Former leaders of the nation's largest evangelical referral ministry on homosexual issues made a public apology on Wednesday for the harm they say they caused in their gay conversion efforts.
"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," said Michael Bussee, Jeremy Marks and Darlene Bogle, who formerly helped lead Fla.-based Exodus International, in a joint written statement. "Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates."
Their statement at a news conference in Hollywood reflects the opinion of the general American public on homosexuals and change as the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll revealed that same day. For the first time in a CNN poll, the majority of Americans (56 percent) said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed. That statistic jumped from the 45 percent that a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found in 2001. In 1998, the number was 36 percent, according to a CNN/Time poll.
Many, however, would disagree. Thousands have journeyed out of the homosexual lifestyle, including Exodus' president, Alan Chambers, and the journey has been well worth it, he said.
"I came out of homosexuality," he said on CNN's Paula Zahn Now Wednesday night.
"There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there's room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn't dangerous," said Chambers, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Chambers is hosting the annual Exodus Freedom Conference at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., this week with about 1,000 people in attendance. The conference is geared towards people struggling with unwanted same-sex desires, those who know of someone struggling with homosexuality, and pastors who want to become more effective in ministering to those struggling.
But some say such efforts to help change homosexuals have caused more harm than good to some, like Bussee, who will be participating in "The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference" also in Irvine beginning Friday. He and the two other former Exodus leaders said they had known people who had tried to come out of homosexuality with the help of Exodus but had failed, often becoming depressed or even suicidal as a result, according to the LA Times.
Chambers makes clear that the path of leaving homosexuality or homosexual desires is a difficult journey. And he and Exodus officials are careful to warn those who seek help.
"Anyone who has undergone the life-changing process of leaving homosexuality behind will tell you that it is not an easy one," said Chambers in an earlier statement.
But for Chambers and many others, their lives have been transformed "by the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ."
While there are critics who say such persons have only succeeded in suppressing their real sexual urges, Chambers, who is married with two children, stated, "I have absolutely 100 percent no desire to be involved in homosexuality or be with someone in the same sex. That's different than temptation, it's different than attraction, but I'm not gay," he said on CNN. "I challenge anyone to say what I have isn't authentic and it isn't real, because no one can say that."
Further findings in the latest CNN poll, conducted May 4-6, showed that 42 percent of about 515 respondents said they believe homosexuality results from upbringing and environment while 39 percent said they believe it is something a person is born with. In a 1977 poll, only 13 percent said a person is born homosexual.