Readers may have noticed the casual claims by Exodus president Alan Chambers and vice president Randy Thomas concerning the success rates of “change” and perhaps even vague references to an ongoing study. These have led to an increasingly common, though entirely unsubstantiated figure of 30% “real change in orientation.” A statement on the Exodus International website goes even further:
On the statistical side, careful reviews of research studies on sexual orientation change suggest that real change is indeed possible. Studies suggesting change rates in the range of 30-50% are not unusual, although “success rates” vary considerably and the measurement of change is problematic.
A link follows to further studies but we could find none there. We have discouraged the use of these figures in posts to avoid the “Paul Cameron Effect” whereby junk science becomes the de facto standard after repetitive use without attribution to any authoritative sources. So far, Exodus has done little to qualify the term “change” in this setting, much less substantiate any figures. That may change soon.
A couple of weeks ago, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) published its 2007 conference schedule (PDF). The one there now is a revised version, which came out a couple of days later, but in the original there is an interesting entry:
Dr. Charles Socarides Lecturer
Stanton Jones, Ph.D.
Title: Can Homosexuals Change? Is the Attempt Harmful?
Results of a Prospective, Longitudinal Study of Religiously‐Mediated Change Attempts
While mention of the study has been removed, Jones is still listed as the keynote speaker. That would put the announcement, assuming it will still happen, in late October if Exodus doesn’t make it themselves before then.
With the previous Exodus references in mind, this struck a chord. What is this study about and does it connect with the statements by Exodus over the past year or so? There is very little on the Web about it but some bits did appear. The following is part of an email exchange (personal info redacted by them) archived for others to read on the The Paraclete Forum as early as mid 2002:
I’m in communication with Dr. Stanton Jones, Provost of Wheaton College, who is undertaking a large, 5-year outcome study of Exodus ministries. Based on his work that I have read so far, I am quite confident that his research will be methodologically sound, with a commitment to truth rather than politics. Hopefully, it will help us to better define and understand the issues around both reorientation/reparative therapy and transformational ministries.
The forum is provided to help answer spiritual questions and this was in a thread of email exchanges to that end. The reference seems genuine and germane, but we needed more to be certain. The last piece of the puzzle came from a reliable source – Exodus’ own Form 990 submitted to the IRS. Under “Objectives for Fiscal Year Beginning January 1, 2007” the first listing is:
Will publish the results of our 5 Year Tracking Study, which will give an indication of the success rate of those who endeavor change from homosexuality. Dr. Stanton Jones from Wheaton College is heading this research.
It should be noted that Dr. Stanton Jones has corroborated extensively with Dr. Mark Yarhouse, a professor at Regent University and co-author of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework with Dr. Warren Throckmorton. Jones and Yarhouse also co-authored a book, Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate, in 2000. In fact, Jones was also Yarhouse’s graduate professor and is considered by some his mentor as well.
We don’t yet know the details of this study, but it appears that NARTH was quite anxious to give notice that the results would be presented at their conference. As far as we can determine, NARTH has no connection to the actual study, but it’s not a leap to expect they will be pushing the results around as support for their brand of therapy. Perhaps by hosting the speech, NARTH leaders are hoping to reclaim some relevance.
Many have been asking for a long-term follow-up study on ex-gays, so it’s likely this is Exodus’ answer. With so little information available, however, it is unlikely to have been peer reviewed. Expect to hear more in the next month or two.
Hat Tip: grantdale for Form 990 info.