(Reuters) – A U.S. Christian group that once promoted therapy to encourage gays and lesbians to overcome their sexual preferences has closed its doors and apologized to those who underwent treatment, acknowledging its mission had been hurtful and ignorant.
Exodus International billed itself as the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, operating since 1976.
The Irvine, California-based group’s board unanimously voted to cease operations and begin a separate ministry, Exodus International said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.
“We have made a number of mistakes with how we treated people, based on our beliefs,” President Alan Chambers told Reuters yesterday. “I recognize that our beliefs have to change, but I’d never distance myself from the church.”
Chambers declined to estimate how many people underwent therapy, saying it was impossible to calculate because it was practiced by some 260 Exodus International-affiliated ministries across North America.
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced,” Chambers said in the statement. “I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”
Chambers said he was part of a “system of ignorance.”
Exodus International has closed at a time of shifting attitudes in the United States, with public opinion polls now tilting in favor of same-sex marriage.