An organization whose mission was to turn gay Christians straight has apologized and disbanded. After 37-years, the leader of Exodus International is saying he's sorry for being part of a "system of ignorance that perpetuated so much hurt." But, Fox 25's Kisha Henry shows us another group is already stepping in to take its place.
"I was ecstatic when we found out Exodus was going to disband and Alan Chambers- the president- was going to apologize. I mean, this was really like McDonalds renouncing hamburgers. That was remarkable. It was bold. I applaud him for doing so," says Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out.
But, while gay rights advocates rejoice over the closing of an ex-gay group, they're preparing for others to take its place. "Exodus' closing is a sad event. We feel it's like the unnecessary death of a dear friend," says Robert Gagnon, a board member for the Restored Hope Network (RHN).
"The Restored Hope Network is taking over where Exodus is leaving off," says Scott Hamilton, Executive Director of the Cimarron Alliance.
RHN says it will continue with its mission of "overcoming sinful sexual issues"-- like homosexuality-- through the power of Christ. But, gay rights groups don't believe you can change a gay person's orientation. "It's a myth... up there with Bigfoot and the Lockness Monster. It's not true," says Besen. He says Exodus International's closing and apology to the gay community destroys similar groups', like RHN's, credibility. "Alan Chambers said a little bit over a year ago that 99.9-percent of his clients that try to go from gay to straight fail, and the other one-percent work for him," says Besen.
RHN says its mission doesn't change every gay person's urges, but does have an affect on their heart. "They will experience the power of Jesus Christ in their life, not to conform to whatever innate desires they happen to experience, but rather to conform to the will of God," says Gagnon. Gagnon says he doesn't believe a person just wakes up one day and decides their gay. He believes from birth throughout life, there are a number of things that play an influence in increasing or decreasing the likelihood of homosexual identification. He believes it's a person's duty to turn away from those temptations. "Jesus' call of discipleship is to take up your cross, lose your life, deny yourself and follow Him. That means whatever innate urge that we happen to experience that is inconsistent with God's best plan for us, is not something that we should be carrying out," says Gagnon.
Gay rights advocates say it's harmful to try to change a gay person's orientation. "Attempts to do so are very destructive. They can cause anxiety, depression, self-destructive behaviors such as suicide. You're ok the way you are if you're gay or lesbian. You cannot pray away the gay," says Besen. He says groups like RHN actually do the opposite of what they're trying to do. "If you want to turn a gay person away from Christianity, tell them to try to pray away the gay and change. That's not the message of Jesus. Jesus was about love. What they're doing is rejection," he says.
But, RHN says not attempting to change a gay person's orientation is what's harmful. "It would be hate for us to say nothing about it. It would be hate to proclaim that what God says is good is not good," says Gagnon. He also says RHN does not have a mission of "praying away the gay." "(Our mission) is not some sort of magical cure. We certainly do pray for people. We don't have a 'pray away the gay' view, if by that people mean- a simple prayer is going to magically transform somebody from having one orientation to another. (We are trying to get) people to realize that God is more important than any set of innate urges, and God does have the power to transform," he adds.