Little information has yet been made public about Restored Hope Network, the new ex-gay organization that seems designed as an alternative to Exodus International.
We do know that its founders include two of Exodus’s most outspoken critics, Robert Gagnon and Andy Comiskey, who have recently taken Exodus President Alan Chambers to task for both his theology and his rejection of reparative therapy. David Kyle Foster, whose Mastering Life Ministries separated from Exodus, is another founding member.
RHN doesn’t yet have a functioning website, but its mission is described on its Facebook page:
We are a group of ministries and individuals committed to serving those seeking Christ-centered answers for sexual and relational problems. … Restored Hope is a membership governed network dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin especially those impacted by homosexuality. We proclaim that Jesus Christ has life changing power for all who submit to Christ as Lord; we also seek to equip the church to impart that transformation.
Joe Dallas of Genesis Counseling is also listed as a founding member (his wife, Renee, appears to have edited documents for the group), and Alan Chambers has confirmed he remains affiliated to Exodus International. Chambers has also repeatedly confirmed to Ex-Gay Watch that its member ministries will no longer be able to practice or promote reparative therapy.
Given the credentials of RHN’s founding members, what exactly is its relationship to reparative therapy? There is no explicit mention of it in the mission statement. Comments made on its Facebook page give some clue:
There is a different role for this network. Each organization has its strengths or focus. We focus on the biblical view of sexuality and endeavor to assist those who seek to submit their errant sexuality to the lordship of Jesus Christ. For some that might mean celibacy, for others it is to remain committed to their opposite sex spouse, for others it is celibacy until marriage. There is a continuum of change that we recognize. Some of these things do overlap with Courage and [Sexaholics Anonymous].[...]
We are a network of related ministries, not a cookie cutter type network. That is part of the beauty of this network. We are generally not reparative therapists, nor do we push reparative therapy, but we also do not discourage men and women who seek effective counseling methods. Faith is the core of our goal, as we see faith in our Lord as the key principle to guide all of life’s decisions not only one’s sexuality.
No one is expected to marry, no such pressure exists within any of the ministries, but it is not unheard of for men and women who are growing in their faith to find themselves desiring marriage. For some this is so, for others, they are content with singleness.
Several issues here welcome clarification, and Exodus will no doubt have to address these as it decides whether it and RHN are really compatible under the blanket “no RT” rule. RHN does not “push” reparative therapy, but nor does it “discourage” it. Gagnon and Comiskey, both founders and billed as keynote speakers at its first conference, this coming September, have both championed reparative therapy in opposing Exodus recently.
Another issue is to what extent Exodus’s ban on reparative therapy extends to all sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). Technically, reparative therapy refers to one particular type of “conversion” or “change” effort, namely that offered by psychologists such as Dr Joseph Nicolosi and his compatriots at NARTH. Exodus International’s stance on non-RT forms of change effort has yet to be clarified, although Chambers told Ex-Gay Watch the “need for an abundance of clarity” means Exodus has yet to make a general SOCE policy statement.
For the time being, RHN and Exodus membership appear not to be mutually exclusive.