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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.

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“I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know,” he continued. “I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart.”

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Chambers then went on to say that he will not apologize for his “deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex” – a suggestion that he still believes gay sex is a sin – but will treat those who disagree with him with respect.

“I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage,” he said, suggesting that he still opposes same-sex marriage. “But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.”

An Exodus board member, Tony Moore, put a somewhat more positive spin on the organization’s work over the years. “We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Mr. Moore said in a statement.

The board announced that it is opening a separate ministry, providing a link to a website called reducefear.org, but the site says only that it is “in development.”

“Our goals are to reduce fear … and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities,” Chambers said.

Gay media reacted to the news about Exodus International cautiously.

“Decades after leading US mental health organizations agreed that being gay is not a disorder, a small segment of American society, driven largely by religion, has persisted in saying homosexuality is something that can and should be ‘cured,’ " the Advocate newspaper wrote Thursday. “While there has always been ample skepticism about the ‘ex-gay’ movement, recent developments indicate the movement is becoming more marginal than ever – it’s not dead, but it’s certainly in critical condition.”

A leading social conservative organization, the Family Research Council, was dismissive of Exodus International’s announcement.

"The closing of Exodus International is probably for the best, since it had already ceased to perform its original function of offering hope for changing one's sexual orientation," said Peter Sprigg, FRC's senior fellow for policy studies, in a statement. "Many of its affiliated ministries had already left, and have now affiliated with a new organization, Restored Hope Network, whose first annual conference begins June 21 in Oklahoma City."
 
"The ex-gay movement has nothing to apologize for. The message that 'Change Is Possible' is a modest one. It does not mean that change is easy, nor that change is mandatory. But to apologize for saying 'change is possible' is to deny both human freedom and the transforming power of the gospel of Christ."

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