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.

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.

Desert Stream Ministries Outlines Differences with Exodus

In an email this morning, Andy Comiskey delineates the differences between Desert Stream Ministries and Exodus.  They are:

A different view of the consequences of sexual sin. Whereas Exodus believes that practicing ‘gay’ Christians may well inherit the Kingdom of heaven, we beg to differ. We believe that Christ followers must reckon with homosexual behavior as a serious betrayal of their humanity and spirituality, and repent of it in order to be assured of salvation.

A different expectation of change for same-sex strugglers. Though we agree with Exodus’ desire to more accurately define ‘change’ for those with SSA, Exodus now appears tentative and unclear as to the degree to which the same-sex attracted will experience change at all in their sexuality. We believe that Jesus brings change to every Christian with SSA who seeks Him whole-heartedly. He cannot help it. Jesus is our Creator and Redeemer who made us to represent Him in our gender and sexual selves. He places such a high premium upon sexual integrity that He acts incisively to redeem our sexual disintegration. Jesus frees every repentant heart to resume the journey toward wholeness.

A different theological anthropology. Desert Stream Ministries anchors our understanding of the ‘new creation’ in the truth that we are created in God’s image as male and female. That means that every same-sex struggler who follows Jesus is reconciled to his/her capacity to be a good offering to the opposite gender. We recognize that each soul differs in how they will live out that calling. Yet differing levels of progression in mature heterosexual relating don’t change one’s capability in Christ to resume that journey. Exodus advocates the noble goal of holiness, yet offers insufficient clarity as to what sexual wholeness means for those with SSA.

A different reliance upon reparative psychology. Exodus recently broke ties with ‘reparative therapy’, a broad school of thought developed by theorists and therapists who view same-sex attraction as a symptom of the breakdown in whole gender development. While Desert Stream Ministries is founded on theological, not psychological values, we rely upon reparative insights to understand what is blocked or missing in our souls. These keys help guide our pursuit of Jesus and His community to secure what we need in order to proceed onto wholeness.

A different reliance upon moral effort in becoming whole. Exodus appears to hold a comparatively passive understanding of sanctification; we believe that hard moral effort, inspired by grace, is essential in progressing into maturity. Our morality becomes beautiful as we engage actively in the spiritual and psychological disciplines that enable us to become mature Christians.

A different approach to ‘gay’ Christians. Exodus seems intent on building bridges with practicing ‘gay’ Christians. We believe that God wants only the best for all people, including practicing homosexuals. In His love, we fight for their repentance. However, we disagree with making peace with Christians who advocate homosexual practice; to us, these are false teachers who are guilty of leading others into darkness, an offense worse than Christians caught in sin who know it.

Many people outside of the evangelical world may see little distinction between Exodus and Restored Hope. However, as Comiskey’s note makes clear, the differences are large within this world.

A Look Inside the Restored Hope Network

In the Spring, a group of ministries once affiliated with Exodus International broke away and formed the Restored Hope Network. The first conference of the network will be held September 21-22 in Sacramento, CA. At that conference, the current group of leaders will more formally organize into an Exodus-like entity. Recently, the group released more information about they will conduct business.  In many ways, the RHN sounds like Exodus.

What is RHN’s mission statement?

Restored Hope is a membership governed network dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin especially those impacted by homosexuality. We proclaim that Jesus Christ has life changing power for all who submit to Christ as Lord; we also seek to equip the church to impart that transformation.

As Exodus used to do, RHN brings together the idea of sexual orientation change with spiritual beliefs and change. In other words, really good Christians will experience sexual reorientation as a consequence of submission to the teachings of Jesus.

You can join the group as an individual but only ministries will have a vote. It sounds a lot like how Exodus is organized.

Who can join Restored Hope Network?

The membership of RHN is composed primarily of member ministries. Member ministries must sub-mit an application to be considered for membership. The application will be available after August 15, 2012. Member ministries must be approved by unanimous vote by the Board of Directors. Membership must be renewed every year.

Most of the current leadership team are former long time Exodus leaders:

Who will lead Restored Hope Network?

The initial leadership of RHN are individuals who are part of the group of people who have come together under the banner Restored Hope Network. The forming committee was chosen by popular vote by the larger group. The Forming Committee is Stephen Black (First Stone Ministries,) Andrew & Annette Comiskey (Desert Stream Ministries), Joe Dallas (Genesis Counseling), David Kyle Foster (Mastering Life Min-istries), Dr. Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Seminary), Michael Newman (Christian Collation Reconciliation Ministries), Anne Paulk and Frank Worthen (New Hope Ministries).

This board will serve until a Board of Directors will be elected at RHN Ministry Leader’s Meeting in September, 2012.

While I disagree with the change paradigm (and won’t recommend RHN for anyone), I think it will be helpful to have a way to identify organizations who hold to it. Traditional evangelicals who want that approach can find it, whereas those who affirm the congruence paradigm within conservative circles will move more toward Exodus. Folks who aren’t sure where they heading or who don’t want to be affiliated with a non-affirming group might move toward Andrew Marin’s Living in the Tension groups.

 

Porn in the Strangest Places: Reparative Therapy and Pornography

There has been some debate in recent days about whether or not reparative therapists use pornography as a therapeutic tool. Recently, Alan Chambers stated that reparative therapists use porn as a part of the change process. This practice is one of the reasons Exodus no longer recommends reparative therapy. One other large reason relates to the unrealistic hope it generates for total change. I will take that up in a future post. For his part, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi denied Chambers claims.

In a Facebook posting, Nicolosi summarizes the allegation and then provides his response: First he says:

Alan: It has been brought to my attention that you have posted the following comments on Facebook:

“As for Reparative Therapy, I do not support it. I don’t think it’s ‘fine’. They use pornography as a means of making people “100% straight”. We stopped allowing Joe Nicolosi to teach because he encouraged attendees to pick up heterosexual porn to encourage heterosexuality. Also, he and others have said that they can “cure” people 100% of SSA.”

Also–

“Joe Nicolosi and a few others are on record in workshops and other places saying that they employ pornography. We do not wish to slander Joe, but it is important for people to know that this is a part of the RT practice even if it wasn’t used in your therapy. This is a fact.”

To these accusations, Nicolosi responded:

Furthermore, I do not use heterosexual pornography with my clients. I do ask them (if they wish to do this; some clients do not, and I never expect my clients to do anything they do not wish to do) to bring up a compelling image from gay porn that they wish to reduce the power of, and we work on diminishing its power (a technique with which we have had considerable success).

However, I do not use straight porn; I use pictures of women they find attractive in mainstream magazines and we work on developing a physical attraction to them, through their imagination, while looking at these non-pornographic pictures.

On point, I have obtained a description of a workshop proposed by Dr. Nicolosi which was not accepted for the 2010 Exodus conference. The description is pretty clear:

Gay Pornography as a Therapeutic Tool
Reparative Therapists have recently developed a therapeutic technique utilizing gay pornographic images to expose deeper emotional needs beneath mere sexual arousal. While many clients have been told that their homosexuality is a defense against emotional needs, this technique offers “experiential knowing” resulting from personal experience. The result is a diminishment of pornographic appeal and movement toward resolving deeper conflicts.
For men and leaders.

The belief appears to be that same-sex pornographic images are only attractive because of the emotional wound of the person viewing it.

I have also obtained audio from an Exodus workshop that was approved and conducted by Dr. Nicolosi that certainly seems to encourage the use of gay pornography and to a lesser degree straight porn. Listen to the explanation:

It appears that everybody agrees that at times gay porn might be a part of reparative therapy. However, it appears that there is some assumption on the part of Dr. Nicolosi that clients might use a similar technique with straight porn.

As I noted above, this all seems to be based on the idea that same-sex attractions derive from a trauma (hence the EMDR) and that the attractions are akin to fear responses in people who have other kinds of trauma. Repeated exposure does tend to help some clients with phobias and various anxiety reactions. However, here Nicolosi seems to think sexual attraction can be reduced in a similar manner. The idea is, shall we say, creative, and I will let my gentle readers have a go at their opinion on that theory.

I will note that I can understand why Exodus might have a problem with this approach and I wonder how the new Restored Hope group will react to it.

 

NPR Segment on Changes at Exodus International

A segment on changes at Exodus is coming up on NPR sometime between 4:30 and 4:45pm. It should repeat again between 6:30-6:45pm.

I have a few lines but I am not sure who else is in on it.

Listen, learn and comment.

The audio will be posted at 7pm, but the transcript is here.

Rob Gagnon has emerged as a vocal opponent of Exodus. I am baffled by his approach, which seems to make grace conditional on one’s behavior or attitude.

I intend to write more about this next week. Gagnon says he thinks reparative therapy sometimes works. I suppose for some it can work to give them a way to think about their lives but the burden of proof is on NARTH and others who support the group to demonstrate some kind of categorical change. Nothing has come from NARTH that approaches good research strategies and as a result, NARTH is currently on the defensive. They have been fighting a defensive battle with no real offense. After awhile, if you have nothing to offer, people will look elsewhere.

Exodus issues additional statement regarding criminalization and Dennis Jernigan in Jamaica

Been traveling so this is just now going up:

Exodus International Releases New Policy Statement On the Criminalization of Homosexuality

Ministry responds to Christian Music Artist and Exodus Board Member, Dennis Jernigan’s Remarks in Kingston, Jamaica

Orlando, Fla—Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with homosexuality, released a new policy statement on the criminalization of homosexuality. While the ministry has long held this perspective, they felt compelled to release a written statement in light of Exodus Board Vice Chairman, Dennis Jernigan’s, comments to the media in Kingston, Jamaica. Exodus board member, Don Schmierer, experienced a similar collision with the media on a trip to Uganda in 2009.

“Dennis Jernigan recently traveled to Jamaica to share his testimony and lead worship at a number of venues,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “While there he was thrust into a media firestorm and asked to comment on President Obama’s threat to issue sanctions against Jamaica for their laws concerning the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Dennis shared his belief that President Obama is deceived about homosexual behavior and the biblical morality of it. Dennis assured me he is not for the criminalization of homosexuality, and he will release his own statement on this matter. However, Jernigan offered this immediate response ”:

“I believe my heart and intent were misconstrued and therefore, may have harmed Exodus’ mission of ministering to those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). To that end, as of this moment, I step down as Vice Chairman of Exodus.”

Here is an excerpt of the Exodus policy statement, also supported by its Board of Directors.

We will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship. Finally, we stand with the LGBT community both in spirit, and when necessary, legally and physically, when violence rears it’s head in Uganda, Jamaica or anywhere else in the world.

Chambers is working with the Exodus International Board and staff to craft strong statements, policies and procedures that will ensure their position on life-impacting issues such as this one.

“It is our resolution that unfortunate incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” said Chambers. “As president of Exodus International I take full responsibility for any board member, staff member or ministry affiliate’s ignorance of global issues, especially as they travel. I will make it a priority to keep all who are professionally affiliated with Exodus apprised of the nations where legislative initiatives or laws clearly violate our policy opposing criminalization of homosexuality. We will also craft a policy for our ministry that prohibits our involvement with groups and nations that violate our policies.”