The Need For Reform
Why It’s Critical to Have the Conversation About LGBTQ Inclusion
For decades, many churches promoted “ex-gay” ministries (also known as conversion therapy) as the faithful Christian response to LGBTQ people. This approach was based on the belief that people could essentially choose not to be gay if they worked hard enough or prayed hard enough.
In 2013, the leading ex-gay organization in the world, Exodus International, closed its doors after its president, Alan Chambers, admitted that 99.9% of people he knew had failed to change their sexual orientation. In recent years, Chambers has been even more absolute, saying in a 2019 interview, “No one changes their orientation; it doesn’t happen.” Many other former “ex-gay” leaders, from Michael Bussee to John Paulk to John Smid, have also renounced the ex-gay movement and are now LGBTQ-affirming.
“No one changes their orientation; it doesn’t happen. No therapy, no ministry, no prayer meeting, no nothing — you cannot change your sexual orientation.”
-Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International (defunct ex-gay organization)
Attempts to change sexual orientation are harmful.
Efforts to change people’s sexual orientation are not just ineffective—they are harmful. A 2018 study on conversion therapy found that LGBTQ youth whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as LGBTQ youth whose parents did not try to change their orientation. LGBTQ youth were almost three times as likely to attempt suicide when they were also sent to therapists and religious leaders who sought to change their orientation.
The harm of conversion therapy efforts is why many former “ex-gay” leaders have not only renounced their former beliefs, but apologized to the LGBTQ community for the damage they have caused.
“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior… Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy.”
-American Psychiatric Association, Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation
Condemning same-sex relationships and transgender people bears bad fruit in the lives of LGBTQ people.
Condemnations of same-sex relationships have created a crushing burden of shame in countless LGBTQ Christians’ lives, fostering alienation from God, the church, and family. According to a landmark 2009 study, when families reject their LGBTQ children, their children are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to have high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs than LGBTQ children who have supportive families.
A 2018 study found that, while religiosity helped to protect against suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among heterosexual youth, it was associated with significantly higher rates of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among gay, lesbian, and questioning youth. Suicide rates are highest among transgender people; 41% of transgender adults in the United States reported having attempted suicide in their lifetime in a 2014 survey, compared to only 1.6% of the overall population.
For LGBTQ youth who are rejected by their family:
Even when Christian families seek to communicate to their LGBTQ children that same-sex relationships are sinful in the most loving and supportive ways possible, the results can be disastrous. We strongly encourage any Christian parents struggling with the news of their child’s identity to read “Just Because He Breathes,” Linda and Rob Robertson’s heartbreaking story about the devastating consequences of their non-affirming beliefs on their son Ryan despite their best efforts to love and support him.