Exodus International has been the preeminent Christian ministry to gays. A major emphasis of that group has been that homosexuals, through prayer and therapy, can lose their same-sex attraction and become heterosexual. Now the president of that organization is saying something different:
The ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network. . . .
In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.
He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven. . . .
“I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according tothe Bible,” Mr. Chambers emphasized. “But we’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else,” he said, noting that Christians with other sins, whether heterosexual lust, pornography, pride or gluttony, do not receive the same blanket condemnations. . . .
Mr. Chambers said he was simply trying to restore Exodus to its original purpose when it was founded in 1976: providing spiritual support for Christians who are struggling with homosexual attraction.
He said that he was happy in his marriage, with a “love and devotion much deeper than anything I experienced in gay life,” but that he knew this was not feasible for everyone. Many Christians with homosexual urges may have to strive for lives of celibacy.
But those who fail should not be severely judged, he said, adding, “We all struggle or fall in some way.”
As one might expect, Chambers’ announcement has sparked a huge controversy, which the NY Times article goes into. Some people who have gone through Exodus International are insisting they have too been changed and no longer struggle with same-sex attraction. Others, like Chambers himself, are now happily married ( to women), have children and a heterosexual sex life, while also still feeling and battling same sex attractions. Most gay Christians, though, don’t lose their attraction to the same sex.
Are we perhaps making a mistake by “privileging” homosexuality as a special category of sin? Theologically, given the “bondage of the will,” can we say that sin is ever just a matter of “choice”? Aren’t all sins deeply ingrained, even “genetic,” in that we inherit our fallen nature from Adam and Eve? Don’t we all have to struggle against our own personal besetting sins? And, certainly, isn’t it precisely sinners who are saved? Or do you think our salvation rests on being “victorious” over our particular sins?
The problem on the other side, it seems to me, is with those who deny that they are sinners. That would include both religious legalists and those who insist that when it comes to their particular sin (whether homosexuality, pornography, selfishness, cruelty) “there is nothing wrong with it.” Such an attitude precludes repentance and denies their need for the gospel. Not that repentance in itself saves, but that it can drive a person to the Cross, where Jesus bore even those sins in His body, so as to atone for them and win free forgiveness.
We’ve talked about homosexuality a lot on this blog, so could we set that aside for now? Could we discuss the more general issue of “besetting sins” (the ones each individual is prone to), repentance, failure, and the Christian life?