The head of Exodus International -- billed as the world's largest "gay conversion" Christian group -- said it was time for the organization to shut down because of changing attitudes towards homosexuality.
"I believe we've come to a time in the church when it's time to lay our weapons down," Alan Chambers said at an Irvine conference. "We fought the culture and we've lost. But I think we've lost for a good reason because it's time for peace."
The Florida-based ministry announced it was closing its doors Wednesday night, a day after Chambers apologized in a statement to members of the gay community for "years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole."
Months ahead of the announcement that Exodus International would close, the controversial Christian ministry's leader expressed doubts in the group's mission.
In an interview published Wednesday by the Orlando Sentinel, journalist and TV host Lisa Ling discussed an upcoming "Our America With Lisa Ling" show on religion and homosexuality in which she interviews Chambers.
Ling told the Sentinel that Chambers concluded months ago that “if someone professes to love God, they will have a place in heaven. He said 99% of people cannot change sexual orientation.
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Critics of the ministry, which for years boasted that homosexuals could find a righteous path in a heterosexual lifestyle, pointed to Chamber's own admission that "99.9%" of the people the ministry, including himself, still have homosexual urges.
Chambers himself says he used to be gay until he found Exodus. He's now married with two children.
Ling asked him if he was straight.
"He says he's Alan, he's a father and a great decorator," she told the Sentinel.
Chambers hinted that while he is "in love" with his wife, he struggles with his sexual desires.
"Life has been incredibly difficult," he said during his opening speech Wednesday night at the ministry's conference in Irvine. "I've begged God so many times to let me be a decorator."
Chambers explained his and the ministry's change of views this way:
"There have been people that we've hurt, there are horror stories, and I'm not telling you this for any other reason than to be honest and tell the true story about this ministry," he said. "In 37 years we haven't done everything right because we're a bunch of humans. We've hurt people. We've helped people. But we've hurt people."
Chambers then said it wasn't enough to acknowledge the ministry's missteps only to the congregation, so the church decided to talk with Ling and face the truth in a "really big way."
In a statement on the church's website, Chambers said a new ministry would rise in place of Exodus, one that would work with other churches to create "safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities."
He told the crowd gathered Wednesday night: "I long for the day when a gay or a lesbian kid feels like the first place, the best place to call or go for help is the church."