, it was clear that “conversion” to heterosexual adaptation was a complex phenomenon.

Regarding the changes reported by their participants, the authors offer two related explanations. One is that some of the participants changed sexual orientation to some degree and the other is that the participants changed their sexual identity. Sexual identity involves placing more emphasis on behavioral conformity to prohibitions on homosexual behavior as a means of self definition. For the Exodus participants, less temptation to engage in homosexual behavior might be taken as a signal that orientation has changed, thus allowing a different attribution about their sexuality than once believed. The authors raise these two possibilities in the abstract for the most recent paper:

The authors conducted a quasi-experimental longitudinal study spanning 6–7 years examining attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change from homosexual orientation to heterosexual orientation. An initial sample was formed of 72 men and 26 women who were involved in a variety of Christian ministries, with measures of sexual attraction, infatuation and fantasy, and composite measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress, administered longitudinally. Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process. The authors explore methodological limitations circumscribing generalizability of the findings and alternative explanations of the findings, such as sexual identity change or adjustment.

As I read all of the literature, including my own work, I first want to disagree with the way that Citizenlink characterized the results as “complete change.” That is not at all what Jones and Yarhouse reported. Considering the dichotomy proposed by Jones and Yarhouse — change in orientation or identity – I lean toward their alternative explanation – “sexual identity change or adjustment.”  However, I believe the discussion of what their results mean needs to be broadened beyond those two possibilities. In addition to considering orientation and identity as important constructs, I believe there are other ways to account for the changes Jones and Yarhouse report which are not sufficiently addressed in their published accounts.  First, I want to make some observations about the study which influence my opinions about what the results mean.

First, and most basically, the Jones and Yarhouse study did not examine in any systematic way the efficacy of reparative therapy or any other kind of psychological therapy as a means of altering sexual orientation. The participants in the study were involved in religiously based support groups which primarily had as a goal to reinforce a traditional moral view of sexuality. Clearly, the participants hoped they would change and engaged in various religious interventions to assist that end. However, the study did not assess the role of professional therapy and cannot legitimately be used to say such therapies work.

Second, there were quite a few dropouts six to seven years into the study. While true of all longitudinal studies, the final percentages being reported should also take into account the distinct possibility that many if not most of the drop outs were not successful in their efforts to change. The study began with 98 participants and ended up with 65 who were followed up for six to seven years. Some reported that they were healed of homosexuality and just didn’t want to participate, while others said they were gay and stopped trying to change. I don’t know for sure what the dropouts mean but the fact that so many failed to complete the study needs to be a part of any discussion.

Third, ratings from men and women were combined. Given the low number of people involved I understand why this was done but the practice may inflate the assessments of change for the group. It has become well accepted that the sexuality of women is more fluid than for men. A few women experiencing large shifts could influence the group averages. Continue reading “The Jones and Yarhouse study: What does it mean?”

Is it the end of the ex-gay movement as we know it?

Michelle Goldberg has a piece online at the Daily Beast which asks the question: End of the Ex-gay Movement?
In the piece she features John Smid’s recent column where he asserted:

I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.

A 21 year veteran of Exodus International, with 11 years on the board of directors, Smid has credibility to make that statement seem shocking. 
Smid’s turnaround was triggered by an event that gave the program notoriety – the protests surrounding teenager Zach Stark’s placement in LIA’s youth program. Morgan Fox and others organized protests around LIA, but there was more. Eventually Fox made a documentary about the ordeal and Smid agreed to be interviewed for it. Smid told Goldberg:

“When Morgan and I met for the very first time right after the protest, what I saw in Morgan was a man of such character,” Smid told me. “I saw someone who was humble, who was open to being honest, someone that I really felt drawn to. It just opened me up to realize I had not been willing to admit that there were gay people like Morgan.”

The rest of the article interviews people who knew Smid while he was Director of Love in Action. Peterson Toscano went through the program calling it a “very destructive process.” For his part, Smid regrets the program saying,

Smid regrets the way Love In Action hammered away at “demonic homosexuality,” he says. “I think that was really, for kids that are 15, 16, 17 years old, oh my goodness. With all the things they’re already struggling with, I can’t imagine what that might have been like for them.”

Brandon Tidwell, another LIA participant is cautious about Smid’s disclosures, believing that Smid has not yet addressed the specifics of the LIA program.
Andrew Marin’s I’m Sorry campaign is also mentioned. Smid is going to attend the Memphis Pride parade and join that effort.
I was also interviewed for the piece and describe the congruence paradigm near the beginning:

Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.

What I mean there is that the effort to seek categorical change does not seem to work and so evangelicals are seeking to make it all work without losing their religion.
Smid’s disclosures may not bring the end of the ex-gay movement, but it is one of many indicators of decline. Unquestionably one of the biggest hits was the revelation that former NARTH board member George Rekers had taken a European vacation with a young “rent boy” hired from a gay escort service. Then the case of Kyle Murphy revealed that Rekers scientific work on preventing homosexuality was built on significantly distorted research. More recently, Edification, a Christian journal affiliated with the American Association of Christian Counselors published research from Mark Yarhouse’s lab showing that gay and bisexual people in mixed orientation marriages change behavior but not orientation, despite being heterosexually married.
Even the study touted as hopeful by change paradigm proponents — the Jones and Yarhouse longitudical study — found a small percentage of people who claimed change. When inspected closer, the change reported could also be considered shifts within an essentially bisexual orientation since most of the participants still report same-sex attraction.
Recently, Exodus has moved away from the language of orientation change and even removed reparative therapy books authored by Joseph Nicolosi from their online bookstore.
The groups most associated with the change paradigm are those which are also heavily involved in political activities opposing gay rights (e.g, NARTH, PFOX, FRC, AFA, AFTAH). Probably, the congruence perspective doesn’t help them as much, if at all.
As one who was once associated with the ex-gay movement, I look at the trends and wonder if we are nearing the end of the ex-gay movement as we know (knew) it. If it is, I feel fine.

NARTH Touts Jones and Yarhouse Study

I was wondering when NARTH would weigh in on the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy publication of the Jones and Yarhouse study. Dated October, 2011, the title of the post — Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible — immediately spins the study. Here is what the press release about the Jones and Yarhouse study says:

WHEATON, Ill., Sept. 27, 2011 /Standard Newswire/ — Many professional voices proclaim that it is impossible to change homosexual orientation, and that the attempt to change is commonly and inherently harmful. Psychologists Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College, IL) and Mark A. Yarhouse (Regent University) have just published in the respected, peer-reviewed Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy the final results of their longitudinal study of individuals seeking sexual orientation change through involvement in a variety of Christian ministries affiliated with Exodus International. The results show change to be possible for some, and the attempt not harmful on average. These results stand in tension with the supposed professional consensus; more information is available at www.exgaystudy.org.
In prior studies, in the words of the American Psychological Association, “treatment outcome is not followed and reported over time as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.” This study assessed evolving sexual attractions and psychological distress levels of 98 individuals seeking sexual orientation change beginning early in the change process, and then followed them with five additional assessments over a total span of 6 to 7 years. The researchers used standardized, respected measures of sexual orientation and of emotional distress to test the study’s hypotheses.
Of the original 98 subjects, 61 were successfully categorized for general outcome at the last assessment. 53% were categorized as successful outcomes; specifically, 23% reported success in the form of successful “conversion” to heterosexual orientation and functioning, while an additional 30% reported stable behavioral chastity with substantive dis-identification with homosexual orientation. At the 6 year mark, 20% reported fully embracing gay identity. Modest but statistically significant changes were reported on average for decreases in homosexual orientation. The measure of psychological distress did not, on average, reflect increases in psychological distress associated with the attempt to change.
These results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather that meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some. The results do not prove that no one is harmed by the attempt to change, but rather that the attempt does not appear to be harmful on average or inherently harmful. The authors urge caution in projecting success rates from these findings, as they are likely overly optimistic estimates of anticipated success. Further, it was clear that “conversion” to heterosexual adaptation was a complex phenomenon.
Jones and Yarhouse argue that implications of their findings include respect for the integrity and autonomy of persons seeking to change unwanted sexual attractions for moral, religious, or other reasons, just as we respect those who for similar reasons desire to affirm and embrace their sexual orientation. Full information should be offered to consumers about the options and their potential risks. The results also suggest that it would be premature for professional mental health organizations to invalidate efforts to change sexual orientation and unwanted same-sex erotic attractions.

Some might argue that the press release is not appropriately clear because it speaks of change of orientation in the same release as it says this:

These results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather that meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some.

Most of the reviews of this study have missed this statement. Categorical change — moving from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one — is not what has been reported by the Jones and Yarhouse. Clearly some people reported changes which allowed them to make an attribution change to themselves – they feel more straight and so they identify with the label. However, the absolute shifts on average were modest, leading to the assessment from Jones and Yarhouse that “meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some.”
The NARTH article does not link to the press release and does not mention the assessment that the study does not prove categorical change to be possible for anyone. The review is not as skewed as some I have seen, but it does shade the picture.
I have a more focused post about the study planned, but for now, let me add that the concept of bisexuality is not satisfactorily addressed by the study or by reviewers. Bisexuals I have spoken to describe their lives as a series of shifts. For whatever reason, the direction of their attractions shifts with time and/or with relationships. From their point of view, they are not changing orientation when they fall in love with an opposite sex person after a period of same-sex relationships. Instead, they are flexing along a continuum, all of which is understood to be within their essential orientation.
The other group of people which I worked with are the mixed orientation couples. Some of them believe they have become straight because they have fallen in love with an opposite sex spouse. However, these folks do not plan this, nor does it appear to be subject to manipulation or ministry.
Another issue not addressed well by the study or the reviewers is the difference between men and women. Women are probably more likely to report big changes than men. However, Jones and Yarhouse have mixed groups. Separating men and women in the analyses would clarify the possibility that women change more than men.
In all, I am disappointed that the study has re-ignited the “change is possible” political machine. There is fluidity for some people in their sexual attractions, however this says very little about the experience of people who don’t experience that fluidity. Change of orientation for a small group of people is one hypothesis. However, there are other explanations. I think explanations incorporating the reality of bisexuality, cross orientation relationships, and male-female differences are also plausible. In fact, I think they are more plausible.
As an aside, the NARTH review ends with the obligatory slap at the APAs:

Unfortunately, however, the major mental-health associations appear to be moving further away from a purely scientific approach and toward one apparently directed by activists, whereby the purpose of their science does not seem to be understanding those who report change, but rather debunking, dismissing, and ignoring them.

All I can say is: takes one to know one.
NARTH does the same thing they accuse “major mental-health associations” of doing, just on the other side of the ideological perspective. The purpose of NARTH’s “science” seems to be to debunk, dismiss and ignore those who report no change. Regarding activism, NARTH is featuring anti-gay activist Michael Brown in a plenary session at this year’s conference. Brown has no scientific credentials but will be there as an activist, decrying the “homosexual agenda.”
Even more ominous is the presence of Sharon Slater at this year’s conference. Slater runs Family Watch International, a group who lobbies foreign governments at the UN and internationally to maintain laws criminalizing homosexuality. Slater uses NARTH materials in her work. Slater has no scientific credentials, she is there as an activist. I have asked NARTH but gotten no answer as to what scientific benefit Brown and Slater bring to the NARTH audience.
NARTH’s approach may not be “directed by activists.” Perhaps, it is more of a partnership.

Former Love in Action Director: I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual

John Smid was once the director of Love in Action a longtime Exodus International affiliate based in Memphis, TN. I have always found John’s candor refreshing. My first contact with John was at an Exodus meeting where he questioned the slogan, “change is possible.”
In addition to support groups, LIA also had a live-in program known for rigid behavioral rules as a means of reducing same-sex attraction. That program is now closed and John is no longer with LIA.
In recent months, John has developed a ministry called Grace Rivers and has taken a different course in discussing homosexuality. A blog post last week is one that is quite relevant to the claims about change of orientation, recently ignited by the release of a paper in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy containing the final data from Jones and Yarhouse’s study of Exodus participants.
Perhaps the best way to summarize it is to quote significant parts and comment as I go. I recommend reading the entire piece. In response to a reader who asked:

John,
I have been reading your posts since the beginning. Every week I have more questions. I’m sorry, I don’t understand where repentance fits into all of this. I don’t mean to be harsh….I just honestly don’t understand.
Are you saying homosexuality isn’t wrong or are you saying it is wrong, but we have to be patient while God’s goodness brings the homosexual to repentance? I see that you are saying homosexuals can be Christians, but can they remain that way…never expecting a change?

Smid replies:

Repentance from something means it has to be something you can control, like actions. So often people will say someone needs to “repent” from homosexuality. It is something that actually cannot be repented of! People are, or they are not, homosexual. It is an intrinsic part of their being or personally, my being. One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable. I have gone through a tremendous amount of grief over the many years that I spoke of change, repentance, reorientation and such, when, barring some kind of miracle, none of this can occur with homosexuality. The article today is a great example of how we as Christians pervert the gospel as it relates to homosexuality as though homosexuals aren’t welcome in the kingdom unless they repent (which many interpret to change). But since homosexuality is not “repentable” then we put homosexuals into an impossible bind.

About change, Smid writes:

Surely, indiscriminate sexual behavior, stealing, gossip, and other “behaviors” are things that need to be considered when we speak of walking in the kingdom of God. God desires to transform us into His image more and more each day. But in the larger story of the gospel, biblical repentance means to turn our lives to God’s kingdom and away from the kingdom of the world. To change our allegiance from the god of this age, to the Lord of Lords! In this repentance, it allows God to be in the forefront of our lives and we decide to allow His kingdom to reign in us. Therefore we enter into a road of change, transformation. The issue then is what will that change look like for each of us. Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people. But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.

Change is a change of mind, a change of behavior and intention but according to Smid, it is not a change of attraction. John notes that some women can make a better case for categorical change, but men and women are different.
John then describes his situation as being a “homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman.” Mixed orientation marriage is a phrase that makes sense to John as he is deeply in love with his wife but is clear that they are not of the same sexuality.
John Smid has been in the thick of the ex-gay ministry world since at least the mid-1990s, serving on the Exodus board and as the director of one of the most visible ministries in the nation. He has known and knows many more people who have tried to change than I have known. I think his experience is incredibly relevant for the church still struggling with how to address GLBT issues.
Are there any ears to hear?

Alan Chambers on It Gets Better: Life Comes First

In a blog post today on the Exodus International site, Exodus President Alan Chambers walked back from earlier criticism of the “It Gets Better” campaign a bit. Chambers writes:

A few months ago I went on record criticizing the “It Gets Better” campaign that has gone viral with an anti-bullying message for LGBT teens.  My criticism was over the use of “Woody,” the fictional star from the box office smash Toy Story trilogy.  I reacted because I hate when iconic children’s heroes are used to further what I perceive to be adult causes.  With further reflection and thought, though, I have to admit that I was wrong to question their marketing strategy without expressing my full support for what is the heart of their campaign – encouraging LGBT teens to choose life.
I know I am going to get a barrage of emails, calls and letters about this from those who think that I am caving to pressure.  Truth be told I am pressured daily by both pro-gay and pro-Church groups (and everyone in between).  I don’t listen to all of the “advice” or “criticism” that is offered, but I do review most it.  And, I pray about it. It keeps me up at night as I weigh the impact my opinions and words have on others globally. I don’t want to ever be guilty of towing a “party” line, whether that party is political, social or religious, just because that’s what’s expected or because it garners a donation.  I want to live out my biblical beliefs in a way that draws people to Christ.  When it comes to kids killing themselves, I can’t justify criticizing a campaign that, at its deepest core, is most about saving the lives of LGBT kids.  I care MORE about a kid choosing life than whether or not he or she embraces a gay identity. Life comes first.  Living out our biblical convictions means fighting for the lives of young people at all cost.  Can any of us actually say we’d rather our teens, neighbors, friends or complete strangers kill themselves than be gay?  I certainly can’t.  Regardless of where someone falls on the debate over sexuality, I hope we can all agree to move the issue of bullying and suicide, especially where kids are concerned, to a non-polarized, non-politicized and non-divisive issue.

I appreciate Alan’s statement here. I think this needs to be made known to folks in the Anoka-Hennepin School District who are resisting bullying prevention programs.
Alan goes on to describe his experience as a child who was bullied. He has an experiential perspective that many social conservatives ignore. A middle school kid who is being harassed with anti-gay slurs and threatened with violence because of a perceived orientation doesn’t care about your religious beliefs. He just wants help to make it stop. In Anoka-Hennepin, for instance, the Parents Action League puts ideology before kids, in my opinion. Alan’s statement is something that I hope they see.
UPDATE: The Christian Post just published an article about Chamber’s statement prominently on their front page.