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Gay conversion ministry closes, issues apology

© Kevin Zolkiewicz via flickr

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-21

Florida-based Christian ministry Exodus International will shut its doors, its leader announced, apologising for inflicting “years of undue suffering” on gay people by trying to help them purge themselves of same-sex desires.

Just as the US Supreme Court is on the verge of issuing decisions that could see significant gay rights advances in America, a Florida-based organisation that worked to help people repress same-sex attraction is calling it quits.

The leader of Christian ministry Exodus International has apologised to the gay community for inflicting “years of undue suffering”, and announced plans to launch a new initiative to foster dialogue between all parties in the debate over gay marriage and other issues affecting the LGBT community.

“The church has waged the culture war, and it's time to put the weapons down,” Alan Chambers told The Associated Press on Thursday, just hours after revealing his decision at Exodus’s annual conference and publishing his apology online. “While there has been so much good at Exodus, there has also been bad…We've hurt people.”

Exodus was founded in 1976 and opened 267 branches in the US and abroad. Its stated purpose was to aid conflicted Christians in purging themselves of unwanted homosexual desires through counselling and prayer.

A dying cause?

But the group had come under fire in recent years, with gay rights advocates, psychiatrists, and psychologists all rejecting the notion – particularly popular among Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists -- that homosexuals could be “converted”. Conversion therapy actually increases patients’ risk of suicide and can worsen a host of psychological conditions like anxiety and depression, the American Psychological Association has found.

Even Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist who argued in a 2001 article that gay people could change their sexuality, has since retracted his initial stance and apologised to the LGBT community.

Chambers himself has talked publicly about his attraction to men, despite the fact that he is married to a woman.

The new ministry Chambers plans to found will be called reducefear.org. “We want to see bridges built, we want peace to be at the forefront of anything we do in the future,” he told AP. “I hold to a biblical view that the original intent for sexuality was designed for heterosexual marriage… Yet I realise there are a lot of people who fall outside of that, gay and straight ... It's time to find out how we can pursue the common good.”
 

Date created : 2013-06-21

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