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Gay rights bombshell: Why key 'gay conversion' group is closing

Exodus International, a leading practitioner of 'gay conversion' therapy, is closing after 37 years, as its president apologizes for causing 'pain and hurt.' A new ministry will replace it, leaving gay rights advocates wary.

By Staff writer / June 20, 2013



Washington

In an extraordinary about-face, a leading Christian “gay conversion” ministry in the US – Exodus International – has decided to close its doors, after its president apologized for what he called the “pain and hurt” his organization has caused people.

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For 37 years, Exodus International and affiliates have engaged in the controversial practice of “conversion therapy,” aimed at helping people curb their same-sex attractions or eliminate them altogether. The umbrella organization, Exodus International, is dissolving, the group announced during its annual conference Wednesday in Irvine, Calif., adding that its 50 affiliates are autonomous and plan to continue.

In Exodus’s announcement on closing down, the group said its board had spent a year of “dialogue and prayer” about its place in a “changing culture.”

“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” Exodus president Alan Chambers said late Wednesday. “For quite some time, we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings nor biblical.”

The Exodus move comes amid intense public discussion of gay rights in America and growing acceptance of gay marriage, even among young Evangelical Christians. On Wednesday, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the third Republican senator to back the right to same-sex marriage. The US Supreme Court is expected to rule in two highly anticipated gay marriage cases by the end of the month.

Mr. Chambers also posted online a 1,600-word apology to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning, or LGBTQ, community, a stunning repudiation of conversion therapy by one of its chief advocates – a man who is married to a woman and has children but openly acknowledges his own same-sex attractions. In January, California became the first state to ban conversion therapy for minors. New York is considering a similar move.

In his apology to the gay community, Chambers said he was “deeply sorry” for the pain many have experienced and noted that some had committed suicide.

“I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change,” Chambers said. “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.”

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