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 International issues statement on reparative therapy

This seems to be a change…

The California House recently passed a bill outlawing reparative therapy for youth under the age of 18. The Senate is set to vote in coming days. With the media abuzz, we have had numerous calls from news reporters across the country, asking for our opinion and position. Many others have simply mischaracterized Exodus International as a reparative therapy organization. One such instance was a newscast on an ABC affiliate  in San Francisco. The reporter stated that our “members now live heterosexual lives—many with spouses and kids—because of reparative therapy”. We have written this statement to clarify our ministry objective which highlights the mission of Exodus International.

Exodus International supports an individual’s right to self-determine as they address their personal struggles related to faith, sexuality and sexual expression.  As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal. Our ministry’s objective is to equip the Church to become the primary place where people of faith seek support, refuge and discipleship as they make the decision to live according to Christian principles.

We believe in a “gospel-centric” view, meaning that all people, regardless of individual life struggles, can experience freedom over the power of sin through a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment to scripture, and by being a part of a vibrant, transparent and relational community of believers found in the local church.  Exodus is partnered with more than 260 churches and support-based ministries who serve individuals and families experiencing a conflict between their faith and sexuality. (emphasis in the original).

Note the phrase not in bold: “ As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” As I read it, that means Exodus (as a national group) no longer subscribes to reparative therapy. I wonder how some of the local ministries are handling this. I know the one closest to this area is on board, but I am curious if other groups are.

Al Mohler presents us with a conundrum

Rev. Al Mohler, who lately has been calling evangelicals to speak honestly about homosexuality, seemed to defend religiously based orientation change yesterday in a column on his website.
Much of what he writes about sin and redemption most evangelicals would agree with, but then he says this about Christians and same-sex desire.

Christians with same-sex sexual desires must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire. All Christians struggle with their own pattern of sinful desires, sexual and otherwise. Our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to Christ, knowing that only He can save us from ourselves.

Earlier in the column, Mohler said that “…those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.” Correct me if I am misreading him, but he appears to be arguing that orientation change is required for believers who are attracted to the same sex.
This appears to be at odds with Mohler’s statements that evangelicals have “lied about the nature of homosexuality” and that same-sex attractions is “not something that people can just turn on and turn off.”
I sense a problem.
Last Friday, I pointed to a study Mark Yarhouse’s team at Regent University in the Christian journal Edification which found no change in orientation on average for married gay and lesbian people. Behavior changed modestly, but same-sex orientation remained the same. Gary Welton and I are now writing up a report of a study that found same-sex attraction actually increased on average in a similar group of married GLB people. Religious affiliation is associated with a smaller increase in SSA but these changes could not be considered a “fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.”
At this point, I can’t satisfactorily reconcile what counseling and study participants* are telling us with what Rev. Mohler teaches in this column. Perhaps we are dealing with semantics when it comes to defining what orientation is, or what “a fundamental reordering” looks like.  When Rev. Mohler says that God commands that gays desire what He wills them to desire, that sounds a lot like turning desires on and off – in short choice. I hope he will address this in a future column. I feel sure that the emphasis on orientation in Mohler’s column will be discouraging to GLB men and women who have entered heterosexual marriage, but remain attracted to the same sex.
I suspect this will not be the only column on this matter, but for now I wanted to raise what looks like a conundrum for evangelicals raised by research and Mohler’s column.
*Here I refer to my recent study, Yarhouse’s report and the longitudinal study by Jones and Yarhouse. Even in that study of Exodus participants, reports of a “fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions” were infrequent. Even the small number of people who reported categorical changes reported ongoing SSA.

More strict than God

I recall reading an article as an undergraduate regarding legalism. I do not remember the name of the author, nor the title of the article. I do remember a line from the article. The author was noting that many churches have rules for behavior that are not derived from the Bible. The rules seem important to the creator of the rule but should not be imposed on others when such rules make one “more strict than God.”
I thought of that mostly forgotten article when I read a post by Brian Pengelly (“When You’re Told that What God Has Done Is Not Enough”)on Bridging the Gap, the blog of New Directions. In that post, Brian describes a speech to a local youth group where he acknowledges that he is same-sex attracted. Even though Brian has not been in a same-sex relationship since high school, is married with kids (corrected 3/23) and does not advocate same-sex relationships, he was criticized severely by several youth ministers who attended the meeting.
Brian attributed the reaction to a theological difference – one we have discussed here before – and that is the difference between charismatic and non-charismatic Protestant Christianity. Brian’s specific concern relates to “Word of Faith” theology, a view that

…God has promised to heal every area of a believer’s life right now and given them the authority to command that healing into existence.

Remember James Stabile? He was the young man that was supposedly delivered from homosexuality during a Pentecostal street meeting. Problem was, he wasn’t.
Brian elaborates:

Because of this, my testimony was a great threat to them because God had simply not done enough in my life. Despite the fact that I could testify that I had not been in a relationship with another male since high school, despite the fact that I was able to enjoy a happy marriage to a woman, despite the fact that God had clearly been using me in ministry for over a decade….my testimony was not acceptable because God had not completely taken away my attraction to men.

Brian knows the thinking because he used to be a part of the Word of Faith perspective.

The authors assumed that because I was telling my story and had my experiences, I had never confessed my sin or had prayer ministry to cast out the demons in my life that may have entered because of being abused. In fact they were so bold as to write:

“Had at any time in Brian’s life he cried out to God and taken his authority that he has been given as a believer and told his body “IN JESUS NAME I AM NOT GAY AND GOD DID NOT MAKE ME GAY AND I WILL NOT HAVE HOMOSEXUAL TENANDANCIES (sic) ANYMORE”, and then taken his mind captive when ever those thoughts came in, Brian most likely would not struggle with this anymore. Had he at anytime repented of that initial time when he was in the library and he spoke out I am gay, and then asked God to forgive him for all the rest of the times that he has thought thoughts or acted in a homosexual manner, asked God to forgive him for that initial self cursing and THEN had the spirit of sexual perversion cast out of him, Brian most likely would not still struggle with this sin.”

The truth is that I once attended a youth group where they taught such things, and believing that they were true, I did go forward to the altar, confess these very sins, and pray that very prayer meaning it with every cell of my body. I believed that God would heal me…… and then he didn’t. When it didn’t happen I was told it was because I lacked enough faith, or I was doing something wrong. The message I received was that it was my fault. And yet I knew in my heart that I had prayed with all the faith that I had and could do no more. When I said this, I was rejected by that group. I spent years believing that lie, that it was my fault and I just wasn’t good enough to make it all go away. As I grew older and studied the Bible I came to realize that this was a false teaching and turned away from it. But that teaching left me in shame and despair for years of my life.

Then he notes the damage is not reserved for the person who experiences SSA, but for their parents as well.

There has also been a sad legacy within the ex-gay movement of using this kind of teaching to burden parents as being at fault for their children’s sexual orientation. I do not know how many times over the years I heard about generational curses, mixed in with some pop psychology to explain the fact that I was attracted to men. My own story does include significant perceived rejection from my father. But the truth is that causation of sexual orientation is incredibly complex and that there is no good evidence to link it to parental behaviour. In fact, several of my best gay friends had wonderful relationships with their parents. But because of this kind of teaching, I have met with more parents than I can count who blame themselves for their children’s sexual orientation. I have listened to them as they examined every little thing they did or said in their lives wondering where they had spoken curses over their children!

One does not need to go to a Word of Faith church for this guilt, although it apparently helps. A NARTH conference will do. Or a well-meaning but errant Christian radio program.
In traditional Christianity, human nature is not perfectable. Perfect parenting, wonderful therapy or any other reparative concept cannot offset this condition. The causes of sexual orientation, while of scientific interest, should be relatively unimportant in a ministry domain. To require change in the direction of desire as a measure of spirituality seems to me to expect something more strict than God expects.

Oprah Winfrey discusses sexual identity with Ted & Gayle Haggard

Today’s Oprah Winfrey Show gave Mr. Haggard a lot of time to describe his sexuality. Haggard’s wife joins him in this segment where they discuss ambiguities of sexual identity.

It is notable that he says he was not cured because he doesn’t view his same-sex attraction as a sickness. Also, he believes his SSA is a part of him and not due to demons. It is clear he continues to believe homosexual behavior violates his faith but he is quite open now about his experience. I liked his statement that he cannot put himself into a category. Doing so would be untrue to his experience now.

Can we believe ex-gays and ex-ex-gays?

Peterson Toscano makes a curious comment about ex-gays and ex-ex-gays in an email to Box Turtle Bulletin

In sharing ex-gay survivor narratives, I see the importance of digging up the many non-religious reasons people go ex-gay. For too long Focus on the Family, Exodus, etc, have been hiding behind a religious curtain. Similarly many ex-gays and former ex-gays I meet express that their ONLY reason for going ex-gay was their faith. Warren Throckmorton capitalizes on this sort of thing claiming that the struggle is an incongruence between faith and sexuality, when in reality for many it is primarily a conflict between society and sexuality.

First, Peterson says the ex-gays and former ex-gays express that the only reason for seeking to be ex-gay is related to conflicts over faith. And then he says I, in some way “capitalize” on this claim when in fact, the conflict is not really with faith but derives from conflicts with society. Maybe it is just me, but it appears he is saying those congruence seeking ex-gays and former ex-gays are wrong. They really weren’t motivated by religious conflicts at all. Apparently, I am wrong as well when I believe them. Perhaps, he is suggesting that I know that they and I are wrong but I ignore that. I am not really sure. But the message I get here is that he knows the real motives.
Seems like you find confirmation bias all over. Those ex-gays and ex-ex-gays are mistaken, the real reason they seek ex-gay is social conflict, Peterson asserts, even if they don’t know it. He needs to dig for what he knows is there.
I am sure in some cases, that social disapproval is more motivational than religious issues. Religious disapproval is a metaphor for disapproval from all sources. However, on the other hand, I think you risk missing the individual factors by “digging up the many non-religious reasons people go ex-gay.” Sure those who minister and help should be open to those reasons. However, those who dig should be prepared to find little else but what the conflicted person said in the first place.

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!

Top ten posts by number of comments and page views – 2008

Time to wrap up 2008 with a review of the stories told and topics covered. I also will give the top ten posts based on page views.
By far the election was the broad topic which generated the most page views. Aside from the Berg vs. Obama thread, readers prefer to comment on the sexual identity related posts. As in past years, I will pick out my top ten themes in a later post.
Top ten by number of comments (fluctuation should be minimal since most of these threads are quiet now)
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1 (796)
2. New study casts doubt on older brother hypothesis and reparative drive theory (460)
3. Gay City News prints letter clarifying sexual identity therapy (282)
4. New Direction for Exodus? (277)
5. Day of the Golden Rule? (264)
6. Sally Kern: What should she do? (248)
7. Study examines brain differences related to sexual orientation (239)
8. Multiple factors involved in sexual orientation, part 2 (221)
9. Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible? (219)
10. 60 Minutes Science of Sexual Orientation: An update from the mother of twins (217)
Top ten by page views are:
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1
2. Hey Florida, is this ok with you?
3. Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher talks about his dialogue with Obama and spreading the wealth
4. Berg vs. Obama: Update and current status
5. Michelle Obama likes upscale clothes too
6. Donofrio vs. Wells: NJ Obama citizenship case slated for SCOTUS conference
7. What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two
8. Some light on Sarah Palin’s church affiliation
9. Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?
10. Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge on Appalachian State University
The top post has been viewed over 15,000 times with the other posts gradually decreasing from there. These numbers are constantly changing.

Now Obama is a bigot?

We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

International Healing Foundation releases infomercial; ready to heal the world

Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation has released an infomercial describing their services and claims. Roll the tape…

In the video, he features his three part program designed to help people go straight, help their kids go straight, and help their clients go straight. He thinks pretty highly of these resources as is apparent in his Fall, 2008 newsletter:

WE HAVE THE ANSWERS
I am proud to announce that I have completed 21 years in public service and ministry. God called me in June 1987 to reach out and help those with unwanted SSA and their loved ones, and to spread the truth throughout the world that no one is born this way, no one chooses to have SSA, and that change is possible. I have been faithful and even more so, successful in helping thousands change their orientation and parents reconcile with their SSA loved ones. Furthermore, I have trained and educated thousands of professionals, equipping them with a systematic approach to helping SSA strugglers and their families. The International Healing Foundation (IHF) is the first organization in the world to create three landmark proven successful protocols:
Coming Out Straight–book and CD/MP3 series
Gay Children, Straight Parents–book and CD/MP3 series
Counselor Training Program–manual and CD/MP3 series
These are our three Olympic Gold Medals to help heal the world! I spent a lifetime preparing and training for this moment. I fought my way out of homosexuality. Against all odds I came out straight! That was indeed a miracle of God.

And you can have this miracle too if you sign up for the three Gold Medals. The world could use a little healing but I am skeptical it will come through IHF.
Richard has big plans for 2009. In his newsletter, he details them. Here is perhaps the most ambitious:

Loving Gays the Right Way: Exposing the Homosexual Myth is the title of a new book that I will write next year. Please read more about this in the 2009 Goals and Projects section. Together we can make a difference, saving one life at a time. Thank you for all your support this year and please contribute generously and/or purchase multiple copies of our books and CD series to donate to public and church libraries. For a contribution of $40 or more, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of the school DVD upon its completion.

He also wants to produce a video for schools which he mentions in the last line.

Over the past year I have shared about our ambitious project to create a film for use in public schools. This year we have already filmed two powerful stories of change—one youngman and his parents from the Midwest, and another from the East Coast. We will film a young woman either by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2009. Each of thesemen and woman came out of homosexuality! Their stories are powerful and will speak directly to our young people in public schools that they do have a choice—either to live a gay life, or to seek change and come out straight. We will promote true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all!

Richard appears to have a love-hate relationship with the media. He seems to love being involved in it but it has not always been friendly to him. In the latter category is his appearance on the recent documentary, Chasing the Devil. In it he walks off camera twice when asked difficult questions about asking clients to raise money for IHF and his practice of bioenergetics. In a future post, I will review that video.