The Age gives ex-gay ministries a fair hearing

There was a man bites dog story in the Australian press that caught my eye this week. It was not this story from the Sydney Morning Herald entitled "Man bites dog, goes to hospital" but an article in The Age reporting on reactions to the closure of the US-based ministry Exodus International. The cynic in me was not expecting much from an article entitled "'Gay cure' therapy will continue". As my colleagues at GetReligion have pointed out the media has not distinguish itself in its reporting on the Exodus International story. Yet The Age published a story sympathetic to the ex-gay ministries movement and, dare I say it, was perhaps unbalanced in their favor?

Under a photo of the silhouette of two men kissing behind a rainbow flag, the story begins:

Australian religious organisations will continue using homosexual reorientation therapy, despite the closure of a leading US proponent, Exodus International, which has apologised for the "pain and hurt" it caused.

Surprise one -- a non-pejorative description "reorientation therapy." Surprise two follows -- a ministry spokesman describes what they do and don't do.

The Reverend Ron Brookman, the Australian director of Living Waters Ministries and a member of Exodus Global, said the organization had acknowledged damage caused by treating homosexuality as something that could be "cured".  "We don't like to call it healing, we call it transformation," he said. "I minister to a lot of people struggling with same-sex attraction who never budge but we don't condemn them, we don't shame them. We stand with them and support them."

A third surprise follows -- The Age gives space to critics of Alan Chambers.

Exodus International dissolved last week with its president, Alan Chambers, issuing an apology for the "pain and hurt" caused. The 37-year-old acknowledges he still has homosexual urges.

Peter Stokes, chief executive of Christian ethics group Salt Shakers, said Chambers was "off the planet". "Alan Chambers has said I have tried this and failed, therefore it's not possible for anybody else to come out of homosexuality," he said. "It's a bit like a drug addict saying I tried to stop and I couldn't do it so nobody else can do it."

He accused Mr Chambers of undermining Christian values. "It's very sad to see a good organisation being ripped apart by one individual," he said. "This organisation has helped many people over the years."

There are no contrary voices denouncing reorientation therapy or lauding Alan Chambers decision to close down his ministry. In that sense the article is unbalanced and incomplete. Were this only story out there I would question its value. However, the reporting I have seen so far on this issue ignores or denigrates the views presented in this piece.

That makes this story unique. It allows spokesmen for Christian ministries who seek to transform those who wish to leave a homosexual lifestyle to speak without a censure or ridicule -- they can recognize their point of view in this newspaper story. That is good journalism.

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