Coming out (again!) Ex-gay leaders apologize

29 06 2007

From the LA Times ….

Three former leaders of Exodus International, often described as the nation’s largest ex-gay ministry, publicly apologized Wednesday for the harm they said their efforts had caused many gays and lesbians who believed the group’s message that sexual orientation could be changed through prayer.

Speaking at a Hollywood news conference, the former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization said they had acted sincerely in their years of work with Exodus. But they said they had all, over time, become disillusioned with the group’s ideas and concerned about what they described as the wrenching human toll of such gay conversion efforts.

The news event, in a courtyard outside an office of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, was timed to coincide with the opening of Exodus’ annual conference, which is being held this week at Concordia University in Irvine. A competing “ex-gay survivor” convention is to begin Friday at UC Irvine.

Exodus’ president, Alan Chambers, reached by phone at the meeting in Irvine, said he disagreed with its critics, adding that its methods have helped many people, including him.

“Exodus is here for people who want an alternative to homosexuality,” Chambers said. “There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there’s room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn’t dangerous.”

The former leaders from Exodus cast its work in grim terms.

“Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families,” the three, including former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, said in a joint written statement presented at the news conference. “Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates.”

Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee left Exodus in 1979 after he fell in love with a man who was a fellow ex-gay counselor with the group. He speaks out frequently against ex-gay therapies.

“God’s love and forgiveness does indeed change people,” said Bussee, who remains an evangelical Christian. “It changed me. It just didn’t make me straight.”

Others speaking at Wednesday’s news conference included Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder and former director of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency based in Hayward, Calif.

All three said they had known people who had tried to change their sexual orientation with the help of the group but had failed, often becoming depressed or even suicidal as a result.

“We are committed Christians, but we’re still gay,” said Marks, who heads Courage UK, a gay-affirming evangelical ministry based in England.

Among those at the news conference was the Rev. Mel White, founder and president of a faith-based gay rights group called Soulforce. White, who was the ghostwriter for the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s autobiography and later came out as gay, praised the former Exodus leaders.

“It’s a major moment, a paradigm shift,” White said. “They’re saying this doesn’t work, and that’s incredibly important.”

The Exodus meeting is expected to attract about 1,000 people, Chambers said. Chambers, who is married and has children, said he and other current Exodus officials are careful to warn those who seek help that such a path is not easy.

Sexual orientation “isn’t a light switch that you can switch on and off,” he said.

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All i can say is …. Amen.

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2 responses

29 06 2007
Sista girl

It is sad to know people still believe they can pray their way out of their homosexuality…that their internalised homophobia is so strong. Yet b/c I tried the very same thing through affiliations with the LDS and growing up “Free Will” *ahem* Baptist in the rural South, I understand their plight. You want something you sense everyone else perceives as unnatural or “wrong” to disappear as expediently as a pair of Birkenstocks* @ Michigan during Aug. …even when it feels completely natural to you.

Coming out for some is never an easy process. For me it is an ongoing thing..constantly evolving as I mature/age. I must say 10-15 years ago…if I could have turned it off like said light switch, I would have. And despite my now Agnostic beliefs, I do know that who or whatever is up there has oft comforted me and gotten me thru. And I know I am okay..regardless of the person(s) next to me in bed. However, if I am wrong and fire and brimstone is my fate for this “switch”, at least I will be surrounded by some fabulously dressed people.

30 06 2007
Reverend boy

Sista girl said it right … coming out is a process. For myself, there have been many stages of coming out … Coming out as a gay man, coming out as a boy, and now coming out as (hopefully) a priest.

She has also articulated my own sympathies much better than i ever could.

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