Exodus International Apologizes (and Shuts Down)

From Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International:

It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church’s treatment of the LGBT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt. Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church….

To Members of the LGBTQ Community:

In 1993 I caused a four-car pileup.  In a hurry to get to a friend’s house, I was driving when a bee started buzzing around the inside of my windshield. I hit the bee and it fell on the dashboard. A minute later it started buzzing again with a fury. Trying to swat it again I completely missed the fact that a city bus had stopped three cars in front of me.  I also missed that those three cars were stopping, as well.  Going 40 miles an hour I slammed into the car in front of me causing a chain reaction. I was injured and so were several others.  I never intended for the accident to happen. I would never have knowingly hurt anyone. But I did. And it was my fault. In my rush to get to my destination, fear of being stung by a silly bee, and selfish distraction, I injured others.

I have no idea if any of the people injured in that accident have suffered long term effects. While I did not mean to hurt them, I did. The fact that my heart wasn’t malicious did not lessen their pain or their suffering. I am very sorry that I chose to be distracted that fall afternoon, and that I caused so much damage to people and property.  If I could take it all back I absolutely would. But I cannot. I pray that everyone involved in the crash has been restored to health.

Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me. 

And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.

Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated. 

Please know that I am deeply sorry. 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. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. 

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.   

You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.

Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

And Alan Chambers last night announced they are closing down to redirect their ministry:

“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”

Chambers continued: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”

For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Local affiliated ministries, which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://forthisisthetime.com/ Esther Aspling

    I am so glad that they are stopping to redirect and see where God may actually want them. I hope that they are able to listen and apply exactly what He wants, and not what they feel it should be.

    http://forthisisthetime.com/

  • Eric Weiss

    Interview with Chambers:

    http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/06/lets-do-something-different-the-end-of-the-worlds-leading-ex-gay-ministry/277039/

    As I read it, he does not appear to view homosexuality, homosexual sexual expressions, and same-sex marriage as being as valid as heterosexuality or heterosexual sexual expressions/marriage.

  • attytjj466

    I suppose the statement does not go far enough for some, but I receive it as a very positive and healing statement and action and speaks to progress being made in the conservative/evangelical church on these issues. I think he speaks for many whose views and attitudes have been evolving and changing the the last 10/15 years. That is a good thing.

  • http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/ William Watson Birch

    I’m happy Exodus shut down, as I think reparative drive theory/therapy is bunk. I think it holds potential harm emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, especially as year after year the individual finds that he or she is still — to whatever degree — attracted to the same gender.

    I’m also a bit anxious for its start-up. Hopefully the re-organization will seek to help heal the damage that has already been caused without any added baggage or even a hint toward sexual-orientation change.

    http://willandgraced.tumblr.com/

  • scotmcknight

    That’s my understanding of his views, too.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Well, it’s great he’s sorry and all, but I’m saddened that he’s going to continue to live his life in a state of repressed emotion and feelings. Hope that tension doesn’t rub off on his kids.

  • Eric Weiss

    (Deleted and reposted in the main thread.)

  • Eric Weiss
  • http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/ William Watson Birch

    I just read that as well. Wow! See, now, I had not given the matter that perspective. Wow.

  • Eric Weiss

    Yes, it sounds like he still believes that homosexuality is still a sin, but shouldn’t be singled out as a special sin, and that the only sexual option for a homosexual is celibacy — or marriage to a person of the opposite sex. He seems to be extolling a “compassionate conservatism” version of what Exodus has always believed.

    On the other hand, in The Atlantic interview he said:

    Jeff Chu: Let’s talk about next steps.

    Alan Chambers: In the next short period, I envision Exodus closing. Then we will begin the process of starting something brand-new that won’t have anything to do with the issue of ex-gay. That organization will likely be one that promotes a dialogue, a new relationship between people who have previously not had relationship with one another. We want Christians to get together and have conversations across the great divide. It’s not just the world and the church that are sometimes at odds; it’s people within the church. I want a thoughtful, intelligent, Christ-centered, peaceful conversation that endears people toward the church and doesn’t cause them to run away from the church. I know faithful gay and lesbian people who have amazing things to contribute. It’s time for us to sit down together and have conversations for the common good, beyond what’s divided us prior to this.

    He seems to be wanting to get gay/gay-affirming and non-gay-affirming Christians to talk and work together for the cause of Christ and the church, even though on the issues that divide them (homosexuality, and homosexual activity & marriage vs. celibacy), most of the people on both sides will have to agree to disagree, and will likely continue to do so.

  • Phil Miller

    Well, I think a lot of Christians would probably be in the same camp as Chambers… They don’t think homosexual sexual activity or homosexual marriage is something that’s right, but they also realize that the way gay people have been treated isn’t right.

    After reading Shore’s piece, I wonder if he would say it’s actually possible for a Christian to hold a more conservative view concerning homosexuality and still treat homosexuals with love and respect.

  • Eric Weiss

    The Alan Chambers/Exodus/ex-Exodus confrontation is starting in 45 minutes on the Oprah Winfrey Network: http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/Sneak-Peak-Lisa-Lings-Special-Report-God-and-Gays-Video

    It was a 3-1/2 hour meeting. The show is only 1 hour long, but apparently an extended version of the show will be available online when or after it airs.

  • Wondering

    Very thankful for these steps taken by Alan Chambers and Exodus International. Another sign that things are moving in the right direction and that “Change is Possible” for the church… The episode of Our America with Lisa Ling that aired on the OWN network highlighting the conversation between Alan Chambers and those who had been a part of Exodus Int. over the years was well worth the time to watch.

  • Eric Weiss

    Be sure to watch parts that were not broadcast – there are cut sequences and “behind the scenes” videos at the web page: http://www.oprah.com/own-ouramericalisaling/blogs/Videos-Special-Report-God–Gays_1
    The actual meeting was over 3-1/2 hours long, so when the Our America episode began the meeting segment at the 30-minute mark of the 1-hour (including commercials) episode, that means they left more than 3 hours of the meeting/confrontation on the proverbial cutting-room floor.


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