There has been quite a bit made recently about a new study that maintains that sexual orientation can be changed with religiously-based therapy, i.e., pray the gay away. The study Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation can be found in PDF.
Of the original 98 subjects (72 men, 26 women), 61 subjects completed the key measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress at the conclusion of the study, and were successfully categorized for general outcome. Of these 61 subjects, 53 per cent were categorized as successful outcomes by the standards of Exodus Ministries.
It is hard to quibble with the science in this paper, but we will none-the-less try. First off, the author readily admit their bias. And it should be noted that their institutions, Regent University and Wheaton College, are both known for their anti-gay bias. Since I do not share their bias I fail to see that a 53% success rate is warranted from 23% reporting that they have had a heterosexual relationship and a further 30% report celibacy along with a lessened interest in the same sex. The history of conversion therapy includes administering lobotamies and actual and chemical castration. Would these qualify as successes under the standards of Exodus Ministeries?
The second issue with this study has to do with the two subgroups. Of the 61 subjects included at the 6 year mark, 29 were from Phase 1 population. These were meant to represent the typical groups of regular subjects entering the Exodus program. This group had been in Exodus for less than a year when they entered the study. Then a Phase 2 group was added, also called the "Truly Gay" subpopulation. This group had been in Exodus for 1 to 3 years when enrolled in the program. If you look at Table 1 in the PDF, you can see that in fact Phase 1 participants actually measured as more gay after 6 years (thought not to a degree that shows statistical significance). It is only the Phase 2 participants that show a statisically significant degree in change of sexual orientation. The authors should be closely questioned on how they chose their subjects for Phase 2 before any great credence is given to these findings.
Meanwhle, John Smid, a former official with Exodus International, states
Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people. But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.