A Christian ministry that led the so-called ex-gay movement, which professes to rid people of their homosexuality, has announced that it will shut down, and its leader apologized extensively to gays for causing “pain and hurt.”
The ministry, Exodus International, was founded in 1976 and claims more than 200 branches, churches and counselors in the United States and Canada. It had insisted that people could overcome same-sex attraction through prayer and therapy.
Mainstream psychiatric and medical groups have said that the movement, also known as reparative therapy, is unfounded in science and can be harmful. The American Psychiatric Association said 15 years ago that it could cause depression, anxiety and self-depressive behavior in patients.
The president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, said late Wednesday on the ministry’s website that he had “conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions” but now accepts them “as parts of my life that will like always be there.”
Addressing gays, Chambers, who is married to a woman, wrote: “You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours.”
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced,” he wrote. “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change.”
He added that he could not apologize for his own biblical beliefs about sex and marriage but would not fight gays on their own beliefs or their push for rights.
In a statement, Exodus International, which describes itself as the oldest and largest group of its kinds, said that its board of directors had decided to close down after a year of talking and praying about its place in a changing culture.
Polls show that a narrow majority of Americans, a steadily growing share, support gay marriage, which has been legalized in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court is preparing to rule on two landmark gay-rights cases.
“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, an Exodus board member, said on the organization’s website.
Chambers, over the past year, had caused turmoil in the ex-gay movement by saying that reparative therapy could hurt gays and that there was no cure for same-sex attraction.
Evan Hurst, the associate director of Truth Wins Out, a leading organization opposed to the ex-gay movement, applauded Chambers on Thursday for “honesty, integrity and authenticity.”
“It takes a real man to publicly confront the people whose lives were destroyed by his organization’s work,” he said.
This story was originally published on Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:05 AM EDT