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!

Dutch government funds sexual identity ministry

This news report from the Netherlands Information Services, an English language Dutch new service, is intriguing.

Govt Subsidises ‘Homosexuality Healers’
THE HAGUE, 22/11/08 – Emancipation Minister Ronald Plasterk subsidises two Christian organisations that see homosexuality as a curable complaint.
Plasterk recently announced he would give subsidies to Christian gay organisations with the goal of making homosexuality discussible in these circles. But according to De Pers newspaper, these organisations work with therapists that are supposed to ‘cure’ homosexuals of their proclivity. They also only accept homosexuality when it is not actually practised.
Refo Anders is receiving 84,000 euros. “Homosexual feelings, okay. But we reject practising,” confirmed chairman Johan Quist in De Pers. Dealing with homosexual feelings means either celibate living or becoming heterosexual, is also the view of Johan van de Sluis, board member of the Onze Weg (Our Way) foundation, which is receiving 50,000 euros.
Gay interests organisation COC chairman Wouter Neerings is astonished. “Minister Plasterk is normally a man of sound judgement. It looks like a political compromise with ChristenUnie.”
In a reaction, Plasterk said: “These organisations have access to circles where there would otherwise be no homo-emancipation at all. Of course I do not support the aims completely, but they have taken important hurdles. For example, the recognition that there are homos in Christian circles.”

Plasterk is an acclaimed molecular biologist, writer and of late politician, who serves as the Minister of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands. As such, he is responsible for “emancipation” or setting policies supportive of equal rights for women and gays. He rejects Christianity, yet apparently believes there is value in making “homosexuality discussible in these circles.”
I have some question about the characterization of the recipients as “homosexuality healers.” Refo Anders, one of the organizations receiving the money, has expressed reservations regarding change therapy. I cannot vouch for Google translation but here is a link to a page where it appears that Anders believes his group has been mischaracterized by the Dutch press. An excerpt:

The Press newspaper in an article called Refo Anders as a gay “healer”
Despite that Refo Anders in his vision document wrote that they skeptical about change therapy The Press considers it better to know and places it among the gay Refo Otherwise healers.
Otherwise Refo Foundation regrets this “low to the ground” way of journalism companies, particularly since the journalist (Koen Verhelst) a nuanced story that he has heard total passes even after he was recalled on factual inaccuracies in his story, even the inappropriate use of the name of Refo Otherwise urged not to him by corrections that after 37 minutes of us got on his concept press release (which he himself for a few days needed to write).

As I read through the materials, the approach sounds more like Wendy Gritter’s New Directions, than a change ministry.
UPDATE: Johan Quist, of Refo Anders wrote to explain a little further. Although his English is much better than my Dutch, it may take a couple of reads to catch the meaning.

We do not like to change the human with therapy, but otherwise we believe that God has the power to change people, it’s a work inside the heart of a human from God himself. Also its really important that people find the way back to the warm relation with God and from this warm relation God will show him the way to live; some people have to live his total life with homo-feelings And other people God will change, it’s the free way of God !

This is not a homosexuality healing or reparative therapy organization. Rather, this is a Christian ministry with a reformed theology which supports non-gay-affirming people who strive to live by their traditional reformed faith. I like this approach and think it has much to recommend it over the reparative based ministry often practiced in the U.S.

More new directions from New Directions

Ah, so many word plays…
Won’t be blogging much this week, but some posts will appear by the magic of delayed publication. Here is a bit of a follow up to the post from College Jay. Wendy Gritter over at New Directions is asking some good Qs, so chime in here or there or both.

Exodus International turns full focus on ministry, away from public policy

I welcome this announcement – Exodus President Alan Chambers disclosed on ExgayWatch this evening that Exodus let their Director of Government Affairs go in August, 2007 and is going to concentrate on ministry.  His personal blog contains additional personal reflections on a recent thread at XGW authored by Wendy Gritter, Director of New Direction ministry.  Early in February, I was pleased to highlight Wendy’s keynote address at the Exodus Leadership Conference where she called for a change of focus at Exodus.

I believe additional shifts called for by Mrs. Gritter would be helpful, including steps to make resources more scientifically accurate. For now, I wholeheartedly commend the leadership of Exodus for these moves.

New Direction for Exodus?

The title is a bit of a word play in that I call attention to a keynote address (caution: large mp3 file) by Wendy Gritter at the 2008 Exodus Leadership Conference. Introduced by Exodus President, Alan Chambers, Mrs. Gritter is leader of the New Direction ministries in Canada. The mission of New Direction is “creating a safe place for same-gender-attracted people to journey towards wholeness in Christ.” The focus of New Direction appears to be much more focused on Christian ministry to same-sex attracted people as opposed to mediating change of sexual orientation.

The address is about an hour long and should be heard completely to get the message but I pulled out a couple of quotes to portray the tone:

What would it mean to stop seeing the gay affirming church as our enemy?

…when we look at those who now have their stories on the Beyond Ex-gay website…we also ought not to be patronizing?   There can be this subtle sense that ‘you just didn’t try hard enough….but see we did.’ How can we engage relationally with those who have come to different theological understanding than we have?

I think we need to relinquish a defensive posture that would focus on what we are against instead of what we are for.

What the culture sees is that you guys are about reorientation.

We shoot ourselves in the foot when we put second things first.

There is much more and you can get a sense of the direction from the Power Point as well. The general tone is that Exodus would be wise to avoid political entanglements that prevent optimal Christian ministry. Ministry should be the main (sole?) focus. In addition, she takes on the messaging of Exodus that change is possible and causation is not inherent. She believes those issues should be secondary to actual Christian formation and living. With reorientation as the focus, Christian ministry can take a backseat. In other words, Exodus should not be a “poster child for straightness” as the main message.

There is much to unpack here so let’s talk…