With years of “therapy,” Exodus president Alan Chambers says, he has mostly conquered his own attraction to men. And he will no doubt emphasize his “heterosexuality” at Exodus’ annual conference in southern California at the end of this month. (A conference of survivors of ex-gay programs will be held nearby.)
But today’s Los Angeles Times reports that Chambers has “come to resent the term ‘ex-gay’: It’s too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. ‘By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete.'”
Reporter Stephanie Simon sees Chambers’ concession as a sign that “gay-rights activists and those who see homosexuality as a sinful disorder are starting to reach agreement on some practical points.” But while the Times article notes changes of attitude occurring elsewhere among religious conservatives, it fails to document such change at Exodus.
The Times says that “Chambers and other Exodus leaders talk deliberately about a possible biological basis for homosexuality.” But explicit quotations to this effect are in short supply — regrettable since, as the Times notes, the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently wrote that “we should not be surprised” to find a genetic basis for sexual orientation.
Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist, and Michael Bussee, a co-founder of Exodus who now advocates for gay equality, both see signs of change afoot among religious conservatives. For example, as the Times reports, “Bussee put aside his protest agenda recently to endorse new guidelines to sexual identity therapy, co-written by two professors at conservative Christian colleges.” Bussee acknowledges — as I do — the “potential in therapy that does not promise change but instead offers patients help in managing their desires and modifying their behavior to match their religious values — even if that means a life of celibacy.”
But these guidelines were written by Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College and Mark Yarhouse of Regent University.
They were not written, nor promoted, by Exodus.
If Exodus has significantly changed its view on the biological roots of sexual orientation, or the effectiveness of reparative therapy, the LA Times article fails to document this change. In fact, it suggests the opposite.
The article briefly and indirectly conveys the failure of Exodus thus far to heed the Throckmorton/Yarhouse guidelines and the organization’s ongoing sponsorship of discredited “therapies” such as parent-bashing, shaming and sexual stereotyping:
Critics of Exodus note the group still sponsors speakers who attribute homosexuality to bad parenting and assert that gays and lesbians live short, unhappy lives.
The article also — eventually — points out that “though Chambers has disavowed the term ‘ex-gay,’ his group’s ads give the distinct impression that it’s possible to leave homosexuality completely behind.”
So what, really, has changed at Exodus?
The LA Times reports that professional psychologists aren’t waiting for change at Exodus:
The American Psychological Assn. set up a task force this spring to revise the group’s policy on sexual orientation therapy. The current policy is a decade old and fairly vague; it states that homosexuality is not a disorder and that therapists can’t make false claims about their treatments.
The new policy, due early next year, must help psychologists uphold two ethical principles as they work with patients unhappy about their sexuality: “Respect for the autonomy and dignity of the patient, and a duty to do no harm,” said Clinton Anderson, the association’s director for lesbian, gay and bisexual concerns. “It’s a balancing act.”
Given Exodus’ failure thus far to implement commonplace ethical principles and common-sense therapy guidelines for its ministries and counseling programs, anyone hoping for “change” at Exodus may yet have to wait a while.
Addendum: Exodus reacted to the Times article with a press statement this afternoon. It states, in part:
The world needs to see an accurate reflection of what ‘change’ really is. For too long, many have gotten the impression that transformation is an overnight process. In reality, it is an extremely difficult journey. For thousands of us, however, it has resulted in lives that have been transformed and characterized by the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ. The definition of change will always be debated when it comes to this topic, but for those of us who are living remarkably different lives, we know what it is because we are living it.