After a period of leadership controversies and disbanding of ex-gay evangelical ministries, groups stressing the importance of celibacy for gay evangelicals are gaining popularity, reports Sarah Pulliam Bailey in Religion News Service (Aug. 4).
When the prominent ex-gay ministry Exodus shut down in 2013, it was a sign that the reparation therapy model that it was based on, the concept of changing one’s sexual orientation, was coming under new challenges. While new ex-gay ministries stepped in after Exodus closed, such as Restored Hope Network, “many religious leaders are now encouraging those with same-sex attraction to consider a life of celibacy,” Bailey writes. The evangelical shift away from reparation ministries has come at a time of rapidly changing societal views on homosexuality, as well as various states banning or considering bans on reparation therapy for minors.
Several former ex-gay ministry leaders have denounced the practice as harmful in the last two years. Earlier this year the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors amended its code of ethics to eliminate the promotion of reparation therapy, and encouraged celibacy in its place, according to Bailey. But gay evangelicals promoting and practicing celibacy often feel marginalized in society and in churches, which prioritizes marriage.
Gay evangelical author Matthew Vines says “it’s a subtle but significant shift. They’re saying, ῾There’s nothing wrong with being gay in and of itself,’ and that is a big change.” Some evangelicals are mining the Catholic Church long tradition of celibacy. Eve Tushnet, a 35-year-old writer whose book “Gay and Catholic” comes out in October, is emerging as a significant voice in support of celibacy and the Catholic tradition.