The largest and oldest Christian group dedicated to "curing" homosexuality announced on Thursday that it would close its doors, citing the "years of undue suffering and judgment" that it caused.
Gay rights activists greeted the announcement that Orlando, Florida-based Exodus International was ceasing operations warmly. The gay rights group Truth Wins Out praised the decision and the "integrity and authenticity" of its president's apology for his organization's actions.
In a statement, Exodus president Alan Chambers expressed his desire to apologize to the gay community for the suffering and judgment gays had experienced at the hands of Exodus "and the church as a whole."
Truth Wins Out associate director Evan Hurst told the Associated Press that "it takes a real man" to confront the damaged people and destroyed lives that Exodus' work had caused, and to begin taking "real, concrete action" to repair that damage.
Gay activist group The Human Rights Campaign said it was happy Exodus had taken a first step towards "honestly addressing" the harm it had caused.
Chambers acknowledged "we've hurt people" at Exodus' annual conference, saying that, while there had been much good at the group, there had also been bad. "We've lost" the culture war, he stated. "It's time for peace."
Chambers is married to his wife Leslie and has publicly spoken about his sexual attraction to other men. Last year he said he was trying to move his ministry away from the idea that it could "cure" homosexuality, backing away from the idea that an organization could cause a person to change their sexual orientation.
Exodus board member, Tony Moore, said separately that the decision to close down Exodus wasn't meant to negate the ways it had positively affected "thousands of people." The issue was that a new generation was looking for a change, and Exodus wanted it to be heard.
According to the Associated Press, former followers of Exodus who disagreed with Chambers' decision to close the operation down had already formed a new "ex-gay" organization.
John Burnett of National Public Radio stated that Chambers had claimed in a TV interview a year ago that "99.9 percent" of people who went through therapy meant to change sexual orientation are ultimately unsuccessful.
Christopher Doyle is a psychotherapist and also president of "ex-gay" therapy organization the International Healing Foundation. He claims that Chambers' decision to close Exodus and subsequent announcement has done significant damage to the cause.
"It's a sad day" for the movement to reorient homosexual tendencies, he told NPR, noting that Exodus had been the largest Christian organization of its type since its founding 40 years ago. Exodus "has really given a lot of hope" to people looking to leave homosexuality, and now it's "basically saying that people can't change."