Three things happened to me at the conference. One, I received new and helpful information on SSA. Two, I had some significant interactions with people and with God that helped me better understand where I am in my journey. Three, I left with a solidifying sense of purpose and calling going into the future.
1. New and Helpful Information
(a) Is Exodus Interested in Change?
In the opening talk, Alan Chambers asserted that the primary purpose of Exodus is not to change people from homosexuality to heterosexuality, but to holiness.
For a while, I had been frustrated when people fed me that same line whenever I told them about my change experience (that is, change in same-sex sexual desires). I felt that they were saying "we just want Christ, becoming heterosexual is not really possible anyway."
What's the point of Exodus if it is not focusing on change in SSA? I can find God and grow deeply in my spiritual walk through other ministries (and I have). Isn't getting rid of my unwanted same-sex sexual desires something that makes a ministry like Exodus what it is? If so, then why water it down?
When I asked Randy Thomas in a face-to-face why Alan Chambers would not consider sexual desire change to be important, he felt that I had taken Alan's words too far. He said that Exodus sees same-sex sexual desire change as a by-product of the pursuit of holiness, and what mental health professionals are doing to help sexual desire change is "complementary" to Exodus' goals.
As the conference went on, it became very obvious through the workshops, testimonies, books, etc. that Exodus is very much pro-change, pro-freedom-from-homosexuality, whatever you want to call it. But in their official stance, holiness is primary, not heterosexuality.
In the large worship hall where I saw close to a thousand people at various stages of their change experience all worshiping Jesus, it finally dawned on me that focus on sexual desire change should not be the main message. Holiness is the message. It turns our eyes to the author and healer of our souls: Jesus. I had assumed, as a follow of Christ, that my change comes from God, but not everyone in the auditorium did, and not everyone in the media watching Exodus' work does. The testimony of Exodus ought not to be about change in sexual orientation (although that is what Exodus is about: they prefer to call it "freedom from homosexuality"), it ought to be about Jesus. I learned something new and important about rhetoric in ministry and organizational leadership.
(b) Other New and Helpful Information on SSA
- Iron-clad biblical theology asserting heterosexuality as God's design and homosexuality as sin by Dr. Robert Gagnon (link)
- Randy Thomas' argument that we are now in a post-gay era, and the gay versus ex-gay dichotomy is just not a good reflection of what is really going on in people's experience and conceptualizations of themselves (link).
- Hearing a panel of speakers answer a question as to why despite years of freedom from homosexuality, some people still have "gay affectations." The answer from one very straight-acting panelist was that he had realized that he stuck with his effeminate behavior as a defense against fully embracing masculinity. When he finally confronted himself, then he was able to enter into masculinity in its fullness, affectations and all. Later, when I recounted the story to another attendee and told him that I am at the place where I actually really want to be a jock, his immediate response was: "Eew!"
- A bold document has been published by NARTH to hold the American Psychological Association accountable to research-backed statements which counter their early unsubstantiated statement that sexual orientation cannot be changed, it is harmful to try to change it, and there is no greater psychological dysfunction in the homosexual population. These are NARTH's opposing claims, with the document given to the APA: (1) There is substantial evidence that sexual orientation may be changed through reorientation therapy; (2) Efforts to change sexual orientation have not been shown to be consistently harmful or to regularly lead to greater self-hatred, depression, and other self-destructive behaviors; (3) There is significantly greater medical, psychological, and relational pathology in the homosexual population than the general population (link). Currently, the APA has set up a task-force to re-evaluate their earlier statement. NARTH researchers tried to get a representative onto the task-force, but APA did not allow it. It currently comprises only pro-gay activists. The task force will share their deliberation in the upcoming month or so.
- Hearing Nicolosi talk, I gained new insights about reparative therapy. His ideas are based on the latest empirically-supported understanding of psychotherapy interventions. I was impressed. One idea is that shame leads to homosexual enactment. So to help people overcome SSA, helping them overcome their shame response and cycle is crucial. I will be reading more about Nicolosi for sure. (Nicolosi: link)