A US faith-based organisation notorious for its gay conversion therapy crusade has apologised to the LGBT community for the “pain and hurt” it has caused.
Exodus International calls itself “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality” – but it is now shutting down after 37 years.
In a statement Alan Chambers, president of Exodus said: “It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church’s treatment of the LGBT community, and also to be someone who must apologise for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt.
“Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.
“Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change.”
Mr Chambers added. “I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.”
The 41-year-old admitted that he was still attracted to men and acknowledged his organisation had caused others to suffer because of their own same-sex attractions.
Mr Chambers also said he was deeply sorry that the stigmatisation of LGBT people sometimes led to suicide.
However, he refused to apologise for his “deeply held biblical beliefs” about sexuality and marriage.
Mr Chambers gained international attention in 2011 after being interviewed by Lisa Ling of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) as part of a special programme on so-called “pray away the gay” therapies. At the time, he said the therapy allowed LGBT individuals to live a life in accordance with their Christian faith.
He now plans to read his lengthy apology in a new OWN programme, which airs on Thursday evening.
On Wednesday, it was reported that several UK MPs had signed an Early Day Motion against gay conversion therapy to ensure that “NHS medical professionals cannot inflict this cruel treatment on their patients”.
The discredited medical practice has been described as “harmful” by the UK Government – although some therapists still seek to provide the treatment – through referrals by GPs.