Exodus International, the country’s largest and most well-known “ex-gay ministry” organization, announced on its website late Wednesday that it will shut down after 37 years.
The group long believed that gay people could be turned straight or “cured” of their homosexuality, even after leading U.S. mental health organizations had agreed that being gay was not a disorder. As Judy Ring from The Advocate notes, “Stories are legion of those who’ve gone through so-called reparative therapy, seeking to turn from gay to straight, only to find the therapy is not only ineffective but downright harmful. Mainstream mental health professionals have condemned it. One state has outlawed it, and others are likely to follow. Even the president of Exodus International has renounced such therapy and says Exodus is no longer part of the ex-gay movement.”
Exodus International states it will reemerge as a new ministry, but exactly in what capacity remains unclear. While the closure is significant in that this was the largest and most well-known organization of its kind, there are still smaller, often religious-based groups that still engage in the practice.
This morning the president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, following up the announcement by posting an apology on the organization’s website. He states:
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced. I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt 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 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, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
Coinciding with the announcement, Chambers will be appearing on Our America With Lisa Ling on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network Thursday, June 20th. In the episode, Chambers and his wife, Leslie, will meet with 10 survivors of ex-gay programs, including Michael Bussee, an Exodus founder who eventually left the group and came out as a gay man.
Learn more about the episode on The Advocate.