Even Exodus International Doesn’t Want to Talk About “Curing” Gays Anymore

For years, Exodus International has been at the forefront of both denouncing gays and declaring that they can become un-gay, and thus no longer be denounced. Although they’re responsible for a plethora of invalidating and dangerous misinformation about gay people over the course of their existence, one of their more unattractive stunts has been orchestrating a “Day of Truth” to combat the Day of Silence, in an attempt to address public schools’ bias on “homosexual issues.” Traditionally, they’ve promoted “the message of Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ,” with ex-gay seminars, camps, and educational materials that promote reparative therapy (including a smartphone app!). In 1979, two of Exodus’s leaders, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, left the organization to start a relationship together, and since then have been critics of its leadership. Other than that, however, Exodus’s purported mission and values have stayed consistent for decades.

alan chambers and his wife/photo credit associated press

That is, until now. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International and married to Leslie Chambers with two adopted children, now says his group will no longer operate around claims of being able to “cure” anyone. Chambers told the Associated Press that at Exodus’s 2012 conference, he planned to focus on moving Exodus away from reparative therapy and any kind of “ex-gay” claims.

“I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included,” said Chambers, who is married to a woman and has children, but speaks openly about his own sexual attraction to men. “For someone to put out a shingle and say, ‘I can cure homosexuality’ — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.”

In some ways, this decision appears to mean only minor change; the ministry’s mission is now “helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture. For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.” Not everyone would see this as being much of a departure from “ex-gay” rhetoric. As Wayne Besen, an activist against ex-gay programs, says, “the underlying belief is still that homosexuals are sexually broken.” Which may be true. But Chambers has taken all books endorsing reparative therapy from Exodus’s online bookstore, and is exhorting member ministries to follow his lead.

Exodus’s power has been declining for the past few years in any case, as reparative therapy has come under increasing criticism from psychological experts and some states are taking legislative action against it. Their backtracking on this issue may be an attempt to stay relevant to a community that still struggles to reconcile identity with faith, but now knows to be warier of claims of “cure.”  Or, if we’re feeling generous and optimistic, maybe it’s a genuine recognition that holding out hope to desperate people who have been convinced that they deserve only self-loathing that they can “cure” anything about themselves isn’t helpful to anyone, and is a remarkably unChristian thing to do.

 

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 771 articles for us.

21 Comments

        • Thumb up 3

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          But then again, they could still share lots of the components for a good marriage, like friendship, trust, and honesty (if both partners know the situati. They could still teach their kids good morals and look after them well. Maybe sex and sexual attraction just isn’t as important to them? I mean, lots of marriages don’t include sex a a large part of it. Perhaps romantic love isn’t the focus, after all you could still love and care for someone as a friend. If someone truly believes their sexuality conflicts with their belief, then maybe its a worthwhile compromise for some people? It’s not a choice I would make though, but then I’m not religious and I don’t believe my sexuality is wrong so I don’t have to. I think my main problems with it though is that you wouldn’t be living true to yourself, and you’d be holding the belief that you’re inherently sinful, which seems like a sad way to live. And also it denies the possibility that you could have a happy family and life in a gay relationship. As an endnote though, I’d like to say that preaching that gayness and religion aren’t compatible, and pressuring gay people to live as though they were straight seems to be a horrendous abuse of power.

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            you hit the nail on the head. lying to oneself attraction wise or sexually creates internal self hatreds.

            Dig down deep enough and you’ll find marriages that are anything but.

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        I totally know a guy that thinks like that. He’s an evangelical Christian and he’s pretty much decided to stay celibate forever instead of acting on his homofeelings. I feel so sorry for people who have that much self-loathing.

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        http://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-anti-gay-activists-caught-being-gay/joanne

        No 1 on the list is George Rekers who used to head narth, which claims to fix gays.

        it didnt work very well with him – if you check the rentboy.com website, you will find it costs about $15000 for a hot twink male escort for 2 weeks.

        Fixing gays is just another BS scene that fits under the “a fool and his money are soon parted”

        Maybe rekers and chambers should start a new group called BCUMGAY – btw my vanity license plate

        Cal is close to passing a law to outlaw rep therapy and there are stories 3 other states are considering the same.

        And in my time supporting the gay movement, I’ve run into about 24 people who were in a Male = Fem relationship

        they are now all separated, though some are still best friends.

        the right wingers always have a new twist on things, just like their predecessors changed the bible to condem all kinds of normal every day activities.

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          BTW the only thing these rep therapy things accomplish is to turn people into patholgical liars. Until they cant take it any more.

          And then the truth comes out

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      Ive met about 24-25 people who were gay but married to the opposite sex. All of these marriages ended. the only good thing that came out of them is that in many cases the ex ‘s are still best friends. And in a number of cases the ex’s each helped the other find a same sex / oppposite sex new partner, as appropriate and normal.

      Its going to take perhaps 5 more years and then the “fixers” will be seen as another variation of witches.

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    this whole gay men marrying straight women thing has been kind of buzzing in the media lately, and i think the phenomenon and our reactions to it are really interesting from a historical perspective because love and attraction were not valued or prioritized in western marriage until relatively recently in the grand scheme of things. it also really complicates the conversation around choice and homosexuality and the tension between identity and behavior. we should definitely do some critical thinking about what this move on their part means for us as a community, gay rights, and queer liberation.

    and no, i wouldn’t have been so articulate if i hadn’t just come off a conversation on this very subject with some very intelligent and engaged friends of mine, so you can give them all the credit.

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    I just got finished with Conversion Therapy through my church, they use a lot of the materials from Exodus. It is nice to see that they are becoming more realistic although I wish the entire practice would cease. Alas I am not 18 yet, and my lovely Mom and Dad love me so much that they made me sit through 18 sessions of hell. I feel like less of a pariah now that Autostraddle is taking the time to shed some light on a pretty messed up situation and so long as my parents continue to ignore my web presence, I think I’ll be okay. Only one year until I can leave! Yay! Thanks Rachel, Good article.

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      I am sorry to hear that you parents were unable to accept you and sent you to those sessions. However, you are strong and will move on for greater things….new friends and new families who will love you.

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        Thanks!They are kind of freaking out, have been freaking out. They’ve been pleading with me to take it back, and explaining that I can’t really just take it back has been rough. I’m grounded, they took my car, and my cellphone. I feel like it is child abuse, but both of my parents come from strict Christian backgrounds so I get it. I still love them. I just hate being treated like I have a ‘condition’. I read the homo-friendly college article and fingers crossed I get into a nice east coast school. The South has been bleak.

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          Just remember that parents need an adjustment period to understand this new information just as I’m sure you did when you were coming to terms with your sexuality. For some parents, it just takes longer…

          There is also a plethora of information on the internet supporting the idea that the bible does not even condemn homosexuality. There was a point in time when this was important to me, and important to those around me, but I’ve moved beyond that now. Although based upon my research, it is my honest opinion that the bible does not condemn homosexuality.

          If it matters to you, you can look up information on the definitions/translations of the hebrew words arsenokoites and malokois (the only two words that are NOW translated as ‘homosexual’ in the bible). The term homosexual did not even exist as we now use it until the 1800’s, so it’s ridiculous to think that the bible could be relevant to our modern day concepts of sexuality. You would know best, but it could be possible that this information could help your parents settle some of their issues with it. In a convoluted way, they are worried for your ‘soul’ after all…

          http://www.gaychristian101.com/Define-Arsenokoites.html

          Good luck and stay strong!

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      Be real careful though I think that you sound ok. There are numerous cases of the conflict between what you are and what the right wing believers in stuporstion and ignornace want you to beleive you are.

      Their only accomplishment is to create pathological liars and ususally that doesnt work.

      George Rekers was head of NARTH. following link tells what happend with him. Same with #3 on the list – Minister Ted Haggard, former head of the national evangelicals

      Do like we did at school when a bunch of bible thumpers were giving out bibles.

      We got a couple hundred kids to get bibles. They all ended up in the dumpster.

      theg watchword is freedom FROM religion

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      yAnd dont ever ever ever let the religious freakos – our own talibangelicals, cause you to lose your self respect.

      that is their game. It leads to everything but dangerous unprotected sex to suicide.

      Conservative religion is the worlds nightmare come true. If you want any religion, go find a church like the MCC, UCC, UU, most episcopals, most Evangelical Lutherans, most presbyterian USA, Quakers / Friends, some american baptists

      Who will accept and love you just as you are.

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