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Exodus reverses their beliefs and abandons reparative therapy!

Part 1: 2008-2011: Rumors of difficulties at Exodus.
2012: Reparative therapy considered unsafe/useless.

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In this website, "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays and bisexuals

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2008 to 2011: Rumors of approaching "social and financial" difficulties at Exodus International:

Times change!

Back in 2008, the future looked rosy for Exodus. 1 They had left their small rented facilities and moved into their own building, complete with a million dollar mortgage. However, with the North American public rapidly increasing its acceptance of the LGB community and increasing its support of same-sex marriage, the number of LGBs requesting support from Exodus was dropping. Meanwhile, the economic recession was reducing public donations.

In late 2008, they laid off two main staff: youth analyst Mike Ensley and bookstore manager Chris Stump.

During 2010-AUG, they posted the following message on their Facebook page, attributing their financial misfortune to the depressed economy:

"Dear friends, please pray for us at Exodus. We have experienced an unexpectedly low giving season this summer coupled with much higher expenses (insurance, utilities, etc). Sadly, we have had to let several staff go. Your prayers are appreciated. For those who are also having to endure this unfriendly economy, our prayers are with you!" 2,3

A number of large churches and agencies left the Exodus coalition, including Love in Action, Where Grace Abounds, and the mega-congregation Willow Creek Church.

The Huffington Post reported on 2011-OCT-20 that John Smid, the former director of the former Exodus affiliate Love in Action and one of the most influential leaders of reparative therapy, had renounced his previous beliefs. He now considers that a person's sexual orientations cannot be changed. He said:

"For me, I am married, I've been married for 22 years, I love my wife dearly, we have an amazing relationship. But at the same time, I do experience homosexuality...it's a part of my history, it's a part of the life that I live. ... We taught very heavily [at Love in Action] that any homosexual choices were against God's will, and they were sinful and wrong. We were very straightforward about that." 4

He claims that he has never met a person who has made a transition from a homosexual to heterosexual orientation.

Two days earlier, on 2011-OCT-18, Smid had appeared on MSNBC's Hardball show with Michelle Goldberg from the Daily Beast. They discussed his recent conclusions:

  5

He has formally apologized to the clients of Love in Action whose lives he had negatively influenced. He has organized Grace Rivers, a monthly Christian fellowship group for "... those who call themselves gay and want to seek a relationship with God in a place where they're free to do that." Their stated mission is:

"Grace Rivers is a ministry with the gay community that reveals the message of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and genuine community with His followers – because every person deserves to know that Jesus loves them." 6

Ex-Gay Watch, a skeptical agency that monitors the ex-gay/reparative therapy movement, published an article stating that Exodus held a secret meeting in New York 2011-NOV-16. Allegedly present were the leadership of Exodus, prominent evangelical religious leaders, and lay people. The latter are mostly LGBs who once regarded themselves as "ex-gays" -- as former homosexuals who believed that they had successfully left the "homosexual lifestyle" -- but had since changed their views.

An article on the Ex-Gay Watch website stated that at the meeting, Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International:

"... mentioned how struck he was by the response to John Smid’s recent change in direction, particularly his apology.  He seems to think that doing something similar might be one way that Exodus could gain some positive attention.  Don’t forget, everything is on the table.  We have confirmed that Smid has been in contact with Chambers recently, and has plans for more discussions in the future." 7

Another influence on Chamber's thinking might have been the decision during 2011-FEB by the Obama Administration to no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in court. This has been regarded as a major "tipping point" in the movement towards LGB equality. The number of strides towards equality that followed the DOMA announcement appears to support the tipping point theory.

We speculate that the folks at Exodus International were sensitive to the increase of public acceptance of the LGB community, and saw a future of diminished income as the legitimacy of reparative therapy gradually became abandoned by the public. They had to make a dramatic change in order to restore the health of Exodus. Ideology had to take a back seat to financial survival. Their decision surprised many people.

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2012-JUN: A shock wave hits conversion therapy and "pray away the gay" ministries as Exodus International abandons reparative therapy:

Exodus has played a leadership role for almost four decades in the conversion of "gays" into "ex-gays." They have been, by far, the main proponents of "praying the gay away" and of reparative therapy in order to change people's unwanted sexual orientation. They have been heavily supported financially by fundamentalist and other evangelical faith groups, para-church groups, and individuals.

During Exodus International's "37th Annual Freedom Conference" in late 2012-JUN, the president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, generated a massive shock wave that has split the entire ex-gay movement. He made a series of public statements and a speech at Exodus's annual meeting in which he admitted that:

  • There is no "cure" for homosexuality,

  • Reparative therapy offered false hopes to gays and lesbians, and

  • Reparative therapy is sometimes harmful to the individual. 8,9

He then went on the media interview circuit to publicize Exodus International's new belief system.

After almost four decades of operation, they finally brought their beliefs concerning "reparative therapy" (a.k.a. "sexual orientation change efforts," SOCE,  "conversion therapy," "reorientation therapy," and "RT") into at least partial alignment with all of the major professional organizations in the psychiatric, psychological, educational, and social worker fields.

Since Exodus' announcement, 11 of their approximately 81 ministries who still advocate prayer and reparative therapy to "cure" persons' homosexual orientation into a heterosexual orientation have quit Exodus. Some appear to have left primarily because they still believe in reparative therapy and/or prayer as a method of changing people's orientation. Others seem to have objected to subsequent statements by Chambers that sexually active lesbians, gays and bisexuals may attain heaven. They consider that belief to be heresy.

Chambers has since stated that essentially every "ex-gay" -- himself included -- is still troubled by homosexual cravings and should not be afraid to admit it. This seems to accept what many skeptics, mental health professionals, human sexuality researchers, lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGB), religious liberals, assorted secularists, and the folks at this web site have believed for decades, That is:

That sexual orientation in adults is unchangeable:

    • No therapy exists whereby gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation and become sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex.

    • Some motivated bisexuals -- the only people for whom the term "sexual preference" is meaningful -- can decide to confine their sexual relationships to members of the opposite sex. They may even marry as a result of this type of relationship. However, they will always be tempted by feelings of sexual attraction to members of the same sex.

    • That "leaving the homosexual lifestyle" means simply that: a change in a person's behavior -- but not their orientation -- so that they are no longer sexually active with members of the same sex, even though they are still attracted in that way. For lesbians and gays, this means a commitment to lifelong celibacy and the lack of a significant other in their life as long as they live.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. David Roberts, "Exclusive: Secret Conference Held to ‘Save Exodus International’ from Ruin," Exgay Watch, 2011-NOV-30, at: http://www.exgaywatch.com/
  2. Dave Roberts, "In Brief: Mike Ensley Laid Off From Exodus International? (Confirmed)," Ex-Gay Watch, 2008-DEC-19, at: http://www.exgaywatch.com/
  3. "Exodus International lays off staff, cuts benefits," Ex-Gay Watch, 2010-AUG-23, at: http://www.exgaywatch.com/
  4. "John Smid, Former 'Ex-Gay' Leader, Says He Is Gay And Changing Sexual Orientation Is Impossible," Huffington Post, 2011-OCT-20, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  5. "Gus," "Former Exodus leader John Smid says 'Pray the gay away' never works," Queermeup, 2011-OCT-19, at: http://queermeup.com/
  6. "Grace Rivers, "Vision and Mission," at: http://www.gracerivers.com/
  7. David Roberts, "Exclusive: Secret Conference Held to ‘Save Exodus International’ from Ruin," Exgay Watch, 2011-NOV-30, at: http://www.exgaywatch.com/
  8. Erik Eckholm, "Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ Is Renounced," New York Times, 2012-JUL-06, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  9. You can download an MP3 file of Chambers' speech at: http://exodusinternational.org/

Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2012-OCT-08

Latest update: 2012-OCT-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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