Focus on the Family still thinks gays can be cured despite Melissa Fryrear's departure

Yesterday on his website, Wayne Besen wrote that Focus on the Family's Melissa Fryrear, a former lesbian who frequently appeared at events designed to help transform unhappy homosexuals into heterosexuals, had left the Colorado Springs ministry.

Besen speculates that Fryrear was a victim of layoffs of the sort that have struck Focus over the past several years. But that's not the case according to FOTF spokesman Gary Schneeberger. "She left to pursue some other ministry opportunities," he says, adding, "we haven't had any layoffs out of our public-policy division."

Regarding Besen's assertion that "Fryrear's departure signals Focus on Family's gradual shift away from the ex-gay industry," Schneeberger stresses that "we're not changing our position on what we know to be true -- that people can overcome their unwanted same-sex attractions."

On August 6 of last year, when the American Psychiatric Association formally rejected therapy to turn gay people straight, Focus's website described its position on same-sex counseling like so:

• Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God's image -- intentionally male and female -- each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.

• Sexuality is a glorious gift from God -- meant to be offered back to Him either in marriage for procreation, union and mutual delight or in celibacy for undivided devotion to Christ.

• Homosexual behavior violates God's intentional design for gender and sexuality.

• While we do not believe an individual typically "chooses" his or her same sex-attractions, we do believe that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex sexual temptation can choose to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.

• We affirm the Scriptural teaching that homosexuals can and do change their sexual identity (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

• We support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior.

• We do not endorse or promote any one particular religious, psychiatric or psychological approach as the "one and only" way to go about changing same-sex attractions and behaviors.

• Just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. Thus, individuals and their helping professionals are called to discern and pursue the most appropriate approach that best enables them to steward their sexuality in alignment with their chosen values.

Now, however, the link to this material is dead -- and on August 13, a week after the APA announcement, Focus confirmed that it had handed off Love Won Out, a program to guide gays out of their lifestyle, to Florida's Exodus International ministry.

At the time, Schneeberger said the decision was mainly about cost, not a change in views, and he reiterates that contention today.

"It made sense to transfer it to Exodus, who we'd long partnered with," he says. "But we still hold the same beliefs that we held before. We know for certain there are individuals who've successfully overcome their unwanted same sex attractions -- and we have an analyst on staff who can speak to those issues."

As for Fryrear, Schneeberger says he doesn't know any specifics about those other opportunities he mentioned. But he stresses that she decided to leave, just as she made another noteworthy choice...

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts