Nearly a year ago, GetReligion highlighted an Associated Press story reporting that Exodus International was no longer trying to "pray the gay away."
That story prompted our esteemed head GetReligionista -- tmatt -- to note, “In all of my years covering ex-gays, I’ve never met anyone who actually claimed they could pray the gay away.”
Alas, easy headlines die hard.
Alan Chambers and Exodus International are back in the news, and so is that convenient catchphrase, albeit with the preposition in a slightly different location. In a "Perspectives" piece on its breaking news blog, The Los Angeles Times suggests:
It’s really worth watching the heartfelt speech that Alan Manning Chambers gave Wednesday as he announced the demise of Exodus International, the controversial Christian ministry founded 38 years ago in Anaheim to — as one often hears — "pray away the gay."
Chambers, who has led the Orlando, Fla.-based group for 11 years, said he thinks the church is becoming a more welcoming place for gays, and that Exodus, founded as a refuge for Christians battling their same-sex attractions, has simply done more harm than good.
“While there has been so much good at Exodus,” said Chambers, who credited the ministry for saving his life at 19 when he was a suicidal because he could not reconcile his sexuality with church teachings, “there have been people that we’ve hurt. There are horror stories.”
Still, he opened the Irvine conference by reminding people of whom Exodus International serves: “Most of us … are here as Christians with same-sex attractions. We’re believers, like me, who believe sexual expression is reserved for one man and one woman in marriage. Or we’re here as Christians with gay and lesbian loved ones who desperately want to love without conditions.”
I realize that the piece referenced is clearly marked as an opinion item. But again, it's worth noting that no actual source is given for the "pray away the gay" quote. Is that good journalism?
Reading Chambers' statement posted online, I feel for reporters faced with boiling down exactly what he believes -- and how his beliefs have changed or evolved -- in relatively short news stories.
Beyond the meat of his apology, for example, this paragraph of his statement stood out to me:
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. 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. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.
RNS handled the theological issue this way:
Chambers, who is married to his wife, Leslie, said his core beliefs about sexuality have not changed, and admitted he still wrestles with his own same-sex attraction.
Oh how I wish RNS had elaborated on those "core beliefs." Of course, it is very possible that Chambers is simply refusing to answer those questions, at this point.
AP, meanwhile, quoted Chambers from an interview:
"I hold to a biblical view that the original intent for sexuality was designed for heterosexual marriage," he said. "Yet I realize there are a lot of people who fall outside of that, gay and straight. ... It's time to find out how we can pursue the common good."
Hmmm, I'm still confused about what he believes. Please see my earlier statement about the difficulty of covering this topic and specifically Chambers.