‘Ex-gay’ ministry

Left, Sam Storm, Pastor of Bridgeway Church, and Stephen Black, executive director of First Stone Ministries, stand in the auditorium at Bridgeway Church.

On the Board of Reference there also is Sam Storms, lead pastor of Bridgeway Church, the website shows.

Restored Hope Network began with a leadership meeting in Orlando, Fla., in 2011.

According to Black, many Exodus member ministers were aware of then-president Alan Chambers’ theological shift that led to his closing down Exodus International, the world’s largest umbrella organization of ex-gay ministries, earlier this year. Twenty-one of those former Exodus affiliates joined forces to form Restored Hope Network.

According to Restored Hope’s website, the organization is teaching that “consistent with Jesus’ view of a male-female requirement for sexual relations is Scripture’s depiction of homosexual practice as a severe violation of God’s standards for sexual purity.” Black said the group would continue the work that Exodus began in its early days: the empowerment of gay men and lesbians to live a celibate life or to change their sexual orientation to one in agreement with Restored Hope’s reading of the Bible.

“We provide pastoral care, counseling, training, literature and public speaking opportunities to help people live lives congruent with faith, especially consistent with the Bible’s teaching about sexual ethics,” he said.

Like Exodus, Restored Hope is an umbrella organization. Its goal is to connect men and women who are looking for help with issues of “sexual brokenness” and sexuality with local member ministries. Both men emphasized that the work isn’t just focused on homosexuality but on sexual sins and brokenness of various kinds, including help with healing from sexual abuse and molestation.

The Restored Hope Network website said its task is to serve “those who desire to overcome sinful relational and sexual issues in their lives and those impacted by such behavior, particularly homosexuality.” The focus of ex-gay ministries is not only to provide support but to, in the words of Storms, “find the power to live celibate lives or break the power of same-sex attraction.”

As early as 1997, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution that questioned reparative therapy. The APA’s 1997 resolution said, in part, “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder, and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation.”

Restored Hope and its member ministries believe that the Bible is a higher authority than professional organizations of trained medical professionals, and as such, they disagree with the findings of the APA and other professional organizations. Instead, they rely on interpretations of the Bible that cast homosexuality as sinful and all sex outside of male-female marriage as equally sinful.

Greg Horton

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