Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Report Highlights "Ex-Gay" Groups in Latin America

Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank that monitors the Christian Right, recently released a new report on the so-called ex-gay movement. The Ex-Gay Movement in Latin America: Therapy and Ministry in the Exodus Network highlights the international outreach of the Exodus Global Alliance, particularly in the Americas.

The report begins with a discussion of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, a 2010 gathering in Cape Town, South Africa that drew evangelical Christian leaders from 198 countries. Exodus Global Alliance, a coalition of ex-gay groups, was not only present at the global conference, but an active participant. According to the Lausanne website, the 2010 conference schedule included a session entitled "Sexuality: Creation, Brokenness, Truth and Grace", in which several Exodus speakers disseminated disturbing messages about LGBTQ people to an international audience.
"Bryan Kliewer, Director of Exodus Alliance, challenges the Church to see the homosexual community as a deliberately unreached people group. Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, critiques common Evangelical slogans about ministering to homosexual people and calls Christians to be full of grace and truth without contradiction.

Willy Torresin, a Minister in Brazil, gives his testimony as a Christian worker seeking help to work through his struggles with homosexuality. He tells of the failure of the church, his entry into gay culture, followed by his encounter with the transforming love of God.

Bryan Kliewer looks at New Testament passages that can help us shape a ministry to homosexual people, drawing upon the examples of Jesus and Paul. They express the hope for change, breaking social rules to reach others, refusal to condemn, and contextualized sharing of the gospel.

Henok Ghebrehiwot, Director of Bethseda Restoration Ministry in Ethiopia, looks at trends and figures concerning the homosexual population in Africa. He proposes that Africa take a lead in ethics, truth and grace. Heisha Fernandez of Exodus Latin America reminds Christians that all must go through the process of change following our conversion. She issues a call to the church to seven elements of ministry to homosexual persons."
The report cites the Lausanne conference as an example of the so-called ex-gay movement's global reach. Even though Exodus International executive director Alan Chambers publicly rejected the idea that most gays can be made straight in 2012, Exodus Global Alliance and its global affiliates are still spreading troubling messages about gays and lesbians worldwide.

While disagreement exists among Exodus Global Alliance affiliates whether homosexuality can be "cured", the groups still associate homosexuality with sin and promote homophobic messages. As the report points out, the ex-gay movement is adaptable, promoting homophobic ideas even if it is not universally promoting conversion therapy per se.
"Cracking ex-gay therapy’s pseudoscientific veneer and forcing it to retreat to the conservative religious sphere would be a victory for the LGBTQ community. However, while Exodus may currently be in a time of turmoil, and the ex-gay movement faces challenges in the United States and in Latin America, the Christian Right’s ability to adapt suggests continued reason to be wary of the exgay therapy and ministry complex in its various expressions. In contrast with conversion therapy, asserting the right to “choose” support from Christ in rejecting unwanted same-sex attraction poses a more slippery approach to conversion that can be shielded by religious liberty claims."
As the title suggests, The Ex-Gay Movement in Latin America focuses on the work of Exodus affiliates in Central and South America. Political Research Associates looks at the history of Exodus evangelism in Latin America, as well as resistance to ex-gay efforts by Latin American LGBTQ activists, lawmakers, professional associations, and health organizations. The report also explores how changes in the Latin American political climate have resulted in the growth of evangelicalism in politics, a shift toward more progressive political agendas, and the evolution of the LGBTQ rights movement. These developments have forced Exodus affiliates to adapt while maintaining a homophobic agenda.

The Ex-Gay Movement in Latin America provides snapshots of various ex-gay groups that previously operated or currently work under the auspices of Exodus Global Alliance, including Aguas Vivas ("Living Water"), Exodus Brasil, and Exodus Latin America. The report explores the networking between the ex-gay movement and other Latin America right-wing groups such as Alianza Cristiana de Iglesias EvangĂ©licas de la RepĂșblica Argentina.

It would be a mistake to assume that the ex-gay movement always presents a united front. The schism between Exodus International and Restored Hope Network over whether or not gays can be "cured" is well-known, but disagreements have also erupted Among Exodus' Latin American affiliates. For example, in 2012 Exodus Latin America states that its American counterpart's rejection of "curing" gays violated the principles of the Exodus Global Alliance. Controversies and mixed messages over conversion therapy still continue among ex-gay activists in Latin America, the report observes.

The report concludes with a warning about the Exodus Global Alliance and other ex-gay forces abroad. It encourages human rights advocates across the globe to "learn from each other across borders and continue to expose the true foundations of these approaches so that cries of religious liberty do not shroud and justify an active homophobia."
"In Latin America, even as Brazil conversion therapists fight against the government shutting down their work, ex-gay ministries continue, albeit without broadcasting that they are offering a “cure.” Exodus Latin America promotes a heavily psychologized form of mission work that circulates discredited canards about homosexuality stemming from family dysfunction. So even while reparative and conversion therapy are on the defensive, many of their harmful interpretations remain strong in church groups around the hemisphere ... Furthermore, while the Exodus network comprises a major segment of the Latin America exgay movement, other players are actively spreading their mission from the United States to Latin America including the NARTH offshoot Renacer; the International Healing Foundation; and Setting Captives Free’s Puerta de Esperanza.

This suggests that cross-border solidarity among those challenging ex-gay ministries is vital and worth additional investment. U.S. advocates can publicize the Latin America tours and visits of U.S. ex-gay ministries peddling harmful approaches that don’t pass legal muster in the countries they are visiting. They can challenge Exodus Latin America for brokering those visits. And they can challenge companies that benefit from the ex-gay groups. Such was the case in 2011 when AllOut.org’s online campaign led Pay-Pal to cut ties with four organizations that spread hatred and discrimination."
Political Research Associates excels at reminding activists that the Christian Right's machinations are not limited to the U.S. This report serves as another reminder that LGBTQ rights supporters must stay informed about Religious Right activism abroad and express solidarity with the global LGBTQ community.

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