Following the recent shut down of Exodus International, what was once the largest umbrella organization for ex-gay ministries, Focus on the Family was one of the first organizations to make it clear it still supported efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation. On Friday, the organization demonstrated that commitment by publishing an interview with Anne Paulk, executive director of the Restored Hope Network, which splintered off last year after Exodus said it would no longer try to “cure” homosexuality.
According to Paulk, Exodus’s closure was “like the unnecessary death of a dear friend,” and she worries about those still seeking to leave homosexuality:
PAULK: Each one of us is wounded and hurt in different ways, but the person with same-sex attraction usually has some pretty specific wounds with their same-sex parent, their peers, their self-identity and their understanding of who the opposite gender is. They usually have some childhood wounding. There is a lot going on and a lot of care is needed. Churches can offer help because they have the biblical hope right in their hand. What Christ calls sins, He also redeems from sin and provides for the overcoming of sin. He delights in a repentant sinner even someone dealing with same-sex attraction. He can change that attraction over time.
All of the research suggests Paulk is wrong. In fact, even studies of people who claim they’ve had success with ex-gay therapy find that they still actually have same-sex orientations — they just deny or ignore them. She and her husband John used to champion ex-gay therapy together, but he has proven to be the perfect example of its failure. The two are now divorcing, and John has apologized for promoting ex-gay therapy, which he acknowledges is harmful and ineffective — including for him. Those who still subscribe to an ex-gay mentality may not agree about its risks, but those who’ve left it behind (“ex-gay survivors”) overwhelmingly describe how their lives were “devastated” by the ministries.