New Report Finds Ex-Gay Movement in Latin America Divided, But Still of Concern

An Exodus International billboard ad from 2007 claiming "Change is Possible". Source:

A 2007 Exodus International “Change is Possible” ad.

When the Executive Director of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, dramatically announced in January 2012 that he no longer believed there was a “cure” to homosexuality, he allegedly ended his organization’s 35-year-long effort to “convert … LGBTQ people to homosexuality.”

The public reversal of Exodus International’s position on “conversion therapy” has had ripples across the Exodus Global Alliance’s affiliate organizations. However, the Exodus Global Alliance, the overarching network that include the U.S.-based Exodus International and other regional affiliates, continues to claim that “change is possible.” Exodus Latin America is  closely networked to smaller ministries such as Living Waters/Aguas Vivas that actively promote ex-gay “conversion therapy.” While Exodus Brazil shares a skepticism toward a psychological approach, Exodus Latin America maintains its commitment to “therapeutic methods.”

This division within the movement is examined in a new PRA report, The “Ex-Gay” Movement in Latin America:  Therapy and Ministry in the Exodus Network. In the report, researchers Jandira Queiroz, Fernando D’Eilo, and David Maas find a movement that “remains united in its belief that homosexuality is a sin, but divided on whether it is ‘curable.’”

While some Latin American governments are unsympathetic to ex-gay views and have targeted conversion therapy practitioners and affiliated ministries, the Christian Right is pushing back. In Brazil, for example, religious conservatives in the legislature are using religious liberty arguments in an effort to reverse the Federal Council of Psychology’s regulations. Even if conversion therapy efforts continue retreating, the report’s authors write that “ministries may remain important popularizers of a psychological view of the origins of “same-sex attraction” in trauma or family dysfunction and a “cure” in Jesus Christ.”

While conversion therapy faces challenges from within and without the movement, the report’s authors suggest caution regarding the Christian Right’s ability to adapt, and the mainstream influence these antigay organizations continue to possess. As recently as 2010, Exodus Global Alliance representatives attended the Third Lausanne Congress, the world’s largest conference of evangelical leaders, leading sessions on sexuality and promoting ex-gay therapy and other harmful psychological views of homosexuality. A conference endorsed by such high-profile figures as Rick Warren and Billy Graham, it’s acceptance of Exodus gives it mainstream sanction for its views.

At this crucial time in the ex-gay movement’s evolution, the new report contributes to understanding its continuing influence in Latin America. As PRA religion and sexuality researcher Rev. Kapya Kaoma writes in his preface, “Chambers’ change of position is not enough—there is a need for a well-coordinated approach to counter the influence of Exodus across the globe.”

Download and read the report here.