ORLANDO, Fla.—After 37 years of attempting to tell gay Christians that prayer would rid them of their attraction to members of their same sex, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, one of the most prominent "pray away the gay" groups, admitted in a speech given at the group's annual meeting in late June that there was in fact no "cure" for homosexuality, and that so-called "reparative therapy" was useless and could in fact harm those who were subjected to it.
According to an article in The New York Times, Chambers said in a telephone interview that virtually every "ex-gay" he has ever met continues to harbor homosexual cravings, himself included, and that gay Christians like himself—Chambers is married and has two children—faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.
The statement is perhaps the logical supplement to statements Chambers made in a speech in January, where he stated at a Gay Christian Nation conference that "99.9 percent of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality," and apologized for the Exodus slogan, "Change Is Possible."
Of course, long-time followers of this issue are aware that Exodus has long been marked by controversy. Two of the group's early leaders, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, divorced their wives and left the group to live with each other in 1979, and even had a commitment ceremony three years later. The pair were together until Cooper died in 1991.
Even more public was the discovery in 2000 that Exodus chairman John Paulk had been discovered (and photographed) cruising a gay bar in Washington, D.C., and though Paulk vehemently denied it, he was removed from his chairmanship shortly thereafter.
Chambers' statements come on the heels of a California bill recently passed by the state Senate that would outlaw "gay conversion therapy" for minors, and on the fact that the psychiatrist who first published a "study" that supposedly showed that gays could be "cured," Dr. Robert Spitzer, has now retracted his study, terming it "invalid" and "bad science."
Needless to say, Chambers' statements went over like a lead balloon among leaders of other "pray away the gay" groups.
"I think Mr. Chambers is tired of his own personal struggles, so he's making excuses for them by making sweeping generalizations about others," said Gregg Quinlan, president of the conservative anti-gay group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays.
David H. Pickup, an "ex-gay" therapist and officer of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, said reparative therapy had been responsible for profound changes in thousands of people, including himself.
"[M]y homosexual feelings began to dissipate and attractions for women grew" while in therapy, Pickup assured.
It remains to be seen how Exodus's annual budget of $1.5 million, most of which is provided by donors and member churches, will be impacted by Chambers' admissions.