Phelan M. Ebenhack
Alan Chambers, left, president of Exodus International, sits with his wife, Leslie, in their home in Winter Park, Fla. The president of the country's best-known Christian ministry dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer is trying to distance the group from the idea that gay people's sexual orientation can be permanently changed or "cured." Chambers said Tuesday, June 26, 2012 that their upcoming national conference would highlight his efforts to dissociate the group from the controversial practice usually called ex-gay, reparative or conversion therapy.
Last night, at its annual conference in Irvine, the Exodus International Ministry made a huge and unexpected announcement. After nearly 40 years, the Christian organization is shutting its doors.
Exodus advocated a so-called cure for homosexuality through therapy, an idea that was a beacon for believers but a lightning rod for critics.
But Exodus's president Alan Chambers says, "I believe it's time for the church to do better and let everyone in."
"It's been met with mixed reactions from all sides," he tells Take Two. "But there's a strange consensus that it's time for a new conversation. It's time for peace."
Jeff Chu profiled Exodus International in his book, "Does Jesus Really Love Me? A gay Christian's pilgrimage in search of God in America."
The ministry's closing came as a surprise to him, even though Chambers and the organization had been shifting in that direction.
"Their tagline used to be, 'Change is Possible,' referring to homosexuality," says Chu, "and they've really tried to step back from that."
However the closing hasn't appeased all of Exodus's critics.
But Chu says this could be the first step in a path in reconciliation between the church and gays, though that doesn't mean gay conversions will stop.
"Symbolically the closure of Exodus is going to be an important milestone in many people's lives, but the fact is that many, many people are still doing this kind of work."