SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 28, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
(Los Angeles, CA) — Yesterday three former leaders from Exodus International — the powerful coalition of "ex-gay" ministries — presented an unprecedented public apology for spreading the message that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are sinful and that sexual orientation can change.
"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," said the joint apology, which was signed by Michael Bussee, Darlene Bogle, and Jeremy Marks.
The apology was presented at a press conference organized by Soulforce and BeyondExGay.com. The event was emotionally charged, especially when the former leaders presented the apology to a group of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who once sought to change their orientation through ex-gay programs but who now believe that those attempts did more harm than good.
Each of the assembled former leaders represents an aspect of the history and expansion of Exodus’s ministries. Bussee helped found the ex-gay movement and Exodus in the mid-1970s. Within a few years, however, he began to doubt the movement’s message and tactics:
"Many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing. Why weren’t they ‘changing’? The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse…. The message always seemed to be: ‘You’re not enough. You’re not trying hard enough. You don’t have enough faith.’"
Bogle, former director of Paraklete, an Exodus referral ministry for women, displayed visible emotion as she read from her personal statement of apology.
"I apologize to those individuals and families who believed my message that change was necessary to be acceptable to God. In recent years I have seen the resulting damage from rejection, shame, and conditional love," said Bogle.
Perhaps the most prominent former Exodus leader to participate in the apology was Marks, the President of Exodus International Europe until 2000. Marks described his growing awareness that ex-gay ministries were not delivering promised changes in orientation and issued a call to his former colleagues:
"I now want to try and encourage all those so-called ‘ex-gay’ Christians who lead Exodus ministries — who, in their hearts, know very well that what I am saying is true — to change their minds, as I had to — to simply trust in God once again for their credibility and support, even though that may mean risking all," said Marks, who has transformed his London-based program, Courage UK, into a gay-affirming ministry.
Marks, Bogle, and Bussee are gathered in Southern California for The Ex-gay Survivor Conference, which will take place at the University of California on June 29-July 1. This conference, which will focus on the experiences of ex-gay survivors, is the result of a year of planning and collaboration between Soulforce, the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine, and beyondexgay.com. It is timed to provide an alternative voice to the annual Exodus conference, which is also happening in Irvine this week.
For more information about the conference, visit www.soulforce.org.
Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.