Here’s a collection of good thoughts from around the web.
The timing of the announcement to close Exodus International with the appearance by Alan Chambers on Our America with Lisa Ling is not a coincidence. On this program Chambers “apologised” to a group of people who had been hurt by an Exodus member ministry. This apology was not for the behaviour of a leader, but for the fact that Exodus International had talked about change. Prior to the broadcast of the program, and before Exodus International’s annual conference, Chambers had sent a copy of his apology to the leaders of Exodus International member ministries. From their own press releases many of them contacted Chambers to state that they disagreed with what he was going to say – yet Chambers went ahead with an apology that those he claims to represent did not support. This apology is one of many statements that Chambers has made that do not have the support of the leadership of Exodus International member ministries, statements that concern Springhead Ministries and AGATE UK as they have been made without foundation.
1. Like many younger people who are Christian and gay, I have shied away from much of what flies under the banner of Exodus and its affiliates. I was never involved in an Exodus group of any sort, in part because so many of their public statements led me to believe they were addressing themselves to people with rather different histories than mine. When I heard ex-gay accounts of the origins of same-sex attraction—accounts that focused on absentee or distant fathers or failure to bond with same-sex peers in childhood—I realized I was hearing stories that were pretty removed from my experience. I was raised in a very loving two-parent family, and the “father wound” narrative never illumined the possible causes of my homosexuality as it seemed to do for others. And I discerned, however inchoately, however rightly or wrongly, that if I were to join up with an “ex-gay” ministry, I would feel some degree of pressure to conform my narrative to theirs. (The anonymous blogger Disputed Mutability has described that pressure in detail here, and I’d encourage you to read her excellent post along with this one by Melinda Selmys.)
2. In light of that, I was glad to see Alan Chambers acknowledging that Exodus has, in fact, contributed to that pressure—it wasn’t just a matter of people like me mishearing what Exodus was really saying. “I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said. This was a true apology, and even though it wasn’t directed at me per se (since I’ve never been a part of an Exodus affiliate), I was still grateful and relieved to read it.
Given the recent theological shift that Alan Chambers personally has articulated in various contexts, and his apparent view that homosexual practice is not a “first order” matter in Christian doctrine, we accept with regret that such a decision is sadly an inevitable consequence of this new perspective. Clearly individuals and ministry groups in the North American context are in a process of realigning themselves and new associations will no doubt continue to promote the ideas previously supported by Exodus International.
Alan Chambers appears to be unaware of peer-reviewed, consistent research and anecdote which through the decades indicates that for some people, sexual patterning and fantasy towards homosexuality is not permanent and can be modified and changed.
First, it is a tragic end to a ministry that once stood on firm biblical grounds and offered hope to those struggling with same-sex attraction. I’m deeply saddened that Chambers and the leaders of Exodus have capitulated to the prevailing winds of our culture and have apparently lost confidence in the redemptive power of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Second, if Exodus has indeed abandoned their original mandate, I’m glad they are shutting down. They have lost their capacity to bring hope and change to those broken by sexual sin.
Third, and most important of all, I’m excited about the emergence of the Restored Hope Network that is devoted to a biblical stance on human sexuality and relational brokenness. Comprised of many who were formerly affiliated with Exodus, this new ministry is hosting its first national conference this weekend (June 21-22) here in Oklahoma City. I encourage you to visit their website (www.restoredhopenetwork.com) and give serious consideration to directing your financial support to their efforts.
Our understanding of the differences between DSM and Exodus include:
A different view of the consequences of sexual sin. Whereas Exodus believes that practicing ‘gay’ Christians may well inherit the Kingdom of heaven, we beg to differ. We believe that Christ followers must reckon with homosexual behavior as a serious betrayal of their humanity and spirituality, and repent of it in order to be assured of salvation.
A different expectation of change for same-sex strugglers. Though we agree with Exodus’ desire to more accurately define ‘change’ for those with SSA, Exodus now appears tentative and unclear as to the degree to which the same-sex attracted will experience change at all in their sexuality. We believe that Jesus brings change to every Christian with SSA who seeks Him whole-heartedly. He cannot help it. Jesus is our Creator and Redeemer who made us to represent Him in our gender and sexual selves. He places such a high premium upon sexual integrity that He acts incisively to redeem our sexual disintegration. Jesus frees every repentant heart to resume the journey toward wholeness
A different theological anthropology. Desert Stream Ministries anchors our understanding of the ‘new creation’ in the truth that we are created in God’s image as male and female. That means that every same-sex struggler who follows Jesus is reconciled to his/her capacity to be a good offering to the opposite gender. We recognize that each soul differs in how they will live out that calling. Yet differing levels of progression in mature heterosexual relating don’t change one’s capability in Christ to resume that journey. Exodus advocates the noble goal of holiness, yet offers insufficient clarity as to what sexual wholeness means for those with SSA.
A different reliance upon reparative psychology. Exodus recently broke ties with ‘reparative therapy’, a broad school of thought developed by theorists and therapists who view same-sex attraction as a symptom of the breakdown in whole gender development. While Desert Stream Ministries is founded on theological, not psychological values, we rely upon reparative insights to understand what is blocked or missing in our souls. These keys help guide our pursuit of Jesus and His community to secure what we need in order to proceed onto wholeness.
A different reliance upon moral effort in becoming whole. Exodus appears to hold a comparatively passive understanding of sanctification; we believe that hard moral effort, inspired by grace, is essential in progressing into maturity. Our morality becomes beautiful as we engage actively in the spiritual and psychological disciplines that enable us to become mature Christians.
A different approach to ‘gay’ Christians. Exodus seems intent on building bridges with practicing ‘gay’ Christians. We believe that God wants only the best for all people, including practicing homosexuals. In His love, we fight for their repentance. However, we disagree with making peace with Christians who advocate homosexual practice; to us, these are false teachers who are guilty of leading others into darkness, an offense worse than Christians caught in sin who know it.
People who experience same sex attractions, like myself, obviously did not choose to experience the attractions. But who on the face of the entire earth, throughout all time, has chosen to feel any sinful feeling or temptation to sin? No one. We don’t choose our sinful inclinations. We are sinful by nature. Meaning that the core of who we are is corrupt, broken and in need ofchange—–the message that those at Exodus seem to be dumbing down or even outright rejecting when the rubber meets the road. Though we are all made in the image of God, which is a beautiful and glorious thing (which those at Exodus stress), we can’t forget that that image is broken—severely. God didn’t become a man and die to save us because we were just a little flawed. Without the redemption offered in Christ and the accompanyingregeneration of the Holy Spirit, we are filthy, evil, rebellious and deserving of an eternity of God’s wrath. Cutting this truth out of the gospel makes the message we are speaking no gospel at all. The good news of salvation and eternal life in Jesus doesn’t seem so good if we think that we are already pretty good. No matter how much it hurts or how much emotional pain it causes us, we must believe and embrace the biblical truth of the extent of our sinfulness if we are ever to truly see our great need for forgiveness in Christ.
I totally agree with Alan’s statement that the church, at times, has failed to approach people who identify as gay with compassion—but rather with name calling and rejection and haughty attitudes. But the solution to the problem is not taking the other extreme of truth concealment/reduction/rejection. If you sacrifice truth for the sake of “grace”, your idea of grace is unbiblical. Grace and Truth hold hands, they don’t bump fists. The person who identifies as gaymust be told that the very centrality of their being is broken by sin, and that their attraction for the same sex is unnatural, and that if they choose to embrace and act out on those attractions (which is a simulatenous rejection of Christ)… they will go to hell. They must be told this…. in an attitude love and compassion, with tears flowing and heart aching….they must be told this. And we must point them to the forgivness and new life (i.e. change, transformation) offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What I’m truly afraid of— the burden motivating me to write this post— is that the diseased gospel being proclaimed by more and more people with public platforms will result in the false assurance of salvation in thousands upon thousands of hearts. I pray that God would raise up voices, nation wide, that would radically and compassionately defend and proclaim the entire gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Exodus Board deciding to shut down Exodus International is in some sense meaningless. Ever since the Board stopped being appointed by the member ministries and instead became self-appointed Exodus stopped being in any sense representative of those ministries it claims to represent. Instead it has increasingly become simply, for better or worse, the Alan Chambers Ministry. No accountability = no responsibility. None of the Exodus Member Ministries are shutting down and they will probably find another grouping to become associated with. Those trumpeting this move as a powerful moment are rather missing the point that most of the ex-gay, post-gay and whatever-gay ministries will continue just as before.