Anti-gay organization apologizes to LGBT community

Exodus International Exodus President Alan Chambers appeared on msnbc to promote the "pray away the gay" movement on July 9, 2012.
Exodus International Exodus President Alan Chambers appeared on msnbc to promote the "pray away the gay" movement on July 9, 2012.

After nearly 40 years of performing "gay-to-straight conversion therapy," Exodus International is closing its doors. The board of the Florida-based Christian ministry, which has grown to include more than 120 local U.S. and Canadian ministries and more than 150 ministries in 17 countries, voted unanimously Wednesday to shut down after a year-long internal discussion.

"Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we've ceased to be a living breathing organism," said Exodus President Alan Chambers on Wednesday. "For quite some time we've been imprisoned in a worldview that's neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical."

Chambers vowed that it is now time for a "new season of ministry, to a new generation," and said its "goals are to reduce fear, and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutual transforming communities."

Chambers also issued a series of apologies to the LGBTQ community for promoting reparative therapy and for failing to stand up to fellow Christians who persecuted gay individuals. “More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection," he said. "I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives."

Related: Although discredited, gay conversion therapy remains an option for minors

The shutdown comes six years after three former Exodus leaders apologized and left the organization. In 2007, former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, former president of Exodus International Europe Jeremy Marks, and the former director of an Exodus referral agency Darlene Bogle issued a joint statement acknowledging the harm reparative therapy caused:

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates," Bussee wrote.

In a interview with the Associated Press at the time, Chambers defended Exodussaying conversion therapy has helped thousands, including him. "I think there's room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn't dangerous."

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement Thursday applauding Exodus for closing its doors. "This is a welcome first step in honestly addressing the harm the organization and its leaders have caused over the past 37 years," said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program. "Now we need them to take the next step of leadership and persuade all other religious-based institutions that they got it wrong.  This is the right kind of reparative work that is left for them to do."

The organization announced it would close during its annual Freedom Conference in southern California.