A Christian group that once promoted therapy to encourage gays and lesbians to overcome their sexual preferences has closed its doors and apologized to homosexuals, acknowledging its mission had been hurtful and ignorant.
Exodus International billed itself as the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, operating since 1976. It announced it would cease operations in a statement on its website on Wednesday.
The Irvine, California-based group’s board unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry, the statement said.
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced,” President Alan Chambers said in a statement. “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.”
Chambers said he was part of a “system of ignorance.”
Exodus International has closed at a time of shifting attitudes in the United States, with public opinion polls now tilting in favor of same-sex marriage.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, with six doing so since last fall. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June on a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that restricted federal recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples, as well as a challenge to a 2008 California referendum that banned same-sex marriage in that state.
Ross Murray, a spokesman for gay rights group GLAAD, called the closing of Exodus International a step in the right direction and welcomed Chambers’ move away from “divisive and demonizing rhetoric.”
“But it’s going to take a long time for healing to come, especially for the people who have gone through Chambers’ program and have suffered because of it,” Murray said. (Reuters)