"What Was Missing From An Ex-Gay Leader’s Apology"
In June, Alan Chambers apologized for the harm caused by the ex-gay organization Exodus International and announced it was shutting down. This week, one of Exodus’s officers, Randy Thomas, offered his own apology to the gay community. In addition to serving as Exodus’s Executive Vice President, Thomas was also a “star” of the ex-gay movement, who made a career out of providing ex-gay ministry and speaking out against LGBT rights, like hate crimes protections. Now, he says he regrets speaking out in ways that hurt LGBT people:
I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus’ commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I’m disappointed in myself. Please forgive me.
He also apologized for covering up the harm that Exodus was causing some people:
In 1992, I was part of an Exodus affiliated ministry in Texas that believed being in relationship with Jesus alone was our goal. I never felt pressured to change my same sex orientation. I saw my life greatly improved by having the freedom to question my sexuality and identity. I assumed this was what happened at every Exodus group, and I ended up idealizing the entire ministry based on my singular experiences in Texas. However, after joining the Exodus staff, I was confronted with the reality that some methods used by some of our local ministries ended up bringing hurt and pain to the very people they were trying to comfort.
Other ex-gay leaders like John Smid and John Paulk have recanted their past teachings, but what’s noticeably missing from Thomas’ apology is specificity of any kind. Not only does he offer no details about which “methods” were harmful, the mere idea that there are some that were not harmful is problematic. In fact, he still suggests that questioning one’s sexuality is healthy and worthwhile. In contrast, over 90 percent of ex-gay survivors, those who abandoned attempts to change their orientation, report that the treatment they experienced was harmful.
Thomas similarly stated that Living Waters, the ex-gay ministry he once worked for, had “some good” to offer. He expressed remorse that he helped support the reputations of hostile opponents of LGBT equality like Andrew Comiskey, who now chairs the ex-gay group Restored Hope Ministries that splintered away from Exodus, but doesn’t disassociate himself from the basic teachings in which he was still engaged less than two years ago. As Truth Wins Out points out, Thomas also did not come out, suggesting he still identifies as ex-gay himself.
A commenter challenged Thomas on this lack of specificity, and Thomas suggested that he will address the many questions in due time, perhaps as “chapters in a book.” Though his admission that he participated in the harm of LGBT people is another striking blow to the reputation of ex-gay therapy, his apparent adherence to the potential of questioning, doubting, or repressing one’s sexual orientation is still a dangerous idea unworthy of applause.