Cure vs. change: Is there a difference?

If you believe The Associated Press and The New York Times, Exodus International has backed away from the idea that people with same-sex attractions can be "cured." As I noted in my recent "No longer 'praying the gay away?'" post, AP reported late last month:

MINNEAPOLIS — The president of the country's best-known Christian ministry dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer is trying to distance the group from the idea that gay people's sexual orientation can be permanently changed or "cured."

Similarly, in a story last week, the Times reported (with a barrage of "scare quotes"):

For more than three decades, Exodus International has been the leading force in the so-called ex-gay movement, which holds that homosexuals can be “cured” through Christian prayer and psychotherapy.

Exodus leaders claimed its network of ministries had helped tens of thousands rid themselves of unwanted homosexual urges. The notion that homosexuality is not inborn but a choice was seized on by conservative Christian groups who oppose legal protections for gay men and lesbians and same-sex marriage.

But the ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network.

Here is my journalistic question: Do AP or the Times have actual past quotes and/or documentation in which Chambers and/or Exodus used the term "cured" to describe their ministry and approach?

In reviewing media coverage of the ministry over the years, I found a number of cases where critics characterized Exodus' approach as an attempt to "cure" homosexuals. But I did not find any actual quotes from Chambers or the ministry itself using that terminology.

In fact, in an AP feature on Exodus six years ago, Chambers disputed the notion of "curing" gays:

Chambers is quick to point out that Exodus isn't about "curing" anyone or "turning people straight."

In fact, many who go through the program might never have a heterosexual relationship, he said.

Instead, it's about refraining from activities that violate their beliefs — in God or anything else — and addressing "unwanted homosexuality."

"These are people who have identified that they struggle with same-sex attractions and are conflicted about that, and they want to find some sort of level of support and ability to overcome those feelings, move beyond them or live with them in conjunction with their Christianity," Chambers said.

Does that sound much different from what he told the Times last week?:

In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every ''ex-gay'' he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.

For years, ex-gay leaders have said that gradual change in feelings and behaviors is possible. Change is not the same thing as cure, right?

Perhaps it's time for AP, the Times and other major media to throw out the "cured" terminology — or at least provide specific attribution to a source making that claim.

Image: Alan Chambers, via Exodus International

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