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Ministry that claimed it could ‘pray away the gay’ shuts its doors

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Exodus President Alan Chambers at a chapel at Concordia University in Irvine. Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/June 13, 2013

SEATTLE — Since the 1970s, Exodus International has promised that by “praying away the gay,” homosexual people could become straight. Now, the ministry’s president admits this conversion therapy doesn’t work.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people I’ve met, myself included, continue to struggle with or have same-sex attractions,” Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said at a conference in California. “For the majority of people who deal with this issue, those things don’t go away.”

Chambers announced at the Exodus International Freedom Conference that the ministry, based in Orlando, Fla., is now shutting its doors.

“While there has been so much good at Exodus, there has also been bad. There have been people we have hurt. There are horror stories,” Chambers said.

Ann McGettigan, executive director of the Seattle Counseling Service, one of the oldest counseling centers for the LGBT community in the country, has seen that damage firsthand.

“We see the effect here in terms of folks who have tried to do conversion therapy and it’s been incredibly hurtful for them. We do a lot of repair work in terms of helping people feel whole and feel good. We want folks to feel proud of who they are,” said McGettigan.

Rabbi Zari Weiss feels this move shows that the religious community is becoming more welcoming.

“We have evolved as a people and religion has evolved as well. What was written 3,000 years ago doesn’t define who we are today,” Weiss said.

One of the leaders of Equal Rights Washington calls the Exodus shutdown monumental.

“It’s really great to hear. Today there is an acknowledgment that, no, you can’t change, and you know what?  You’re OK.  Frankly we’re perfect just like everybody else,” said Josh Friedes.

Exodus says it plans to start a new ministry that is more welcoming, but no details on that venture yet.

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