Exodus and their New Scientific Study

I’ve been awaiting for a while now to catch a glimpse of the new study put out by Exodus on how gays and lesbians can change.  The study just came out the other day, and talk about wasted anticipation!  Exodus, on their main webpage, states that "Freedom is possible through Jesus Christ!"  They claim that at their annual conference that:

Each year, over 1,000 men, women, youth, pastors, therapists, spouses, parents and other interested persons come together for a unique gathering of instruction and celebration. Besides powerful worship and inspirational messages, dozens of workshops are presented on counseling, relationships, sexual struggles, societal issues, support for family and friends, ministry development, and various other topics.

They also have a section in their website of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).  Here is one of the questions and below is part of the answer:

What’s your "success rate" in changing gays into straights?

No one is saying that change is easy. It requires strong motivation, hard work, and perseverance. But we find hundreds of former homosexuals who have found a large degree of change–attaining abstinence from homosexual behaviors, lessening of homosexual temptations, strengthening their sense of masculine or feminine identity, correcting distorted styles of relating with members of the same and opposite gender. Some former homosexuals marry and some don’t, but marriage is not the measuring stick; spiritual growth and obedience are.

Exodus used to claim that thousands and thousands of homosexuals have changed.  Now above they state that the numbers is hundreds–but look at what they are calling change:  abstinence, lessening of temptations, and some (but not all) marry.  Now that isn’t a change–that is suppression of your homosexuality.  Anyway, the important thing to remember here is that now they claim there are ‘hundreds’ of people.  But Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, just said on Sept. 14th at a news conference applauding the release of this new study:

"However, for thousands of us, the journey has been well worth it and we are grateful that these study findings give credence to our existence as men and women whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ."

Someone should tell President Chambers that his ‘thousands’ is really hundreds, at least according to his own non-profit’s website.


It also says:

On the statistical side, careful reviews of research studies on sexual orientation change suggest that real change is indeed possible. Studies suggesting change rates in the range of 30-50% are not unusual, although "success rates" vary considerably and the measurement of change is problematic. For details and review of several studies, see the link below.

No doubt this statistic will change with the newest results, since they aren’t even close to having a 30-50% change (or suppression) rates.  The latest study shows quite a bit less than 30-50%!

And that leads me to this newest study.  Although Exodus claims that there are hundreds, and Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus claims that there are thousands who have found ‘freedom’ from homosexuality, this new study could only find less than one hundred.  They started with 98, but after three years there were only 78 who wanted to participate.  That is it.  Just 78 people who wanted to take part in this groundbreaking study on who is successful at changing.  It doesn’t sound like thousands or even hundreds, if you ask me.  So let’s look at what these 78 people had to say after being looked at for four years.  Who were the people who quit (at least according to the Baptist Press)?

Some of them quit because they believed they had successfully changed and didn’t want to participate anymore, while others quit because they no longer wanted to change, the study said.

The Baptist Press doesn’t say what percentage of these people left because they thought they had changed or no longer wanted to participate or no longer wanted to change.  Hopefully the real study has all the details.  Anyway, they were left with 78 people (about a 20% dropout rate).

All of these people were counseled by Exodus.  Since that is the case, why couldn’t they find more people to study?  I mean, thousands and thousands of people sound like a lot of people.  Even hundreds.  Sounds and smells fishy to me. 

Here is how the Baptist Press broke down the remaining numbers (without giving the actual numbers–only percentages):

— 15 percent reported their conversion was successful and that they had had "substantial reduction" in homosexual attraction and "substantial conversion" to heterosexual attraction. They were categorized as "success: conversion."
— 23 percent said their conversion was successful and that homosexual attraction was either missing or "present only incidentally or in a way that does not seem to bring about distress." They were labeled "success: chastity."
— 29 percent had experienced "modest decreases" in homosexual attraction and were not satisfied with their change, but pledged to continue trying. This category was labeled "continuing."
— 15 percent had not changed and were conflicted about what to do next.
— 4 percent had not changed and had quit the change process, but had not embraced the "gay identity."
— 8 percent had not changed, had quit the process and had embraced the "gay identity."


Notice a few things here.  Those they considered a success (15% or about 12 people) had a ‘substantial reduction ‘ in homosexual attraction, but not totally reduced.  They also state that there was ‘substantial conversion’ to heterosexual attraction.  Not a total conversion–just substantial.  So these people they deem a success still have homosexual feelings.  That is considered a success?

The next 23% (or 18 people) had either missing homosexual attraction or some homosexual attraction that didn’t cause them distress.  The numbers are not broken down in terms of how many had a missing homosexual attraction.  Those I would consider a success.  But certainly not the ones who still had homosexual feelings but that these feelings didn’t cause them a problem.  This really is suppression, isn’t it?  If they have these feelings and it doesn’t bother them, aren’t they still homosexual?  And this study puts them in the ‘success:  chastity" section.  I assume that means that these 18 people are not having sex with the opposite sex.  I wonder why that is, especially with the group that has a missing homosexual attraction.

29% (23 people) still had issues and were still having homosexual attractions.  They were still trying to get rid of their attractions after four years of trying. 

15% (about 12 people) had not changed.  They are still homosexual.

4% (3 people) quit and were still gay, even though they had not ’embraced’ the ‘gay identity’ (more doublespeak, but essentially it means they are gay and they choose to ignore it).

And 8 % (6 people) have quite and ’embraced the gay identity.’

And 5% (4 people) had their interviews screwed up by a tape malfunction, so who knows about them…

So really, what this means is some unknown number of people in the 23% category that have a missing homosexual attraction that has been converted.  Really converted.  Without reading the study there is no way of knowing how many people have actually changed from gay to straight–and by straight I mean absolutely no homosexual feelings at all.  Let’s say this is half that number, which would give us 9 people.  So 9 people out of 78 have been converted (if that is really the number).


What the Baptist Press doesn’t tell you are the number of problems cropping up with this study. See the comments here (which are found in this study and were written by its authors):

Second, if some but not all of the 98 individuals who completed the initial assessment for this study demonstrate significant change, this study will provide no conclusive evidence about what proportion of individuals can change. Why? Because answering the question of probability of success would require a study examining a scientifically representative sample of all persons who experience homosexual attraction. We do not, however, have such a scientifically representative sample in this study. This is a ubiquitous problem in research on homosexuality—no one really has any idea of what such a representative sample would look like, and no study can really claim to have produced such a sample, for the simple reason that there is significant disagreement over how to define who “counts” as a “homosexual” and because there is so much controversy swirling around the subject that certain people will come forward or hang back from being studied for a variety of reasons.


Of the ministries contacted, a number declined to participate by referring participants to us, and this introduces further unknown variation in our sample. Of the ministries that agreed to participate, some referred all of their participants to us (as described later) while others clearly referred only a sample, again introducing unknown variation in our sample. … We believe that our sample is a fair representation of religiously motivated individuals seeking sexual orientation change, but of completely unknown representativeness of all homosexually oriented persons. Thus, we regard the sample in our study to be better than a mere convenience sample, but cannot argue for complete representativeness of the sample.


The authors (you can see some of the study here) also state that their study doesn’t show that this change is permanent (p. 17).  They also claim that their results cannot be used to show that a percentage of the gay population can change.  They state that they would need to look at a "scientifically representative sample of all persons who experience homosexual attraction" (p. 18).  So if you hear of a group that states that a certain percentage of gays can change based on this study, they are lying. 

They also state that their ‘principle goal’ of this Exodus study was to see if even a single person could change and therefore challenge the idea that homosexuality is unchangeable (p. 19). 

So there are problems with this sample–ministries picked those they thought were motivated to change–they obviously didn’t pick those they thought were not so motivated, but still in an Exodus program.  They are calling this a scientific study?  Oh boy.  No doubt these results will be used far and wide by Exodus, but you just have to look at the comments made by the authors of the study to see how seriously it should be used.

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