As you've probably heard by now, Exodus International announced yesterday that it would be shuttering its organizational doors after thirty-seven years of propagating anti-gay junk science (that is to say, conversion/reparative therapy). This announcement comes on the heels of organization president Alan Chambers' formal apology (on the organization's behalf) for causing so much harm to LGBT persons and families over the years. In his letter to the public, Chambers said, "It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church’s treatment of the LGBT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt. Today it is as if I've just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church."
His apology is the latest in an ongoing effort to begin reparations for the harms committed against the LGBT community. He additionally worked with Lisa Ling on a documentary for Oprah’s OWN network that airs tonight. We previously posted a preview of the documentary earlier this week.
All of this is well and good - especially the part where Chambers (in conjunction with others that ran the organization) will be starting a new open-arms ministry called Reduce Fear - but what does this mean for the ex-gay and conversion therapy movements in general? What does it mean for the future of LGBT equality? The answer lies in the vacuum left in Exodus International's wake.
While Exodus was by and large the most prominent and well known ex-gay religious organization in existence, many smaller and more fundamentalist organizations had already begun to consider it too "liberal" in recent years. And with the dissolution of the already-declining organization, other (more virulently anti-gay) organizations will surely fill the void left behind. Conversion therapy camps, retreats and churches aren't just a conservative bandage to "cure" LGBT people; no the reparative therapy racket is a multi-million dollar industry that many will be hard-pressed to give up - not because they have a deep-seated need to help others, but because they have an almost incessant need to satiate their greed.
That's not to say that the halfhearted apology from Chambers and the shuttering of Exodus International means nothing - it's quite the opposite actually. When organizations as old and established as Exodus are forced to admit they're wrong and eat some very public crow pie, you can be sure the tide has turned. For the time being - until we completely eradicate the hate and propagation of harmful "therapy" - we have a documentary to look forward to that we now know describes how the beginning of the end of Exodus came about. In an interview with the Advocate, Ling had this to say about her documentary:
“I want people who are watching this to understand what these survivors have gone through,” she says. She found them inspiring, and she’s impressed with how some have even strengthened their religious faith after accepting their gay identity. “Watching this episode,” she says, “you’ll have no doubt that people can be gay and Christian at the same time.”