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Ministry shifts course on gay rights

NEW YORK — The president of a Christian ministry dedicated to helping gays repress their sexual urges through prayer apologized to the gay community Thursday and said the group is shutting down.

Alan Chambers of Exodus International said he now wants to devote his efforts to reconciliation. The work of Exodus has infuriated many gay-rights activists.

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Chambers said he and his allies will form a new ministry seeking to open a conversation among those who have been on opposite sides about gay rights. He said they want ‘‘to see bridges built’’ and ‘‘want peace to be at the forefront of anything we do in the future.’’

Chambers also made an apology in a speech to his ministry’s annual conference, saying, ‘‘We’ve hurt people.’’

‘‘While there has been so much good at Exodus, there has also been bad,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve fought the culture war, and we’ve lost. It’s time for peace.’’

Exodus International, which is based in Orlando, Fla., was founded 37 years ago and claimed 260 member ministries around the world. For decades, it offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer. Exodus had seen its influence wane in recent years as associations representing psychiatrists and psychologists rejected its approach.

Last year, Chambers — who is married to a woman but has spoken openly about his own sexual attraction to men — said he was trying to distance his ministry from the idea that gays’ sexual orientation can be changed or ‘‘cured.’’

Gay-rights activists welcomed his apology, but said Exodus had caused great damage.

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