Can sexual orientation change? Many people say no. They believe homosexuals are born that way and, consequently, sexual attractions can’t change. In fact, someone at a recent event this month asked me whether the closing of Exodus International proves this very point.
Exodus was an umbrella network that connected many organizations that sought to help those with unwanted same-sex attraction. Alan Chambers, its President, closed the organization after 35+ years, citing a change in his views on the effectiveness of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).
That’s proof, I’m told, that SOCE don't work. Chambers, after all, could not overcome his own same-sex attraction. He was also in the best position to witness the effectiveness of ministries involved in SOCE. Why would he close Exodus if he knew reorientation therapies were successful?
I don’t know Alan, nor am I criticizing him (in fact, I really like his name), but his closing Exodus doesn’t prove SOCE don’t work.
Even if it were true that Alan attempted to change his same-sex attraction and it didn’t work, that would only prove one thing: Alan didn’t experience any change. That’s all. It’s just his experience. It doesn’t prove that no one can change or that no one has ever changed.
Imagine the President of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) shuts down that organization, goes on Oprah Winfrey’s network, and confesses he’s still an alcoholic and hasn’t experienced any measurable change in his addictions. What would that prove? It wouldn’t prove that AA never helped anyone overcome their addiction. It wouldn’t prove that no one has ever overcome alcoholism, either on their own, through AA, or through another program. It wouldn’t prove that ex-alcoholics have faked their success stories.
In the same way, Alan Chambers’ decision to close Exodus doesn’t – and can’t – change reality: There are thousands of men and women who have overcome homosexuality (and yes, even had their attractions change). This can be known through at least three lines of evidence: an ancient report of change in the Bible (from the city of Corinth), the testimonies of thousands and men and women who have experienced change, and secular scientific research that found sexual orientation/attractions can change.
I’m not saying that sexual orientation change is easy, usually successful, or that we should force people to change. What I am saying is that change is possible and nothing that Alan Chambers or Exodus International does can change that.