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Exodus reverses their beliefs and abandons reparative therapy!

Part 6: 2013-JUN:
This web site's webmaster reacts to Exodus' closing

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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In this web site, "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays and bisexuals

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Webmaster's comment: [Personal opinions. bias alert]

I normally confine my writing to reporting the beliefs, actions, and statements of others. I try to be accurate, even when reporting on beliefs and actions of others with which I passionately disagree. However, sometimes I need to express my own opinions. This is one of those cases. The following comments are entirely my own, and may or may not represent those of the others working at the ReligiousTolerance.org web site.

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Exodus International has not yet chosen the name that their new agency will use. It is unclear exactly what their future mandate, principles and programs will be like. However, most of the hundreds of conservative religious groups that were formerly affiliated with Exodus are expected to continue to function independently, promoting their "ex-gay," "pray away the gay" reparative therapy (a.k.a. conversion therapy) programs without any significant change.

One indication of this continuation of "business as usual" is a comment by Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family in the Christian Post. 1 He talks about conservative Christians still believing that:

"... living with God's design for sexuality is possible through the power of Jesus Christ- - that change is possible.

The reality is that while Exodus will no longer exist, there are numerous Christian ministries that continue to provide excellent help to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, including the Restored Hope Network, 2 Desert Stream Ministries, 3 and Katharos Integrity Alliance. 4

We understand God's original intent was for marriage to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman, with children as a natural result. But we also realize that all of us sin in many ways.

We believe there is hope for those who struggle sexually. Be it a struggle with lust, adultery, pornography addiction, pre-marital sex, same-sex attractions or issues related to identity – there is hope. The hope of a Christian is that our behavior becomes more in line with God and God's will. He wants us to drink from His full cup of grace and truth – because it's through Him we can overcome lifelong struggles with sin.

God's help usually doesn't come as a 'fast fix.' It's often a long process. Many times it takes counseling, Bible study, prayer and community support – but it can be done."

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I have never seen a conservative Christian individual or group propose a possible second understanding of human sexuality: that God loves humans of all sizes, shapes, genders, languages, religions, sexual orientations and gender identities. God has created not one but four "designs for sexuality," each with its own "original intent." Perhaps God does not expect all humans to be squeezed into a single pattern. The four designs might be explained as:

  • Lesbian: Women sexually attracted only to other women. God's intent could be for them to develop a loving, committed, faithful, and enduring same-sex relationship leading to marriage and perhaps the building of a family, either through adoption or artificial insemination.

  • Gay: Men sexually attracted only to other men. God's intent could be to develop a loving, committed, faithful, and enduring same-sex relationship leading to marriage and perhaps the building of a family, either through adoption or surrogate parenthood.

  • Heterosexual/straight: A person sexually attracted only members of the opposite gender. God's intent could be to develop a loving committed, faithful, and enduring opposite-sex relationship leading to marriage and perhaps the building of a family. If fertile, the couple could become pregnant by their own efforts. If infertile, they might have children either through adoption, surrogate parenthood, or artificial insemination.

  • Bisexual: Women and men who are sexually attracted to members of both genders. God's intent could be for them to follow either the lesbian, gay or heterosexual options described above.

This quad design would be compatible with Alan Chamber's beliefs that he expressed during a panel discussion sponsored by the Gay Christian Network (GCN):

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." 5

The quad design could be compatible also with the Bible. It would necessitate conservative Christians reinterpretating the six "clobber passages" that they have long used to attack the LGBT community. Many liberal Christians have already done this. These interpretations may seem strange to them, but no more difficult to adopt than abandoning the traditional passages in the Bible that regulated human slavery, prohibited charging interest on loans, advocated the beating of children with a rod, required rape victims to marry their rapists, required some hookers to be burned to death, required the stoning to death of non-virgin brides, allowed soldiers to rape their female prisoners of war, reqired executing people of different religions for proselytizing, etc.

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Restored Hope Network (RHN) hopes to return to the initial beliefs and policies of Exodus International held in 1976 when Exodus was founded. They hope to become the new "Exodus" and lead the former affiliates of Exodus. RHN held their inaugural conference in 2012-SEP.

Gays, lesbians and bisexuals will still go to reparative therapy/transformational ministry groups expecting to commit some effort to change their sexual orientation. They will continue to always, or essentially always, fail. They will leave with the same sexual orientation and feelings of attraction that they had when they entered therapy.

We hope that the rate of suicides triggered by ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy will at least slow down somewhat because of Exodus' decision. Perhaps more lesbians, gays, and bisexuals entering reparative therapy will do so with their eyes open and awareness of its hazards. Hopefully they will emerge from therapy with minimal emotional, mental, and spiritual damage.

We have heard of a minority of therapy clients who have tried reparative therapy as a last resort, have failed to change their sexual orientation as expected, and emerged relatively unscathed with the realization that their sexual orientation is unchangeable. Some were then able to accept themselves as they are, realize that they cannot change their sexual orientation, and get on with the rest of their life. For this minority, therapy has been a net positive experience. Judging by anecdotal comments of former reparative therapy clients, most will still be profoundly damaging mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many will become clinically depressed; some will experience suicidal ideation; some of them will commit suicide.

The continually lengthening line of coffins continues to haunt me. Such needless loss of life is an overwhelming tragedy -- particularly so because it is preventable. If each individual and group providing reparative therapy behaved in a responsible manner, they would monitor those leaving their programs and be forced by the data to conclude that their program had a zero or near-zero success rate, was damaging most former clients, and drove some to kill themselves. They would drastically modify their programs.

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One change I would like to see is for all Christians and ministries to the LGBT community to abandon the gay-straight binary system and fully accept that persons with a bisexual orientation also exist. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals' reaction to efforts to "change" them are very different. Many bisexuals go into conversion therapy and were able to change their behavior by simply making the decision to ignore their same-sex attractions and pursue only opposite-sex relationships. A few persons with a homosexual orientation decided to change their behavior by committing to lead a lonely, celibate life without a intimate relationship for the rest of their life and not act on their feelings of attraction to persons of the same-sex. Both changed their behavior, even as their sexual orientation remained fixed. We estimate that the percentage of individuals who actually changed their sexual orientation as being less than 1% of the total who entered "pray away the gay" ministries and reparative therapy groups; it may be 0%. There is no reliable data available.

Once all those involved with the LGBT community have beliefs about bisexuality that correspond with reality, they might be able start useful dialogue and cooperation. Ultimately, that is the only way in which the conflicts over reparative therapy will ever be resolved.

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Exodus has made two major departures from conventional evangelical Christian beliefs:

  • They have recently taught that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals who engage in same-gender sexual behavior can attain Heaven after death and avoid endless agony in the torture chambers of Hell.

  • President Chambers said in his apology that same-sex parents can raise children equally well as opposite-sex parents.

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One might speculate that a major role for the "new Exodus" might be to abandon their historical activities directed at changing lesbians, gays, and bisexuals and instead, concentrate on changing evangelical denominations' understanding of the LGBT community. They might try to convince evangelicals to:

  • Embrace the above two beliefs about attaining Heaven and raising children.

  • Recognize that reparative and conversion therapy are ineffective, dangerous, and must be abandoned if they hold a pro-life philosophy and value human life.

  • Understand and accept that sexual orientation is discovered, not chosen,

  • Accept that in adulthood sexual orientation is always or essentially always fixed, and

  • Consider whether God has a special intent for marriage of lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

However, I see no indication that the "new Exodus" will accept loving, committed married same-sex relationships as equivalent to loving, committed married opposite-sex relationships. I see no indication that they will advocate in favor of same-sex marriage. Unless they make that massive leap, it is doubtful that they will ever be viewed by the LGBT community as allies.

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I posted the following message to Kathy | Canyonwalker's "Back to Bondage" essay which discussed the Restored Hope Network: 5

So we have two opposing groups. One draws logical consequences from their deep Christian faith to conclude that reparative therapy and transformational ministry will convert LGBTs to heterosexuality with some personal effort. The other looks at 37 years of experience with a failure rate approaching 100% and a ever-lengthening trail of coffins containing the bodies of LGBTs who couldn't cope with that failure and gave up hope that "it gets better."

At least one of these groups is behaving irresponsibly. To determine what change is needed requires dialogue. Where is the dialogue? Where are the advocates for dialogue? Where are the true pro-life advocates?

After writing this posting, I wept with frustration.

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Direct attempts to resolve problems associated with reparative therapy may be impossible:

People on both sides of the conflict may well be unable to dialogue effectively.

Dialogue requires a person to:

  • abandon the expectation that their current beliefs are certain to be 100% correct,

  • abandon the belief that the other side is probably 100% in error.

  • suppress the desire to concentrate on convincing the other side of the truth of their side.

  • to honestly follow the hard evidence and seek the truth wherever it lies.

  • to be willing to change their beliefs and take action.

There is also the problem of finding individuals or agencies to lead the dialogue. They would have to be familiar with all aspects of the conflict. However, almost certainly to be rejected by one side or the other would be:

      • conservative Christians, liberal Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, followers of other religions and followers of no religion.

      • individuals and groups who are closely tied to national therapeutic associations like NARTH, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, etc.

      • Individuals and groups who have promoted reparative therapy or transformational ministry, or who are from the LGBT community or are religiously liberal, mainline, conservative or are secular.

It looks as if there may be nobody or no group to lead a dialogue.

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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. Jim Daly, "On the Closure of Exodus International," Christian Post, 2013-JUN-22, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  2. Restored Hope Network's web site is at: http://www.restoredhopenetwork.com/
  3. Desert Stream Ministries' web site is at: http://www.desertstream.org/
  4. Katharos Integrity Alliance's web site is at: http://www.katharosnetwork.com/
  5. Kathy | Canyonwalker, "Back to Bondage | The Restored Hope Network Exits Exodus | Pt. II," Canyonwalkerconnection.com, at: http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/

Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2013-JUN-23

Latest update: 2013-JUN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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