The “ex-gay” industry has long been “culty”, but now the most active “ex-gay” program, Changed Movement, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of an actual faith healing cult. The wacky church claims to cure cancer, “regrow” limbs and heal limps. On the church’s massive campus is Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.
Residents say Bethel students are a regular fixture in the city streets, both practicing prayer healing and participating in “treasure hunts,” which the church describes as “seek[ing] out treasures (people) within our community to pray for.”
“Bethel students would pray together and someone in the group would say, ‘God says we’re looking for a person in a plaid shirt,’” Chamberlain said of the treasure hunts. “And then if you were wearing a plaid shirt, they’d stalk you. Oh and God forbid you walk with a limp. They’ll come up and approach you and ask to heal it.”
While it’s easy to laugh off such thoroughly discredited programs, Changed Movement must be taken seriously because its host church has 11,000 members and a $60 million-dollar annual budget. In 2020, Bethel was the fifth-largest employer in Shasta County, where Redding is the county seat.
Bethel is a marketing machine that has made a fortune through Christian publishing and music. This expertise has helped in rebranding the hapless “ex-gay” industry, with Changed Movement sporting sleek hashtags, such as #OnceGay, and slick paraphernalia, like jet-black “Changed” t-shirts, coffee mugs, and even a COVID mask. The organization offers a professional-appearing volume, CHANGED: #OnceGay Stories Book. For those more committed to “transformation, the organization’s website offers a $299 online course that features “testimonials, teachings…dozens of videos and this interactive guidebook.”