A Christian ministry which claimed to “cure” gay people has issued a humbling apology for hurting them and declared that it is shutting down after its founder admitted that he was attracted to men The Times have reported.
The announcement came in a statement posted on the website of Exodus International, a Florida-based ministry which has claimed for almost 40 years to help people repress their sexual urges through prayer.
Alan Chambers, the group’s president, who is married to a woman but now admits he is sexually attracted to men, made a public apology in a speech to his ministry’s annual conference.
“We’ve hurt people,” he said. “While there has been so much good at Exodus, there has also been bad. We’ve fought the culture war, and we’ve lost. It’s time for peace.”
In a message to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered community, Mr Chambers apologised for causing people trauma. He said: “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.
“Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there.”
Exodus International was founded 37 years ago and had 260 member ministries. It offered to help Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counselling and prayer, but had been discredited by public bodies representing psychiatrists and psychologists.
Yet the idea that gays could be “converted” through prayer persists among some evangelicals. Mr Chambers had indicated last year that he was trying to distance his ministry from the idea that gay people could be permanently changed or “cured.”
In his statement yesterday, he said the board had decided to close Exodus and form a new ministry aiming to reduce fear and help churches become safe and welcoming.
Gay rights activists welcomed the apology. Sharon Groves of the Human Rights Campaign called the move “a welcome first step in honestly addressing the harm the organisation and its leaders have caused”.
“Now we need them to take the next step of leadership and persuade all other religious-based institutions that they got it wrong,” she said.
Truth Wins Out, another gay rights group praised Mr Chambers for “integrity and authenticity”.
“It takes a real man to publicly confront the people whose lives were destroyed by his organisation’s work, and to take real, concrete action to begin to repair that damage,” said the group’s associate director, Evan Hurst.