The leader of a large Christian ministry that claims to offer a "cure" for homosexuality apologized to the LGBT community and announced on Wednesday that the organization is shutting down.
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, announced the decision on the group's website and issued a formal apology, saying he was "profoundly sorry" for the pain some within the organization caused.
The group was founded in 1976 and now has more than 200 branches, churches and counselors, according to NBC News. Those within the group claimed people could overcome homosexuality through prayer and therapy.
But psychiatric and medical groups have said that the movement, also known as reparative therapy, is unfounded in science and can be harmful, NBC reported. The American Psychiatric Association said 15 years ago that the therapy could cause depression, anxiety and self-depressive behavior in patients.
"Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person," Chambers said on the group's website. "My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch."
The group's board of directors unanimously decided to close down and begin a separate ministry after it spent a year full of "dialogue and prayer about the organization's place in a changing culture," according to a statement on the organization's website.
"We're not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard," board member Tony Moore said in the statement.
Last year, Chambers said he would stop endorsing the practice of gay reparative therapy and reached out to journalist Lisa Ling, who had interviewed Chambers and his wife years before, for an opportunity to apologize, according to The Huffington Post. He will do so Thursday in a special episode of "Our America with Lisa Ling" on OWN.
Also appearing on the episode will be several reparative therapy "survivors," who will confront Chambers with their stories, according to OWN. Among those speaking are Jerry, a former pastor who came out of the closet after being married for 26 years, and Sean, a Navy veteran who came out in support of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Though many have said they are pleased that the group will shut down and that Chambers apologized, reactions have been mixed. According to The Atlantic, many people said an apology was not enough.
"There have also been suicides," tweeted Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better Project. "Alan's work destroyed people. Sorry is nice, I guess, but it won't raise the dead."
Justin Lee founded the Gay Christian Network as an alternative to Exodus International in 2001. The group supports gay Christians in committed relationships as well as those who promote celibacy, according to its website.
The announcement about Exodus' closure is something that many have been waiting to hear "for a long, long time," Lee said in a statement.
"As a Christian, I grew up believing groups like Exodus could make me straight," Lee said in the statement. "We believe there's room in the church for a disagreement about the morality of gay sex. What we don't support is the idea that gay people can go through some program and come out straight."