New Direction for Exodus?

The title is a bit of a word play in that I call attention to a keynote address (caution: large mp3 file) by Wendy Gritter at the 2008 Exodus Leadership Conference. Introduced by Exodus President, Alan Chambers, Mrs. Gritter is leader of the New Direction ministries in Canada. The mission of New Direction is “creating a safe place for same-gender-attracted people to journey towards wholeness in Christ.” The focus of New Direction appears to be much more focused on Christian ministry to same-sex attracted people as opposed to mediating change of sexual orientation.

The address is about an hour long and should be heard completely to get the message but I pulled out a couple of quotes to portray the tone:

What would it mean to stop seeing the gay affirming church as our enemy?

…when we look at those who now have their stories on the Beyond Ex-gay website…we also ought not to be patronizing?   There can be this subtle sense that ‘you just didn’t try hard enough….but see we did.’ How can we engage relationally with those who have come to different theological understanding than we have?

I think we need to relinquish a defensive posture that would focus on what we are against instead of what we are for.

What the culture sees is that you guys are about reorientation.

We shoot ourselves in the foot when we put second things first.

There is much more and you can get a sense of the direction from the Power Point as well. The general tone is that Exodus would be wise to avoid political entanglements that prevent optimal Christian ministry. Ministry should be the main (sole?) focus. In addition, she takes on the messaging of Exodus that change is possible and causation is not inherent. She believes those issues should be secondary to actual Christian formation and living. With reorientation as the focus, Christian ministry can take a backseat. In other words, Exodus should not be a “poster child for straightness” as the main message.

There is much to unpack here so let’s talk…

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  • Michael Bussee

    (1) Exodus would be wise to avoid political entanglements that prevent optimal Christian ministry.

    (2) Ministry should be the main (sole?) focus.

    (3) The message of Exodus that “change is possible and causation is not inherent” should be secondary to actual Christian formation and living.

    (4) Exodus should not be a “poster child for straightness” as the main message.

    Wow. She sounds a lot like me.

  • Michael Bussee

    Warren: I found this elsewhere on you blog, a comment by Mary, dated January 29, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    “Briefly, our focus should be on the Kingdom of Heaven and not on earthly matters and politics. It seems to sour the motivation that is presented to those who struggle or who are gay. It blurs the focus and intent of the mission.”

    From Mary’s lips to Alan Chamber’s ears, huh? Now even EXODUS’s own keynote speaker seems to agree. Will EXODUS leadership listen?

  • http://www.alanchambers.org Alan Chambers

    I invited Wendy to speak at the Leadership Conference and was thrilled with what she presented. There is a lot to unpack; I am still processing. I can say that I did a lot of positive head-nodding.

  • Michael Bussee

    Hope the head-nodding turns into some action.

  • Ann

    Michael and Alan,

    What exactly is the political involvement of Exodus versus their core mission of supporting people who do not want to act on their same gender attractions?

  • Michael Bussee

    And while you’re at it, why not “do away with the term ex-gay entirely and see that it is never used again”? Why not “offically retire it” as you said you wanted to do back in 2006?

    These two things, poltics and misleading language, are the only serious objections I have with EXODUS. As I have said many times, I support EXODUS’s ministry to help those who want to live in accordance with their beliefs — even though I disagree with many of those beliefs.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: You will have to ask Alan. Alcoholics Anonymous has survived and thrived by deliberately avoiding political entanglements:

    Tradition 10: “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

    And here is the text from the Big Book, the long form of the traditions:

    “No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues – particuarly those of politics, alcohol reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express no views whatever..”

    AA knew that political entanglements would cloud their message and outreach. They were right. Why is EXODUS so opposed to doing likewise?

  • Ann

    And while you’re at it, why not “do away with the term ex-gay entirely and see that it is never used again”?

    Michael,

    I believe if this term was never used again it would be too soon – I have never liked labels and this one has too many interpretations and used for and against any particular position. It also diminishes individuality.

  • Ann

    AA knew that political entanglements would cloud their message and outreach. They were right. Why is EXODUS so opposed to doing likewise?

    Michael,

    Thanks for the reference – I know 12 step programs have helped and continue to help so many people. They stay focused on the 12 steps and do not venture into other areas – an individual stays concentrated and anonymous. I do not know what political affiliations Exodus has or is involved in or how that has helped or hurt them.

  • Michael Bussee

    Trust me. It has hurt them. Many folks, who might otherwise seek out EXODUS for pastoral support, now assume that they may also have to “sign-on” to a list of political causes in order to be “ex-gay” or right with God. We, the founders of EXODUS, clearly saw that danger and wanted to avoid that impression at all costs.

    As Mary pointed out on another thread: “It (political entanglement) seems to sour the motivation that is presented to those who struggle or who are gay. It blurs the focus and intent of the mission.” Mrs. Gritter seems to agree.

    Mrs. Gritter is also right “on point” when she observes that EXODUS tends to alienate and stigmitize those who did not “change” with its condescending ‘you just didn’t try hard enough” message and tone — when even their leaders admit that they still are not straight.

    Mrs. Gritter sounds like she is calling for some genuine reform. EXODUS would be well-advised to follow her suggestions.

  • http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org Mark

    I had the opportunity to meet Wendy a few years ago when I spoke at the ministry she directs in Toronto. Not that she needs any endorsements, but I found her and her staff to be people of great depth who had a real grasp of the many sides of the issues surrounding sexual identity. In my opinion, the PP that is posted is consistent with the substance she brings to the table.

  • Ann

    Michael,

    Does one have to have a religious belief or affiliation to be part of Exodus – either as a staff member or someone who is looking for support and/or understanding options regarding their unwanted same gender attractions? Also, if they have to have a religious belief, what is that? Is it exclusive to just a particular group of people or open to everyone?

  • Ann

    Mrs. Gritter is also right “on point” when she observes that EXODUS tends to alienate and stigmitize those who did not “change” with its condescending ‘you just didn’t try hard enough” message and tone

    Michael,

    If this is true, and Exodus is indeed saying and doing this without correcting or amending it, then I am not interested in anything else they have to say. I really hope that whatever they have said in this direction, it has been since amended.

  • Eddy

    Ann–

    You quoted Michael’s version of Mrs. Gritter’s comment. Her version was “There can be this subtle sense that ‘you just didn’t try hard enough….but see we did.’”

    Big difference between ‘there can be this subtle sense’ and Michael’s version. I didn’t mean that to sound mean but rather to cut right to the point. I’ve been in situations where people took affront before I ever spoke a word…the simple fact that I still identified as ‘ex-gay’ gave off that subtle sense Wendy spoke about. No words, no message, no tone. The fact that I identfied as ‘ex-gay’ and showed up happy and sane was enough to affront more than a few.

    When we dialogued some time ago in my early days on the blog, Michael and I had quite a few discussions about the term ‘ex-gay’. Lol. I believe I had about as many with Jayhuck. Anyway, I continued to make one important point. People who are in that mindset need a way to find each other; they need a way to find information on the internet. In short, they need a good handle, a good term that speaks both to those already ‘in the club’ and for those who might be curious. I think “ex-gay” does that. Many object to the term saying ‘ex’ implies ‘no longer, totally cut off’ but I was one of the staunchest supporters of the term emphasing that the most common use of ‘ex’ is “from”. Isn’t that what the “ex” in “Exodus” means?

    Anyway, a good handle is needed; I like that one. And, the people who I have debated this with (again, primarily Michael and Jayhuck) 1) could never suggest a more suitable term 2) continued to use it themselves.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Michael said:

    These two things, poltics and misleading language, are the only serious objections I have with EXODUS.

    I think Wendy is suggesting a more comprehensive move than that actually. If everyone here has not yet listened to the audio of her keynote, I encourage you to do so. If Exodus was to actually make these changes in a serious way, I don’t see what we would have to complain about at that point, at least pertaining to them.

    I take no issue with Exodus being there for those who study scripture, and come to the conclusion that, to be who God wants them to be, they can’t be intimate with a member of the same sex. But they have to be willing to treat those who have come to a different conclusion after equal consideration as perfectly ok as well.

  • Ann

    does one have to believe in God or be affiliated with a religion to be involved with Exodus on any level? If so, what religion or religious beliefs are required?

  • Ann

    But they have to be willing to treat those who have come to a different conclusion after equal consideration as perfectly ok as well.

    David,

    Do you think the organizations who support the gay community (HRC, Soulforce, Truth Wins Out, etc.) should be willing to treat those who have come to a different conclusion after equal consideration as perfectly ok as well? If so, do they?

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Ann, why don’t you email them and ask? I think there are basic requirements concerning belief – as with most ministries – but I’m sure they would answer you in more detail.

  • Ann

    David,

    I was asking you if YOU thought they should be willing to treat those who have come to a different conclusion after equal consideration as perfectly ok as well? You opined that Exodus should and I was wondering your thoughts on the equality of thought with other organizations regarding those who have come to a different conclusion.

  • J. James

    I think Exodus is reacting to the realization that non-Christians (whose numbers are growing, not shrinking) are increasingly seeing Christians as abusive toward gay people and holding Christians in contempt for that behavior. Go visit barna.org if you want studies which support this idea. Christians are very conscious of their public image and while their hatred toward gay people (a.k.a. “homosexuality is a sin”) may not lessen, they’ll try and spin it differently so that they don’t look quite so bad.

  • Ann

    David,

    In reference to #86197, I thought this was in response to #85195 – am I right or were you responding to my other questions in 85194? I apologize if I answered the wrong one.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: I went beyond what Mrs. Gritter said because she seriously understated the actual experience of “ex-gay survivors” She said: “There can be this subtle sense that ‘you just didn’t try hard enough….but see we did.’”

    I know I am speaking for many, many “ex-gay suvivors”, and I can assure her, that “sense” is not so subtle. Frequently, it’s downright belittling, hostile, rejecting and abusive. People are routinely shunned when they don’t “change” — with devastating emotional and spritual effects. Some become hopeless, even suicidal. EXODUS turns a deaf ear to such folks.

    Many like me have been told: “”You didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t pray hard enough. You didn’t fellowship enough. You didn’t trust God enough. You didn’t want it badly enough. You probably weren’r saved to begin with. You believed a different Gospel.” Previous friends and supporters are told to “have no fellowship” with us.

    Mrs. Gritter asked: …when we look at those who now have their stories on the Beyond Ex-gay website…we also ought not to be patronizing?

  • http://disputedmutability.wordpress.com disputed mutability

    David Roberts,

    Could you clarify what you mean by “treat…as perfectly ok”? :) Thanks.

    dm

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Thought I might add a few thoughts ….

    This talk was presented at an Exodus Leadership Conference. Thoughout the talk I was very conscious of building bridges – so that some of the challenging things I had to say might have a greater opportunity of being heard. Change is difficult – particularly when you are addressing a very diverse network of autonomous ministry leaders. The kind of paradigmatic change that I was raising is not an easy “lightswitch on” implementation. Nor, was I the first or only one to raise these kinds of issues. The response to this address was overwhelmingly positive – though those who disagreed perhaps just didn’t speak to me. This shows me that Exodus leaders are thinking these things through – taking them seriously – and trying to discern how God will lead them forward in the new contexts we find ourselves in. I don’t doubt that the heart of Exodus is to glorify Christ and be his presence in the lives of those who experience same-gender attraction. At the same time, if you listen to the address in its entirety, you will hear significant critique. So, while I certainly had in the back of my mind what the talk might sound like to those beyond Exodus circles, it was not directly addressed to those beyond Exodus.

    To suggest this is simply a “spin” to make us look better is to simplistically dismiss very genuine and deeply prayerful efforts to move forward in a manner that does not contribute to or perpetuate a sense of alienation between the gay community and the Christian community. While I cannot speak for all Exodus leaders, personally my hope is that I can lead in a manner that also builds bridges to those who identify as gay and Christian who hold a different perspective on sexual ethics than I do. Why? Because who am I to presume that I have a perfect pipeline to God and everyone else is wrong and completely deceived? While I believe what I believe about sexuality deeply – I hope that I can be humble enough to listen and learn from my gay Christian brothers and sisters. It seems to me that Scripture speaks much more often about pride than it does about homosexuality. So if someone wants to simply dismiss this as “spin” to look better – how does that contribute to a ministry of reconciliation? There is so much potential moving forward to actually engage same-gender attracted people beyond the Christian community with the love of Christ – for those of us who know and love Christ – let’s get on with that.

  • Marty

    J.James:

    non-Christians are increasingly seeing Christians as abusive toward gay people and holding Christians in contempt for that behavior.

    Perceptions are valid as far as perceptions go, but they are not “reality” in a factual sense. Non-Christians may perceive Christians as “abusive” towards gay people, but would be hard pressed to show any examples of real “abuse”. Instead, what they see as “asbuse”, is merely “contempt”.

    Therefor Christian contempt for homosexual behavior is no different than non-Christian contempt for Christian behaviour. Abuse is a much stronger word that simply doesn’t apply absent real “abuse”…

    (PS: the example of Phelp’s Westboro Church is cancelled out by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Both are truly abusive, and both are tiny, fringe, and non-represenative of anything other than tiny abusive fringes)

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy: Thanks for your comments. If there were such a thing as “Super Wednesday” and you were on the ticket to become the new leader of EXODUS, you would have my vote!

    I sincerely hope that EXODUS leadership will take up your vision, making “very genuine and deeply prayerful efforts to move forward in a manner that does not contribute to or perpetuate a sense of alienation between the gay community and the Christian community” In my view, this would be best accomplished by:

    (1) Focussing on ministry, and getting out of politics.

    (2) Dropping vague, misleading terms like “ex-gay” and “former homosexual”, as Alan Chambers seemed to indicate (in 2006) that he thought should be done — since these give the false impression of a change from gay to straight — something even EXODUS leaders acknowledge they have not done.

    (3) Listening, really listening and reaching out to those sincere, Christian gay people who have “dropped out”, instead of seeing them as the enemy, or dismissing them as failures who did not do “enough”.

  • Eddy

    I believe it’s very, very difficult to shun someone who isn’t right in front of you. So, how is all of this shunning going on? Does someone from Exodus hunt you down to say “now I’m going to shun you” or could it be that many ex-ex’es keep presenting themselves to Exodus over and over again expecting a blessing Exodus can’t give?

    I was in Exodus at the time that Michael left. No one told me to have nothing more to do with him and I know several Exodus leaders who continued to respond to his letters, emails and phone calls for years afterward. One reconnected briefly around the time that Michael and I started blogging here. Michael references both phone conversations and e-mail dialogues he’s had with the current Exodus president, Alan Chambers. These examples do not fit the accepted, conventional definition of ‘shunning’.

    And again I hear the complaints about the term “ex-gay” along with “former homosexual” and, yet again, I hear no suggestions of replacement terms. Anyone? I’ve long regarded Michael as one of the most talented wordsmiths I’ve ever encountered yet he’s not offering any solutions.

    Exodus labored for 6 months or better before coming to agreement on the term ‘ex-gay’ approximately 30 years ago and, quite frankly, didn’t anticipate this backlash. In both of the common phrases, we were attempting to identify and dis-identify at the same time. I believe that would still be at least part of the goal of any new term or phrase. Exodus is attempting to reach people who identify as gay but have a conflict between their sexuality and their faith. Can anyone come up with a mutually agreeable term for that?

    Total change of topic warning:

    My best friend is an ex-ex! Of all of the ex-ex’es I’ve ever known, he’s the only one that listens back. When I say I feel happy and fulfilled, he doesn’t think I’m saying “and you’ll never be”. It’s just me saying where I’m at. And, if I say I’m having a bad week, he doesn’t try to tell me it’s because I’m ‘denying my true gay self’…he sees it for a bad week. Conversely, when he’s having relationship problems, I don’t tell him ‘that’s because you’re with a man’; I attempt to see the problem at hand. And when he’s on cloud nine over a relationship, I don’t think he’s judging my ex-gayness. It would be nice to have more friendships such as this one. It sounds like part of what Wendy envisions.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Eddy,

    In addition to the tremendous word-smithing challenges is the seeming suspicion that simmers beneath the surface making any attempted changes suspect. At New Direction we tend to simply say same-gender attracted people – but we’ve had people take great exception to that description as well.

    In terms of your friendship with your best friend – I do agree that there is some very important learning in precisely that kind of relationship. It would seem to me that learning to listen and be a true friend despite deeply personal and divergent views on sexuality, demonstrates a dependence on the Spirit and an exercise in the fruits of the Spirit in both of you – that much of the church would benefit greatly from observing and respecting. This sort of friendship transcends our sexuality – and we all know the damage that can be done when people are reduced to their sexuality.

    A couple of years ago I attended a GCN conference after clearing it with Justin. I felt very honoured to be able to be there and to listen and learn. I will never forget the moments after Ron Belgau (side B) finished his keynote. There was a sustained and warm applause (not a standing ovation – but genuine none-the-less :). In that moment I witnessed a group of men and women putting Christ first – and honouring a brother’s commitment to Christ – despite the reality that many in the audience held a side A perspective. As an ever-straight, in that moment I felt this longing for the church at large to be able to witness what I was witnessing. For all of the fighting that has taken place over gay issues – how many have been able to witness something like that? My theology hasn’t changed – nor is it wishy-washy … but my heart for people I pray continues to enlarge. God is big enough – big enough to keep me in the midst of mysteries I don’t fully understand and won’t fully understand this side of heaven.

    Might it be that despite the limitations of wording and language – we would see each other’s hearts and find Christ alive in that place. Other things are important – but they are secondary.

  • Eddy

    Thanks Wendy. I’ve appreciated your comments. I think one reason my friend and I have endured is that we became friends despite theological differences in the first place. I was an exuberant charismatic bible school graduate and he was a conservative Wisconsin synod Lutheran. Beyond that, we had more in common than just being ‘ex’. So our friendship just kept growing and when he went ‘ex-ex’, it merely marked another chapter.

    It really only gets tricky when we’re around others. I don’t tell people ‘his story’ and he doesn’t tell people mine. We find they make assumptions. His boyfriend who thinks I’m ‘a stitch’ recently tried to set me up with a work-buddy. I’m trying to avoid using ‘ex-gay’ myself so I gave him my new line: “No thanks, I’m trying to quit.” It’s clever and all that but my friend’s partner still doesn’t understand where I’m at. “Same-gender attracted” is good but doesn’t have any sense of “I’m trying to quit.”

    And as with all terms and labels, there’s the statement it makes. Whatever term or label we come up with, I would hope that, for most, that label wouldn’t be what defines them. There was a time when I was principally “Ed, the ex-gay” but I’m also Ed, the stitch; Ed, the brother; Ed, the thinker; Eddy, karaoke man; Eddy, the friendly guy (Eddy, the couch potato has given way to Eddy, the computer junkie). There are so many things that occupy more of my focus than sexual attractions. If I’m reduced to just one label, it ought to be one of those others.

  • Ned Stringham

    As an Exodus leader who attended the conference and heard Wendy’s presentation in its entirety, I am strongly supportive of her comments. I also believe that Wendy’s views represent those of the majority of Exodus leaders whom I know. This will not be a flash in the pan.

    I urge readers to remember that Exodus consists of over 190 ministries across North America. These ministries include people from a wide range of experiences, educational backgrounds and spiritual views. We need to be cautious about making broad generalizations about the the positions and record of Exodus because many points mentioned in this blog may apply to one or more individual ministries without necessarily applying to the whole.

    However, I agree strongly with Wendy that there has all too often been a subtle accusation communicated to those who have sought ministry for SSA and have failed to “change.” The message has been, “You just didn’t try hard enough.” Michael, I regret that has been your experience and that of others.

    Movements that endure over the long haul demonstrate the capacity to change and mature, and I believe that we are witnesses to that quality of growth in Exodus.

    Exodus will focus more purely on Christian character formation and minister to those who retain SSA feelings but wish to live by the biblical principles of sexual self-restraint. We will reduce our preoccupation with total shifts in sexual orientation, and build bridges with the gay community, even with those who may hate us. I believe we will do this with courage and sensitivity.

    There are additional positive trends that emerged in this conference that Warren will likely have us address in other posts. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the experience this conference provided for growth and dialogue and for the opportunity to learn from our critics both in this blog and in other venues.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    @ Ann

    In reference to #86197, I thought this was in response to #85195 – am I right or were you responding to my other questions in 85194? I apologize if I answered the wrong one.

    Yes, you are correct. This positively annoying and absurd obsession Warren has with pre-screening comments appears to have confused the order – argh.

    As to the organizations you listed, they are very different from each other, but none are a ministry. I expect far more from a ministry than a political advocacy. However, take the HRC for instance, what in their policy has any problem with an individual’s desire to be anything? In my opinion, no, I’ve stated this so many times I can’t imagine, but if you truly believe that God does not want you acting on your same-sex desires, then don’t.

    My issues are with a) standing in the way of my right to live as you do, and that includes a formally recognized union with the person I love, and b) false claims of change which lead to defeat and frustration and pain and possibly a loss of faith. In fact, forget the change part entirely – it ain’t happening and we all know it. Instead, say we are hear to support you in what you feel God wants in your life. If that’s celibacy or attempting to emphasize any heterosexual feelings one may have, fine. It makes you no better or worse than they guy who doesn’t, but that’s not you.

    @DM

    Could you clarify what you mean by “treat…as perfectly ok”?

    As in, not in need of change. As in, all things being equal, your relationship with someone of the same sex is between you and God.

  • Marty

    …say we are here(sic) to support you in what you feel God wants in your life. If that’s celibacy or attempting to emphasize any heterosexual feelings one may have, fine. It makes you no better or worse than they guy who [wants to reinstate temple prostitution and ritual orgies].

    Good luck with that David. Some things ARE better and others ARE worse. An organization that refuses to make a moral judgement doesn’t have much of a mission at all.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    With all due respect, Marty, you have provided a prime example of what Exodus will be up against should they take the path Wendy has suggested. You, or more correctly the attitude that would assume that any deviation from a certain understanding of scripture (certainly on peripheral issues such as this) is an evil compromise, giving ground to the enemy, IS the problem.

    You don’t give God room to deal with his children, you don’t even give Him room to breath. You have it all figured out for them. This is valid for your own life, not mine. If I start messing with the virgin birth or salvation by grace, you might have a case. And you may offer your opinion on the rest to me, if asked, but otherwise it really is none of your business to judge.

    I pray Alan Chambers is up to the job.

  • Ann

    At New Direction we tend to simply say same-gender attracted people – but we’ve had people take great exception to that description as well.

    My preference would be to identify the individual first and then whatever else. Puts the priorities in order.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    We’re beginning to touch on the core question of how one contextualizes that gospel in a morally relativist, post-modern context. We certainly see in Scripture that the Gospel is scandalous – it does offend and it does divide. We also see in Scripture apostles being challenged to not make people “outsiders” who God has received as sons. I’m not at a place at all of saying that sexual ethics don’t matter. As I look at Scripture, sexual conduct generally speaking is clearly important to God. And I have a position on what I believe is God’s best for sexuality – one that is different, for instance, than David R’s. However, I agree with David that sexual ethics are secondary sanctification issues – not in the realm of justification or essential doctrine. (Now I understand that for many sexual ethics is tied to the authority of Scripture – which is an essential doctrine.) But as we engage the messy reality of relationship and community, I have felt convicted to humble myself and be able to say, “I could be wrong”…. therefore, in my engagement with those who identify as Christian who come to a different conclusion on sexual ethics than I do, I will focus my energies on encouraging the life of Christ within us. Because if God is on the throne, I don’t have to convince anyone of anything – I just need to keep showing up in humility and love and bear witness to the presence of the Spirit by staying alive to that myself. Frankly, that is tough enough in my own selfish brokenness.

    If we are going to be effective in contextualizing the gospel in the midst of a legacy of a lot of baggage back and forth between conservatives and liberals regarding gay issues, I think we will really need to rediscover and reimagine what Micah 6:8 means, “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Because if God is on the throne, I don’t have to convince anyone of anything – I just need to keep showing up in humility and love and bear witness to the presence of the Spirit by staying alive to that myself.

    I could not agree more.

    And I might add that the presumption that the gay Christian is somehow trying to get around scripture for selfish gain is. in my view, a horrible misjudgment. Most of us have agonized, perhaps poured over scripture more than the average Christian, just to find out how God wants us to live. In the end, some believe that is celibacy, some believe it is a monogamous same-sex relationship.

    I gave God complete authority in these issues long ago; at some point I had to move forward with what I felt He was saying to me, through scripture and spirit. But this idea that one cannot take a different view of any verse for any reason, it’s just plain odd. I will not make an idol out of scripture – God inspired it, but it is not God.

  • Ann

    Eddy,

    Ok, I never thought of it like that and understand that there needs to be a reference point that individuals can look up, etc. – I also understand what you are writing about Exodus. I have always liked them and their purpose but want to be mindful of how others feel as well. My observation of them recently is that they have acted in an admirable and honorable way by listening and making amendments as needed. If there are some who are arrogant and condescening, then other leaders should bring it to their attention and monitor them for a change in attitude. I also think there is nothing wrong with a person saying they have significant changes in their attractions to the opposite gender – we are all different and this person should not be looked down upon or doubted by those who do not have the same experience. Respect goes both ways and it hurts just as much to the person who has experienced authentic opposite gender attractions and are doubted as those who have not had that experience and their efforts are questioned.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Respect goes both ways and it hurts just as much to the person who has experienced authentic opposite gender attractions and are doubted as those who have not had that experience and their efforts are questioned.

    There is a difference, however, from experiencing shifts and saying one can help make them happen. I think the latter is perfectly possible in some people to some degree – stranger things certainly happen – but whether that change, certainly to any major degree, can be made to happen and with any regularity, is highly debatable.

    In fact, perhaps if those who peddle “change” would stop doing so, the experience would not be so cheapened when it does occur on it’s own. Something to think about.

  • Ann

    stranger things certainly happen

    David,

    This is the kind of comment I was referring to – this kind of sarcasm and doubt, expressed this way without regard to the effect has, hurts. Respect does go both ways.

    Modifications in feelings and attractions, and how they change over time and with circumstance, is an individual dynamic and not one to be measured or judged according to another’s point of view.

  • Ann

    David,

    Regarding those who boast loudly about what “they” can do as opposed to what “others” cannot do usually reveals an insecurity about what they really feel and believe. I have always said it is the individual who quietly and in a measured way, over time, notices and realizes shifts in their feelings and attractions to the opposite gender or has a shift in perspective on current attractions/desires that I want to pay attention to – seems they have more substance and conviction.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Modifications in feelings and attractions, and how they change over time and with circumstance, is an individual dynamic and not one to be measured or judged according to another’s point of view.

    For the most part, I think I just said that. One can certainly read the results of attempts to cause such change, and make judgments from that.

    But honestly, until we can get rid of nuts like this, and Nicolosi who glibly states that “once a [man with a homosexual problem] learns to trust men, his homosexuality goes away, and on and on, there will be some doubt and sarcasm. I just don’t understand why it doesn’t bother you as much as it does me. Does it?

    And before you say that Exodus is different, I just got done reading a pamphlet from them that has Nicolosi plastered all over it. I think they are headed in the right direction, but they still use this junk when they need to. Deception doesn’t help anyone, Ann, you or me.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    stranger things certainly happen

    And believe it or not, that particular comment was not meant to be either sarcastic or doubtful, though I can see that it would look that way. Sexuality is complicated, that is my meaning.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    It should be underscored (again) that Exodus is a very diverse network. While the head office of Exodus does set standards for ministry – it is very challenging to form and shape the nuance and ethos of over 120 autonomous ministries. If you can think about how challenging it can be to go through change management in one organization – try introducing a change management process to 120+.

    I would perhaps encourage those who offer critique (some of which is very helpful and needed – some of which not so helpful and not so charitable) to be aware that lumping everyone together into some homogeneous group called Exodus is actually not very fruitful in encouraging change – even if it is a convenient release for frustration and impatience with ongoing issues with which one takes exception.

    p.s. Ned thanks so much for weighing in – great to have another Exodus’ leaders thoughts as part of the conversation.

  • Ann

    Wendy, Ned, Eddy,

    Is Exodus a religious organization/ministry? If one does not have any religious belief or affiliation, can Exodus help them understand and modify their unwanted same gender attractions or the desire to act on them?

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    While the head office of Exodus does set standards for ministry – it is very challenging to form and shape the nuance and ethos of over 120 autonomous ministries.

    This is true, and I accept this to a point as a reason for inconsistencies, but it does not have anything to do with material coming directly from the home office. I don’t know if my reference to their recent pamphlet comes under your useful or not so useful suggestions, but it’s hard to blame a member ministry when the main office endorses such.

    If they are going to lead, then let them lead. No one expects the entire network to change overnight, but where does it start if not with them?

  • Ann

    I just don’t understand why it doesn’t bother you as much as it does me. Does it?

    David,

    We are two different people and have the privilege of undestanding things according to our own perceptions. I have read your posts with respect and do not hold quite the same feeling you do about Dr. Dobson and Dr. Nicolosi, and Exodus. They have had a different effect on me. I am concerned about any negative effect they have had on others and am also mindful that we all develope and evolve and mature as people and organizations. Many times that means adjusting our thoughts and views and long held beliefs to align with new information and circumstances that will bring the most optimal good to those involved. That goes for everyone who has been or is affected by this issue and all that pertains to it.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Ann,

    Exodus does have a distinctly Christian mission statement – but they themselves do not engage in front-line ministry. Front-line ministry happens locally through the member ministries – and here again there may be diversity.

    For New Direction, the ministry I lead, we also have a distinctly Christian mission statement. However, we are quite open to engaging anyone regardless of religious affiliation. Over the years we have engaged people of other faiths such as Hinduism and Islam. We have also had many people who are at a place of ambivalence about the integration of faith and sexuality – and we seek to meet them where they’re at. In those situations, we do not see our role as one of proselytizing but rather share as respectfully as we can some of the insights we have gleaned about the journey with unwanted same-gender attraction in line with the individual’s stated goals.

    As we’ve become more nuanced in our messaging, the number of people unsure about the place of faith in their journey has increased – we’re grateful for the opportunity to serve them. We believe that God has put his people in the world to be a blessing – and so we seek to be a blessing regardless of where a person is in terms of faith.

  • Ann

    We believe that God has put his people in the world to be a blessing – and so we seek to be a blessing regardless of where a person is in terms of faith.

    Wendy,

    These are indeed refreshing words – this really opens up a whole new opportunity for people who are not of the Christian faith and are looking for resources to understand and modify their same gender attractions/desires. I can only imagine how many people have felt excluded and/or intimidated by organizations who have a Christian theme and/or requirement. It almost sounds like an exclusive country club to those who do not share the same beliefs. I never thought it should be a pre-requisite for those who choose to seek a different perspective on that (same gender attractions) which they never asked for, do not want or value and want to modify according to their individuality.

  • Eddy

    Sometimes it’s absolutely delightful to be wrong. When I got home from work and booted up the PC, I cringed when I saw more than a dozen new comments on this thread. “Oh no”, I thought, “somebody’s on a rant!” Thanks to all who blogged today while I was off to work. Thanks for some of the best dialogue I’ve yet witnessed here.

    Ann, thanks for understanding about the need for a handle. The challenge (after an appropriate handle is settled on) is to avoid the common pitfalls of labeling.

    Wendy, thanks for your openness and for creating a more clear picture of the dynamics of Exodus and its agencies.

    And, David, thanks. I think we’ve mostly encountered each other in ‘the heat of battle’; it was refreshing and challenging (in the good way) to read your comments today.

    I really don’t have much to add. Wendy did a good job answering Ann’s question about Exodus’ Christian focus. I also had occasion to meet with folks whose ‘motivation for change’ was not Christian beliefs. I was a rather prolific writer of ‘teaching sheets’…newsletter inserts. I was both criticized and applauded for the fact that I didn’t fill them with bible verses and ‘God said…’ statements. I always figured that a Christian might get a little extra heavenly assistance working things out but that the applied principles had to make sense outside of the Christian realm as well. I believe it was the contact with these people that influenced that change in my writing approach.

    Wendy, Ned: Michael Bussee was one of the founders of Exodus. I showed up in the second year as a delegate from my bible school and then, after graduation, joined Outpost as co-director. I believe Michael moved on by Exodus III or shortly thereafter. I moved back and forth between Texas and Minnesota over the next decade and was involved through Exodus X–give or take a year or two. Long story short: Warren got us both blogging here at approximately the same time…and it’s very difficult to escape. :-)

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Thanks for the retrospective Ed…. I’ve lurked for a while so I’m pretty familiar with the history :)

    I’ve never commented on a blog as much as I have in the last couple of days …. hopefully I won’t look back in a couple of weeks and cringe. I tend to be an advocate for very careful input in such a public forum.

  • Ned Stringham

    Ann:

    I would concur with Wendy’s comments about the mission of Exodus. I, too, am sensitive to the concern that Christian ministries have the potential to create the impression of being a group for those in the insider elite. On the other hand, there is also the risk that being vague or too nuanced about one’s message can lead to a loss of purpose or effectiveness. It is indeed difficult to balance the need to be clear about one’s purpose with the need to invite a warm engagement with those who have differing views, or who are simply uncertain!

    As a mental health professional, it may be less conflictual for me to provide assistance to both Christian believers and to those of other faiths or of no faith than it is for some Exodus affiliated organizations. My colleagues and I (in our place of work) seek to present ourselves authentically, which entails being open about our Christian perspective and world view, although we never want to pressure others, covertly or overtly, into altering their opinions simply to conform to any expectations they think we might have.

    I intend to be a good listener to all voices in this debate. I appreciate many of the comments I have read here, especially yours, Wendy, that have further enhanced your presentation. Unlike some here, I have been helped by Dr. Joe Nicolosi as well as by Dr. James Dobson. Dr. Nicolosi’s description of the development of SSA in males fits very closely with the experiences of many of my clients. These men have been helped by Dr. Nicolosi’s writings and professional example. I do not object to Exodus quoting Dr. Nicolosi in its publications, nor do I think that doing so compromises either our ministry purpose nor our intention to be conciliatory with those holding views opposed to our own.

    However, I probably differ with Dr. Nicolosi in that I do not believe that the evidence is conclusive that reparative theory uniformly describes all with SSA. I especially question the position that adequate and honest confrontation of psychological issues will always bring a shift in sexual orientation.

    Like you, Wendy, I am not accustomed to spending as much time blogging as I have in recent days. Perhaps this behavior may be my adaptation to the dramatic cultural shifts you described in your presentation!

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    These men have been helped by Dr. Nicolosi’s writings and professional example.

    Wow, that’s a hard one to swallow, Ned. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard even Nicolosi’s “sort of” supporters characterize him as professional. And I have to admit, your not being concerned about using him in Exodus material is sad to me. NARTH is bad on so many levels it would be hard to cover them all.

    I’m curious, are you a member of NARTH? Nicolosi and NARTH are pretty much one and the same from what I have seen. Certainly he is the driving personality behind it, no?

  • bianca

    I just wanted to pipe in for a moment and say thank you for your compassionate and considerate conversation. This dialogue was forwarded to me by a dear friend, one who was part of my own journey in dealing with my sexuality from the beginning. As a brief framing, I am part of GCN and side A. Wendy, I was delighted to see your mention of the respect and genuine love that GCN seeks to foster amongst those who love Jesus and find that their sexuality is at odds with conventional understanding of scripture. GCN became home for me when my own church disfellowshipped me… a difficult time when I didn’t know how to define my sexuality, but knew that without a doubt, loving Jesus had to be the focus of my journey…

    Regarding the use of the term “ex-gay”… Isn’t the root issue how both camps define the word “gay”? My understanding in reading “ex-gay” literature is that homosexuality is defined as a chosen behavior, actions stemming from an attraction to the same gender. However the GLBT community as well as mainstream culture define “gay” as the attraction itself, not simply the behavior. I’ve read in numerous places online and in books where leaders within “ex-gay” ministries admit a contiued struggle SSA, at least to some degree but make a faith driven choice to not act accordingly. The primary reason we’ve been able to create a community on GCN that can be “ohana” (family) for those who of differing conclusions about the same-sex intimate relationships is because most identify as “gay”, according to the societally accepted definition. The difference occurs in how each of us experience God’s direction in faithfully living out our intimate lives.

    Wendy, I appreciate your use of “same gender attracted people” for that reason… Though it is a mouthful! :) The reality is, language creates our reality. The words we use and the definitions we associate with them either bind us together or divide us. It is impossible to deny that semantics are important, particularly when we as the Body are functioning in a world that is increasingly faced with negative perceptions of Jesus via mainstream Christianity. Words such as “saved” and “sin” and “born again” and “religion” come packaged with different emotional experiences for those within Christianity than for those without. In a world that needs Jesus so desparately, the words we use truly make a difference. Is it possible to create a term to describe those who experience SSA yet choose to live withi the context of heterosexuality without directly confronting the entire GLBT community by saying “ex-gay”?

  • Michael Bussee

    Ned: I pray that EXODUS will adopt and live by these words you wrote:

    “Exodus will focus more purely on Christian character formation and minister to those who retain SSA feelings but wish to live by the biblical principles of sexual self-restraint. We will reduce our preoccupation with total shifts in sexual orientation, and build bridges with the gay community,” They should make it a Mission Statement.

    By the way, I know it’s long, but “those who retain SSA feelings but wish to live by the biblical principles of sexual self-restraint.” is much better than “ex-gay” or “former homosexual”” because it is more straightforward and gives no intentional or unintentiional false impressions.

    I appreciate Eddy’s compliment about me being a “wordsmith” and I have tried very hard to come up with something, but I just don’t think there is one buzzword or snazzy label that can communicate that.

    Now, let’s pray that EXODUS will follow Wendy’s very wise counsel, get out of politics and, as Ned put it, “focus more purely” on what’s important — communicating the love of God to all His children.

  • Ann

    NARTH is bad on so many levels it would be hard to cover them all.

    David,

    This is a subjective opinion and not all people and organizations feel the same as you do about Narth and/or Dr. Nicolosi. The fact that Narth has helped many people cannot be diminished because you do not hold the same opinion. While you do not agree with Narth or Dr. Nicolosi’s theories about same gender attractions, other people in fact do benefit from his knowledge and therapy and writing.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    I also sat in on Wendy’s teaching at the Exodus Leadership Conference and really appreciated her thoughtful and nuanced, yet challenging words. Much of it – her spot-on assessment of post-modern and post-Christian culture – was not new to me. The “sticking point,” obviously, comes in how we are called to respond.

    I love what she wrote above … “As (New Direction has) become more nuanced in our messaging, the number of people unsure about the place of faith in their journey has increased – we’re grateful for the opportunity to serve them. We believe that God has put his people in the world to be a blessing – and so we seek to be a blessing regardless of where a person is in terms of faith.”

    That’s a wonderful gift and calling – both from God to New Direction and from them on into the world. In some ways, I envy it. But not all of us connected with Exodus have that particular calling. My calling – and that of my ministry Transforming Congregations – is not to bridge building with unbelievers or even the LGBT community. It’s primarily to educate, equip and encourage like-minded church leaders to develop ministries for those already secure in their evangelical faith but uncertain about how to deal with their (or their loved one’s) unwanted same-sex attraction or other sexual sin.

    I thought Randy Thomas’s presentation, which followed Wendy’s, was a good counterpoint. He spoke of prophetic call – not in the sense of predicting the future, but in the classic Biblical way of calling God’s people and the culture back to faithfulness in God’s will. Some scholar (can’t remember who) described it as not only “comforting the afflicted,” but also “afflicting the comfortable” when it’s needed. Whether that’s people in the pew who are content with their homophobia and apathy or folk who have psychologically and practically adjusted to their sin.

    Sometimes, the expression of that prophetic call – especially to the culture – will be perceived as “politics,” and sometimes it may be coupled with real political action, which is the right of an American Christian. I personally believe that Exodusians have a mandate to do the former; I’m of mixed mind about the latter.

    However, this I know for sure. Many of us in the Exodus Network – myself and my ministry included – share a prophetic call. It’s as much a legitimate, God-given gift and vocation as bridge building. As I’ve posted here and elsewhere many times before, the Exodus Network does not march in lockstep. Thanks Wendy, Eddy, Ned and others for further clarifying that.

  • Ann

    Wendy, Karen, Ned, Eddy,

    Just think about all the people who have turned to God , pleading and praying, day after day, to take away their unwanted same gender attractions – they never wanted them, they don’t want them now, and feel as though God has met them with a deaf ear. Many of those people have turned away from God and Christianity – because of this they do not come to Exodus or other ministries because they do not want to experience that same desperation as before when they turned to their religion or church or God or pastors and never felt a shift in their attractions. What do you tell these people who do not want to or are not ready to involve religion again into their lives. How can these people feel accepted and comfortable where they are if they still want to find support in understanding and modifiying their unwanted same gender attractions instead of acting on them. Do you see where many people can and do feel excluded because they feel they do not meet the requirements put forth by these organizations?

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Ann … to your last question, yes, and to the rest, I don’t know. As I explained above, building bridges to unbelievers or the disaffected is not my gift or call. I appreciate your questions and concern, but I don’t have answers for you.

  • Ann

    Thank you Karen. I truly believe that in not having the answers, we as a society, are failing. Not only that, but it is a certain arrogance and exclusivity that turns and drives people away who want and need support – don’t they deserve the same as someone who proclaims Christianity, even if that proclamation is and can be hypocritical many times? Ministries and organizations and individuals are failing at the most basic level – they say “meet us on our terms not your’s” – saying this to a person who is suffering and hates what and how they feel, only validates these feelings for them. How can we be so blind and arrogant? Also, if a person has a religious faith and it isn’t Christian, they automatically feel they will not belong. Why do we put out the axiom that ONLY Christianity can save you from same gender attractions? All of the people and organizations and ministires who promote this are failing – not just in their reputations but in excluding the many people who have turned away from religion, those who do not share the same religion and those who just have never believed. God’s view of our life is eternity – not just how we are now. I wonder how many people – could it be thousands – who do not fit the mold that is promoted or required and are left just where they are instead of where they want to be?

  • Michael Bussee

    Karen: I am not challenging the idea that EXODUS has the “right” to engage in political activism. But having the “right” doesn’t make it right. I join other EXODUS leaders, past and present, who just think it’s a very bad idea — and alienates many who might otherwise seek out EXODUS for ministry.

    Many AA members are very political, but AA remains, as an organization, poltically neutral. EXODUS ought to follow suit — otherwise you give the impression that Jesus was a right-wing Republican and that “good” Chistians must be also.

    As Mary pointed out in an earlier post: “It (political entanglement) seems to sour the motivation that is presented to those who struggle or who are gay. It blurs the focus and intent of the mission.” I am with Ned and Wendy that EXODUS should “focus more purely”. It is truly exciting that EXODUS seems to be giving the idea some serious thought and prayer.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Michael, I thought I said above that I was of mixed mind about whether it is “right” to exercise the right of political activism. I join other Exodus leaders, both past and present, who don’t have a firm opinion about it. And yet other former early leaders, one of whom (Ron Dennis) serves on my Board of Directors, believe it is acceptable or even necessary.

    My impression from the Leadership Conference is that much thought and prayer have been given to it and will be given to it in the future. I think that you and others of your mindset have been heard, but it doesn’t mean the consensus (if there even is such a thing in the Exodus Network) will be to agree with you.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Again Ann, yours are very thought provoking questions. But because I am a Christian who believes the axiom that “ONLY Christianity can save you” from anything, I simply can’t begin to address them.

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy sees it! It’s not just “gay activists”, like me, who have noticed that “certain arrogance and exclusivity that turns and drives people away who want and need support”. Sincere, same-sex-attracted Christians everywhere are made to feel like “strangers at the gate”. That’s the real problem with EXODUS’s “over-promises”, the “hype”, the political divisiveness and the “you didn’t believe hard enough” message.

    Like Wendy, I also wonder “how many people – could it be thousands – who do not fit the mold that is promoted or required and are left just where they are instead of where they want to be? Awhile back, Peterson Toscano asked a simikar question: “What happens to these people and who cares? Really want to know? Really care? Stop and listen to the “ex-gay” Survivors.

  • Ann

    By the way, I know it’s long, but “those who retain SSA feelings but wish to live by the biblical principles of sexual self-restraint.” is much better than “ex-gay” or “former homosexual”” because it is more straightforward and gives no intentional or unintentiional false impressions.

    Michael,

    I understand that this description might be good for some people, however, it does not address other people and their reality. Some have quietly turned away from same gender relationships and identity without fanfare or proclamations and do not want to be associated with or referred to or remembered by a phrase or label. I respect them for that.

  • Ann

    But because I am a Christian who believes the axiom that “ONLY Christianity can save you” from anything, I simply can’t begin to address them.

    Karen,

    I am not talking about what you and others “believe” – I am referring to how you can align yourselves more with what you believe and feel secure enough with that to let it show in how you interact with those who are not of the same belief. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He did not exclude anyone because they were not perfect like Him, rather people gravitated to Him because he was assessible to them and they did not feel excluded – He made it possible for them to see things from a different perspective without requiring them to be “Christians”. He was of the Jewish faith. Does your ministry accept someone from the Jewish faith who wants to learn a different perspective on how to respond to their same gender attractions or do you require them to be Christian in order to have this privilege?

  • Ann

    Michael,

    Regarding #85773, are you referring to Wendy or me? :-)

  • Ann

    Michael,

    I was not referring to the ex-gay survivors in my post #85761 – I was referring to individuals who were not Christian and wanted support in finding ways to understand and modify their same gender attractions.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Ann, perhaps I have not been clear enough. My ministry does not work with individuals who are SSA. We work with conservative, evangelical church leaders, who are not required to describe anything about their sexuality as part of the process.

    If we did work with SSA individuals, without a doubt we would welcome those from other faith perspectives, including Judaism, or those with no faith perspective at all. But our program would be firmly Christian in teaching and approach. I don’t consider that exclusive; I consider it having integrity. I don’t much see the point of inviting folk to join you and then later springing it on them, “Oh by the way, we’re Christian and here’s what that means.”

    BTW, I’m not implying that’s what either Wendy or you mean. And I’d welcome her answers to your questions, since that’s more her focus.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    I’m also sensing that the thread is deteriorating into an argument since I joined in, and whether that’s of my or others’ doing, I’m going to bow out gracefully and just lurk for a while.

  • Ann

    Karen,

    I did not realize the focus of your ministry and appreciate your patience in having me understand. I am also sorry if I sounded confrontational – that is not my style and I hope you continue to write on this thread.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    wow – your daughter breaks her arm and by the time you get back from the doctor’s there’s been a flurry of activity :)

    Ann – a few thoughts: there are some organizations within different faith groups for the population you refer to – Jonah for those of Jewish faith and Evergreen for those of Mormon faith to name a couple. Additionally, there are reparative therapists (IF someone is looking for that) who operate a secular practice. New Direction over ten years ago developed a faith neutral youth website called: http://www.freetobeme.com in the effort to provide a respectful alternative for youth (in the early days it spoke a lot about potential orientation change – and we’re in the process of trying to revise/update it – a slow and time consuming process). Additionally, I think there would be many front-line Exodus ministries that would not turn away someone sincerely seeking their support just because they didn’t hold a Christian faith (at least I would hope so).

    Michael – I do agree that our legacy hasn’t been one of particular focus on bridge-building with those who disengaged (for a variety of reasons) from an Exodus-like process. I think that has been to our poverty – in that we have perhaps missed opportunities to re-engage discussions about faith (even if it meant leaving sexuality out of the conversation for a season). In some of our equipping for pastors and leaders, we encourage them to read the stories on ‘Beyond Ex-Gay’ because we want them to grasp that this is not a simplistic – “I, 2, 3 get straight, date and mate” kind of thing. We want them to know that there are very sincere people who attempted to change their orientation and were hurt and disillusioned in the process – because we want pastors and leaders to put discipleship first – and any shift in the direction of attractions in its proper secondary place. I know there are quiet relationships that have been invested in (ie. Eddy’s friend and others – for which I’m grateful), and public attempts at dialogue (like Bridges Across) …. but the public perception continues to be that there is a sense of enmity between “ex-gay” and “ex-ex-gay” (for the record I am not a fan of these terms – but it is a mouthful to find any kind of alternative – you’re quite right about that Bianca). So I do support innovative and creative ways to encourage relationships that focus on faith (recognizing that for some in vulnerable places this just might not be a good idea at this time). At the end of the day, I always come back to the reality that our Christian witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ is compromised when the world sees infighting between gay Christians and Exodus-like folks….. that ought not to be. I know there is a lot of nuance here and a lot of complexity – but at the end of the day ….. are we actually representing the Gospel of Christ in an attractive and winsome manner to those who do not yet know him? Regardless of our particular call and mission – I believe this needs to on the heart of every Christ-follower.

    Bianca – thanks for your comments. I agree that language is one of the significant challenges facing Christ-followers seeking to be relevant in this arena today. We keep working at it – in fact one of our core values is “relevance” and in that description we commit ourselves to regularly reviewing our language usage. It is one of the reasons that this kind of dialogue is so helpful for me. I also just wanted to say that I am truly grateful that you have found a safe place at GCN to heal from the hurts caused by the church – and pray that you will be blessed as you put Christ first.

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy: I am certainly impressed by your line of thinking — and I pray EXODUS takes heed: “We want them to know that there are very sincere people who attempted to change their orientation and were hurt and disillusioned in the process – because we want pastors and leaders to put discipleship first – and any shift in the direction of attractions in its proper secondary place.”

    A loud and enthusiastic AMEN! The dialog you are suggesting and the changes you are promposing are long overdue.

  • Ann

    Thank you Wendy – I am aware of most of those organizations. I hope my point was made and that all the people and ministries and organizations that proclaim Christianity is the only way one can have a different perspective about their unwanted same gender attractions will realize that they are failing others who feel excluded because they do not share the same belief – whether it is from past disappointments, another religion, or no religion. I guess I am an idealist when I visualize a world where people from all walks of life who share a common unwanted attraction toward the same gender and they can feel accepted into organizations who have a common goal to help support them in their quest to gain a different perspective on how to respond to these desires/attractions so they are not acted upon. I wonder out of this kind of kindness and assessibility, how many of them would want to know more about the people who are assessable to them. I wonder if those who walked away previously because of disappointment would return to Christianity. I wonder if those of other religions would respect Christianity more because they have actually experienced Christ’s teachings through other’s deeds rather than words. Like I said before – how many, perhaps thousands, are left behind and stay where they are rather than where they want to be because religious organizations fail to see that in order to believe a religion, one has to experience it through the people who promote it. That can only be done the way Jesus did it – we have a lot to learn.

  • Eddy

    Ann–

    I think one of the reasons I enjoy you so much is that you’ll ask tough questions of both sides! I mentioned earlier that I began to make my teaching sheets a bit less ‘churchy’ and that staff was available for one to one chats or ongoing sessions with folks who didn’t identify as Christian.

    But the ministry itself, as well as its various group programs, maintained a strong Christian identity and focus. The primary reason for this is that most of those who came to us were Christians who struggled silently in their church pew. Some were sure their pastors would disfellowship them if they learned of their struggles; others weren’t sure what their pastors believed on the issue. So we focussed on that gap. My personal goal was to give my clients enough of a sense of their own relationship with God through Christ that they could find whatever ‘meat’ was available in their pastor’s exhortations. For that reason, we would focus on scriptures or portions of sermons that our group members brought to the table and then tried to see how those scriptures or lessons applied to their individual journeys or struggles.

    At the time I had heard of one group out of New York City that was addressing the issue from a totally secular viewpoint. I provided contact address and how to find out more about the group but didn’t know how to proceed further. I feel like the name will come to me…but, so far, it’s eluding me…we’re going back 30 years. I do recall my one reservation about this group was that they seemed to have just one theory and one approach; the diversity I’d witnessed in those I’d met suggested that it might work for one or two but not for all.

    But even when you try not to bring the issue of Christianity to the table, it will likely surface quickly anyway. Envision this typical first conversation: “So, you’re not sure that homosexuality is right for you? Why is that? What motivates you to pursue change?” 9 times out of 10, the person will counter with “so what’s your motivation?” And, my primary motivation is my Christian belief. So, it ends up on the table pretty quickly. The trick is not to get hung up there. “Okay, we do have different motivations for why we’re pursuing change but let’s take a look at the things we have in common. Despite your clear motivation, this is still quite a struggle for you; do you lose sight of your motivation? Does something come up that simply knocks you off course? That makes you doubt your original intent? Let’s start there.”

    One of the great things about the Bible is that truth is simply truth. I know there are lots of verses we could debate but I’m opting for a simpler truth. I fully believe, Christian or not, that “the double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways”. Instead of a verse though, I could say “well, if you’re really not sure why you want to change or if you want to change, it’s going to continue to be a battle for you. As long as you’re divided about what you want…or think…or believe, it’s likely to be a rocky road.”

    One man’s primary motivation was that he was the last male in the family to pass on the genes and family name. It was a strong motivation but it was also the only motivation he had to change. So, I encouraged him to weigh that motivation against the other motivations in his life. Could he reconcile his different motivations in life to each other? If not, which ones could thrive together and bring him the bigger sense of inner peace. He decided that carrying on the family line wasn’t worth 1) the sense of entrapment he’d feel in a hetero marriage 2) the responsibility for his wife never being completely loved 3) not finding out what gay love was really all about.

    An extremely likable man, once he became ‘available’, he had a partner within a month! They both came back to talk to me. LOL! I think his introductory line was something like “This is Ed, he’s a Christian but he’s really got his head on straight.” Rare for Christians, so I’ve heard. I guess it’s a good thing Exodus wasn’t keeping stats. Even though the young man didn’t go straight or Christian, I’ve still got that filed away in my mental ‘success’ category.

    I believe Wendy was the one who touched on the notion of simply extending love and compassion and letting God do His part in His time.

    Bianca–welcome aboard. I appreciated your comments. I think you may have hit on one big reason why it’s so difficult to find that mutually agreeable term. Most of the time, our discussions here have focussed on the ‘ex’ part, the ‘former’ part. I see ‘ex’ as ‘out of’; many see ‘ex’ as ‘no more, no how, no way’. But, you’re right that we have a difference of meaning re ‘gay’ also.

    Karen–

    I agree with Ann…keep on posting. I feel this has been one of the healthiest discussions we’ve yet had here and I appreciate seeing and hearing the different voices within Exodus. I’ve mentioned in the past how different ministries were quite unique…different approaches, styles, goals. The various comments have given better shape to that image for the other readers.

  • Ann

    Eddy,

    From the bottom of my heart I am grateful for the Christian ministries and the support and encouragement they have given so many people. My concern is for those people who have either been disappointed (see post #85754) or those who do not understand Christianity (other religions) or who have no religion at all. In the fullness of time and with the exposure to positive experiences I know where “I” would like them to be regarding faith but “I” am not them. It just hurts to think about all the people who want encouragement and support in their desire to live a valued life without acting on their same gender attractions and feel excluded or not qualified because they initially do not want to be affiliated with Christianity. I saw this verse today and perhaps it can better describe what I have been trying to say – only God can give us the gift of grace, it cannot be forced from someone else onto someone else. I know God’s timing is perfect and we can count on that.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and

    this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

    — Ephesians 2:8-9

  • Ned Stringham

    I have to compliment all of the participants on this blog. What thoughtful discourse and genuine passion to make a positive difference! I’m amazed by how much goes on in the twenty-four hours between my posts.

    David, I believe one of the most important steps we need to take is to demonstrate dignity and respect by listening to everyone who has a stake in the issues we are addressing. To suggest that Dr. Nicolosi is not a professional would be to deny the fact that he is a licensed psychologist (in the State of California) as well as the testimonies of many people who have been helped by his counsel and his writings. I have found them to be helpful to me even though, as I said earlier, my views appear to differ from his on some critical points.

    You have a very strong negative opinion about his work. Perhaps you have good reason. Maybe you know former counselees who have been disappointed with their therapy experiences or you have found points with which you disagree in his writings. If you would share your thoughts, I think that perhaps we would all be interested. What I am not interested in is stigmatizing anyone, suggesting that any person in this discussion is less worthy of dignity than any other. I am seeking to learn the lesson Wendy has presented — to listen to and learn from even our greatest critics. Are you willing to take that journey with us?

    To answer your question, I am a member of NARTH, I read their publications and stay in contact with some of their members. I am relatively distant from the organization, however, for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, I also appreciate many of the contributions that they have made.

    Michael, frankly I am honored by your affirmation of some of my comments. It seems to me that getting past our defenses into genuine dialogue offers such enormous potential. It offers tremendous potential for transforming Christian ministry (referring to character, not necessarily to sexual attractions) and also potential for cutting edge research. Just imagine what could happen if gay researchers, sexual identity therapists, reparative therapists, Exodus ministries, etc. could collaborate on research?

    I would like to comment in response to Ann’s excellent question, but my wife is calling me right now. I’ll have to get back to this later. Best wishes.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Ned,

    A license does not mean one is professional, nor does the lack of one mean they are not. I’ve spoken with too many people who earnestly sought his help, only to realize some time in that he breaches boundaries and is driven by his own sense of infallibility.

    I’ve read as much of his work as I can really stand to, and listened to as much of his talks as he will allow posted online or through DVD. It is not necessarily his goals that I find repugnant, though I do personally disagree with them. It is simply the content of his theories, and the – and I’m sorry there is no way around this one – juvenile manor in which he deals with disagreement.

    To be perfectly honest, just knowing that you don’t report in your description of him at least some of what I say as true, makes me leery. I honestly can’t believe that deep down you are proud to be associated with NARTH. Isn’t Schoenewolf still an advisor there? Come on Ned, what kind of ethical or moral compass is at work in that mess?

    What I am not interested in is stigmatizing anyone, suggesting that any person in this discussion is less worthy of dignity than any other. I am seeking to learn the lesson Wendy has presented — to listen to and learn from even our greatest critics. Are you willing to take that journey with us?

    I certainly hope we can disagree without feeling that ones dignity has been denied, Ned. But when people do things in the name of therapy which don’t make any sense, or which cause pain and frustration by their very nature, I think we need to call attention to that. And if constantly insisting 2+2=5 brings stigma to a Nicolosi, or a Richard Cohen, or Paul Cameron, then who is at fault for that? Do you not think there should be some stigma surrounding the use of material from Paul Cameron at least?

    In the end, as I said to Ann earlier, people who chose to seek some way around expressing their sexual attractions – whatever their reason – deserve to find better choices than these. I believe there are people out there who have the right idea of where to begin, but they won’t be talking about “Grey Zones” or made up neurosis, they won’t be naming themselves “Graceful Cow” while sitting around naked in the woods, and they won’t be cuddling with their clients on the couch.

    Honestly, who is messing with people’s dignity in this picture?

  • Ann

    David,

    What measures did you or Ex-Gay Watch take to verify Alex’s story about phone therapy with Dr. Nicolosi? I’m particularly interested in the validity of the conversation that was cited on Ex-Gay Watch.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    What measures did you or Ex-Gay Watch take to verify Alex’s story about phone therapy with Dr. Nicolosi? I’m particularly interested in the validity of the conversation that was cited on Ex-Gay Watch.

    None. The narrative itself was not our story. It was already on the web (we linked to it and described it as such), written some time ago. In fact, it was someone on your side of the issue that pointed it out to me with the lament that it was very sad.

    I would be happy to put you in touch with someone who has a verified history of treatment with Nicolosi, however. Or you can read the rest of Alex’s blog to get a sense of his candor. I should also note that he has been in contact with us since, and also commented on that post.

    The validity of such a personal story, as always, must be determined by the reader, though his comments are quite familiar.

    Were you concerned that he might be lying?

  • Ann

    In fact, it was someone on your side of the issue that pointed it out to me with the lament that it was very sad.

    What is my side of the issue?

  • Ann

    None.

    Thanks David –

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    What is my side of the issue?

    Let’s just say they would not necessarily be considered “pro-gay” and leave it at that. Or did I misunderstand the view you bring to the debate?

    Before this devolves into innuendo, what exactly is the point of your last comment? I’ll ask again, are you concerned that Alex might be lying? If you are, just say so. It does happen, though I don’t personally get that sense here.

  • Ann

    David,

    I don’t look at meaningful conversation on this blog or elsewhere as a debate.

    I have no idea who Alex is or his credibility so I am not sure if he is telling the truth or not.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Now we are into semantics, and the tedious misdirections about minutia with which everyone here is familiar. Bleh.

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy Gritter has really started something here. It will be very interesting to see how EXODUS responds to all of this — political neutrality, less focus on “reorientation”, more sensitivity to those who may have been harmed along the way, listening and building bridges to the “gay community” — a strong commitment to “focus more clearly” on ministry.

    It has been easy to dismiss suggestions when they come from “pro-gay activists”. It gets much trickier when many of the same ideas are put now forth by one of EXODUS’s own.

  • Eddy

    Totally off the topic–

    The “Home-Mark Broussard” link in “Recently Commented” is an excellent Saturday diversion.

  • Michael Bussee

    By the way, I am with David on the Schoenewolf matter. How anyone can, in good conscience, support an organization that (1) keeps such a man as an expert advisor, and (2) has still not clearly denounced the teachings of Cameron (as Throckmorton has had the moral courage to do)) is byond me.

  • Ned Stringham

    David and (in part) Michael:

    O.K.. You’ve certainly given me a grand challenge. I’ll attempt to take it one step at a time.

    Regarding Dr. Nicolosi, obviously you view him as less than professional in conduct despite his professional license. I regret that he is being accused by former clients of unethical conduct. I hope that the charges are unfounded, but I honestly do not know. His former clients I have known gave a positive report.

    I may not be posting for the next one to three days, but I promise you, that my temporary absence will not be due to being bored with the discussion!

    You are disturbed by “the content of his theories”, although you did not specify what you meant by this, and appear to be offended by his development of colloquial terms such as “grey zone” to describe periods of mild mood disturbance. If the term “grey zone” is not helpful for you or your friends, is it possible that it may be helpful for others?

    Your other point concerning “the juvenile manor with which he deals with disagreement” appears to involve incidents I know nothing about.

    “To be perfectly honest, just knowing that you don’t report in your description of him at least some of what I say as true, makes me leery.”

    I’m not sure exactly what you want me to say. You have leveled a serious attack against an individual and seem to be saying that I must concur that this is at least partly valid as some kind of a test of trustworthiness. I’m not sure that is what you really want or need in this discussion. I don’t know the clients you have written about, and we have already addressed some of my differences with reparative theory.

    “I honestly can’t believe that deep down you are proud to be associated with NARTH. Isn’t Schoenewolf still an advisor there?”

    I do not present myself in that sense as “being associated with NARTH.” Schoenwolf, of course, made absurd assertions in his article of a year and a half ago although I can not say on what grounds he maintains qualifications as an advisor.

    Yes, I have some real differences with NARTH along the lines of what has already been mentioned. Although I retain membership, I also am a member of other organizations with whom I have more conflicts than I do with NARTH. Foremost among these is the American Psychological Association whose political agenda and lack of scientific support for its decisions have been well documented by one of its former presidents and a former division president. I maintain membership to keep updated on important information and to build bridges, exerting positive influence where I can.

    I don’t think we’re here to bash the APA, NARTH, Nicolosi, Cameron, Cohen or anybody else. I regret that apparently many have experienced pain, distress and disappointment. David, if you are one of these, I hope that something here provides you some comfort or assurance. I only hope that the development of our dialogue can focus upon what we want to be more than who we do not trust.

    Ann, you asked a great question about those who feel abandoned by God for not removing their SSA. I won’t try to add much to what Eddy said. All I tell clients is that if they do not trust or believe in God, that is O.K. with me.

    If they press on for more assurance, I also say that I am ambassador of Christ, and if they have no idea what He is like or if they can trust Him, I invite them to look to me or to other Christians they know personally to get an idea of His character. I never feel comfortable saying this, but counselees tell me it gives them assurance as a temporary help in their faith. The concept of being an “ambassador of Christ” is also biblical.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Ned,

    If they press on for more assurance, I also say that I am ambassador of Christ, and if they have no idea what He is like or if they can trust Him, I invite them to look to me or to other Christians they know personally to get an idea of His character.

    With all due respect, I think that many people look at Christians and as a consequence want NOTHING to do with Christ. This is particularly true of gay folk.

    We see those who make it their mission in life to oppose the freedoms and civil equality of gay people, and think that if that is what Christ is about then He’s certainly not someone we are interested in worshiping. Yeah He might be powerful enough to damn us to Hell, but we aren’t going to praise Him for doing it or pretend that this vengeful demanding angry God is good.

    You see, Ned, I know that there is nothing wrong with the message of Christ. There is a reason why it was first called “good news”. But His messengers are often so arrogant, compassionless, and demanding of everyone around them that His religion is perceived as hateful and vile.

    There are so many agenda items of conservative Christianity that just seem cruel. And most of us don’t have any desire to become cruel to those we know and love.

    Until the church can find a way to “love” that actually looks and feels more like love than it does like cruelty, then gay people – and those who know and love them – are going to continue to look on it with fear and contempt.

    If you tell someone, “I’m going to make sure you don’t have any legal protections for your relationship. I’m going to keep it legal to discriminate against you. I’m going to keep you from protecting your country, adopting children, visiting your loved one in the hospital, working in certain professions, and even keep the government from tracking hate crimes committed against you.”, then I can guarantee that you are not going to win that person to Christ by your example of “love”. It just isn’t going to happen.

    Gay people do NOT look at the conservative church and see love. And if I can be totally honest, I don’t see that much of the church really cares how they appear to gay people.

    And that’s why Wendy’s approach is so encouraging. I sincerely hope that Exodus listens carefully to what she brings.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    What measures did you or Ex-Gay Watch take to verify Alex’s story about phone therapy with Dr. Nicolosi? I’m particularly interested in the validity of the conversation that was cited on Ex-Gay Watch.

    I am puzzled by this question. I don’t see any need for XGW to verify the story – they linked to another blog. The evidence is a bit more than circumstantial that the boy’s account is reasonable. He used the term Grey Zone which Nicolosi uses to indicate some kind of affective state which predisposes one to doing gay things. It seems silly to me in that everyone has bad moods which our brains attempt to compensate for via soothing behaviors. In the case of someone who is not SSA, the soothing may be to seek heterosexual soothing. Does that mean heterosexuality is a mental disorder or the product of narcissistic injury? Of course not. But I digress.

    Overall, I am very happy with the way this discussion has gone. Wendy, thanks for your winsome replies to comments. I really hope you become a regular commenter here.

    Interesting to me that the discussion of how sexual identity ministry can get off track comes down to theories presented as fact. I do wonder what Exodus could do to rid website and materials of reparative drive based formulations presented as the research based answer to the puzzle of causation.

  • http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org Trista

    Hello all! I have been following this blog for three days now and have been very impressed by the dialogue and the diversity of opinions and thoughts being shared. It is refreshing to read such thoughtful discussion happening between people who may not agree on everything. It is also wonderful to see that I think we can all agree that it seems as though Wendy is on to something. I think that speaks to her humility and willingness to admit that she doesn’t know all the answers but is willing to listen and hear the hearts of others and presents what she finds to God and allows him to reveal truth to her. I think that this is the quality of a person that Ann, you may be looking for on behalf of people who do not align themselves with Christianity.

    It seems like we need more Christians with the ability to humbly say “I don’t claim to know everything, but I allow Jesus to be my judge and the temper of the words I say and the manner in which I say them.” It may be then that folks who have been hurt by either well-intentioned or ill-intentioned self-proclaimed Christians (either through a friend, a ministry, or a mental health professional) will start to learn the heart of Jesus–through the living witness of people like Wendy.

    I also agree with Bianca that language is vital to all of the issues being discussed here. Language shapes so much of our lives and our sense of self. Our basis of knowledge and understanding is lexical in nature, without words we couldn’t easily describe our experiences. Thus, taking it a step further, words are a huge part of relationships. Unfortunately, it is also with words (in addition to actions) that we break, wound or otherwise damage relationships and people. And to that end, I feel a deep sense of sorrow for the way the words and actions of some Christians have damaged the hearts of the very preciously made people God created. If I could do it, on behalf of all Christians for all time, I would apologize for and take the wrath due for all of the words and actions committed in Jesus’ name that are not part of his character as I have come to know and understand him to be through his word and how he has revealed himself to me. God’s desire is for life, not death; salvation, not damnation.

    Wow, I started really rambling–forgive me. I just get really passionate when it comes to speaking out truth and dismantling the hold of the lies and hurt that the enemy likes to spread using the very people that should be the ones bringing people closer to God. Because, at the end of the day (or I should say, in That Day) what it really comes down to is this: do you know Jesus, not do you have same-sex attractions or do you claim a gay identity, but do you have a relationship with God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. That is the point.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Timothy is so right – those outside of the church, in today’s context, so often seem to have negative perceptions of Christians (particularly 16 – 29 year olds). We have a long road ahead of us to begin to undo and dismantle these negative perceptions. I just returned from facilitating a learning experience with church leaders, the focus of which was equipping for relational engagement. My team and I had the opportunity to present a nuanced perspective, one that was humble and sensitive to the potential for inadvertent alienation. It is challenging for folks to get their head around the many complexities this area of engagement presents. For the average member of a local church who does not have a close relationship with a same-gender attracted person, there are a lot of overwhelming thoughts and feelings to work through. The process of learning new language and new ways to relate is challenging and not a quick or easy transition. A lot of patience and grace is required. However, I should add, that the consistent response that I encounter is a desire to become more open and more effective in engagement – even if initially they feel very uncertain or overwhelmed in knowing exactly how to do that. The exciting thing for me to consider is that increased openness to engage with glbtq individuals will equip Christ-followers to better represent Christ who consistently related to those the religious establishment marginalized.

    Thought I’d also share an exciting opportunity we’re planning. I’ve been in contact with a local pride committee to ask how we could volunteer and help out. Originally we wanted to just quietly pick up trash – perhaps as much as anything wanting the experience to stretch and change our group of volunteers. Clearly, our volunteers will be carefully screened to ensure that everyone involved can engage with respect and simple friendliness. We’re not trying to make any kind of statement with this experience – but rather trying to simply grow and learn through serving – even if it means serving those with whom we have disagreements about sexuality. I think there is so much fear among Christians about engaging with gay people – and I would love to see this replaced with a bolder and more courageous love.

    Last comment, I don’t hide the fact that I wish Exodus would do away with the “change is possible” motto. I think it alienates and confuses more than it offers the hope that is intended. But …. when I look at the church and individual Christ-followers learning to relate more effectively in a manner that truly reflects Christ – I believe “change is possible” :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    On the change is possible slogan, I preferred, “a changed life is possible” to focus on the more general change we believe occurs when a person is converted. However, I wonder if that would still be misinterpreted as a gay became straight.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Personally, I think it would be very hard to reclaim the word “change” without people assuming it has something to do with sexual re-orientation. Therefore, I think we all would be better served to try to minimize the use of words like “change” and “choice”.

    It’s late and I’ve not thought this through too much …. but I wonder about simply saying, “Gay? Life in Christ is possible” – sure this begs further explanation ….. but to me that is the point …. we want to invite further conversation. Without relationship, we have very little potential of having any kind of influence.

  • Mary

    How about Change looks different for everyone.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Ned said:

    I regret that he is being accused by former clients of unethical conduct.

    I have no idea if his conduct is officially unethical or not. He may have been accused, but I don’t personally know of any instance where he was sanctioned.

    Let me clarify, since I don’t know how you might be interpreting that particular phrase “breaches boundaries.” In this context, it should be taken to mean that he seems to introduce as many things into a discussion with a client as he gets out of them (even his session narratives give this impression to me). My own experience of therapy with a licensed psychiatrist was also quite different, with the doctor seeking most of the input from me.

    Since Cohen was in that same comment, I wanted to make clear what I meant with respect to Nicolosi. I don’t know if that is considered unethical or just ill-advised, but you can take it from there. As for the other part, I would have to say his arrogance is nearly legendary.

    @Warren

    I am with Wendy on the “change” slogan, and I think you are correct that any variation of it will bring people to the same conclusion. Certainly one is changed after an encounter with God, but I don’t see churches all lined up with “change is possible” on them. How about “God Loves You” and leave it at that?

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Wendy,

    In order to use your slogan, you would have to pry the use of “gay-identified” out of their lexicon. I’m all for that, as it has always sounded like a loaded term to me. Regardless of how one intends it, the essential meaning is so counter the common use of the term “gay” that one can feel the pretense; you aren’t gay you just call yourself that. Yet another way NOT to form a relationship.

    I may not have time to comment much more on all this. Before things broke down a bit, I basically wanted to say what I started with. Should Wendy’s proposals be used by Exodus as an example to their member ministries, I don’t see that we would have much to take issue with. And I think Exodus might finally get back on a track that leads to real ministry, and not political lobbying and false claims of “radical change.”

    The question is, how many sacred cows are they willing to sacrifice in order to make that happen? I say that as one who has been in ministry, I know how hard it is to make changes. But I also know how well it fits together when God is really in it. But it will require them to jettison some programs, attitudes, and even some people. I think the goal is worth it.

  • bianca

    Thought I’d also share an exciting opportunity we’re planning. I’ve been in contact with a local pride committee to ask how we could volunteer and help out.

    Wendy, that would be so very amazing! I’ve only gone to a few Pride events, and all after I’d been disfellowshipped. The church related floats made me cry every time. The initial experience of suddenly being without a church after being a “5th Generation Adventst” was a very naked and vulnerable place to be. So many GLBT individuals from religious backgrounds find themselves in a very difficult position when processing their sexuality. Their cultural nework often gives only one option (become “straight”) and because “Truth” is leveled behind it, struggling seekers have to choose between figuring out who they are outside the safe embrace of their spiritual family or moving on a prescribed course of action that often feels so incongruent with themselves. My parents are very clear that they do not support my choice to live with a woman, but they support me as a person and as their daughter. And I’m ok with that.

    Exodus related ministries are not alone in Christendom facing the daunting task of changing society’s perception of them. I ran across Off The Map a few years ago and they began to give me hope that across the country, believers were beginning to take a serious look at how society perceives us. Just as Europeans have a perception of the “Ugly American” that seems impossible to reconstruct, the name Evangelical Christian will unfortunately put most GLBT individuals on guard immediately. Humble service is a fabulous beginning, though it’s likely to be initially misinterpreted. However it can’t be a waste of time if Jesus saw fit to spend most of His life consumed with it. I have always understood the most life changing conversions in the New Testament to have occured in the context of selfless acts of love and service. Regardless of the language used, I suppose in the long run, lives of service will have to do more of the “speaking”.

    On the more humorous side, another term I’ve heard in reference to “ex-gays” is “straight with a twist”… 😉

  • Michael Bussee

    With all due respect, Ned, Schoenewolf’s comments weren’t just “absurd”, they were reprehensible. The upside of slavery? That’s racist. Berger encouraging the “ridiculing and teasing” of gender-variant kids? That’s abusive. And Cameron’s “solutions” for the gay “parasites”? Plain evil.

    It’s not about “bashing” these men — it’s about pointing out the evil in their teachings. Men and women of good faith and conscience are called to do that. The claim that Nicolosi has helped many people” is negated, in my view, by his ongoing association with such men.

  • Michael Bussee

    Bianca: “Ex-gays” — “straight with a twist”? Ah, it is that litttle “twist” that tells all. That ongoing, unchosen, emotional and erotic attraction to other men isn’t “straight”. It’s bisexual. I know ex-gays don’t like that term, but it’s factual.

    Wendy said: — “Last comment, I don’t hide the fact that I wish Exodus would do away with the “change is possible” motto. I think it alienates and confuses more than it offers the hope that is intended.”

    Absolutely! And simultatneously give Alan Chambers a push to really “officially retire” the term “ex-gay” — as he said he thought should be done — and for the very same reasons.

  • jayhuck

    Biana,

    I like the “straight with a twist” line – it makes me smile, but its not really factual. Many ex-gay people never let go of same-sex attractions, even a little bit, and many ex-gay people remain celibate.

    I think the more appropriate term for those ex-gays that are able to uncover some same-sex attraction is bisexual – that is what the term means. Why we don’t use it more is beyond me – unless the use of the term ex-gay has some political implications, which I’m sure it does.

  • concerned

    Warren,

    Once you begin to feel a deep relationship with God the issue of sexual orientation become a mute point. God recognizes us a human being whom he loves and wishes to comfort. If we want to hang onto labels that we have put on ourselves or allowed others to place on us then we still have a ways to go with developing a full relationship with he who has created us. Does a deeper level of understanding of Gods love for us change us? I hope so, because we are called to love others in the same way.

  • jayhuck

    Concerned,

    Once you begin to feel a deep relationship with God the issue of sexual orientation become a mute point. God recognizes us a human being whom he loves and wishes to comfort.

    While I think that labels have their place in things, I absolutely agree with your statement above. Thank you for saying that :)

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    One of the challenges of a phrase like “ex-gay” (which I do not particularly like – but don’t feel as strongly as Michael on this point) …. is that it is one phrase for a diverse group of people. There are those who have experienced enough shift in the direction of their attractions to have a healthy marriage relationship with someone of the opposite gender. There are those who now experience predominantly oga (and yes, they may have been bisexual to begin with). Others have experienced diminished sga – but do not experience oga and live celibate lives. There are those who’s sga is just as strong and prevalent as ever – who due to religious conviction live a single, celibate life. There are others who simply don’t want to identify as gay anymore – for personal non-religious reasons. And I’m sure additional descriptions could be added. One phrase like ‘ex-gay’ just doesn’t seem sufficient to communicate this kind of diversity. Additionally, there is the issue of cumulative baggage …. after 30 years, ‘ex-gay’ as a term has become characaturized to mean someone who was gay and is now straight. In our post-modern context, that just seems like an outright lie to those not intimately familiar with the complexities and nuances of this area of ministry – so it perpetuates a lack of credibility for ministries and those who have experienced some degree of genuine shift in their attractions.

    I had to chuckle at “straight with a twist” …. and for some that could be a slightly humorous alternative – but for others it doesn’t fit at all …. perhaps we should simply resist trying to come up with one pithy catch-all – and give each individual the freedom to describe and identify themselves. In the meantime, in our ministry we’ll likely simply say “same-gender attracted” or “those questioning, struggling or embracing alternative sexual identities” ….. of course if any of you have input on these descriptive phrases – by all means I’d love to hear your insight. It’s a learning process …..

  • Ann

    One phrase like ‘ex-gay’ just doesn’t seem sufficient to communicate this kind of diversity

    perhaps we should simply resist trying to come up with one pithy catch-all – and give each individual the freedom to describe and identify themselves.

    Thank you Wendy – this is what I have said throughout my posts for a long time now and it is good to see it written by someone else as well.

  • Eddy

    I also got a snicker out of “straight with a twist” but it won’t cut in the long run. So many people, especially those who have just made a decision to break away, don’t relate to the word ‘straight’ at all. They might not be doing ‘gay’ anymore but they’re sure not ‘straight’. Bi-sexual, as I’ve mentioned before, has the same problem with a few others thrown in. It implies ongoing attraction to both genders and for some the hetero attractions just aren’t there.

    Further, the definition of bi-sexual is in a bit of a flux. Some definitions says it’s an attraction to both genders but others say that it’s having sex with both genders. And, on top of that, it still holds onto its biological definition of “having the sexual characteristics of both male and female”.

    So far, both ‘ex-gay’ and ‘former homosexual’ are far closer to reality. The notion that either term means ‘complete and total change’ isn’t found in the terms themselves. The charge is that Exodus has added this sense of ‘complete change’ to the definition. I personally think that’s a load of crock. For it’s 30 years, it’s 100 plus ministries, and the numbers who have been involved, I can’t recall more than a handful trying to say they were completely changed. As Michael Bussee has pointed out, Alan Chambers doesn’t say he’s ‘completely changed’, Joe Dallas doesn’t say it, Frank Worthen doesn’t say it. And, if one were to survey all those involved in Exodus agencies today, I think they’d find that most aren’t expecting enough heterosexual feelings to justify marriage and even fewer believe that a day will come when they will have no more homosexual feelings. They’re not straight, they’re not bi, they’re not gay; the one thing they have in common, despite the diversities that Wendy pointed out, is that they’ve all ‘come from gay’. (I come from Pennsylvania; I’m an ex-Pennsylvanian…have I stopped saying ‘you’uns’? have I lost my affinity for trees, woods and hills? do my ears prick up when Pennsylvania is in the news? do I ever miss it? Yet, I’m still an ex-Pennsylvanian.)

    Michael continues to bring up the fact that Alan Chambers once mentioned that he doesn’t like the term ‘ex-gay’ either and wanted to see it done away with. Well, Exodus isn’t Catholic and Alan isn’t the pope. He’s got his feelings and impressions but changing terminologies without the consensus of the member agencies is not something he can or should do. I further suspect that the comment may have been made in haste and that he hadn’t reckoned with the fact that there’s no term to replace it. I advised him of the previous times when the label came up for debate but, unfortunately, wasn’t able to provide him with any satisfactory suggestions from the blog.

    It’s so politically correct to say that we abhor labels but the truth is that we don’t abhor them at all. In a recent post, Michael labelled himself as gay and as having never been bisexual. Jayhuck labels himself ‘celibate’. The group that sponsored the alternative meeting to Exodus’ national conference this year labels themselves as “Beyond Ex-Gay”. And numerous times, people have referred to themselves as “ex-ex-gay”. Sure, they don’t run down the street yelling “hey, I’m this or that” to everyone they meet but, when they’re in a conversation, or on a blog, or seeking out those who are like-minded, they reach for the convenient handle (label).

    I’m convinced that very few people think ‘ex-gay’ means ‘straight’ or ‘the absence of homosexual feelings’. In fact, I think Michael even ran the term past some of his students and NOT ONE thought it meant ‘totally straight’. Granted, they weren’t clear exactly what it did mean but their hunches were in the right direction. And, since ‘ex-gay’ is inclusive enough to embrace the diversities that Wendy mentioned, it’s only right that the label doesn’t tell it all. (We hate that a label puts someone in a box and yet we get irked when the label doesn’t fit perfectly and doesn’t tell us everything immediately.)

    The word ‘gay’ actually ‘celebrates diversity’…at least that’s been the slogan in Minneapolis for some time. Doesn’t gay fit both the happily partnered and the barfly? Doesn’t it fit the agnostic, the atheist and the gay Christian? the activist and the folks who aren’t ’cause oriented’? Doesn’t it fit both the ‘new kid in town’ who’s learning their way around and the ‘old-timer’ who’s ‘been there/done that’?

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Eddy said:

    So far, both ‘ex-gay’ and ‘former homosexual’ are far closer to reality.

    Am I also allowed to say something is a crock? If so, I’ll use my crock token now.

    For it’s 30 years, it’s 100 plus ministries, and the numbers who have been involved, I can’t recall more than a handful trying to say they were completely changed.

    This one deserves a post all it’s own at XGW. If I have time, I will oblige. The approach that does not claim complete or even much change in sexual orientation is relatively recent. And yet there are still plenty who cling to the idea.

    And while I don’t know how many people do or don’t believe ex-gay means straight (and neither does anyone else at this point), I would submit that the backlash against the 1998 ex-gay ad campaign (talk about “complete change is possible” themes) brought to light facts which helped change some views.

  • Eddy

    I think we’ll find that it wasn’t until Exodus got mixed up with Focus on the Family and various political alignments that the over-hype started. In Exodus’ first 3 years, Michael was the only married one I can remember–and when his marriage ended–it threw even more caution into the mix. (I recall trying to strike a deal with God that I’d do anything…just don’t make me get married to a woman.)

    We weren’t having classes on ‘how to meet Miss Right’; courses for spouses were geared to understanding and reckoning with daily struggles. The bulk of seminar topics were on discipleship, living day to day, learning where you fit in with your local church, etc. And it remained that way for the 10 years I was there. And yet, we all identified as ‘ex-gay’ or ‘former homosexuals’. Not completely changed…not suddenly straight…just ‘ex’.

    Spin it how you want to. I was there.

  • jayhuck

    Eddy,

    One word can, as I’m sure you’re aware, can have many definitions, and for those people who are attracted to both genders, bisexual is much closer to the truth than Ex-Gay.

  • Eddy

    Jayhuck–

    Did you miss the part where I said they’re not attracted to the opposite gender? For most, when their journey begins–and for some time afterward–the only attractions are the homosexual ones.

    I think, for that reason, that bisexual is the less true.

  • Ann

    And yet, we all identified as ‘ex-gay’ or ‘former homosexuals’. Not completely changed…not suddenly straight…just ‘ex’.

    Eddy,

    This makes a lot of sense – it sounds like you were saying “this is what I am no longer involved with” rather than saying “this is what I have replaced it with”. Separating and/or de-coupling from same gender sexual relationships and identity does not automatically equate to opposite sex attractions and relationships. It is a decision one makes and should be respected without the obligation to do or be anything else.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Eddy,

    I really honour the historical context you bring to the discussion – and really appreciate the reminders about the focus of the first ten years. I don’t question those intentions …. but to be just a bit blunt (it’s a Canadian trait) “that was then and this is now”. We can try to nuance all we like – replete with examples of good intentions from the past – but the reality is that for a 21 year old post-modern, post-Christian, I just don’t think we can revive a helpful use of the phrase ‘ex-gay’. They might not think it technically means “totally straight” but in our experiences, they certainly link it to the whole question of reorientation ….. and speaking for my own ministry, we simply don’t want that to be our main focus.

    In the one-on-one conversations people have – they can simply describe what they experience and their decisions (for example: “I experience same-gender attraction but I’m not living a gay life” or whatever). From a ministry perspective I simply say that we’re a non-profit who addresses realities of sexual identity from a Christian perspective. If people want to know more at that point, then I have the opportunity to expand and nuance.

  • Eddy

    Wendy–

    I hear where you’re coming from and your phrasing “we’re a non-profit who addresses realities of sexual identity from a Christian perspective” sounds livable. But, how would that differ from a description that could be used by XGW or Beyond Ex-Gay? Aren’t they also addressing the ‘realities of sexual identity from a Christian perspective’? Would people feel deceived if they attended an Exodus gathering expecting that it was more on the lines of XGW or Beyond Ex-Gay?

    David Roberts said earlier in this thread: “In order to use your slogan, you would have to pry the use of “gay-identified” out of their lexicon. I’m all for that, as it has always sounded like a loaded term to me. Regardless of how one intends it, the essential meaning is so counter the common use of the term “gay” that one can feel the pretense; you aren’t gay you just call yourself that.” If your phrase became commonly used within Exodus, how quickly would the problem David cited be linked to that terminology?

    And, my experience here on the blog also suggests that the term ‘sexual identity’ is confusing. Several times, Jayhuck has inquired “Just what is sexual identity anyway?” On one hand, people don’t know what ‘sexual identity’ is and here we are discussing the ‘realities’ of it. Seems like the same boat with a fresh paint job.

    I’m honestly not trying to be contentious. I’m speaking from 3 or 4 lengthy discussions on the topic that have occurred here. For a time, I thought we might lean towards ‘former homosexual’ but now that’s been coupled with ‘ex-gay’ as misleading. I’m still holding out for something you could ‘google’ in hopes of finding a local support group…something you could search on MySpace or FaceBook to find like-minded individuals without too many serious detours.

    I believe that ‘ex-gay’ became tarnished when Exodus began its foray into political involvement; I still wonder if–after they’ve clearly stepped out of the political arena and made some reparative statements–the term can be rescued. Perhaps it can’t.

    Do you know, by the way, if Exodus has been brainstorming a replacement term or phrase or have we been doing the bulk of it here on the blog?

    Thanks to all, by the way. Despite the loaded topic and vastly different perspectives, we’ve actually been having a considerate and focussed discussion. I feel we’re closer now than ever before to some kind of resolution or conclusion.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    I don’t find an inherent problem with “Ex-Gay”. It says, pretty much, that a person is no longer “gay” and it isn’t too hard to realize that they are differentiating “gay the identity” from “gay the orientation”.

    A person can no longer want to be part of the gay community and yet still be same-sex attracted. And if the ex-gay community explained itself, I really don’t think folks would have that much of a problem with the idea.

    I think “former homosexual” is much much worse because homosexual is an orientation and never an identity. To claim to be former homosexual while still retaining some same-sex attractions is just a downright lie – and I don’t recommend that lying be adopted as policy (I’m not even fond of “claiming your victory” type of lying).

    The biggest problem with “Ex-Gay” is that it is associated with the ex-gay movement. If there had not been a history of anti-gay acivism, false claims of healing (only to be followed by very public failures), language about “the enemies of God” and “homosexual agenda” and other forms of demonization, it probably wouldn’t be a bad term.

    But just as Christianity needs to bite the bullet and spend the time it takes to rejuvenate its image from “hater” and “culture warrior” to “one who loves one another and does good to their enemy”, so too must the ex-gay movement take the time to re-earn the trust of the public in general and gay people in particular.

    And I’m not sure that a repackaging of the name will be seen as credible and trustworthy.

    Rather than worry about using “ex-gay” or whatever, instead the ex-gay community is going to have to make public repentance for their deeds. They are going to have to spend just as much time finding a way for gay people to provide for their partner as they spent fighting against gay marriage. They are going to have to spend as much money fighting violence against gays as they spent on fighting hate-crimes legislation. They are going have to give as many interviews to the press in favor of ending discrimination against gay people as they gave in opposition to ENDA.

    It isn’t that “ex-gay” is an inherantly evil term. It is that the cruelty engaged by the ex-gay movement has MADE it an evil term – or at least a term that seems evil to gay persons and those who support them. Walking away from the term without fixing the behavior will simply not work. Not if there is any sincere desire to show Christ to the gay and lesbian world.

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    Thanks! Very well said. As I’ve said before, I feel that Exodus’ involvement in politics was a huge mistake and their reputation and message suffered miserably as a result. The points you made in your penultimate (I just love that word) paragraph are something Exodus should really take to heart. (And Wendy’s original statements–the topic of the thread–lend support to that.)

    I do want them out of politics entirely but can envision them making statements and providing written materials that would help to undo the damage.

    I envision someone asking “So what’s your political view on gay marriage?” or “Why aren’t you involved in politics?” And rather than giving the expected soundbite, using that question to confront the hypocrisy of restricting gay rights while winking at other behaviors. It’s the way I handled my first ‘evangelistic meeting’ where the Christians were expecting me to clobber the gays with every verse I knew. Instead, I began by inquiring why they were singling out gays as some special brand of sinner? Why are you offended by this but not by thus and such? Why do you want political action here but not over here?

    And, my hope and prayer is that what they say will be just controversial enough to garner some media attention like their other statements did. LOL! It’s enough to make me want to start writing and speaking again but, for now, I think I just might coach from the sidelines.

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    Sorry for the part two but I also totally agree with you that ‘former homosexual’ is much worse…homosexual does speak more to the orientation than gay does. And you said it very well so I don’t want to muck it up by paraphrasing!

    So many people see the words as being totally synonymous but there are nuances and, in this case, they are quite significant.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    I don’t find an inherent problem with “Ex-Gay”. It says, pretty much, that a person is no longer “gay” and it isn’t too hard to realize that they are differentiating “gay the identity” from “gay the orientation”.

    We might be able to see that distinction easily, I’m not so sure those less familiar with the issue would. I honestly don’t think the bulk of the general audience sees any difference between “homosexual” and “gay.” Heck, I’m not even willing to make that distinction.

    The idea that you are one thing if you accept your sexual orientation, and another if you aren’t happy with it (or don’t even believe it’s real), doesn’t sit well with me. It smacks of the idea that sexuality is simply a social construct, and I don’t think that’s a good road to travel.

    Fundamentally, the people we are discussing are the same. It is their attitude about what they are that differs. Unless the popular definition of “gay” were to change to mean “content with one’s homosexual orientation” I don’t see how “ex-gay” can really be accurate. And of the two terms, only the former appears in our language officially.

    I have to agree with Wendy that “ex-gay” is unredeemable, and I would add that it will always represent what we (XGW) found offensive and wrong. It has a meaning, but it’s not a good one if you are Exodus. Let’s also not forget that others have contributed to that meaning – PFOX comes to mind – so it’s not all Exodus’ fault. PFOX considers ex-gay to be a sexual orientation.

    And I agree with Timothy that “former homosexual” is just a blatant lie and therefore also unacceptable. Perhaps, if they are serious about this, Exodus should work on cleaning the inside of the house first, and worry about the outward trappings later.

  • Mary

    No term is really adequate. As culture changes and as Exodus or any group matures – words, definitions etc.. will change with it. Even for myself the term ex gay means something different than when I started out many years ago. To even begin to define my self in terms of that is really complex. I doubt anyone – ANYONE – would define their experience with this in the exact same way.

  • Ann

    I doubt anyone – ANYONE – would define their experience with this in the exact same way.

    Mary,

    This is really the only intelligent way to look at it because it is true – a single name or label cannot describe the experience of each individual, nor should it.

  • Nemario

    And I agree with Timothy that “former homosexual” is just a blatant lie and therefore also unacceptable.

    A lie?

  • Ann

    Eddy,

    Can you see where someone would not want to be referred to as gay if they are no longer involved in same gender relationships, regardless of their desires/attractions? To the majority of people hearing the term gay about another implies that the person is still involved in the sexual aspect of it, when in fact, that is not reality. It is easy for others to tell us what we should be called, in any given set of circumstances, but is that the right and fair thing to do?

  • concerned

    Ann,

    Just as “gay” as it is being interpretted in todays society, and by many on this site, does not describe the experience of many who have left behind the social construct that is the gay community as is identified in many urban settings today. I cannot and never will identify myself as such, even though, there may be some that refuse to accept this because their own reality is quite different than mine. That does not give them any right to judge my experience as invalid over their own.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    I’ve really enjoyed lurking the last couple days and reading the discussion. I agree it’s one of the best that’s been on this blog or anywhere else.

    I have a question for those who want to do away with or replace “ex-gay” or “former homosexual,” and I’m being very serious and not snide when I ask it.

    How do you understand or think about the 1 Corinthians 6:11 passage? Where (depending on your translation) Paul writes “such were some of you” or “that is what some of you were.”

    I know some argue that early Christianity did not have a concept of orientation as we do today, and I partially agree with that. But Robert Gagnon has fairly conclusively shown that at least some in the Greco-Roman world (Stoics, I think, but I’d have to look it up again to be sure) did posit a connection between an inherent same-sex preference and behavior.

    So what do you think Paul was talking about? Only specific sexual activities? A broader identity change? And what possible light could it shed on this discussion about labels and labeling?

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Timothy,

    Thanks for weighing in, I really value your insights.

    At New Direction, we’ve really tried to work from the inside out and have been, I think, really intentional in setting out our distinctives and focus for moving forward. You’re absolutely right that simply repackaging language is not the way forward. The challenge is that this kind of change is slow and long-term. And in our case, it is also not wanting to move so quickly that we alienate the audience we’re seeking to influence (not Exodus per sae – but the church in general). So, we’re trying to focus on innovative service, take a step back from an unnecessary focus on shifts in attractions, have a moderate nuanced voice on questions like causation (and publicly say that this has been an unnecessary distraction for the church), have a very clear policy regarding not being part of politics and public policy, and take very tangible steps to own and apologize for unhelpful attempts at helping. The challenge is that for these things to become actualized – they optimally are experienced in the context of relationship – not some public statement. And that takes time. It takes time to change the ethos of a ministry – and then more time for people to trust that the new ethos is genuine and not a flash in the pan. And in the meantime, we’re learning, we’re discerning …. and we make mistakes, get side-tracked … and all in all are thoroughly clay pots. Someone recently commented to me that at the end of the day it isn’t so much about the language but the heart behind the language. Demonstrating the heart of an organization is challenging, coming out from under a legacy that you try to both honour and challenge (stuff that was before your time and wasn’t really any of your doing) is hugely challenging. (I hope I don’t sound like I’m complaining or just making excuses ….)

    So I appreciate the critiques – they help me see things I wouldn’t have seen on my own. I especially appreciate when they are offered respectfully.

  • Ann

    Karen,

    Is your question addressed only to Christians?

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    No, Ann. Not just for Christians. I’d like to hear how anyone on the blog understands Paul’s “before/after” language and imagery in verse 11 and how it might apply to the discussion on labels.

  • Ann

    I cannot and never will identify myself as such, even though, there may be some that refuse to accept this because their own reality is quite different than mine. That does not give them any right to judge my experience as invalid over their own.

    Concerned,

    I completely understand this and support your thoughts 100%. I also think you speak for a lot of people who feel the same way and choose to stay anonymous for personal reasons. For all the very valid grievances expressed by those who have been hurt by Exodus, etc., it would also be reconcilitory for these same people to recognize and acknowledge, without the usual sarcasm, doubt, and scrutiny, those who no longer want to be referred to as gay because that is not the life or reality they are living. None of us are impervious to the hurt and pain that is caused when “egos” and “having to be right” or “getting back at” are in the way of respect and the will to understand, even if we do not share the same opinion.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Wendy

    I agree that you have a challenge in front of you. I wish you well in your efforts.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Karen,

    We need not agree on the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:11 (and we don’t) in order for us to agree that any claims – whether about the direction of ones attactions or anything else – must be backed up by fact.

    If, in fact, one’s sexual attractions have not changed, then saying that they have is dishonest.

    I’m sure you agree.

  • Mary

    The term or idea of Exodus as a heading for this kind of change in life is right on. It really helps define the idea that we are going to leave a land behind – that we knew well, could live in and we are going to travel in the desert for a long time where there will be challenges to our faith, our understanding and relationship with God, there will be new rules, we will be scared about how our needs will be met, we will make mistakes and “retreat” at times, etc… There are so many analogies to be made.

    There are some differences. We are not all travelling together as a group. Many of us define our relationship to God in different ways. See our path differently, interpret the rules differently, mature differently etc…. Have different needs to be met at different times. This is a challenge.

    I don’t know if all the similarities and differences can be made and spoken of in one breath. It is a new and different chapter written by each individual who crosses this way. And we should read them and listen to them.

    I would like if Exodus put on their website under testimonies those who consider themselves ex gay and those who consider themselves ex ex gay. And also those who are on the way somewhere (those in the beginning and those in the middle) Those with strong fundamentalist backgrounds and those with liberal perspectives.

    It will give a greater sense and integrity of those of us who take on this journey who we really are.

  • Mary

    (Oops – I did not read that post before hitting send)

    It will give a greater sense of who we are and what is our integrity for those of us who take on this journey.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Eddy,

    The point of a description like “we’re a non-profit who addresses the realities of sexual identity from a Christian perspective” is that it invites further conversation. So, it isn’t a description we would use on printed material, it is a spoken phrase we use when someone says, “Oh, what is New Direction about?” and we don’t necessarily know their background, perspective or knowledge of this area of ministry. If they inquire further, we then have the opportunity to build the nuances layer by layer – as we sense they are open and curious to know more.

    Even our mission statement begs some questions: Creating a safe place for same-gender attracted people to journey towards wholeness in Christ …. well, what do you mean by wholeness? Why do you think same-gender attracted people specifically need to journey towards wholeness? We hope we have the opportunity to clarify that wholeness for us does not equal reorientation – but that we really do see it holistically as growth in spirit, mind and body conforming to the image of Christ. We have a chance to say that we believe that all people need a safe place to journey towards wholeness in Christ – but that sga folks have been a group of people that many in the church easily dismiss or ignore – and we want to be an advocate on their behalf. We don’t apologize for holding a more traditional sexual ethic – we’re just sensitive to not bash people over the head with it. If they want to know what we believe about sexual ethics we’re upfront and happy to share it – but we give people the opportunity to ask us and inquire first.

    Karen,

    I think it was somewhere on this blog in the past that Timothy suggested that an appropriate mission statement for Exodus was something like – support for those who due to religious reasons seek to not be mastered by their same-sex attractions. (Sorry Timothy – I’m sure that isn’t a perfect quotation of what you said). I’ve adapted that a bit (and also used it in my Exodus talk) to say that our main mission ought to be to support, encourage and celebrate devoted disciples of Jesus who seek to not be mastered by their experience of same-gender attraction.

    I think this could be a very good description of what Paul describes in his letters to the church at Corinth. We have no way of determining from that text whether these Corinthian Christians experienced a shift (complete or otherwise) in the direction of their attractions, or whether they had simply ceased being involved in same-sex sexual intimacy. What we do see in that text, is that some had experienced a sense of freedom from being mastered by their same-sex attractions or freedom from their same-sex behaviour. It may have been that they experienced a freedom to be attracted to a spouse of the opposite gender within the covenant of marriage – but I think we’d be really hard pressed to prove that that is exactly what Paul was describing in that text.

    The question of using the phrase “ex-gay” or not, I think is less about trying to prove that some people’s attractions have changed and more about trying to describe both a group of people who do not want to act upon their same-sex desires and ministries who seek to support and encourage them in that commitment. Ex-gay may be pithy – but I also think it can carry a lot of assumptions – namely that it is about orientation shifts – when frankly, I just don’t think that ought to be the main focus – given the reality that there are so many mysteries connected to why some people experience shifts, others don’t, and the obvious lack of control or guarantee anyone has that a specific individual will or won’t experience such shifts.

    I get very nervous around people who claim to have the golden key to unlock someone’s heterosexuality – because just when you think you figure something out, if you’re really open you come across some exception – some person who doesn’t fit the theory or the model. I feel compelled to publicly encourage my fellow ministry leaders to embrace a sense of humility and mystery about this whole question of change and relinquish any arrogant certainty that we have it figured out and can predict that outcome for any given individual. Because with that comes the inevitable insinuation that if that person then doesn’t experience change it is somehow their fault, and they didn’t try hard enough, do the right things, have the right motivation etc. Who are we to judge that in someone else? Who are we to shame or wound people in those deeply personal and vulnerable places? I think we need to proceed with a more forthcoming honesty about all that we do not know about this whole question.

    But … maybe someone a lot smarter than me has all the answers :)

  • Eddy

    Ann directed a question to m but I’m not sure where it’s coming from “Can you see where someone would not want to be referred to as gay if they are no longer involved in same gender relationships, regardless of their desires/attractions?” My comments have, for the most part, been centered on ‘ex-gay’.

    Because no word or term existed for someone who was part of the gay lifestyle and was, to some measure, making a break, we used existing terminology and added the prefix “ex”.

    Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if our society and most of its adult members didn’t identify people by their sexuality. And perhaps it wouldn’t be such a problem if we could use the word ‘sin’ without incurring the wrath of those who feel that it isn’t. But those are the realities.

    So, if we try to say that a person is no longer participating in homosexual behaviors, those who oppose the notion of leaving it behind appear to inquire “but you’re still attracted aren’t you?” On one hand, they’re no longer gay because they’re not doing it but, by the social/psychological definition they’re still gay because of their ongoing attractions. Timothy’s response to Karen Booth’s question demonstrates this to some degree.

    So, we try to draw parallels to other sins mentioned along with homosexual behaviors only to be met with the argument that those other behaviors are sin but ‘homosexuality as we know it today’ wasn’t what was being discussed. There are relatively few behaviors that appear to be called sin that, in our present understanding, have emerged into lifestyles. There’s the ‘drug culture’…where in a Christian context, you are called upon to break from the drugs and from the unhealthy associations with those who do them. There’s a culture surrounding alcohol abuse as well. (Hmmm…I wonder if ‘recovering homosexual’ would meet the new term criteria.) Again, the call for breaking away from the unhealthy associations.

    But, for any similarities, there are differences as well. Most gay people are a lot more together, a lot more whole and possess a lot more virtue than drug abusers or alcoholics. A person leaving a life of drug abuse or alcoholism behind knows that a good many of their core values are skewed and need to be forsaken; a person leaving homosexuality behind has a lot of gray areas to muddle through….aspects of their personality that linked them to the gay community but weren’t necessarily gay in themselves.

    I’ve counseled men who perceived their sensitivity, their intuitiveness, their artistic nature, their love of singing, their disdain for athletics, etc. as part of ‘their gay side’. In these areas they’ve generally found acceptance and affirmation among women and gays while finding rejection and disapproval from straight males.

    Back to previous comparisons to other sins: If a person used to gamble, lie, fornicate, do drugs and is tempted to do those things again, we do not brand them with that label. Further, if they do succumb and revert to those behaviors, again, we do not brand them unless their reversion is ongoing. With homosexuality, though, if a person is still tempted, many call that proof ‘that they’re still gay’…and, if they fall–or are caught in a compromising situation–that’s when the cameras roll and the proof is broadcast.

    So, there’s an awful lot to muddle through. A Christian who is endeavoring to put homosexuality behind them cannot reconcile the two opposing notions. The Biblical approach only says they’re a homosexual if they’re doing it and embracing it; the psychological approach says they’re gay if they want to. When both approaches meet in the same conversation, tension and confusion is to be expected. Is one side lying, covering up and deceiving themselves. I believe that some are but that most are honest and sincere. Is the other side attacking, mud-slinging and seeking to undermine. I believe that some are but that, again, most are honest and sincere.

    LOL! What we have here on Warren’s site is an ongoing conversation between the two approaches. I sometimes marvel that we manage to discuss at all. And, on my most frustrated days, I wonder why we try.

    That may be why I’m always so sensitive to ‘detours’. We’ve got enough differences in viewpoint, approach and definitions as it is without going down some sidetrack before we’ve even established any common ground. On this particular thread, it’s why I’m frustrated that the conversation keeps moving back and forth between ‘what should we call them’ and ‘why do we need labels’. (If we don’t need labels, the first question is moot. If the first question is legitimate, then we ought to address it and then determine how we can make a distinction between ‘identifying what it is’ and ‘how to avoid the negative impacts of labelling’.)

    Yikes, I’m afraid to see how long this one has turned out.

  • Ann

    Karen,

    Thanks for the clarification – it sounded like only someone who was a Christian and understood the New Testament would know what you were referring to and how to answer it.

    As to my intepretation – these words from Paul to the Corinthians hold the very meaning of a transformed life. Paul attaches various labels to those who are not aligned to God because of errant behaviors. It is important to note that he did not only cite homosexuality, in fact, he cited many behaviors and held them all equally. He then distinguishes those who, through their faith and belief and knowledge of Jesus, have stopped these same activities – “that is what some of you were”. They have realized the nourishment of confession, the freedom of a clear conscience, the grace of forgiveness, the quiet peace of being sanctified, and the positive guidance of being justified. These things can transform a person’s heart and be the compass that directs them toward holiness.

    In answer to your question about labels, this is what I believe Paul meant when he said “and that is what some of you were” – we do not have to retain a label that no longer fits and is of no value to the life we are now living.

  • Ann

    Eddy,

    I’m sorry – that question/comment was actually meant for everyone. #87104

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    But Robert Gagnon has fairly conclusively shown that at least some in the Greco-Roman world (Stoics, I think, but I’d have to look it up again to be sure) did posit a connection between an inherent same-sex preference and behavior.

    In the interest of clarification, I was just reading Gagnon on this point the other day and I honestly couldn’t concede that he made his point effectively.

    The problem with ex-gay, former homosexual, etc. has been illustrated in any number of discussions on many blogs. It seems to me that the one thing we must be above all is truthful. If the term requires that one lean to the side, hold up one foot and use new language before the meaning is clear, people will see through that, as they should.

    I just don’t know that any terminology will make up for the attitudes behind it. If those who believe same-sex relationships are not what God wants for them take that as a blanket command for everyone else, it will show through in the way they deal with others. And if that happens, the resentment those with an opposing view feel toward the first group will also show through.

    Add to this the political and even legal attempts to curtail the rights of the latter, and you arrive at today. It seems to me that none of this will mean anything if that attitude remains. People on both sides of this issue must defend and respect each other’s freedom to live as they see fit – and mean it.

    If that doesn’t happen, the attitudes will show through, and people will see it as hypocrisy and hatred. In case you haven’t noticed, they don’t listen to that for very long, and it brings out the worst in everyone.

  • Ann

    Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if our society and most of its adult members didn’t identify people by their sexuality.

    Eddy,

    This is very important – why is this done except to incorrectly validate or invalidate a person’s worth?

    If a person used to gamble, lie, fornicate, do drugs and is tempted to do those things again, we do not brand them with that label.

    Right – we also celebrate their new path, not doubt it and wait with anticipation for them to fall off of it.

  • Eddy

    Ann–

    I’m not sure why it’s done. It really makes little sense to me. All of us are so much more than our sexuality but, once we reach mid to late adolescence, the pressure is there to identify by our sexuality. My best guess is that, on some levels, everything in our life til then was pushing us to the roles of adulthood…the most conventional being marriage and family. So our sexuality becomes synonymous with adulthood and maturity. I think that gays became very tired of being characterized as immature and arrested and began identifying themselves proudly as equal counterparts.

    I know very few adults who don’t, on some level, identify themselves according to their sexuality.

    Another obvious reason for identifying is to find support, encouragement and direction in sexuality which, for most of us, is somewhat of a mystery even if we understand the basic mechanics.

    And, as to your second statement, I’m in total agreement. It’s the point I was trying to make.

  • bianca

    I find myself wondering if the most difficult bridge to be built is one that will span the chasm between seeing homosexuality as something by which people are “mastered” and those who see it as equally valid an orientation as heterosexuality. If ministries state that their desire is to support strugglers who are suffering from unwanted feelings of SGA, yet little evidence exists to support the concusion that the feelings and attractions can be completely routed, than isn’t the whole situation more akin to living with cancer rather than being healed from it? Finding the greatest quality of life that can be lived despite the disease?

    The reality is, as believers, we should be mastered by nothing and noone but Jesus. Learning how to set appropriate boundaries to protect oneself from being in sitautions where sexual inappropriateness occurs is a skill to be embraced by all believers, hetero and homo. If someone doesn’t want to have sex, stay out of the situation! When I read Paul in Corinthians, I see freedom from being mastered by any thought or behavior apart from Jesus. So Exodus ministries can focus on helping teach skills to those who feel that it is inappropriate for them to be engaged in homosexual behaviors. Skills like making good choices, owning choices, building healthy relationships, finding intimacy in a relationship with God… The alcoholic that successfully finds a measure of freedom from alcholism is one who learns skills for avoiding temptation and making wise choices, for filling the void which was driving him to self-destructive behavior. The focus is never on changing the desire for alcohol or “fixing” the inability to say when enough is enough.

    As long as the message continues to be “It is your homosexuality by which your brokenness is defined” instead of “You need Jesus in order to live an abundant, whole life”, there will be tension between the two communities…

  • Eddy

    David–

    I really enjoyed and agreed with your latest post, especially this statement: “People on both sides of this issue must defend and respect each other’s freedom to live as they see fit – and mean it.” It’s getting scary…that’s two or three times now that I’ve nodded in agreement while reading your posts!

    All–

    A close friend once likened me to a badger…I’ll get my teeth into something and not let go. I feel I may be doing that here and am going to try very hard to hang out on the sidelines for a bit and allow this very productive conversation to proceed without me. I’m shooting for at least 24 hours and maybe all the way til Friday. (Baby steps! Baby steps!—Bill Murray in “What About Bob?”)

  • Mary

    Biance,

    Some people really do change. Some change a little – some not at all. But the idea for any person gay, straight or otherwise is for them to define themselves and have no one else do that for them. That is called living your life and not living someone else’s life.

    Exodus does have an interpretation of the bible’s meaning on homosexuality that other people do not share. That is fine. They need not change that interpretation on homosexuality. Nor should others be forced to accept that definition nor deny that definition. A person should come to that definition of that term through their own study, mentoring, experience, etc…

    At length, definitions have been discussed on this blog and others throughout the internet. It is my conclusion that we (even those of us who are seemingly on the same side) cannot come to a consensus of terms and definitions. It is truly an individual adventure for each of us.

  • Mary

    PS – I doubt many see homosexuality as a disease or a cancer. In society today some might see sexuality that is expressed so blatantly and without commitment as a disorder. But not a disease. And it may be seen as unwanted desires – but not a disease.

    Many who have been through the pornography addiction, sexual affairs addictions, sexual unfaithfulness etc… tend to see the sexuality as unwanted but not as a disease per se. It’s not a cancer or a disability. It’s a thorn in one’s side that you learn to manage. Just as you manage diet, exercise, and other disciplines of profession, spiritual, etc…

  • Ann

    Who are we to judge that in someone else? Who are we to shame or wound people in those deeply personal and vulnerable places? I think we need to proceed with a more forthcoming honesty about all that we do not know about this whole question.

    Wendy,

    Amen

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Honestly, the only time my homosexuality “mastered” me was when I was trying to change it. That’s not sarcastic, it’s true. When I realized that it wasn’t something God took issue with in my life, I was able to stop thinking about it all the time and go forward. Before that, it was an obsession because it was a “problem” to be dealt with, and I was stuck there until I got past that misunderstanding.

  • Mary

    David,

    The same thing with me – only I didn’t go back into a gay life (for lack of a better phrase) I don’t let it consume my time, my choices, my friends, etc… And I breathe alot easier and am happeir not making it such an issue.

    Sort of like driving and trying not to hit the telephone pole. You said to yourself “So what. It’s not going to hurt me.” I said ” I’m focusing on the road” We went in different directions and feel we made the right decisions.

  • Mary

    Also …. what we both really are saying there it is but this is not a problem in my life. It is what it is and we both move in a similar way but take a different course.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    I just want to say thank you to all those who have patiently gone around the same block that some of you have travelled many times already.

    Personally, it is less about the descriptive terms we use, and much more about what the terms we use say about our focus and how they are perceived by those who are not as familiar with all the inherent complexities and nuances in this area of ministry. In the end, it is all about building bridges for me.

    Mary – really appreciate your input. I think you and David do demonstrate two different ways to come to a place where you do not feel mastered by experiencing same-gender attraction. My hope is that we (our ministry in Canada) can help churches to respect the journey of each path – even if there is disagreement regarding the theology behind the paths. Without respecting an individual’s freedom (and need) to self-determine, we are at risk of perpetuating a sense of coercion ….. and I never see Jesus being coercive – I always see him being invitational. At the end of the day, while David and I may have different perspectives on sexual ethics, I am so grateful that he has come to a place where he feels loved by God and connected to him. God is big enough to continue his invitational wooing in both of our lives as we limp towards the new heaven and the new earth.

    Some might say that is way too wishy-washy ….. I think it is simply putting “first things first” and trusting in God’s sovereignty and unconditional love.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Wendy, I appreciate that you place discussions on ministry within a theological context when you write, “putting “first things first” and trusting in God’s sovereignty and unconditional love.”

    When public policy issues are off the table, we are not hindered by worries of how this ministry emphasis will impact this policy or how some statement will effect legislation. We focus on the other, better Kingdom…

  • Michael Bussee

    I think I’ve got it! “Cwussa“: Christian With Unwanted Same Sex Attractions.

    I know it’s not as snazzy as “ex-gay” and probably will not vex or provoke the media much, but at least It’s honest and descriptive.

    Cwussa is shorter way of saying what EXODUS leader, Joe Dallas, said when hew was pressed for a defintion of “ex-gay”: “a christian with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.”

    Eddy’s insistence that “ex-gay” means “from gay” won’t work because I, for example, never came from a “gay lifestyle” or “indentified” myself as gay before I became involved with EXIT and EXODUS. I had never been to a gay bar, had never visited a gay resort — heck the only “gay” sex I had was pretty much solo.

    I wasn’t “from” anything. I was just a Christian With Same Sex Attractions — a “Cwussa” Now, I have accepted that I have gay feelings and attractions whether i want them or not — and I try to live the best Christian life I can in light of that fact.

  • Ann

    Michael,

    I like this a lot – what about those who aren’t Christian though?

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Ann – They will have to get their own word :)

    Michael – Or CWASS – Christians with attractions to the same sex. Unwanted or wanted makes it sound like choice could be involved. The problem with CWASS for people of our generation is that it reminds em at least of a funny Cheech and Chong skit.

    Maybe we should keep looking?

  • Michael Bussee

    Eddy, I wish you didn’t feel the need to make excuses for Alan Chambers and his desire to “do away with the term (ex-gay) and see to it that it is never used again.”

    When he said it, I couldn’t believe my ears. I was stunned. My respect for him shot through the ceiling. In my experience, previous EXODUS leaders had either defended the term or danced around the question of what it really meant.

    I asked Alan to repeat his comments, which he did. I did not want to announce anything prematurely so I asked Alan if he minded if I quoted him. He said “Not at all” and gave me quick permission. Throckmorton interviewed Alan and posted the quote on his blog.

    He was quite empahtic about it. He even said he wanted to hold a “joint press conference” with me to “officially retire it.” That conveyed the sense that he had some authority to do so.

    If he “said it in haste” he should say so, not you. If he was only expressing his personal opinion and had no authority or determination to take steps to “officially” end its use by EXODUS, then he should have said that.

    Wendy Gritter says that EXODUS needs to “transparently and humbly” adress the impression that it has lied. Here’s Alan chance.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Warren,

    That’s hitting the nail on the head …. and the whole reason New Direction has a clear policy of not engaging (as an organization) with public policy. It doesn’t mean I think no Christian presence should be involved in the process of public policy – it just means that I think ministry and public policy in this area of engagement are like oil and water. It is also the reason I would encourage the head office of Exodus to make a clean break with public policy and political issues. There are many other well-qualified Christians who can engage in those arenas. But …. at the end of the day, I’m just an ever-straight from Canada who doesn’t really have much influence.

    I’m SO grateful that I am able to vision, dream and risk moving forward in ministry with the Kingdom of God as my filter – not some possible legislative reality. In an increasingly post-Christian context, if I looked at the fruitfulness of our ministry as based on how aligned public policy was with my understanding of Christian sexual ethics I would be so discouraged and depressed I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. BUT…. as I read scripture, particularly the narratives of Jesus and the formation of the earliest communities of Jesus-followers, I see a radically subversive community who weren’t discouraged by the fact that the Roman empire wasn’t Christian – they knew that the life they were living had the power to be an expression of God’s shalom in a broken world – and so that is what they focused on. This shalom wasn’t exactly a wealth and prosperity gospel …. they were getting abused, martyred, exiled ….. the early church shows us that to follow Jesus is exceedingly difficult and costly – but mysteriously worth it – and that is what was eventually attractive to outsiders. Not that Christians got everything they wanted and lived super happy lives – but that there was something alive within them, something peaceful, joyful within them and their experience of community together – despite hardship. At the end of the day, that is what the human heart was created to long for – to experience the life of God within us, and to be able to share that in authentic community with others, so that we can represent that in the world.

  • Ann

    Ann – They will have to get their own word

    Thanks – this sounds so exclusionary to me – “they” are just a part of this as anyone – sorry there are religious requirements that puts limitations on and excludes others who want the same outcome. There are many (as has been cited on this thread) who have been hurt. I would like to see a name that would include everyone but I get the point and realize it is an uphill battle to continue expressing my feelings about it.

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy: I have recenlty corresponded with two of the main leaders of EXODUS — and one has accused me of “”misconstruing” your admonition for EXODUS to not mix “oil and water”.

    I didn’t think I had misunderstood, so I double-checked. You said : “I think ministry and public policy in this area of engagement are like oil and water. It is also the reason I would encourage the head office of Exodus to make a clean break with public policy and political issues.”

    Anything less clouds the focus of what EXODUS was intended to be. Does anyone know why current EXODUS leadeship seems so opposed to such a move?

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann:

    I wouldn’t look for a label if I were you. If you want to tell others about your attractions, that is up to you. You don’t have to be Christian (or any particular faith) to feel comfortable or uncomfortable to with gay feelings or “SSA”.

    Fact is, sexual orientation (the direction of our desires) doesn’t seem to change a whole lot for most people. I know of no therapy, rellgious or secular, that actually changes orientation from gay to straight. Neither does anyone else.

    It’s how we express our sexuality that determines our character — not flashy, provocative buzzwords or exclusionary labels. Just live acccording to your conscience. Be the best you you can be.

  • Mary

    I suspect pandering to desparate parents and politicos for financial bread and butter as to why Exodus mixes oil and water.

  • Michael Bussee

    Prediction: There will be no “New Direction for “EXODUS”. For a short time, Exodus will express some admiration for Wendy Gritter and will do some “positive head-nodding” about the important reforms she is proposing. But the excitement will wind down — and the “EXODUS head office” itself will offically do little or nothing about it. I hope Wendy is prepared for that.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Mary, you’ve had some really thoughtful statements and questions on this thread, but that last one was uncalled for – beyond rude and not at all adding to the tone of the current discussion.

    I don’t know the Exodus office staff well, but I know their hearts well enough to know it isn’t as you suggest.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    So, which way do you want it, Michael? A dictatorial head office that tell all us members what the Exodus Network will do? Or a consensual decision making process that reflects the amazing variety of the member ministries? Sounds like you’d prefer the former. I couldn’t and wouldn’t live with that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Mary – I agree with Karen; unless you have evidence that the Exodus folk are insincere and taking money while promoting what they know to be untrue; I believe that was uncalled for.

    In general, ministry is not a lucrative field.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    I think that honestly in the hearts of some Exodus leaders they feel that they have a prophetic call and role to be involved in public policy. (Though as a ministry leader, I can relate to the issues Mary raises as real life issues and pressures. I have bills to pay, staff to pay – I feel the weight of that every single day. And frankly, people aren’t lining up to support a nuanced, moderate, ministry focus – not the way they line up to “plant the flag for truth” and “fight the big gay conspiracy”. I mean, come on, let’s be honest about that. It is a reality that ministries like ours face. And it has been costly for us at New Direction to determine to set our eyes like flint on what we believe to be our core mission and turn down much higher profile opportunities that could have exposed us to many more willing donors. Are you kidding…. we could have been on Parliment Hill with all the big Christian lobby groups during the gay marriage debates …. but we intentionally turned down every last single request. We probably lost the potential for thousands of dollars in new donations. But I am at peace that we are being faithful to what God has called us to – and that He will provide for our needs – even if that means sometimes He stretches our faith and comes through at the last minute…. why does He do that :) )

    So, it’s not that I question that prophetic call per sae.

    But I do feel you need to choose between one or the other. Either be involved politically and in public policy (on the issues of sexual identity) OR be involved in outreach and ministry to those impacted by these realities. I just don’t see an effective way to do both without compromising the bridges you’re trying to build or alienating the many who need to be lovingly and Christianly engaged.

    (Note: I hear you Ann – I know there are also non-Christians who are affected – and I do pray that our ministry through a focus on being relational, respectful and relevant will have something to offer them.)

    To be honest, I don’t have any grandiose ideas about having some big influence …. for me, delivering the address had everything to do with being obedient and faithful to do what I believed God had put on my heart to do. The rest is up to Him.

    Psalm 133

    My heart is not proud, O LORD,

    my eyes are not haughty;

    I do not concern myself with great matters

    or things too wonderful for me.

    But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

    like a weaned child with its mother,

    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

    O Israel, put your hope in the LORD

    both now and forevermore.

    Again, my thanks to everyone. I have deeply appreciated the opportunity to ponder the various insights and perspectives shared.

  • Michael Bussee

    Mary: No. I do not want a dictator. I want a a leader. One who will lay out a decisive course of action — a road map that he or she believes EXODUS ought to follow.

    With her exhortation for EXODUS to (1) make a clean break from politics, (2) officially clear up the “impression of lying” caused by misleading language like “ex-gays” and “change”, (3) “focus solely on ministry” and less on changing sexual orientation,and (4) “build bridges to the gay community”, Wendy Gritter seems to be just that sort of leader. Maybe it’s time a woman was in charge?

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy: Speaking about pressures on your ministry to get involved in political causes, you said: “we intentionally turned down every last single request..

    So did we. This was how EXODUS was created — by those of us who first had the EXODUS vision. We also had many, many requests. We also said no each and every time.

    Like you, we also just didn’t see “an effective way to do both without compromising the bridges you’re trying to build or alienating the many who need to be lovingly and Christianly engaged.”

    I wonder, Wendy, if you can determine what might be the obstacles that Keep the current leaders from seeing what seems so clear to you and was very clear to us. What heppened?

  • Mary

    Warren,

    Understood – it was just an undocumented sentiment.

  • Mary

    Karen,

    I apologize. You are correct – I was rude and it was uncalled for. I retract my statement as I have no knowledge or proof.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Not to go off on a tangent, but just exactly where in Scripture is either drug addiction or alcoholism declared to be “a sin”?

    The closest I can find it the whole “body is a temple” vagueness that can mean just about anything. Or perhaps “wine is a mocker” and that deacons are to be sober.

    The reason I bring this up is because we tend to conflate that which we don’t like with that which is immoral. We know drug addiction and alcoholism are unhealthy for us so we declare (on behalf of God) that they are Sin.

    And those things that don’t bother us much don’t make it on the “sin” list. Even if they are listed as such in the Bible.

    Thus drug addiction is a sinful lifestyle – something that cannot be truly supported by Scripture. And yet taking away someone’s health insurance because they are in a gay relationship is considered a duty of a Christian – although Christ made clear in no uncertain terms that doing so would exclude you from Heaven (Matthew 25, for just one example).

    I think that Anne Lamott said it best:

    “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    I’ll stop in today only to say: You’re right. Yikes. It wasn’t until your post that I realized that neither drug addiction or alcoholism are mentioned in the Bible. Thanks for bringing that to light. My bad!

  • Mary

    In Proverbs it advices against sleeping all day and drunkeness. Under sins it might be categorized under idols, covetness, depending on how you interpret addiction and substance abuse.

    If one takes away the criminality of subtance use and looked at it from a spiritual perspective and how it interacts with the body and mind – one can make a good argument for how some are making it a priority over God and the commandments (sort of hard to keep them if your doped up)

  • wendy

    Michael – sorry I have no comment there – I really don’t claim to have an intimate understanding of why Exodus has ever been involved in public policy …. and as a Canadian, I’m not sure I’d “get it” even if it was explained to me :)

    Timothy – love the Lamott quote

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Michael, I’m the one who asked the question about leadership expectations, and I apologize that it was so curt.

    I want similar to what you say you want – a leader who will “cast a vision” for direction and then equip and empower his or her people to get to that place. That’s the kind of leader I have tried to be (though admittedly, not always successfully) in the local church and the ministry I now serve. It’s the kind of leader I want to serve with in the Exodus Network.

    But I would also want that leader to operate in a more consensual than “decisive” fashion, listening and responding to the joys and concerns of the other leaders that serve with him or her, to the constituents served by the ministry, and yes, even to the critics.

    My perception is that Alan is attempting to do that.

    I also hear and understand your yearning for Exodus to be something other than what you think it has been the last several years. But as I posted earlier (85752) and Wendy just posted (87310), there are leaders within the Network who have discerned a prophetic call from God to be salt and light in the culture in regard to human sexuality. That will involve trying to shape public policy, though not necessarily direct political action. I personally think the Network should NOT totally disengage from the former.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Thanks for the apology, Mary.

    And Wendy, thanks for your responses to both my question about 1 Corinthians – again, spot on – and your thoughts about balancing prophetic call and ministry. Transforming Congregations Board has been wrestling with that balance for the last two years, and we’ve discerned that prophetic (personal and public) witness is indeed a portion (though small) of what God is calling us to do.

    Not in the secular realm, though. Like New Dimension, we deliberately choose not to respond to political invitations, and there have been some offered here on my local level. However, we do recognize that some individual Christians and churches discern a call to those efforts, and we affirm them in that.

    The disconnect or pinch for us primarily comes in the realm of church “politics,” legislative efforts to shape official denominational teaching and practice in regard to human sexuality. That’s how it works for United Methodists. We don’t have the equivalent of a Pope, and we don’t have “independently owned and operated” local churches, so an immensely large group of people (1000 or so, I think) try to discern God’s will for the entire denomination by using democratic means.

    And folk in the pew will give big bucks to try to influence that, but ministry goes begging. That’s what mostly grieves me.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Karen,

    You do have a challenging and unique role in working within a specific denomination. I can understand why your board would be engaged in church polity matters. Though even there, I do think it has an impact on the ability to be a safe place of ministry for individuals. Even if your organization is not directly on the front-lines – my understanding is that you do see a role in equipping churches for front-line ministry. In that sense, in a perfect world I would prefer to see two separate organizations – one to deal with church polity – and one to promote ministry. But I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world.

    The sad reality is that unless these realities touch people’s lives directly – it is easy to think someone else will support personal and pastoral engagement in real people’s lives.

  • Ned Stringham

    This continues to be a very stimulating conversation. I am humored by the lexical musings – CWUSSA and the like.

    I appreciate Timothy’s explanation for the deep suspicion and distrust the gay community has for evangelical Christianity. Therein is a great dilemma for believers.

    Wendy’s statements about servant leadership and humility are key. Just as important are her comments about the importance of building relationships. I agree that public statements simply fail to convey truth effectively if they are delivered in the absence of relationships.

    Regarding political neutrality, I would like my friends here to understand the dilemma people like myself face. There are serious proposals in this country to levy fines, revoke professional licenses and even to imprison mental health providers who do not deliver therapy which affirms homosexual behavior. Those who commit themselves or their organizations to neutrality would need to stand by passively if legislation containing these provisions moved forward.

    I recognize the legitimacy of Wendy’s and Michael’s point that political involvement has contributed to alienation. This is a great concern for me as well. Historically, however, strict political neutrality has not always been a positive thing. German churches during WW II used their neutrality as a pretext to be passive about concentration camps, and in the South before the U.S. Civil War, churches cited similar philosophical views in refusing to protest the abuses of slavery.

    I perceive that we are in a quagmire in this regard. I now find the solution of “culture warrior” to be simplistic, but I am not sure strict political neutrality is really any better. I guess I am searching for a posture that is more, using Wendy’s word, “nuanced.”

  • Mary

    Ned,

    Put in that sense, I agree. My own shrink keeps a low profile on such issues as well. And the current attitude of the APA has infringed on my right to recieve therapy – as we have had to discuss at great length (and at my cost)what my choices are concerning sexuality (even though she is a christian counselor). And she has routinely and periodically checked in with me in very direct language what is my motivation and purpose concerning sexuality at the time. This is her way of protecting herself. And though it is a good idea for all therapists to do – I am certain it is expecially important for her. So some measure of influence is needed. Gays take it to the extreme as well as do fundamentalist christians. There must be respect from both to both.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Ned,

    You raise another aspect of the dilemma.

    However, I think it is different for a professional counselor to be involved in specific things that affect their profession than it is for a ministry organization to be involved in public policy matters that do not directly affect their core mission of ministry.

    In Canada, people on both sides of the border were freaking out that during hate crimes legislation stuff “ministries would be closed”. When I go to the US even now some years later, inevitably people say, “It must be SOOO hard to minister in Canada” with the inference that “Big Brother is watching our every move waiting to arrest us”. Frankly, in my experience, hate crimes legislation has not impacted us in the least – because I think people would be hard pressed to find any of our stuff hateful. It forces conservatives to be sensitive about their language – and again, frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    Contextualizing the gospel in a “hostile” culture, is a good exercise for the church, it is part of being subversive, it forces us to trim off extraneous rants and frustrations that really have nothing to do with the gospel. I personally don’t think it is a bad thing for Christians to have to relinquish this weird sense of entitlement – that was never part of the initial Jesus movement.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I pray for the leaders of my nation – I even pray for the leaders of your nation :) …. I pray for godly leadership, I pray for nations to be governed in a manner that pleases God…. so that His shalom will come to the “widows and orphans” and all those under the yoke of injustice. But to be honest, I don’t pray for a return of a Christendom that in essence coddles a privileged church that is essentially impotent in a broken world.

    um….. ok ….. just in case anyone cares what I think :) sorry for the rant.

    Sometimes in our anxiety about public policy I think we miss the forest for the trees. God is on the throne. Sometimes I wonder if we really have his main priorities in front of us ….. at the risk of being a broken record, do we put first things first …..

  • Michael Bussee

    Ned: I simply do not believe this is true. You said:

    “There are serious proposals in this country to levy fines, revoke professional licenses and even to imprison mental health providers who do not deliver therapy which affirms homosexual behavior.”

    Could you please cite which laws are being seriously considered that would levy fines, revoke professional licenses and “even imprison” therapists who don’t preach the pro-gay line?

    If a client requests that you help them to remain celibate, avoid gay sex , marry heterosexually, change the way the “identify” themselves, apply new labels or make other adaptations to live in accordance with the client’s own private and personal beliefs — how could such a thing ever be criminal? What country do you live in?

    In my country, it is perfetly legal and professionally appropriate to refer a client to a different therapist if the therapist cannot (or does not wish to) do what the clent requests. I do it all the time and the police are not knocking on my office door.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Sometimes I think that discussions of this sort can desolve into hyperbole and the abstract. Actions and positions can become justified by little more that fear of what could possibly maybe perhaps one day happen that would be inconvenient to me but without any consideration of what is actually occuring to others.

    Two things happened this week that I think are worth mentioning. While there is no direct relationship between the two, I think that we can all agree that they are two sides of the same coin.

    Conservative Anglicans in England issued a book that seeks to counter the witness of gay Christians with the witness of ex-gays. But this book goes much further – it includes chapters that make the most vile accusations and demonizations of gay people. This is presented as “an honest description of the homosexual ‘lifestyle’.” This collection of lies and smears was printed and presented as being the voice of Christianity.

    Also this week, 15 year old Lawrence King was shot twice in the head at his school by a classmate up the road a bit from me in the agricultural city of Oxnard. The reason? He was gay.

    I think it may be time to ask exactly what message the 14 year old murderer Brandon McInerney, got from society and the church. What did they say loudest about the value of Lawrence King? What did McInerney hear?

  • Nemario

    I think that’s a poor example, Timothy, to pin on the church. A corrupt society with unstable parents spawning unreared children, maybe, but not the church.

  • Michael Bussee

    We seemed to be doing so well — and then I read Ned’s comments on why EXODUS might need to remain poltitical. I completely agree with Timothy. We need facts, not “little more than fear of what could possibly maybe perhaps one day happen…”

    Is Ned iready and able to suppy the facts to back up his allegations — particularly about those “serious proposals to imprison mental health providers who do not deliver therapy which affirms homosexual behavior. ” — or is he just trying to stir up some anti-gay hysteria?

  • Nemario

    Don’t forget “levy fines and revoke licenses” as well. Puhleas, hasn’t that already been discussed on this blog before?

  • concerned

    Timothy,

    Give it up! Always trying to pin these kinds of tragedy on the church is old news.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Nemario and concerned,

    In your haste to justify the church – and your own history of anti-gay language – you ignored my questions. They were not rhetorical. Nor were they necessarily accusatory.

    Perhaps more responsible participants will actually think before they jump in to try and justify bigoted language and pretend it has no connection to violent behavior.

  • Nemario

    My church rarely even mentions the subject. We had Stephen Bennett speak once a few years ago during a series of “Too Hot NOT to Handle” subjects like this and divorce, but my pastor just references sexual immorality in general every once in a while, if that.

  • concerned

    Timothy,

    I am just getting very tired of all the old accusations about the church that do not fit for many who experience quite a different way of dealing with this issue. The Church does not stand against gays, but it does stand against behaviours and ways of thinking that separate us from a deeper relationship with God and all of his people. How others interpret these teachings is there issue. You have not shown any connection between what the church is saying and what this student has done and it is wrong for you to try to make such a link.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    I am deeply saddened to hear of such a young life snuffed out. The message New Direction is seeking to bring to the Christian community is that Lawrence is your son, your brother, your youth group member – a dearly loved child of God who happens to experience same-gender attraction. Until we see that Lawrence is one of us, it becomes too easy to detach and point fingers elsewhere to assign blame.

    Why are we so quick to react to the notion that the church is as least partly responsible for perpetuating the notion that a gay individual is …. deviant? perverse? dispensible? This may not be said directly from the pulpit …. but if people hear about “those homosexuals” long enough …. it is easy to detach and worse dehumanize.

    We can’t have it both ways. On one hand we want the church to have all this influence ….. but when someone points out that the church has had influence – to a negative effect – we right away say, “no way”.

    Of course it is complex, of course it isn’t a simple matter of pointing the finger at the church….. but really let’s not pretend that church doesn’t own a portion of the responsibility for negative perceptions of gay people.

    Timothy – I would be interested to hear any direct quotes from the book that are the vile accusations and demonizing of gay and lesbian people that you refer to. I’d heard of the book coming out – but haven’t actually seen its content. It’s sort of abstract to refer to a book without giving reference to what is said that is so troubling. Have you read it?

    I want the ministry I lead to be at the forefront of speaking out against unfair and damaging treatment of same-gender attracted people. To me, this is a no-brainer.

  • concerned

    Well said Wendy,

    I know my adrenalin levels may rise rather quickly when I hear things being said about the church and this is not good. For any comments that I have made in haste I apologize. I agree that I would need to see the said book before I could give any further comments on this issue. If it is truly accusatory or demonizing then I would agree with what Tim is saying.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Wendy,

    Thank you for taking my point seriously.

    I don’t want to accuse the church of not intending to love, but I do think we all need to realize that if the church is saying “love”, no one is hearing it. Gay people don’t hear that message. McInerney didn’t hear it.

    I am so encouraged that you are trying to start a new dialog. And though – to be perfectly honest – it will be hard for me to be completely receptive, I want to be. So, again, thank you.

    Books like the one released will make your job much more difficult. A casual glance at the cover art should give immediate notice of the book’s intent.

    And this is one chapter included in the book. Here a just a few quotes.

    Eventually, they will find their way back to the porn… And, gentle reader, that is where most of them will spend the rest of their lives, until God or AIDS, drugs or alcohol, suicide or a lonely old age, intervenes.

    and

    Gay churches survive as places where worshippers can go to sleep it off and cleanse their soiled consciences after a Saturday night spent cruising for sex at the bars.

    and in discussing whether it was possible to love and want to spend your life with another person of the same sex (as opposed to just a fetish)

    But the truth is that all the gay men I encountered had a fetish for naked male skin, with all the objectification and depersonalization that implies

    and

    If we as a nation and as a Church allow ourselves to be taken in by the scam of monogamous same-sex couples, we will … be giving our blessing to the suicide of Western civilization.

    and

    Homosexuals are promiscuous because when given the choice, homosexuals overwhelmingly choose to be promiscuous.

    and it goes on in this vein for quite some time. This is the ex-gay voice presented to counter the testimony of gay Christians. And what sickens me is that I know that there are people reading this right now who nodded their head in agreement over each quote .

    This stuff just sets up further boundaries and barriers. And whether some like it or not, this stuff is EXACTLY what gets out there into the minds of people who think it perfectly ok to rid the world of another degenerate fag.

    I really am sorry if I seem like I’m venting. Please don’t take this as a challenge or attack on you.

    But this story about the kid in Oxnard hits close, one of my best friends grew up there. And I really do know that this sort of murder is not an attack on some kid… it’s an attack on my community. When we see this happen, we know the implied message: you’re next.

    And lest we think that Christians certainly don’t want this to happen, or that Christians are horrified by this action, or the murderer was not listening to the church’s message of love, this is how Cybercast News Service opened their article on the murder:

    A 14-year-old California boy is charged with a hate crime as well as attempted murder for shooting a 15-year-old boy who “sometimes wore makeup, high heels and other feminine attire,” as the Associated Press reported.

  • Eddy

    Do we know what church Brandon McInerney attended? What have his parents or the rural community he comes from said in response to this crime?

    I hope that he is tried as an adult and that he receives a full penalty for his actions. This could send a strong message that we, as individuals, are not placed in the role of judge and jury.

  • Nemario

    Do we know if Brandon McInerney went to a church? ;p

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Wendy,

    I did respond. My comment is awaiting moderation.

    I guess it had too many quotes

    One chapter of the book is on line here http://theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/22SxSo/PnSx/HSx/BksFrntPorn.htm

  • Eddy

    Nemario–

    I intended my questions to be neutral and open–making no assumptions either way. Was your follow-up question really necessary? Wouldn’t the answer to my question have answered yours?

  • Ned Stringham

    Michael, Timothy and others:

    I can not quote you specific examples of the most egregious proposals, but I read them on the web sites of some of the nation’s largest gay advocacy organizations, one of these being within the last month. These organizations are typically well financed, well organized and very active politically. I will flag such proposals when I read them for future reference.

    A less extreme but still deeply troubling example can be found in the lead article by Warren on this web site on the recommendation of the ACA Ethics Committee. If conversion therapy is declared unethical, or held to a higher standard of scientific scrutiny than other therapies, this certainly sets the stage for the potential persecution of mental health providers, even for those of us who do not practice strict conversion therapy, per se. The defensive posture taken by Ann’s therapist will certainly become more common.

    However, what is more important to me is your reaction. Your queries suggest to me that you would not be pleased to see people like myself indicted or brought up on charges before licensing boards simply for telling counselees that there are alternatives to embracing the gay lifestyle and gay identity. If I am understanding your responses correctly, you may comprehend a very important dimension of my motivation and my desire to work ethically and respectfully toward clients. If you understand only this much, I want you to know that you have offered a valuable gift.

    Of course I am appalled by the cold-blooded murder of an adolescent, gay or otherwise. I do not know the facts of this case, but I imagine that it could be frightening to know that there is even a remote possibility that someone could be motivated to kill you because you have a homosexual orientation. Like others here, I only wish that we would be cautious about accusing Christian people and Christian teaching for being responsible for such horrors.

    Wendy, again I appreciate your perspective here. I perceive that the church often approaches its liberties with an attitude of, shall I say, smug entitlement. I am sure that in a culture like Canada’s, that is increasingly hostile to the gospel, believers learn well how to craft the message in the spirit of grace in which our Lord intended it to be presented. Your response reflects some important qualifications of the concept of political neutrality.

  • Eddy

    Ned–

    Just a point of clarification: I think it’s Mary who spoke of her therapist not Ann.

    Timothy–

    I read a portion of the chapter you linked to and feel that whatever truth the guy may have had to share is marred by serious breeches of logic. The first is represented in your first quote in the latter post. (LOL. I think it’s still the ‘latter post’…the delayed posting also seems to mess with the order of when blogs appear.) I feel I could say the same thing about ‘the news and magazine’ store in my home time. They’ve got lots of legitimate stuff up front: paperbacks, newspapers, magazines, candy, etc. but you can’t help but notice that people are always lingering in the back by the porn section. But this is primarily straights. Would he make the same caricatures of straight people based on my observations?

    Tthe assumption that the legitimate stuff is ‘a front’ is quite a stretch. If we take the same store I referenced–people come and go. Those making quick purchases–a book, magazine or newspaper–are often out of the store within a minute or two. Frankly, you usually don’t go shopping for a book and then read a chapter or two in the store before checking it out. Porn addicts, however, tend to search for that ‘perfect image’…many are in a situation where they can’t take the stuff home…so they spend a lot of time in the back ‘browsing’. So 1) it can appear that this is where the store does all its business. 2) Even if the store was a front for porn, it is highly illogical from his observations to assume that all gays are porn addicts.

    But, it’s also illogical to take the musings of this man and make the leap that all Conservative Christians are bigots or are spewing hate speech. Even people who may have nodded in agreement to a few of the quotes shouldn’t be presumed to be bigoted or hate-filled. If ‘nodding in agreement’ suggests ‘total agreement’, then I might need to ask you for a Ex-Gay Watch staff application. I nod in agreement to a lot of what you say.

    The biggest problem is that there is often a germ of truth or reality in what he says; there may be a point to be made…but his generalizations and presumptions are way over the top. The “Sunday morning in a gay church” scenario is such a case.

    I’m sure there are some who are promiscuous but to generalize this to everyone who attends or to all gay Christian fellowships is another quantum leap.

    While I also have concerns about objectification and about a different standard for monogamy in the gay culture, discussing these issues with this guy as the springboard would be futile. I do feel that both of these issues may be significant and may warrant discussion but–another time and another thread. (It does bother me that both my best friend and his partner will openly ogle other men in each others presence. I used to ‘catch’ my heterosexual married brothers ‘noticing’ other women but ‘open ogling’ was simply out of the question…especially if their spouse was present.)

    Skimming further down in his article, he seemed to get specific re John McNeil–but, although I do plan to read the rest later today, the stretches he made in his earlier paragraphs mean I’m going to have to stock up on my ‘grains of salt’. Where has he turned a word, phrase or fact to better fit with his agenda and suppositions?

  • Eddy

    Ooops! It’s ‘breaches’ not ‘breeches’. I can forgive myself for typos but not misspellings.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Folks, listen to yourselves:

    No, I didn’t stone that guy to death. I only threw two stones.

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    I realize you are upset but I will not accept the guilt for an adolescent boys’ actions when you’ve told us nothing about him and are only presuming where his motives are coming from.

    The Conservative Church seems to be your scapegoat for everything bad that happens to gay people. I used to get beat up long before I identified as gay. There is a horrible sickness of intolerance for difference in our society; my personal experience is that the church has done more to combat it than they have to feed it.

    I was beat up for being a ‘hippie’, for being anti-war, for liking school–and my church was actually rather supportive of all those things. And, when I got beat up for being gay, the perpetrators weren’t flashing Sunday School attendance medals.

    Make a direct connection between the shooters motives and what he’s heard in church and we’ll see if we can portion the guilt out appropriately. My suggestion is we start with movies, television and MySpace, though. “Let’s Make A Deal” made jokes about guys in dresses and heels just this week. MySpace bloggers call you ‘gay’ if you have a different opinion. Gays and conservative Christians are frequent objects of ridicule throughout the popular media.

    The majority of our youth (and adult) society is more influenced by the media than they are by the church. Churches preach and teach against a number of behaviors and lifestyles that most of society actually embraces and teens, as a whole, laugh it off. Even if this young man claims his motives came from his religious beliefs, something in his own filter made him get serious about this particular one–and forget the teachings about ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’.

    Yes, this terrible book exists but even most of us weren’t aware of it and haven’t read it. Trying to link it 1) to all Conservative Christians and 2) to this crime in particular is simply too much of a stretch.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    This is truly a total waste of my time.

    I give up.

    Fine.

    The church has no responsibility for anything it says of does. There is no consequence to demonizing gay people.

  • Eddy

    Me too. Sorry I couldn’t buy into the guilt.

    After 30 years of being demonized for things somebody somewhere says, I get a bit frustrated myself. My personal feeling is that life has enough guilt without taking on a truckload I had no part in. And, since no one has yet presented any evidence that this crime was Christian-inspired, I can’t even sign for ‘guilt by association’.

    Sorry for sounding direct and abrasive in this post, I keep forgetting that that right only extends in one direction. Lately, I’ve been considering checking out altogether and this exchange does seem to indicate that it’s high time that I did. My apologies to those I’ve offended. That wasn’t my intent.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    TImothy – When you accuse “the church,” you are taking a pretty broad swipe. You don’t like it when “the gays” are blamed for the demise of society and I don’t like it when my belief system is accused of causing deaths. You do not want the demise of society and I do not want death. Frankly, I do not blame you for being offended about the generalizations. Can we agree that categorization bias is not helpful?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    I do not think checking out of conversation is a helpful strategy either. This post is about Wendy Gritter’s address and I think we have as a group indicated significant agreement with the points she made. There are many things to disagree about but I am encouraged that some changes are being discussed and considered.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    (Be prepared … long post.)

    If we’re going to continue along with this thread on Wendy’s presentation, I’d like us to consider addressing something else she said.

    In one portion she spoke about the sequence of “belonging … believing … behaving” in regard to non-Christians and also those that differ in opinion on sexuality. How an unconditional welcome should proceed expectations of doctrinal assent or personal behavior. Some in the Church seem to expect the reverse approach – get in line and on board about beliefs and behavior, and then you’re welcome to join us.

    I realize there’s wide variation as to how those two sequences are lived out among the branches of Christendom, but here’s how it’s playing out for United Methodists at the moment. (Please bear with me as I’ll be getting to a point.) Two years ago, a local church pastor in Virginia denied or delayed official membership to a gay man, and not all the rhyme or reason for that decision has ever been made public. The pastor’s immediate supervisor and Bishop demanded he receive the man into membership, and when the pastor refused, he was removed from the pulpit. That decision was appealed to the equivalent of our church “supreme court,” which ruled the pastor had not received due process, and they also ruled that our polity gives pastors sole discretion to decide readiness for membership. The pastor was reinstated but moved to a different church the next year. And the gay man has since joined the original local church.

    It’s opened up a long overdue conversation about the meaning of membership in our denomination. We have very few requirements, but there are expectations of sexual morality and that is generally spelled out in the membership vows. We are sure to have heated, though not necessarily enlightening, debate and discussion at our upcoming international gathering in April.

    Now, I don’t particularly want to get into a debate about the rightness or wrongness of the pastor’s actions. Instead, I’d like to hear how you think that sequence of “belonging … believing … behaving” – applies.

    Wendy, do you see that as primarily applying to Christian fellowship? Would you have higher expectations for official membership? I was going to ask you privately offline, but thought others might like to read your responses. And anyone responding … could we try to get past purely personal preferences and think in more broadly theological and Biblical categories?

    It would be very helpful for me as I prepare for the meeting in April. I haven’t decided yet on membership issues and my Board doesn’t have consensus either.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    And Eddy and Timothy, please don’t either of you “check out” of the discussion.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    I’m actually angry now.

    Has ANYONE who is accusing me of “blaming the church” actually read what I wrote?

    “I think it may be time to ask exactly what message the 14 year old murderer Brandon McInerney, got from society and the church. What did they say loudest about the value of Lawrence King? What did McInerney hear?”

    and

    “I don’t want to accuse the church of not intending to love, but I do think we all need to realize that if the church is saying “love”, no one is hearing it. Gay people don’t hear that message. McInerney didn’t hear it.”

    and

    “This stuff just sets up further boundaries and barriers. And whether some like it or not, this [Anglican anti-gay screed] is EXACTLY what gets out there into the minds of people who think it perfectly ok to rid the world of another degenerate fag.

    And lest we think that Christians certainly don’t want this to happen, or that Christians are horrified by this action, or the murderer was not listening to the church’s message of love, this is how Cybercast News Service opened their article on the murder:

    A 14-year-old California boy is charged with a hate crime as well as attempted murder for shooting a 15-year-old boy who “sometimes wore makeup, high heels and other feminine attire,” as the Associated Press reported.”

    Does that sound like I’m “accusing the church” or “taking a broad swipe”? The closest I get is when everyone jumps in to say “oh we’re innocent, innocent, innocent and did no wrong”:

    “Folks, listen to yourselves:

    No, I didn’t stone that guy to death. I only threw two stones.”

    You know something, the only one who showed any concern about a child being murdered for being gay was Wendy (and Ned to a much lesser extent).

    Do you people even realize how callous you sound?

    You are all rushing to defend the church from extreme accusations that I didn’t even make. But you seem to care nothing at all about the murder. You want total absolution from the circumstances that make this sort of thing a regular part of the life of gay people.

    Don’t you understand why it is that non-Christians find you horrifying?

    Your response to the murder of a child was “you can’t blame me”. And one Christian news site literally used the blood of this kid as an excuse to say “Homosexual activists have seized on Lawrence King case”.

    Do you really not get it?

    It is not my words here that are portraying you negatively, it is yours.

    The non-Christians are all asking themselves, “What did we do wrong. How could this have been prevented.” But for some sick perverted reason which frankly I just don’t understand, Christians are not doing the same.

    Think, people.

    Is justification and defensiveness really the response you want to give to the world?

    Wendy is right. The church looks like it isn’t loving.

    And you know why it looks like it isn’t loving? Because if what I see here on this website is any example… it ISN’T loving. I see no Christ here.

    You know why you don’t want to ask yourself what message McInerney heard from the church. You know why that threatens you so.

    But you have a choice. You can decide to be part of that crowd that absolves the church from anything. Or you can be part of the crowd who asks if their message has not been clearly portrayed in a loving way. If there isn’t something you can do differently.

    Wendy,

    if the attitudes here are any example, you have your work cut out for you.

    Frankly I’m so disgusted that I just can’t be a part of this.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    In case you guys still don’t get it, Karoli, a heterosexual female put it very plainly

    http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2008/02/16/open-letter-to-saveourkidsnet/

  • Ned Stringham

    The greatest challenge in understanding is listening uncritically to the other’s point of view. I am listening and seeking to learn what I can about how I (we) sound not only to Timothy, but also to many others here. I have found this discussion to be rewarding and I hope that you all have as well.

    Perhaps as much as anything else this discussion is about cross-cultural communication. The gay culture and the conservative Christian culture (if we could call them such) have deeply engrained stereotypes, prejudices and hostilities against one another. When we communicate well, we can get past these rigid images and speak person to person. Are we getting there? I hope so.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Timothy, I agree with you that there are some people in the Church that are homophobic. That’s why I spend a large portion of my time with church leaders encouraging them to address their stereotypes and hateful attitudes abut LGBT people and repenting of that. Once back in my “old stomping grounds” of Western PA, I spoke in a church where a member of the youth group said all gay people should be shipped off to an island somewhere and an older female leader kept referring to “those homosexuals” with a sneer in her voice. I challenged both of them AND the pastor who hadn’t noticed a problem.

    I do get it, Timothy. There really is hatred and the church has done a sucky job of confronting it.

    But I also know that you and I don’t agree on issues of civil rights and you seem to think that is hateful. And I will never agree that compassionate Christian teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior somehow morphs into the atrocity in Oxnard.

    Does the new Anglican book qualify as compassionate Christian teaching? From your snippets, no. Does it reflect all of us? Again, no. I don’t like it when you universalize.

  • Eddy

    Okay, I thought I was out of here.

    Timothy, in the midst of a discussion that was proving very productive, said all of the following:

    Two things happened this week that I think are worth mentioning. While there is no direct relationship between the two, I think that we can all agree that they are two sides of the same coin….

    Conservative Anglicans in England issued a book that seeks to counter the witness of gay Christians with the witness of ex-gays….

    This collection of lies and smears was printed and presented as being the voice of Christianity.

    Also this week, 15 year old Lawrence King was shot twice in the head at his school by a classmate up the road a bit from me in the agricultural city of Oxnard. The reason? He was gay.

    I think it may be time to ask exactly what message the 14 year old murderer Brandon McInerney, got from society and the church. What did they say loudest about the value of Lawrence King? What did McInerney hear?…

    And lest we think that Christians certainly don’t want this to happen, or that Christians are horrified by this action, or the murderer was not listening to the church’s message of love, this is how Cybercast News Service opened their article on the murder:

    A 14-year-old California boy is charged with a hate crime as well as attempted murder for shooting a 15-year-old boy who “sometimes wore makeup, high heels and other feminine attire,” as the Associated Press reported….

    Does that sound like I’m “accusing the church” or “taking a broad swipe”? “

    Anyone?

    Part Two:

    The first time I got mugged for being gay was when a gay friend and I were at an inner city coffeehouse–think 1970’s. It was boring that night so, on a lark, I suggested we go visit my uncle who, due to mental incapacity, resided at the YMCA two blocks away near the river.

    We had a pleasant visit and headed back to the coffeehouse. The gay cruising street was between the two places. We got about a block when I noticed quick dark movements up the street we planned to walk. So I suggested we go another before turning, hoping they hadn’t noticed us cross.

    We made our turn and got about a half block when they appeared. Five of them. No weapons that I could see. My friend wasn’t street savvy at all. The river was down a steep 30 to 40 foot embankment only a half block behind us, our only choice was to go forward and pray for the safety of a street light. I whispered to him to do exactly what I said and when they got to us and started closing in, I yelled “Run”.

    At 17, I was two years older than Bruce. I’m no he-man but he made me look butch. And I learned a few things from years of abuse from my brothers (only one for being gay; the others were brothers beating on ‘the runt’ occasionally) So, I crouched down next to the front tire of a parked car so that at least one side would be protected. And then I refused to cry out or give them any response to fuel their frenzy.

    I took a good blow on the side of my face from ear to eye. I remember a couple of knees into my sides and one good kick but they didn’t break anything. Finally, they ran off towards the river.

    Or in my 30’s, and an ex-gay but presumed to be gay. That time it was a blow to the side of the face and a torn rotator-cuff as I wrenched to get away.

    Or the time it happened at a busstop. I’d escaped him once but he was dogging the busstop and that was my way home. I flagged my bus down mid-block and kept running back and forth as this guy was trying to close in again. He tried to follow me onto the bus and I told the driver. “Look, if he needs to ride then let him ride but let me off…and don’t let him off. I just want us separated.”

    In my fright, I had misread the bus number. I was going to have to find a place to transfer to another bus. It wasn’t the best part of town and when several of us got off there, one of them mentioned “oh, you’re the guy that was getting beaten up”. I wouldn’t let any of them within 30 feet of me. Which meant that I waited for the bus in the middle of the street. Finally it came and dropped me off 4 blocks from home. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk the four dark blocks. I tried…several times but I was unable to leave the comfort of the streetlight. I walked two blocks down the lit street to a payphone and called my best friend for a ride.

    Another time at the busstop, a guy had me down on the ground beating me and trying to find my wallet. I could see feet, dozens of them passing by. I heard him sneer to one “It’s a domestic situation.” And then I saw this fist come down and hook him under the jaw. “I don’t care what it is. Nobody does that to anybody.”

    There were about 6 to 8 more incidents that were a touch less dramatic but my point is I find your suggestion that I felt little or no outrage or compassion outrageous. Your suggestion that I don’t care about solutions is equally outrageous. I’m taking the hate and I’m not even a bonafide member of the target group. But, what really irks me, is that–on top of that hate–I have to endure intermittent doses of your venom too.

    Pots and kettles!

    Please, Please, Please stop seeing us through your presumptions.

  • Mary

    Timothy,

    Perhaps the news paper wanted to avoid a liability suit and reported only what could be documented – what the boy wore, how he looked etc… They may not have been able to document that he was gay becuse no proof existed.

    Just showing how our assumptions can sometimes not be fully investigated.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    This debate appears to have devolved as many do here. However, if I could, I would like to make two comments:

    @Karen

    who have discerned a prophetic call from God to be salt and light in the culture in regard to human sexuality. That will involve trying to shape public policy, though not necessarily direct political action. I personally think the Network should NOT totally disengage from the former.

    Ancient Rome had a political system more like ours than not. Where exactly do you see in any scripture the call to be salt through public policy? What evidence is there that Jesus sought to influence anyone through the state?

    @Warren

    TImothy – When you accuse “the church,” you are taking a pretty broad swipe. You don’t like it when “the gays” are blamed for the demise of society and I don’t like it when my belief system is accused of causing deaths.

    Perhaps a beginning to understanding Timothy’s comments might be to ask why you speak of him and “the gays” as though they are at opposite ends of a spectrum. The last I heard, Timothy is a member of the Church, and more than entitled to ask what our responsibilities, as the Church, are in the demonization of gays.

  • Eddy

    Was Timothy speaking the inclusive definition of Christianity when he said:

    And lest we think that Christians certainly don’t want this to happen, or that Christians are horrified by this action, or the murderer was not listening to the church’s message of love, this is how…

    It sounded ‘us and them’ to me. I honestly didn’t realize he was speaking of himself as well in these words.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    David, I am speaking of the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament, which I referenced (though not overtly) in an earlier post. The classical OT prophets confronted primarily the community of God and secondarily the culture to call them back to fidelity to God’s will.

    I might not have been as clear as I could about what I mean by shaping public policy – I mean by that teaching, bearing witness, etc. in a way that can have a positive influence on the culture and yes, even the state. I do not mean direct political action, which I already stated I have mixed feelings about.

    Do you have equal problems with Christians trying to shape public policy in other areas – the environment or international slavery, for example?

  • Mary

    Karen,

    My personal belief on our influence on the culture will be in our own behavior. Actions speak louder than words. We don’t need laws to tell us not to do something if we believe in it strongly enough and our upbringing of future generations with value will either be a testament to our enduring faith and value. The Amish, Menomites, FLDS, and Orthodox Jews do that and they survive intaked.

  • Mary

    oops – sentence farcture

    either will be a testament to our enduring faith and values or a testament to the opposite.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Your argument is with Jesus, not me Karen. Those OT prophets were speaking to a select audience, the Jews, no? The nation of Israel was ruled by the laws of God. How one deals with the church, and how one deals with a nation with a civil government and a host of beliefs, are two different things in my estimation. Or do you suggest that the US should be run like ancient Israel? A theocracy perhaps?

    Jesus and His disciples dealt with people, one on one. They didn’t show the least bit of interest in the state, and in fact the only time Jesus addresses the matter He specifically says that we should let the state deal the the matters of state (render unto Cesare…)

    Your example of international slavery is absurd and I won’t even address it. As to the Church and the environment, I personally don’t care if the Church ever involves itself in such matters. I don’t see that as it’s mandate.

    In fact, Jesus’ only contemporary who I can recall having tried to use earthly might to accomplish Kingdom work was Judas. The meek seem to have become rather boastful, with big budgets and professional lobbyists. But it’s all for a good cause, right?

  • Mary

    Actually taking care of the earth is a mandate of the church. As it is written in Genesis that we were given dominion and are to care for it.

    It just so happens tht whether you are religious or not it is a good idea to be environmentally concerned (at least until we have a plan as to how we get out of here)

    And as we see in the temptations of Jesus in the desert – he was offered all the nations of the earth if he would only bow to Satan. He declined. So should we.

  • Mary

    oops spelling again – intact. (In my defense – I do have a really bad cold or flu this weekend)

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    I don’t have an argument with Jesus, David. I just don’t reduce the whole of Scriptural testimony to 4 chapters in the New Testament. I have a high view of the Trinity – meaning I believe Jesus was present and “speaking” via the Holy Spirit throughout the entire Bible, both previous to his birth and after his death, resurrection and ascension.

    You do raise interesting questions though. Dr. John Cobin, author of Christian Theology of Public Policy, has a great online essay – http://www.policyofliberty.net/e-books/Four%20Christian%20Perspectives%20on%20Public%20Policy%20Quiz.pdf – for anyone who would like to do some more reading around this topic.

    Cobin identifies four basic Christian responses to the State – from the theonomic or theocratic model that David references (which my radical Presbyterian forebears would have embraced, though I do not) to those who respond by withdrawing entirely, like the Amish. He notes how those four responses played out in the various American denominations during the Revolutionary War.

    Cobin argues, however, that the predominant Judeo-Christian response has typically been defiance and resistance – the midwives against Pharoah; Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego against King Nebuchadnezzar; the wisemen and John the Baptist against the Herods. Paul was thrown into prison in Ephesus NOT because he was simply preaching the gospel, but primarily because it messed with the economic powers of the time. Folk today that resist the erosion of cultural moral standards are doing nothing different.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Folk today that resist the erosion of cultural moral standards are doing nothing different.

    I would disagree, and I resent the implication that denying me some basic rights and dignity to live my life constitutes “erosion of cultural standards.” Those are the kind of statements which do not help at all.

    Before we expand scripture even further, I have to bow out to get some work done. Didn’t want to “hang up” in your face, but I don’t have time to continue here.

  • jayhuck

    Karen,

    I had a very conservative monk tell me once that Christians should refrain from politics when possible, because the more involved they become, the more like the world they become – and we are called to be unlike “the world”.

    Folk today that resist the erosion of cultural moral standards are doing nothing different.

    What cultural moral standards are you talking about? Whose definition of moral standards are you talking about? I’m not sure what you mean by resistance, but if you mean preaching and education, then I’m all for it. If you mean trying to legislate your beliefs onto those who disagree with you I definitely don’t. Preach, live and educate as you feel you must, but don’t create new laws that only favor your point of view – because we are all neighbors and we are going to have to learn how to co-exist in peace and respect for the other.

  • jayhuck

    BTW – I really like what Wendy Gritter had to say at the Exodus Conference. I think I’m safe in saying I agree with her wholeheartedly. It would be great if Exodus would move in this direction. Heck, I might actually feel like attending a meeting if Exodus moves down this path :)

  • Ned Stringham

    I believe that participating in this blog has helped me better understand the strenuous objections of many in the gay community and their sympathizers to the public policy involvements of conservative Christians. Christ’s ministry always focused on individual hearts and never on politics. Public policy is to some extent a system of using the power of the state to coerce the opposed and the undecided. Jesus sought to win people’s hearts.

    I am not criticizing believers who engage in public policy. I believe that the Lord can redeem and bless most professions, including political ones. As a citizen of a democratic republic, I even have a responsibility to participate in influencing the government. At the same time, I can see how exerting political influence appears manipulative and ingenuine for Christians. I am sure that in some cases it clearly is manipulative and ingenuine.

    I am still processing all of this, so I’m not very firm about my conclusions. I welcome your comments, Karen and Eddy. David, Michael, Timothy and others, thank you for your openness.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    David and Jayhuck have both questioned what I mean by this statement … “Folk today that resist the erosion of cultural moral standards are doing nothing different.” So, I’ll make another attempt to be more precise.

    There is a solid and Biblically justified Judeo-Christian tradition of defiance and resistance in regard to the State and culture. Many of the people I know who are politically activist in regards to human sexuality issues are motivated by that tradition.

    Jayhuck, I’ve already expressed several times previously on this thread that I am personally in favor of Christians trying to impact or shape the culture and State via preaching, teaching, bearing witness, etc. and of mixed mind about direct political action. I don’t want to have to reiterate that again.

    Since I am of mixed mind about direct political action, Wendy’s talk and further comments here have given me much to think about. But I found her rationale to be primarily pragmatic and I’m also interested in broader theological/Biblical arguments to help me think it through. Cobin’s above referenced essay was helpful in that aspect.

    I’d also like to see some consistency. From several of the responses here, it’s apparently OK for Christians to be involved politically if one agrees with what they’re doing. (I don’t think anyone would oppose William Wilberforce’s actions in England to ban slavery, for example.) And also apparently, it’s OK for Christians to be involved if you don’t care one way or the other – David with environmentalism, for example.

    Personal preference and pragmatics aren’t good enough reasons for me.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Yesterday i had the opportunity to preach at a large pentecostal church in a university town. When one has the opportunity to preach and given 40 minutes, you know you can only begin to touch the tip of the iceburg of such a complex and controversial area of ministry. And so I take that opportunity to spend 40 minutes humanizing gay and lesbian people (and my apologies if that sounds patronizing). The reason I need to do this as a core foundation in speaking to a congregation – is because it is SO easy for us to get into our theoretical defensive postures. So, I use powerpoint slides and include photos and ask the people to look at this individual – someone’s daughter, somone’s sister, someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s mother or father ….. someone who is loved from before eternity by God. The truth is, conservative Christians are afraid of gay people, they are unsure of how to relate to them. I don’t usually come across outright hateful attitudes (if I’ve been invited to preach – they’re likely beyond that), but I do come across a lot of keeping gay people at arms length …… especially when it comes to children. Let’s face – conservative Christians are terrified to expose their children to anything connected with homosexuality.

    Frankly, I think we need a wake-up call.

    We live in a society and culture that has recognized that it is unacceptable to demonize, be hateful towards, and mistreat an individual on the basis of their sexual orientation. Praise God for that. The church should have led the charge on that! But instead, in our fear, we are the ones opposing, or we’re seemingly refusing to own our part in the problem (I’m speaking generally here).

    I absolutely agree with Timothy – we look terribly unloving … and perceptions are reality regardless of our nuanced understanding of our own hearts and motives.

    If Christian parents were educating their children about sexuality – why would they need to be so afraid of what the school may teach? Surely, a parent is going to hold more influence over their children than the school – if they are doing their job. I’m a mom of a 10, 9 and 7 year old ….. I’m the one who speaks with the most influence into the lives of my children regarding sexuality AND the manner in which God calls us to treat all people. I’m the crusader for opposing homophobia in the lives of my children …. so the influence of media, culture etc. is discerned together with them – and they will be well equipped to be respectful and loving to people who are different in multiple ways.

    If we are the people of God and have His love and His power – it is incombent upon us to take a leading role in promoting justice and shalom. There is NO shalom in a crime motivated by hate – and we should be outraged by it – not making it a part of the culture war.

    If it is the Lord’s kindness that leads to repentance, why are we as Christians so worried about showing kindness?

    Again, I’m not speaking specifically to any individual on this blog – but I am speaking to the conservative church at large.

    I’m saddened that the conversation here has seemed to take such a confrontational turn of late. Perhaps that is inevitable – but it seems to me to be so much less fruitful. Clearly, there are deeply felt emotions ….. and I want to hear, listen and grow in understanding. Sometimes when we are confrontational I think it has the effect of minimizing those deep responses.

    I know I have much to learn ….. I do hope that all the commenters to this point will continue with the conversation. I know some of you have been around this block many times – and have an intuitive sense of where it will end up ….. but there are some newbies in the conversation (some of whom may not have commented at all) and I know it is of value to us …. so please stick with it. I do believe that God is taking some who are willing to a deeper place of listening – and for that I hope that the frustration is worth it.

  • Michael Bussee

    Thimothy asked:

    “Don’t you understand why it is that non-Christians find you horrifying?” Such a sad but appropriate question It is so tragic. The world is supposed to be able to “know that they are Christians by their love.”” But is that what the gay community sees? NOPE. They see the opposite. And, whether it’s true or not, perception is everything.

    I want to point back to Wendy’s admonition for EXODUS to deal “humbly and transparently with the preception that we have lied.” She is absolutley right. True or not, that is the perception. And whether conservative Christians really do blame-shift, try to inflame anti-gay prejudice and behave hatefully towards gays, that is the perseption. Don’t you understand…?

  • Nemario

    I do understand the motive behind your ministry, Wendy (and if I’m right about this, in Canada it seems like legally that’s about as far as you can go with a ministry on this subject) however I would be uncomfertable with kids being exposed to openly ‘gay’ people. From my experiences the ages of birth to around 10 or 11 is way to young to expose a kid to something that mature. I wouldn’t be as concerned about a teenager but up until about 11 I think kids need as innocent of a worldview as we can give them.

    Just one part of you post above I was uncomfertable with.

  • Michael Bussee

    When my best friend and I were attacked by a gang of six angry young men yelling anti-gay slurs — when both of us were beaten — and stabbed in the back without provocation, when Jeffery bled to death from five knife wounds in his back, there were NO letters to the editor from local pastors denouncing the hate crime. No public call for Christian compassion.

    With the exception of the “liberal” Congregational church dowtown, no churches raised a flag, or held a prayer vigil or took up a collection for Jeffery’s Mom — who one month later killed herself in her grief,

    When Gary died of AIDS, the “conservative” pastor backed out less than an hour before the service because he did not want to officiate at the funeral of a gay person. No one from EXODUS sent a sympathy card or tried to reach out. Instead they pointed self-righteous fingers, sent me letters about the flames of Hell and blogged about how Gary must have cheated on me to have died of AIDS.

    Humbly. Transparently. Ask yourself, how does the world see the Church? Does the gay community see a loving Savior with arms outstretched? As my friend, Lisa, likes to say: “They will not know what a friend they have in Jesus — until they know what a friend they have a friend in you.”

  • Nemario

    Sorry for your experiences but I don’t see why any churches should concern themselves in an issue of crime – unless members of a church where involved.

  • Michael Bussee

    Nemario: You must be kidding. I suppose you also think that churches in the South should not have spoken out about lynchings? Read the Bible. Its full of references to justice and mercy — and of the responsibility of believers to communicate both of these attributes of God to a dark and wandering world. What would Jesus think of a church that spoke out only when a member of its own congregation was the victim of hatred?

  • Nemario

    I would guess you would agree that churches should not be involved in politics. Why, then, should they be involved in media? It would be one thing for a pastor to mention it – even “denounce it” – in a sermon, but entirely different to make a publicity stunt.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Nemario,

    A gay person is just that …. a person. None of my gay friends have ever done anything inappropriate in front of my children – and they have been “exposed” to them since they were babies. One sga friend was at the birth of two of my children :)

    Clearly, speaking to our children in age appropriate ways is critical …. but if we ever hope to turn the tide of the negative perceptions of the outsiders ….. Christians will need to risk being much more open with their children about godly sexuality and respectful treatment of all people – regardless of their sexual orientation. There may be a time and a place to shelter our children from the world in which we live – but by and large, my approach is to, with discernment and wisdom, teach them how to engage a messy world with the love of God. My children have not lost their innocence because I have been open in instructing and teaching them and giving them the opportunity to learn that all people are valued in God’s eyes – they are growing into servants of Christ, praying for their neighbours, and having eyes wide open to what God is doing in the world.

    Regarding your comment about churches not concerning themselves with an issue of crime ….. I’m puzzled by the comment. If a church is to be a transforming presence of Christ in their neighbourhood, then what happens in our neighbourhoods is the concern of the people of God. If we are to be bearers of shalom – and shalom has been disrupted by hatred and violence, then God’s people need to respond. If we are to serve the people around us, so that they will know that “we are Christians by our love” then we actually need to serve and demonstrate that love. Reaching out to a family impacted by violence in our neighbourhoods is a no-brainer to me!

  • Michael Bussee

    A publicity stunt? Churches saying “In the name of Christ, we, the members of His chruches, stand together — opposed to violence, bigotry and hatred — even against people who happen to have SSA”? That’s a stunt? If so, maybe the church should do more stunts.

    It’s not that churches should be involved in media or politics. It’s that churches ought to be involved in proclaiming God’s love, justice and mercy. Otherswise, they should close shop. What good is a church that only preaches to the choir and only shows compassion to its own?

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    One other quick comment about children….. we receive emails from kids as young as 8 years old …. afraid that they are gay (often because of some minor experience they’ve had) …..

    So let’s get real ….. if Christians don’t speak to their kids until age 11 ….. we’re so far behind the 8-ball we’ve relinquished any chance to be the primary voice of influence.

    Our children will experience confusion and fear if we are unwilling to push past our own fears to engage them appropriately at early ages.

  • Nemario

    Perhaps it would depend on the circumstance and size of a town. There have been a couple murders and murder-suicides in my (relatively populated) town recently and in the past few years. There are many churches in my town. Unless they were members of a church, these are cases of law and order.

    I just think parents have the right to want to shelter their kids. If people are going to openly declare themselves then they should be willing to deal with the consequence of discerning parents. Obviously this is in very vague terms without any case examples but there’s the general point.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    The concern is that in today’s context, when Christian parents fight for their right to shelter their children from sessions that deal with alternative sexual identities, it simply perpetuates the notion that Christians are unwilling to join in the very legitimate process of dismantling harmful homophobic responses.

    Personally, and I’m sure there will be those who disagree with me, I simply don’t think this adversarial approach (which I believe is based in fear) is the best manner in which to represent the ministry of Jesus in our world today. I think that Christian parents and leaders willing to risk with godly courage to be proactive in teaching and instructing our children so that they are able to have age appropriate discernment when faced with school based education/media etc. is the most effective and fruitful manner to be an authentic Christian presence in a pluralistic context. There is a Christian manner in which to stand for justice and we need to teach that to our children – not try to run and hide and pretend these issues of injustice do not exist.

    I understand the desire to shelter our kids – but I think as parents we need to face our own fears, trust God more, pray more and love more.

  • Michael Bussee

    This is really disturbing: “If people are going to openly declare themselves then they should be willing to deal with the consequence…”

    Translation: Don’t be gay. If you are gay, be miserable. If you’re not miserable, you better shut up — if you know what’s good for you.

    It’s all too close to saying, “Oh, well — You get what you deserve” — which is exactly some EXODUS supporters told me when I was attacked and my friend was murdered.

    Remind me not to attend Nemario’s church, where apparently (1) only righteous church members seem to deserve public expressions of sympathy or support, (2) where “unless they were members of a church, these are cases of law and order” — and (3) where those who “openly decalre themselves” seem to be fair game for “the consequence” of that honesty.

  • Nemario

    Wendy, I believe homosexuality is sin, just like lust is sin, just like immoral behavior is sin.

    For someone to declare themselves the equivalent of both lust and immoral behavior is, from my experience and worldview, the height of a social problem.

    That isn’t “homophobic”, that’s religious, and that – without meaning any offense – is what I mean when I say I don’t want kids exposed to that.

    Regardless of the above I sympathize with the last statement in your post.

  • Michael Bussee

    Nemario: I am gay. That is not the same thing as “someone to declare themselves the equivalent of both lust and immoral behavior.” The love I have for my partner is just that — love — not the “equivalent of lust and immorality:”

    And love comes from God. It is caring for another person more than myself. It is neither lust nor immoral. I would never say that all heterosexuals are lustful and immoral. Why would you make that sweeping generalization about homosexuals? Painting all gays with such a broad brush is, in my view, homophobic — whether you can see that or not..

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    One of the scandals of the gospel is that God so loved the world ….. was willing to suffer and die …. for a world that rebelled against him ….. and is willing to allow people free will and to defy him ….. and every single last human being on earth does so …… some are aware and embracing of the grace and life offered to them in Christ’s death and resurrection ….. some not embracing of that gift. Of those who embrace it …. we’re all sinners. Of those not embracing ….. all sinners.

    We may not ‘declare’ our sinfulness ….. but it is on display none-the-less ….. one example: we are a tiny portion of the world’s population holding most of the world’s wealth – while children die of hunger and disease that could have been prevented. Our consumerism alone in North America condemns us ….. so let’s get serious about what our kids are exposed to – a sinful and broken world.

    If we say that a person who identifies as gay is the “height of a social problem” without knowing anything about that person ….. wow …… there are many gay and lesbian people who live quiet lives, contributing to their communities. They may well be sinful in aspects of their life – but who is not sinful in aspects of their lives? I’m stunned at the implications of lumping all those who identify as gay into one category – and then making sweeping statements about that group of people.

    As many on this blog could attest to, some of my gay friends who my children have interacted with have been amazingly kind, sensitive, delightful people ….. my children haven’t fixated on their sexual orientation – they’ve seen them for the beautiful people they are ….. perhaps we need to learn something from them.

    I do believe that same-sex sexual intimacy is not God’s best intention for human beings. And I do not believe that God winks at sin. But I am staggered by my own sin …. and his gracious interaction with me. I cannot comprehend the mysteries of his grace …..

    I’ve heard all the arguments about how Christians aren’t really homophobic – because they don’t actually have an irrational fear of homosexual people. Give me a break. Language semantics don’t change the reality that many conservative Christians write-off a group of people because of assumptions about their values and their behaviour. On the other hand, we merrily go along our way justifying unChristlike behaviour towards gay people. This ought not to be.

    If we are ever going to actually earn the right to present the gospel to gay and lesbian people (those who do not yet know the Lord), that will require that we have gotten to know them, built a friendship relationship, listened to their story and journey, shared our hearts etc.etc. ….. I want that to start with my kids. I want my kids to befriend other kids are are dealing with gender non-conformity, perhaps confused about their sexual identity ….. I want them to befriend the kids who are being bullied (for whatever reason) ….. because I want them to learn to be like Jesus.

    In Jesus we see someone who poured himself out for a sinful world. We are called to imitate him. When we let our fear get in the way of encouraging our kids to do the same …… I believe we sin. God is big enough to protect and reveal himself to our kids. He is big enough to help them discern how to befriend others, including those who are different from themselves, in a way that represents him in all of his grace and truth.

    As I look at the context around us – increasingly post-Christian – I simply believe that followers of Jesus have to be a lot more courageous about interacting with “sinners”. Seems to me, that is what Jesus did.

  • Michael Bussee

    Wendy: I really admire you and the message you bring. You are a delightful breath of rational, loving fresh air. Would God that there were many more like you out there. You say that you wish to build-bridges and I believe you. I would like to join you on that bridge.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Thank you Michael.

    I do think there are many followers of Jesus who quietly go about loving and engaging gay and lesbian people in courageous ways. I know many. But they would likely not engage on this kind of blog because so much of it to them would be “duh…. why are we getting sidetracked by this or that when there is a world to serve and love”. I’m so grateful for these quiet, radical, disciples and servants.

    I feel very called to my work with New Direction – and to try to expand and enlarge the group of nuanced followers of Jesus who can engage in relational, respectful, relevant and redemptive ways with those questioning, struggling or embracing alternative sexual identities. ….. but I’m grateful there are already so many who do so quietly behind the scenes.

    There is still a huge amount of work to be done to undo so much damage over the years ….. as Timothy suggested earlier ….. things continue to happen that perpetuate very negative perceptions of Christians as being anti-gay ….. so I and others have our work cut out for us to be sure. But I’m grateful for your willingness to hear me and to teach me.

  • Nemario

    I realize there’s nothing more to be said here by me now that my beliefs are “out there” for you to see, however I would like to add that my statements above are taken nearly verbatim from scripture – as well as my experiences with and observations of ‘gay’ people I’ve had to work with and befriend.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Wendy,

    Again I am impressed with your wisdom and grace. I hope that you are but one of many. I truly wish “she’s a Christian” would once again be a compliment rather than a warning or an insult and words such as your gives me hope.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Timothy – thanks.

    I think it is a compliment that will need to be earned. It isn’t that difficult to be gracious on a blog ….. the proof in the pudding is how we all relate in the personal relationships that God has blessed us with ….. yes, blessed us with …. even the difficult and challenging relationships. That is the challenge ever before me. Even in ministry, sometimes you engage very needy and demanding people – and my ability to truly represent Christ is sorely tested at times as I come face to face with my own impatience, frustration and pride. I’m constantly reminded of how far I have yet to go in becoming more like Jesus.

    Grace to all of us – heaven knows we need it.

  • Mary

    Wendy,

    Thank you for your courage and perseverance. As an ex gay, I feel caught between two worlds. One that cares deeply for gays and one that cares deeply for my beliefs. I often go unnoticed from my past but also suffer quietly at times when I just lack the fight and gusto to speak either to other christians or gays. I hope that your ministry bridges the gap. You will be in my prayers.

  • Eddy

    Warren–

    On behalf of the blog, I’d like to apologize that only Mary responded to your recent thread about the shooting in your hometown. I don’t know how many churches gathered in showing support or made public statements re that tragedy. On the surface, it appears that no one here was interested because it wasn’t gay related.

    Wendy–I’m so glad you’re back. Sometimes a weekend here is the ‘deal-breaker’ or ‘thread-breaker’. I appreciated your words and agreed with most. LOL! I do have a habit of going after generalizations though. You said:

    The truth is, conservative Christians are afraid of gay people, they are unsure of how to relate to them.”

    I believe that many conservative Christians are afraid but, certainly, not all. I also believe that, for those who are afraid, there are differing reasons for the fear.

    Thanks for the encouragement to stick with ‘the conversating’ (I picked that one up from a TV sports interview.) I had gone so far as to disable all my subcriptions for ‘notify me of followup comments’ for the entire site!

    Karen–

    Thanks for your encouragement too. Much appreciated.

    Michael–

    You’ve mentioned the pastor who declined to officiate Gary’s funeral before. I keep puzzling over why your own church couldn’t do it. (The single most comforting part about my mom’s funeral was that the officiating priest had real trouble referring to mom as “Elizabeth”…he knew her as “Betty”.)

    I went shopping yesterday and had to wait for the bus a block away from the corner where four of my attacks occurred. It was daytime but, it was Sunday…and there wasn’t a lot of foot-traffic. I shifted myself and my bags at least four times in my ten minute wait. Nothing happened. Nothing was even likely to happen. But the memories compel you be in this state of hyper-alertness.

    What I feared there, though, was a mugging. I’ve had between six to ten of those. My best friend thinks that I’ve ‘blended” a few of them in my memory because they happened on that same corner. And with a mugging, they only want your cash or goods. There’s usually cuts, bruises, torn clothing but it ends.

    Only two of mine were ‘gay bashings’…including the one when I was ‘ex-gay’. That’s a different kind of fear. They don’t want your wallet….they want you. They want to eradicate ‘your kind’ from the face of the earth. In their insanity, they think that they’re doing God a favor; they feel justified for what they do. That’s fear for your life. I’ve been there twice.

    Perhaps a dozen years ago, when my gay friend and neighbor, Johnny, was murdered in his home, I was enraged that no one cared. I met with and comforted his family when they came to pack up the house; they were glad to talk to someone who had hung out with him. After a few weeks, the neighborhood was acting like it was ‘old news’ and I kept complaining that it had never become news at all. At about two in the morning, I slipped out the backdoor and walked down the alley until I could see ‘his’ house (They were already going ‘hush, hush’ so as not to scare away a new buyer for the house!) and, in the stillness of the night cried out as loud as I could “Johnny—–We Miss You!”

    I’m still that guy. For whatever differences of opinion you and I may have, I’m still that guy.

  • jayhuck

    Ned,

    Thank you for your understanding. You did a better job of talking about how Christians tend to impose their beliefs on others than I ever could have. It is something to think about.

    Karen,

    Folk today that resist the erosion of cultural moral standards are doing nothing different.

    I understand what YOU mean by this Karen – at least I think I do now. There are just many Christians who don’t agree with yo – so when you say “folk”, I’m assuming you mean those people who agree with your interpretation of things.

  • jayhuck

    Thank you so much for these words Ned:

    Christ’s ministry always focused on individual hearts and never on politics.

  • jayhuck

    Eddy,

    nd, the people who I have debated this with (again, primarily Michael and Jayhuck) 1) could never suggest a more suitable term 2) continued to use it themselves.

    You are wrong about not being able to suggest a more suitable term – I’ve had this discussion with Warren before and he also doesn’t like the term ex-gay. He has suggested, and I support, the use of the term post-gay. I only use ex-gay on THIS blog and nowhere else because I’m trying to let some people know I’m of the same mind – and usually when I use it I state that I do not like the term,

    The term ex-gay no longer has the meaning it might have originally had – due to other conservative Christian groups who have used the term to mean so many different things, or who have used it politically, the term can no longer mean anything – in my opinion – because it has been set up and used to mean so many different things. There are many good people who feel that it needs to be changed and I agree with them – even if post-gay is not the way to go.

    I continue to call myself gay, although many ex-gays would define me as ex-gay, and I do this because my orientation is still gay – regardless of whether I have sex or not and regardless of whether I develop some type of OSA.

  • jayhuck

    Eddy,

    I suppose the other option, if Exodus decides to keep the label ex-gay, would be to do a much, MUCH better job of defining what it means to its members and to the population at large.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    It’s 2 AM and I decided to take a last look at this thread. I’m very glad I did. It’s been a while since I heard someone speak truer words from the Spirit, Wendy. You are a breath of fresh air. What you say encourages a love for God and understanding for the real meaning of grace, the freedom to work out one’s own salvation with Him. And as Timothy said, it makes “she’s a Christian” a good thing again.

    I wish I could understand what happened to the Church, at least to a big part of it. God-breathed scripture, in the hands of some, turns into rules as dry as bones, reasons to limit our love, not the great joy and freedom of Salvation. And a resistance to this uninspired religion is actually interpreted as conviction, and love of the world. The real problem is that people are not finding what their spirit requires.

    I’m sure you and I do not agree on all points, but that is not necessary. It is quite easy to discern that we serve the same God and that you are not trying to fight me, or coerce me into accepting your terms. God can work in that atmosphere. I’m almost afraid to see what would happen if Exodus took you seriously.

    @Ned

    You are getting the idea with politics. Besides, an attitude like Wendy’s, one which any of us could have, will do far more for the world than any legislation, policy or boycott. You don’t move mountains with that stuff.

    And does anyone find it curious that Wendy’s message is so effective yet her ministry is in a place considered “hostile” toward Christians? I think the church was designed to work best under persecution. It certainly has a lousy history of being in a dominant role of any sort. Yet that’s what we find it striving for in the US today.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Eddy – I usually watch to make sure I’m not making sweeping generalizations …. but you got me. :)

    Of course, I would agree that there are some Christ-followers who are not afraid of gay people and do a good job relating ….. in following comments I make reference to this.

    glad you’re back too

  • Michael Bussee

    Eddy: Gary wanted a minister from Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa to do his service because that is where Gary accepted Christ — so that’s what I arranged. The minister backed out minutes before the service with Gary’s family waiting. There was no time to contact another pastor, but Mel White, founder of Soulforce” and author of Stranger At The Gate”, graciously stepped in and did what Jesus would have done.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Jayhuck writes,

    “Karen,

    Folk today that resist the erosion of cultural moral standards are doing nothing different.

    I understand what YOU mean by this Karen – at least I think I do now. There are just many Christians who don’t agree with yo – so when you say “folk”, I’m assuming you mean those people who agree with your interpretation of things.”

    No, Jayhuck, what I am trying to say – obviously poorly – is that almost everyone I know who is politically active in regards to human sexuality issues does so motivated by a Judeo-Christian tradition of defiance or resistance to the State and culture. Conservatives because they think there are forces trying to erode cultural morality; liberals or progressives because they think current policy and law is unjust.

    I wanted to address broad theological/Biblical concepts in regard to the State and thereby justify general Christian involvement in public policy and direct political action. I wan’t particularly looking to endorse “my side.” Just happened to use it as an example.

  • Michael Bussee

    Isn’t it interesting how well Wendy’s message is being received by both sides of this discussion? If EXODUS really wants to build bridges, she would be a good architect. I just pray they won’t wimp out and say — “We are already doing all of that” or “that’s just her opinion” or “changes don’t happen overnight”. Changes can happen overnight, if the “home office” gets the Holy Spirit’s urging. MESSAGE TO EXODUS: Don’t just feel “thrilled” and “do a lot of positive head-nodding”” Step out courageously, as Wendy has done, and do it..

  • jayhuck

    Karen,

    But I don’t think trying to legislate your beliefs onto those who do not agree with them is what the Bible teaches us. Jesus certainly didn’t give us this example, and we are constantly reminded NOT to be like the world. If we are going to shape the world successfully it will be through example, education and through grace, NOT through legislation, intimidation and a lack of respect for our neighbor. The best thing Christians can do, in my opinion, is to imitate Christ – at least work at this first.

    Wendy,

    I agree with Michael. It is amazing and a blessing to watch how your message is being received by both sides – makes me thing there’s something to what you are saying :)

  • Eddy

    Michael–

    Thanks for the follow up on Gary’s funeral. For many, there is an ongoing bond with that church where we first truly connected with God. I understand Gary’s request and I am glad that Mel White was able to step in. Even if Calvary Chapel does regard homosexual behavior as sin, waiting til the last minute to bail in a situation as emotionally-charged as a funeral is inexcusable.

  • Mary

    Speaking of which – did anyone catch Tony Campolo on The Colbert Reprot?

  • Mary
  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Jayhuck writes … But I don’t think trying to legislate your beliefs onto those who do not agree with them is what the Bible teaches us.

    Do you mean that statement universally or only as it applies to sexual morality?

  • jayhuck

    Universally – any discriminatory or specific Christian belief that is forced on others through legislation

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Jayhuck and Michael,

    I’m sure by now there are likely some who think I must be a heretic if both sides are responding well ….. :)

    At times I ask myself, “Am I just being a people pleaser here?” :)

    But I’ve been also immensely blessed to feel like I could speak very openly about the Jesus I love – who I know so many of you deeply love as well. And in the final analysis it is my deep hope that what people on both sides have responded to is precisely the way and ministry of Christ.

    Sometimes in this very complex and messy area of ministry we get so easily side-tracked – and perhaps miss his whisper…… “I love you”.

  • Michael Bussee

    I hear it.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    …. and then He smiled…..

  • Eddy

    Wendy–

    You know what this means, don’t you? Please give some thought and prayer to stopping by or hanging out on the blog on occasion. Warren usually provides 3 to 6 topics a week. The thread titles and ‘recently commented’ will tell you where everybody’s hanging out. Even when we’re not posting, most of us do check in to see what’s going on; seeing a post from you would be most welcome.

  • http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org Trista

    Wow… again I am humbled and honored to be able to read all of these comments.

    Wendy, thank you for speaking Truth into the darkness of misunderstanding, rhetoric, hypocrisy, hurt, ignorance, and anger.

    Eddy, Timothy, Michael, David and others, thank you for your willingness to share and be open and transparent about the details of your lives as well as your thoughts and musings.

    As someone who has sga but doesn’t identify as lesbian, who gets disgruntled with many “religious” folks (mainly people wielding conservative Christianity around), I am gently reminded many times the the Church that I get frustrated with is the bride of Christ. I also am reminded of the fact that the way is difficult and the gate narrow for those who follow Christ. I don’t know the hearts of people…I can only know them to the extent that it is revealed to me through relationship and communication, and even then I don’t fully grasp another’s heart completely. So who am I to say who is a follower of Christ and who is not. But what I feel confident in saying right now is that many of you on this blog are surely fighting a good fight. Fighting for understanding….fighting for repentant hearts on both sides of the issues at hand… fighting for a knowledge of God that surpasses a mere confession of one’s sins and a nicely packaged prayer of salvation… fighting for the love of Christ to be made real to people (specifically gays and lesbians). That is a fight I want to fight.

    Thank you all for encouraging and strengthening my resolve to continue to wrestle with these important issues as I seek the Lord. This has been such a great discussion. Please keep it up.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca wendy

    Thank you for your comments Trista.

    Seems to me that God gives wisdom and discernment generously to those who seek it. May you know that in abundant measure – may we all.

  • Ken K

    The several hours it took me to read thru all this were well worth it. I’ve enjoyed the thought provoking discussion. Thank you all. I believe that to whatever degree I am not living out being a vehicle/vessel of His Love first and foremost, to that extent it becomes less about Him and more about me and what I want and what I’m comfortable with and my prejudices, opinions, desires, wants, comfort zone, judgementalisms, etc. etc etc. And I feel/think/believe that it really needs to be about Him first, for from Him and to Him and through Him and for Him are all things. I’m being changed and it will never be completed in this life, but it will be an ongoing journey of growth, an adventure if you will. The labels don’t fit me because I’m one of a kind, me. And while the Trinity speaks throughout the whole of Scripture, the New Covenant which went into affect when the veil was torn in two, is FAR superior to the old, without question. It Has to be about God living through me, not me trying to live for God; it has to be the Spirit, not the Letter. And I begin to wonder that if an organization (such as Exodus) has two focuses (both personal transformation and societal governance) that that might actually be a double minded unstable thing, and that is a bit of a scary thought. It had never occured to me before reading this long discussion, so thank you for the discussion.

  • Ann

    The labels don’t fit me because I’m one of a kind, me.

    Ken,

    I support you 100% in this statement.

    As someone who has sga but doesn’t identify as lesbian

    Trista,

    I know others who feel the same way and I appreciate what you wrote.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    And I’ll support you in the rest Ken, well said.

  • http://www.newdirection.ca Brian P

    Hello everyone! My name is Brian and I am Wendy’s Youth Guy and Paduan Apprentice. After hearing her talk about this blog for weeks around the office I thought I would pop online and glance through it, and have been fascinated and touched by the conversation here.

    I gotta get in on the big old Wendy love fest and affirm how much I look up to and admire her, and especially love her ability to message things just the right way that gets to the heart of the matter while avoiding all the tripwires of language in this area. I am still learning a great deal from her.

    However as her colleague and friend I do humourously view the invites to be architect of Exodus’ new plans and join even more blog threads with certain alarm. Do you have any idea how much this woman works already? Being responsible for our little ministry trying to equip the church is Canada is daunting enough! Mercy!

    A couple thoughts about issues raised in this thread out of Wendy’s talks:

    1) Language, labels and postmodernism

    I think one of the true challenges of postmodernity is communication without fixed definitions. I think the hope of finding terms and labels that will be equally clear and understood and harmless to all people in all contexts should be set aside. The truth is that meanings are inherently contexted. As I speak in youth groups around the country I have been somewhat infamous for introducing myself as “a gay conservative baptist youth pastor who is married to a lesbian”. Perhaps it’s my perverse nature, but I love watching peoples brains melt as they try to wrap their brain around that. But the real reason I use that introduction, is it forces people to confront, in a humourous way I hope, the complexity of language.

    I have also had the experience of speaking twice on the same day, and being asked whether I was gay in both of them, and answering “yes” and one, and “no” at the other and being perfectly honest about both. I find that youth, especially non christian youth when they ask me if I am gay want to know about my attractions. Christians, especially adult christians when they ask the same question are inquiring about my sexual behavior, and possibly identity and political affiliations.

    I have come to realize that hoping to have one handy phrase that will be equally understood by both audiences is a pipe dream much on the same level as hoping that I could reply to a two questions, one asked in english and one in swahili, by speaking a three sentences in French and hoping to be understood by everyone involved.

    What does this mean for the future? I think it means we need to speak carefully, but that we also need to listen carefully. We need to choose our words wisely so that they communicate what we wish, but it also means that we (on all sides) need to listen to context, and believe the best of our counter parts. Often simply the use of a word can be such a flashpoint that we stop listening and start with accusations. I think this blog has been a wonderful example of people taking the time to listen.

    I think the move from “ex-gay” to “post-gay” is a step in the right direction, but still hits the fact that most people listening to it won’t immediately grasp what it means. I use Same Sex Attraction all the time, and despite being precise and long, I am amazed by how many Christian leaders, and gay friends both give me blank looks when I use it.

    My greatest fear is that post gay will become a new politically correct term, but will carry with it all the negative associations. My youth know that “retarded” is a disrespectful way to talk about those with mental disabilities, and were taught to use phrases like “special” or ” differently abled” the result is now they call each other “Special” and “differently abled” as insults. If we change the name, but nothing else changes, we will end up sitting here in 3 years arguing again over the usage of Post gay, or whatever other label eventually gets picked.

    I can also attest to the fact that no matter how much we obsess over nuancing your language some people will misinterpret you. I know as a ministry we spent countless hours working on the language of Freetobeme.com to be as neutral and positive as possible, and have clarified on the site in multiple places very clearly that “We are not saying you should change you orientation! We do not know if changing your orientation is possible!” and yet last week I got an email from a girl who wrote to complain about how hurt she was that our site told her that she had to change!

    I think in light of this, those of us in Exodus ministries need to constant keep working to refine our communication processes, because we understand that many of those coming to us are in very vulnerable places, and at times will superimpose their desires on what we say.

    But I would ask that others would be patient and understanding with us, and recognize how hard it is. And when unintentional harm happens, to please give us the benefit of the doubt that it is unintentional, and in some cases unavoidable!

    I am a person who went to exodus and felt the “If you don’t change there is something wrong with you vibe.” and spent a great deal of time in other places ranting about it. But in full honestly looking back I have to admit that I heard Sy Rogers specifically repeatedly denounce such thinking in the youth sessions. I sat in seminar after seminar that repeated the idea i had to follow God whether my attractions changed or not, and that there were no easy answers, and no guarantees. But I think I tuned those out because I wanted complete change SO BAD! I heard the message I wanted to hear.

    Does that mean that everyone who has had negative experiences at exodus does the same thing? NO! But that is part of my story. And I tell it not to minimize the work we need to do (I stand on my seat and cheer for everything that Wendy says in her talk) but to get people thinking of realistic expectations for language, and to beg for a culture of grace, rather than one of suspicion.

    2) Politics

    I am a firm believer in the idea that exodus needs to get out of politics altogether. I think the intentions were good, but the results were harmful, and only by stepping back and admitting that can we redeem ourselves.

    I do not believe that Christians should never be involved in politics. And I do not think that Exodus was acting in bad faith in what they did do.

    I think the hate crimes legislations are a good example of what went wrong. I think it is unfair to characterize Exodus as being pro gay bashing because they opposed hate crimes legislation. I think they were going for a good ideal: Fair treatment of all people. I think they also went about it in a very unwise way. I think Exodus’ stand would have been admirable: IF all other things were equal. I think the problem with the opposition to hate crimes legislation was that I failed to recognize the very real inequalities in seeking justice that many gay and lesbian people have. I even heard Christians deny that gay bashing happens much. Which left me to think back to my experience of being dragged behind the gym of my christian school as a teen and being assaulted by a group of other students. I never reported it. It wasn’t until almost ten years later that I could even talk about it. The bruises healed fast, but inside the scars have stayed a long time.

    To say that “assault is wrong, and it is equally wrong for all people” did not recognize for me the reality that because I was being beat up for being gay I felt I had no one to turn to, because even going for help would leave me open for more violence! And unless I know the system understood that, I couldn’t go to it. I might have been equally valuable under the law, but I was not equally vulnerable. And having those in power recognize that vulnerability, and take steps to help me…it would have meant alot.

    I don’t think hate crimes legislations are the answers to homophobia…but I deeply grieve fighting hate crimes legislations, even with the best of intentions, reinforced the denial of and silence about the very real threats of violence that the kids I work with deal with every day. And while I understand some of the concerns that Christian groups, including Exodus voiced in the matter, I think the blocked flawed legislation that tired to help, without offering an alternative. This was destruction rather than constructive.

    Like I said i think the best course now is to step back from politics all together. But Christians still need to be involved in politics. But one guide we need to follow is that if we oppose a policy, we need to listen to what is behind it, and offer constructive ways to get the good results sought another way rather than just shutting things down.

    I had some more thoughts, but it is late, and I think I have said enough. Thanks for letting the young’un have his say amongst such a wise group of thinkers.

  • Ann

    Brian,

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and inspiring post – I found myself learning about things I thought I already knew so much about. I pray you can be a mentor to many. Please keep posting when you can.

  • jayhuck

    Ken and Brian,

    Thank you both for your words. As a fellow Christian, I disagree with you about Hate Crime Legislation Brian, but overall, we agree on much more than we disagree :)