According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, a majority of Americans (56%) do not believe that sexual orientation can be changed.
That may be good news to the ex-ex-gay ministry leaders heading for the big Soulforce and beyondexgay.com conference being held this weekend in Irvine, California. It's timed to coincide with the annual Exodus ex-gay ministries conference held the same time.
This afternoon, three former leaders of ex-gay ministries, including the founder of Exodus, held an emotional news conference at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Village to apologize to gay people for the damage they caused by being complicit in the religious right's anti-gay agenda and preaching the unscientific doctrine of "change." As deeply religious Christians themselves, they were particularly pained by the very idea that they even suggested that God didn't love gays.
Here's the apology from Darlene Bogle, Exodus-founder Michael Bussee, and UK's Jeremy Marks:
As former leaders of ex-gay ministries, we apologize to those individuals and families who believed our message that there is something inherently wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates. We apologize for our part in the message of broken truth we spoke on behalf of Exodus and other organizations.
We call on other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to this apology.
We encourage current leaders of ex-gay programs to have the courage to evaluate the fruit of their programs. We ask them to consider the long-term effects of their ministry.
Some of those effects, they said, were deep depression, anxiety, and suicide.
"My heart breaks as I hear the many stories of abuse and suicide from men and women who couldn't change their orientation, regardless of what Exodus and other Christian ministries told them. One of our female attendees became so depressed over her inability to change that she jumped off a bridge rather than continue the struggle. I was told it wasn't my fault, but my heart knew better. ....There does need to be a change in our lives, but our sexual orientation is not what needs to be healed. I call for a time of healing within the body of faith that will celebrate Christ's life within all His children," said Darlene Bogle, founder of an Exodus off-shoot called Paraklete Ministries in Hayward, California.
The Rev. Mel White, the one-time ghost writer for Jerry Falwell and other religious right-wingers who started the spiritually activist group Soulforce in 1999, choked up talking about the apologies.
"I sat through the press conference, listening to these ex-gay leaders apologizing, crying because it's a paradigm shift. It's a moment when, finally, the ex-gay leaders who are now ex-ex-gays leaders are now coming out and saying it doesn't work. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. If that word could start from here and spread across the country and around the world - it would be a major moment. It doesn't work. Worse than that - it kills. It creates self-hatred and guilt and a growing despair and a growing escape from reality as you're finding it and I went through that so long, I felt it so much, that I think that finally somebody's saying, 'It doesn't work!' - and they were the ones who said it would - it makes me happy, happy, happy."
This is the kind of truth that needs to circulate through the grassroots, through churches and organizations that believe in fairness until it informs the judges and legislators who base their rulings and politics on the religious belief that gays are sinners and can change our despicable "lifestyle." Maybe a groundswell from the public can shut down the James Dobson-types who make money off our misery.