By Zack Jenkins
Last month Alan Chambers – president of Exodus International, a reparative therapy group that formerly believed homosexuals could cure themselves of sinful thoughts by ‘praying the gay away’ – told the New York Times that he no longer supported or believed in a “cure” for homosexuality. He immediately received a cold shoulder and strong words from many of the conservative churches that supported and worked with Exodus International.
Previously, Chambers believed that gay men and lesbians could change their sexual orientation through prayer and therapy. Now he affirms that almost every “ex-gay” he has met still feels or suppresses same-sex attraction. But Chambers recently took his change in opinion a step further, stating that he believed gay men and women can go to Heaven as long as they “have security in Christ.”
Dr. Robert A. J. Gagon, an associate professor at the Pittsburg Theological Seminary, worries that Chamber’s statements will encourage gays and lesbians to “engage in homosexual behavior [assuming]their salvation is guaranteed.”
Chambers insists that for “anyone who has given his or her heart to Christ, the gift of salvation is irrevocable.” He told the Christian Post that his issue “isn’t whether gay people go to heaven or straight people go to heaven. The point that I’m trying to make is that we as believers can have security in Christ when we are believers. I’m not saying that sin isn’t sin. I’m not saying that people should live in unrepentant sin.”
If anything, Chambers is most upset that many Christians place more emphasis on the issue of homosexuality than they do adultery, divorce, gluttony, pride or other issues.
The former conversion therapy advocate now looks to direct Exodus International towards helping those gay men and women find a relationship with Christ.
Despite Chambers’ intentions to help, reparative therapy and conversion therapy still have many strong and vocal advocates. Many of these advocates continue to identify homosexuality as a mental disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association, a classification that was re-written in the early 1970s.
Reparative therapy and advocacy groups do have strong opposition. In April 2012, a California Senate committee passed a bill that would ban minors from receiving “sexual orientation change efforts” in the hopes of restricting the therapy, as it cannot be legally banned. Many mainstream health organizations view conversion therapy as harmful and, after nearly 40 years of inconclusively claimed results, refuse to suggest or support the practice.