An “ex-gay” Christian ministry that spearheaded the largest national movement to cure homosexuality is shutting its doors for good one year after renouncing its controversial therapies.
Exodus International announced its groundbreaking decision Wednesday before offering an apology for all the harm and pain it has caused the gay community over the last 37 years.
“For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical,” said ministry President Alan Chambers, who has struggled with his own same-sex attractions, on Thursday.
The group based in Orlando, Fla. was the largest evangelical organization dealing with “same-sex attraction” in the world, with more than 200 branches spread throughout the U.S. and Canada since 1976.
Up until last year, it had asserted that homosexuality could be overcome by therapy and prayer despite the American Psychiatric Association’s 15-year-old statement that such treatment could lead to depression and anxiety.
Chambers said Thursday that it can lead to suicide and turning away from family, friends and Christianity as well.
“More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection,” he said in his public apology.
“I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.”
Chambers, who is married to a woman and has two children, had until recently showcased himself as a man who had mostly overcome his attraction to men.
“There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. 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,” he said.
“Today, however, 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.”
On Thursday night, Chambers will offer a public, televised apology on “Our America With Lisa Ling” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.
It’s the same program he appeared on three years ago to discuss the ministry’s “deeply held beliefs about Christianity and the LGBT community.”
“While this conversation has and may well continue to be met with many different responses from supporters and critics,” he said Thursday of those beliefs, “it is our desire to keep having these honest discussions in the hopes of arriving to a place of peace.”