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‘Pray away the gay’ group issues apology to LGBTQ community

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(CNN) – After 37 years, Exodus International, an organization whose mission was to “help” gay Christians become straight, is shutting down. But not before issuing an apology.

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change — and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, an Exodus board member, said Wednesday.

The announcement comes less than a day after Exodus issued a wide-ranging apology to the gay community for “years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole,” a statement from the group says.

“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus. “For quite some time, we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”

Chambers, who has a wife and children and previously identified as gay, has acknowledged that he has “ongoing same-sex attractions.”

“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” Chambers said. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.”

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.

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New focus on a therapy

Exodus, which has promoted “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ,” has de-emphasized conversion therapy in recent years as more of the counselors in its network have abandoned the practice.

The American Psychological Association defines conversion therapy as aimed at changing sexual orientation, but adopted a resolution in 2009 condemning the practice.

In it, the organization said “mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.”

But the same resolution also encouraged therapists to consider the religious beliefs of clients who say such beliefs are important to their views of homosexuality.

The APA removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1975.

But yet with the apology, some things have not changed, according to Chambers.

“I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them,” he said. “I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.”

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A new ministry

With the closing of Exodus International, the board of directors voted to begin a new and separate ministry called Reduce Fear.

“This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” Chambers said. “Our goals are to reduce fear, and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities.”

It’s meant to align with Jesus’ New Testament message found in John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

“From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters,” Chambers said. “Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom.

“God is calling us to be the Father — to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”