What changed Exodus International’s Mind?

On June 19, the leaders of Exodus International issued a formal, public apology to the LGBT community for the years of deep damage they have wrought in the lives of people of faith who were convinced they could be changed from gay to straight by the organizations wrongheaded, harmful practices.   Today I awoke to the Good News that the board of Exodus International has voted to close the “ministry” all together.

What on earth would lead them to change their minds so completely?

Grace.

I choose to believe it is the unfurling of hearts reaching out with tendrils of hope toward the ever  present  beauty of of God’s Grace that has changed the hearts and minds of the leaders of Exodus International.   Rather than taking a posture of skepticism or hard hearted “you’ve already done too much deadly damage (which is absolutely true), I am choosing to be genuinely grateful, hopeful and welcoming to beautiful and broken people who, like me, are ever evolving on this crazy journey called faith.

Here is their statement, problematic at points for sure, in full.

Exodus International to Shut Down

Thirty-seven-year-old ministry for those with same-sex attraction marks its last national conference 

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing(www.exodusinternational.org/apology) to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.

“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.

Exodus President, Alan Chambers, is available for interviews. For press credentials or to set up an interview, contact Amy Tracy at 407/808-9831 or 719/355-9075; amytracybusiness@gmail.com. For additional information and a schedule of activities, please go to http://www.exodusfreedom.org.

 

Thank you sisters and brothers, welcome home.

 

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

  • Doreen A Mannion

    This is what Mr. Chambers said to the Exodus conference: “[The shutting down of Exodus] doesn’t mean I believe anything differently than I did a decade ago, when my message was different from it is today. … I’m not saying that we abandon what we believe.” So perhaps he is only going for a “kinder, gentler” version?

  • http://spiritofpeacekingston.org/ David Starbuck Gregory

    Forgiveness is in process and it will come, but as an Exodus survivor I at least have to pause a bit for some reflection. It is a not-too-subtle form of abuse that says, “Homosexuality is a psycho-spiritual disorder from which God can heal you.”

    Twenty years ago, I bought that line because I desperately loved my two beautiful sons who were about to enter their teens along with my wife who found herself in a situation she never signed up for. I wanted to hold my family together so badly I’d have done anything, and I did.

    After three agonizing years of support groups, pseudo-psychotherapy that included warnings of demon-possession and “being slain in the spirit,” I concluded, as most of us did, that “God indeed can heal, but he won’t heal me.”

    It came down to an afternoon, and a strong impulse to sit in my garage with the motor running. Looking in the mirror at my 39 year old face, I began to wonder if my boys would rather have a gay dad than no dad at all. I answered that in the affirmative and I lived to tell. Ultimately it was my family that loved me unconditionally helping me to find the God who loved me that way too.

    So, when asked to take this apology seriously and welcome my emerging brothers and sisters, I will indeed do so. However, I need a minute to breathe and to honor the memory of those who looked in the mirror and answered differently.

    An apology will never alter the landscape of wounded lives, some of which were needlessly lost. But believe me when I say that I welcome this development and that it gives me hope. This is the only authentic thing I can say at this moment.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    This has been a surprising development for me and I respond with intense hopefulness that it will lead to even better things. I am sure we will have a clearer idea in 6-12 months.
    We may yet be disappointed, but at this moment I am willing to accept them at their word. Grace can come to the worst of us–in fact it happens all the time. I remember a man named Saul. He claimed that grace came to him and it was too difficult to believe, but look what happened with him!

  • John Russell Stanger

    Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness, as usual. My gut reaction was skepticism, but after reading this I’m certainly challenged by our shared faith to grow more toward forgiveness.

    Yet, when I think about forgiveness, I wonder if it is truly mine to offer. It may be easier for me–a gay man who never went through reparative therapy (though I was raised rural Texas…)–to forgive than it would be for a more direct victim of the work of Exodus to call the past the past.

    I wonder if, rather than praising Exodus for their change, which I don’t hear you doing, remaining hopefully skeptical with the desire for actual repaired relationships is a new way forward. I would love to see a series of conversations take place between Exodus leaders and survivors of their work (only those who desire such conversations, of course). I also hope that they will take responsibility for confronting the international network of affiliated organizations they helped create.

    True reconciliation is more than an apology, so I eagerly await what comes next. Now with more hope, thanks to this conversation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

      Very well said John. I heard another friend state it well as well. She hoped that what we are seeing is a true resurrection and not merely regret. Thanks for your faithfulness as we hope with wary hearts for the better in our brothers and sisters.

    • Nikki Burks

      A planned broadcast of a “Gods & Gays” report on “Our America With Lisa Ling,” is to air on OWN tonight. Conversations with survivors of the damaging practice of “reparative therapy” as they confront Alan Chambers.

      Here is the link: http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/our-america-lisa-ling.html#ixzz2WmighIs2

  • http://www.emergentfaith.org/blog R. Jay Pearson

    Amen, Kimberly. And I wholeheartedly join you in your approach. As I stated in my own blog post on this today, “I accept their repentance with full and unhesitating grace, and as a gay man and emergent faith Christian I wholeheartedly accept their invitation of friendship in the desire to create peace and common good.”

    http://emergentfaith.org/blog/2013/06/in-hands-of-angry-church-exodus-international-repents-anti-gay-ministry/

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

      Amen and Amen R.Jay. I am ever hopeful and want to believe (maybe a little more than I actually believe?) that what we are seeing is a true change of heart and mind that will be healing for many and lead to even more evolution toward truth and grace.

      • http://www.emergentfaith.org/blog R. Jay Pearson

        Yes indeed. The greater burden of grace is now, in fact, upon us. Exodus International has been an enemy of ours. They’re taking a tough step forward. We MUST walk with them.

        • Baby_Raptor

          No.

          If you feel that you CAN forgive them and work with them, then good for you. More power to you.

          And I mean that sincerely.

          But to say that we *must* do so? Entirely wrong. No victim should EVER be forced, or made to feel obligated to, aid their oppressors, forgive them, or show them any good will. That’s just adding to the oppression. It doesn’t allow the victims time to heal. And it hand-waves away the damage the oppressor has done.

          If you want to help these people, then by all means do so. And good luck. But leave those of us who would rather wait and see if they actually back up their talk with actions to do so. These people have caused real harm. They need to compensate for that, and the people they’ve harmed need time to get themselves together.

          Let people forgive when they’re ready. And allow them to “help” only if they want to. Victims owe their oppressors nothing. To claim otherwise is to side with the people doing the oppressing.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

            Very well said Baby_Raptor. I appreciate you lifting up your voice and sharing your heart. It is true that we owe our oppressors nothing and in my original post I of course only spoke of my own posture and included no prescriptions for how others should see or respond to these “revelations” from EI. I know you are responding to R Jay but I wanted to weigh in too.

            That said, I believe that I owe MYSELF hope and forgiveness as much as I am called by my faith to forgive even the evil doers. If we look at the words and deeds of MLK for example, he believed that only love would transform the oppressor. If I harbor persistent hatred for my oppressor then they still have me under the thumb of hate.

            And as one who buys into the whole Jesus meta-narrative I look to my shepherd who, instead of coming down off the cross, or rising up out of the tomb and kicking some cosmic ass for all that whipping, stripping, spitting and nailing and exsanguination business He came with arms open, all peace and love and crap :)

            No, I a’int no Jesus but I sure do wanna try to act a little more like Him when I can.

            Sorry – got a little street there at the end.

            What I mean to say is, I think we are both right but that I can in no way tell you that you MUST do anything other than your heart tells you is right for your own healing.

            Namaste

            • Baby_Raptor

              I totally understand. And I don’t mean to discount your and Jay’s view, at all. I apologize if I came off that way.

              I think we need a happy medium. Forgive and step up when you’re ready, no pressure involved.

              And no apologies necessary for the street talk…Your willingness to just talk, and not worry about being “blasphemous” or using “bad words” is a good thing, in my mind. It was one of the first things I noticed, and if helps me feel a bit more comfortable reading here. (Even if I never comment.)

  • Marcy

    However each of us have worked this out in our own lives, and wherever we would put ourselves on a continuum of sexual orientation, it is a profound and tender aspect of our personhood that lies at the core of our being. For me personally, sexual orientation and it’s attendent complexities are a little more than I want to unpack in a few sentences on facebook. That’s best for a cup of coffee between friends. But for simplification purposes, straight, straight(ish), in the neighborhood of straight are close enough. As someone who is keenly aware that she is living out her mating/dating/partnering life within the majority cultural experience, I do my best to be an ally to friends I make along the way that are having a different life experience than my own. As a pastor, I do my best to minister to folks who come to me for my care. In regards to Alan Chambers announcement, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I’m very hopeful that Exodus is shutting down. Grace abounds. For the many survivors who were told for years and sometimes decades that if they prayed–harder/faster/better that they could change, it is a major victory for this organization to acknowledge the damage wrought by that approach. That being said, I am however a little wary of whatever ministry will rise from the ashes of former Exodus. I am a little wary of them trying to center themselves and align with or muddy the waters of other evangelical ministries/progressive groups that each in their own way are contributing to this conversation. There are a lot of people here in the midwest that I bump elbows with who have been profoundly harmed by sexual orientation efforts and ministries/reparative therapies, etc…Today my fb feed is a really interesting space. It’s full of moderate and progressive christians celebrating the Exodus news, and of survivors that I know who have been deeply and profoundly triggered by seeing references to Alan chambers pop up in their moderate/progressive christian friends fb feed today. For me— I think today more than anything else, facebook is a listening space, and educational space–where rather than throwing my own two cents in the mix I will sit at the feet of my friends gay/straight, christian and non-christian and to the witness of the multiplicity of voices.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

      What a powerful testimony Marcy, thank you for sharing and for your witness in the world.

  • Jeff Chu

    I spoke to Alan Chambers last night, shortly after he made his announcement. We talked about how this happened, how his theological views on sexuality haven’t actually changed, and what he’s going to do from here. Have a look: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/13/06/lets-do-something-different-the-end-of-the-worlds-leading-exgay-ministry/277039/

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

      Thank you for sharing this with us Jeff and for the work you are doing out there. Namaste


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