When a person or group of people who have done wrong truly see the error in their ways and make a sincere and heartfelt apology, it is cause for acknowledgment.
On Wednesday, Exodus International, one of the nation’s most prominent groups promoting “ex-gay” therapy has finally come forth, apologized to the LGBT community, and announced that it will be shutting down.
In his apology, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, spoke of his own struggles with having same-sex desires and how it is “strange” to have been hurt by the actions of the Church while also having to apologize for “being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt.”
Here is a portion of the blog post in which he directly addresses the LGBT community:
“Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. 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. 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. 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. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.
"I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.”
Exodus International will be starting another ministry that will be aimed at "reduc[ing] fear" and "com[ing] alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”
Having been run since 1976, the group had evidently been in business long enough to inflict mental anguish on those who received their gay-conversion therapy. As members of the LGBT community still unfortunately are ostracized, this discrimination in itself is undoubtedly stressful and having a group of individuals essentially forcing a person to change his or her identity only adds insult to injury.
The American Psychological Association released a study in 2009 stating that conversion therapy rarely brought about permanent changes in the patients and “attempts to change sexual orientation may cause or exacerbate distress and poor mental health in some individuals.”
According to a study by the journal Pediatrics about family rejection among White and Hispanic gay, lesbian and bisexual young adults, these individuals are “8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs...”
Despite these statistics and the clear detrimental effect gay-conversion therapy has on its patients, or more appropriately victims, the end of Exodus International does not mark the end of this harmful practice.
A splinter group called the Restored Hope Network, however, will continue on their mission to “pray away the gay.” This group, ironically enough, is chaired by a woman by the name of Anne Paulk who happens to be the estranged wife of James Paulk, a man who formerly served as an “ex-gay” figurehead and later came out and declared he was gay. If Anne Paulk was not at all convinced of the ineffectiveness of the gay conversion therapy through her marriage, perhaps nothing can convince her or other who share her beliefs to a similar degree, which is regretful.
Chambers has done the right thing by finally realizing the therapy’s inefficacy and harmful nature and by issuing a formal apology. While his apology may be sincere, though, the damage cannot be reversed and those who were affected by Exodus International’s practices can forgive but should not be expected to forget.