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updated 6/21/2013 1:47:41 PM ET 2013-06-21T17:47:41

Exodus International, a Christian ministry that long promoted gay conversion therapy, is shutting its doors and apologizing to the gay community for "years of undue judgment."

The leaders of Exodus seem to have embraced the view of mainstream psychologists that trying to "cure" homosexuality is ineffective, unethical and often destructive.

"For quite some time we've been imprisoned in a worldview that's neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical," Exodus president Alan Chambers said in a statement Thursday (June 20) announcing that the Florida-based organization, founded in 1976, would shut down. [ 5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy ]

A day earlier, Chambers issued a lengthy apology on the group's website:

"I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn't change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn't stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names like sodomite — or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know."

The American Psychological Association (APA) stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, and it does not recommend efforts to reorient the sexuality of someone who is gay. Nonetheless, a handful of religious organizations like Exodus International and Focus on the Family's Love Won Out have promoted their own "ex-gay" therapies, promising to help individuals overcome same-sex attraction.

A 2009 APA task force found that there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of such therapies. Lasting change to a person's sexual orientation is uncommon, the task force for found. Conversion therapies, meanwhile, have been linked to some harmful side effects, such as loss of sexual feeling, depression, thoughts of suicide and anxiety. In addition, since homosexuality is not considered a mental disorder, the APA and others do not recommend "curing" same-sex attraction.

After shutting down Exodus, Chambers said the group would begin a separate ministry to serve a new generation, aiming to "come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities."

Follow Megan Gannon onTwitterandGoogle+.Follow us@livescience,Facebook&Google+. Original article onLiveScience.com.

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