Out of Bondage: Helping Homosexuals Who Want to Change

Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ - is it really possible? Exodus International, a coalition of some 135 ministries supporting gays who wish to change, would argue "yes." And so would Robert L. Spitzer, chief of Biometrics Research and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.

Spitzer released on May 9 results from his latest research project. "Contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals, using a variety of change efforts, can make substantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation," Spitzer announced.

Exodus, the International Healing Foundation, Homosexuals Anonymous and Phileo Ministries are among the many groups who can support Spitzer's results.

"We believe freedom from homosexuality is increasingly experienced as men and women mature through ongoing submission to the lordship of Christ and His Church," says Bob Davies, executive director for Exodus North America.

Since 1976, Exodus has challenged two sets of people: those who respond to homosexuals with ignorance and fear, and those who uphold homosexuality as a valid orientation. "These extremes fail to convey the fullness of redemption found in Jesus Christ, a gift that is available to all who commit their life and their sexuality to Him," says Davies.

Exodus is the largest Christian referral and information center dealing with homosexual issues in the world. Each listing is an independent organization that has met Exodus' criteria for membership. Most members are lay ministries; some are professional counseling centers. Each provides unique services and resources. There are now four Exodus regions worldwide, including an increasing number in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Each referral ministry is independently operated, providing accountability, resources and conferences to educate and equip the Christian community. In addition, they offer support groups, monthly newsletters, an annual conference and often, an online forum.

The International Healing Foundation (IHF), established in 1990 by psychotherapist Richard Cohen, has educated, counseled and trained more than 12,000 men, women, and adolescents over the past 10 years. IHF seeks to help each man, woman and child in healing from past and present wounds, and empower them with the understanding of their value as a child of God.

Cohen travels across the nation, speaking on healing homosexuality, the meaning and causes of same-sex attractions, and the process of transitioning from homosexuality to heterosexuality.

IHF also offers healing seminars; teleconferencing classes for family, friends, strugglers and therapists; a referral service and resource materials.

Not Without a Fight

Most ex-gay ministries have drawn the fire of pro-gay groups. According to the alternative Disinformation.com, "the Religious Right has renewed its attack on human dignity" and claims the ministries are "not motivated by human concern but instead by political power." One of the nation's largest lesbian and gay political organizations, the Human Rights Campaign, has attacked ex-gay ministries in recent years and has already issued statements attempting to discredit both Spitzer and the study's results.

"This study has little scientific value because the sample was largely drawn from organizations with strong anti-gay missions and appears to be a reflection of the researcher's personal bias," says Wayne Besen, the associate director of communications for the HRC.

Bob Davies, executive director of Exodus North America, dismisses these protests as invalid. "Dr. Spitzer is a self-identified humanistic atheist," says Davies. "At the beginning of this study, he was skeptical that change was possible. If anything, his bias is against change, not that change is possible."

Besen claimed that lack of acceptance and fear of rejection may have played a key role in the subjects' decision to enter into conversion therapy. However, the subjects themselves gave different reasons for seeking change, including the feeling that homosexuality was not emotionally satisfying, conflicts with religious beliefs, and interferes with the desire to get married or stay married.

According to Exodus, ABC News confronted Spitzer with the American Psychiatric Association claim that treatment aimed at changing sexual orientation can cause depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.

"There's no doubt that many homosexuals have been unsuccessful and, attempting to change, become depressed and their life becomes worse," Dr. Spitzer responded. "I'm not disputing that. What I am disputing is that is invariably the outcome."

Spitzer told ABC News that some of his subjects had been despondent and even suicidal for the opposite reason: "...they had been told by many mental health professionals that there was no hope for them, they had to just learn to live with their homosexual feelings."

"The assumption that people can't change is a political conclusion rather than a scientific conclusion," says Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, director of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and an Exodus member. "It points to the influential gay lobbyists within the profession, of which there are many. When we issued a study last year saying more than 800 people had changed, it was pushed to the side."

But when Spitzer releases such results, Nicolosi adds, "it has to be listened to because of his track record as a gay advocate."

By Janet Chismar, Religion Today

To view this story on-line, go to:

Religion Today - May 15, 2001

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