While investigating the removal of policy statements admonishing Richard Cohen and holding/touch therapy on the Exodus website, we received a reply from the assistant director of Cohen’s International Healing Foundation (IHF). She describes what seems like a reconciliation of sorts between the two groups:
Richard explained more about his work and his position and methods to Exodus and they all made peace.
Exodus and IHF have either ignored or denied our request for any further comment for the record. However, we have been able to confirm through two credible sources (who wish to remain anonymous), one from inside Exodus, that the meeting did take place. Cohen came to Exodus for a discussion with the leaders. We have also confirmed through one of these same sources that Exodus agreed to pull their statement about Cohen from their website as a result of the discussion.
Exodus placed the following statement on their website after Cohen appeared in an embarrassing blitz of media throughout 2006:
Exodus International does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen or the methods utilized in his practice. Some of the techniques Mr. Cohen employs could be detrimental to an individual’s understanding of healthy relational boundaries and disruptive to the psychological and emotional development of men and women seeking clinical counsel and aid.
We asked Exodus President Alan Chambers for an official response as to why this statement was removed, but he refused to go on record. Today, the following new statement appeared on the Exodus website:
Exodus International is opposed to the therapeutic practice commonly referred to as “holding/touch therapy” as a healing exercise for those with same-sex attraction distress. Accordingly, Exodus does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen, the methods utilized by the International Healing Foundation or any other individual or organization that is known to use that method.
This new statement is much less specific concerning Cohen — a combination of the original statement against holding therapy with Cohen as a mere afterthought. It says that Exodus is against holding therapy, and since Cohen uses that, Exodus doesn’t endorse him. What if Cohen were to drop the holding therapy? Would he then be acceptable to Exodus?
Last year, Cohen claimed to have “retired from counseling to focus on public speaking and training other professionals.” So how does this affect Exodus’ endorsement of him? If indeed he no longer gives therapeutic cuddles to his own clients, would that be enough for Exodus to drop their objection entirely?
Perhaps this really is politics and public relations after all. Cohen has stayed off the news for a while, and even managed to get a respected, mainstream Christian publisher for his book, Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan For Family Healing. A number of Exodus ministries and speakers admire and even recommend him. Which is easier, offending all those members or making nice with Cohen? Certainly there could be other issues involved, but so far Exodus is keeping that to themselves. Where is the transparency in ministry?
So what are we to make of these developments? Why meet with Cohen at all?