by Greg Spearritt
The motto of US Christian group Exodus International has been ‘change is possible’. It’s a group long dedicated to changing the sexual orientation of gays through faith, prayer and therapy.
Alan Chambers, head of EI, has recently proved the truth of the motto in a very welcome and ironic manner. Having once proclaimed that “the opposite to homosexuality is holiness”, he has now apologised to gays and lesbians for the hurtful and ignorant nature of the group’s mission. In a message to the gay community on his website Chambers says: "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 stigmatised parents."
Chambers has admitted his own struggles with same-sex attraction. He will appear on an American TV special, ‘Gods and Gays’, together with a group of gay people his organisation has tried to ‘convert’.
Since the 1970s Exodus International has spawned more than 220 ministries in the US and Canada; though these will have to avoid using the Exodus name, all or most are likely to continue operating, so the damage will continue.
However, the about-face of EI raises the question of how anyone with strong religious (or anti-religious) beliefs can change their views. We’re used to seeing very strong views that appear perversely resistant to change, even when the facts may be fairly clear. In the case of EI, as probably with most such cases, change has (reportedly) occurred incrementally. The fact that the American social context on attitudes to gays has shifted – so much so that the President can speak in favour of gay marriage – probably has a lot to do with it.
At least it’s good to know that change is possible!