ORLANDO, June 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – The leader of a renowned ministry dedicated to helping those with same-sex attractions leave the homosexual lifestyle has done an about-face, apologizing to the gay community and announcing his ministry will be closing down.
Alan Chambers, 41, announced on Lisa Ling’s “Our America” program on the Oprah Winfrey network that he is “deeply sorry” for his involvement in promoting reparative therapies aimed at changing sexual preferences. He now denounces reparative therapy as damaging and traumatic.
Just hours after Chambers’s apology was made public, Exodus International announced it would close its doors after three decades of ministry.
“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” Chambers said in a statement announcing the group’s disbanding. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
“For these reasons,” wrote Chambers, “the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation. Our goals are to reduce fear, and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”
Locally affiliated independent groups will be permitted to continue operations, but they may no longer use the Exodus International name.
In an expanded version of the apology published online, Chambers also apologized for failing “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.” While Chambers appeared to indicate that he still supports marriage as between a man and a woman, he told gay activists, “ I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.”
The announcement came just days before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a number of homosexual rights cases that could make same-sex “marriage” legal nationwide, give sweeping new federal benefits to homosexual couples, and potentially lead to bans on reparative therapy, which has already been targeted by lawmakers in California and New Jersey. President Obama has also condemned the treatment.
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Regina Griggs, Executive Director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), told LifeSiteNews.com she found the timing of Chambers’s announcement suspicious.
“I think it’s deliberate,” said Griggs. “Why couldn’t you wait until the first of July? Why couldn’t you wait a week or two?” Added Griggs, “If Alan’s unhappy, if he thinks reparative therapy is dangerous, and he chose not to do it, that’s fine. But there are thousands of people out there who do go to therapists, who do want to change. Why would you release a statement that could impact a ruling out of our Supreme Court?”
But Griggs said that aside from the questionable timing, she was not surprised by Chambers’s announcement, nor the decision to close Exodus down. Previously, Chambers had already begun moving his organization away from reparative therapy, announcing at last year’s Exodus Conference that the group would no longer use or promote the remedy.
Griggs said she had also been appalled by the timing of that announcement, pointing out the cruelty of surprising families who paid hefty sums and traveled great distances seeking help to overcome same-sex attractions with a message at the door that there may be no way out, after all.
“Why would you have people showing up for a conference, parents, strugglers, showing up now for a conference seeking hope, wanting to believe that change is possible, and he’s apologizing to the gay community. How must these parents feel? How would you feel as a struggler? Where is the compassion for the people who’ve sought help there? There isn’t any.”
Griggs said that if Chambers disagreed with reparative therapy, then he should have left the organization. Instead, she said, he drove away the group’s original board of directors over a period of a little over a year and replaced them with people who shared his views. Thus began the transformation that ultimately led to the group’s closing.
“Here you have a director who decided, and a brand new board that he appointed … who made a decision to apologize to the gay community for hurt that Exodus may have imposed,” said Griggs, who was herself a member of Exodus until four years ago.
“Exodus International is a Christian ministry,” Griggs added. “They offer support and hope to people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. I see that as God’s mission, not something to apologize for.”
Griggs said she personally knows “literally thousands of people” Exodus helped to leave the gay lifestyle through reparative therapy. She disagrees that the therapy is in and of itself damaging, but emphasizes that it should only be offered to people who sincerely want to change their sexual preference.
Chambers, however, says he is living proof that, once same-sex-attracted, always same-sex-attracted. While Chambers is married to a woman, he admits he lied about his recovery in order to promote reparative therapy for others.
“There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions,” said Chambers. “I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop.”
Today, Chambers says, “I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.”
Wrote Chambers in a written apology posted on the Exodus International site, “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.”
“Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website,” wrote Chambers. “I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.”
Correction: This headline of this article originally refered to Alan Chambers, incorrectly, as the “founder” of Exodus International.