Farewell, Exodus International. You Will Not Be Missed.

Farewell, Exodus International. You Will Not Be Missed. June 20, 2013

Rachel Held Evans breaks the big announcement:

Update: Exodus International announces it is shutting down


It takes a lot of guts to issue an apology as honest and as public as this one from Alan Chambers of Exodus International.

An excerpt:

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

Read the rest: Alan Chambers of Exodus International Apologizes to LGBT Community.

I didn’t have much contact with anyone from EI. I once sat on a panel with a couple of “ex-gays” at the Cornerstone Festival in 2009; I wrote about that here. With all due respect to that man and that woman and their struggles, it seemed clear to me that they were still gay.

Honestly, the closing of EI is a huge step in the direction of love and acceptance in the evangelical community. I hope it will be seen as such by those predisposed to dislike all Christians, like Dan Savage.

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  • jeffstraka

    You are incorrect when you assert that Dan Savage dislikes all Christians. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/30/dan-savage-christianity-_n_3362074.html

    • mhelbert

      Thanx! That was an encouraging video. And, he’s right…Christ followers need to speak to those in our own tribe who spew hate.

    • Rob Davis

      Agreed. There is a huge difference between criticizing certain ideas or people – or even entire groups of people – and “disliking all Christians.” For example, I think the charismatic movement as a whole is ridiculous and the world would be better without it, but my parents are hardcore, active name-it-claim-it, “prosperity gospel” charismatics. I might completely disagree with most of what they believe and do, but I don’t “dislike” them.

  • CurtisMSP

    It doesn’t take much guts to issue a public apology if you are in business, and realize sales of your current product are dropping rapidly. How very convenient for Chambers that the end of his “shut down” notice (http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/exodus-international-to-shut-down/) includes a link to his “new ministry” and instructions for how the media can contact him for interviews.

    This is not an apology. A true apology would have Chambers ride quietly into the sunset. This is a re-branding and a publicity stunt for a new product launch.

    • jeffstraka

      One would hope you are wrong, but I, too, do not trust such an organization. To only way to “reduce fear” is to completely drop the inerrant bible worship, and I don’t see evangelicals doing that any time soon.

    • Rob Davis

      Good point. In the big picture, maybe this is a small step in the right direction. BUT, what was Exodus even doing before this big announcement? As far as I could tell, they were already pretty irrelevant. And, they haven’t actually come to the only defensible position on these things:

      “I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them… I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage.”

      Just seems to be another attempt by evangelicals at being nicer homophobes.

      • CurtisMSP

        Exactly. He is saying “I still hate homosexuality, but I’ll try to be nicer about it from now on”. It is nice hate, with a better-run PR campaign. The Mormons have already been through this transformation, with their whole “gay Mormon” thing, http://www.mormonsandgays.org/. Evangelicals seem to be next in line for the “nice hate” makeover. Probably some media advisers from the Romney campaign who are suddenly out of work have figured out a new gig for their talents. At least Catholics and Baptists are still honest enough to say they just hate gays, without going through any soft, PR makeover.

      • Simon

        “Attempt by evangelicals?” “Nicer homophobes?”

        First, I think it is unfair to address your remarks towards “evangelicals” as if what Exodus does is what evangelicals are doing. (e.g. It would be a lame comment to dismiss to a press release from the NAACP saying, “This is just another attempt by Black people to…”)

        Also, I think I think it is a stretch to call this guy a homophobe. Do you get the sense that he is scared of gay folks? He is a gay man, openly admits it, and is not trying to change it. He has made a religiously informed decision to remain in his heterosexual marriage and family. So you think that’s a bad idea. Fine. You could unpack why you think that position is naive, wrong or ill-informed, etc., but why dismiss him and his profound vulnerability and self-deprecation as “nice homophobia?” This guy isn’t scared of gay folks.

        This is a man who is standing up publicly for GLBT rights, and the individual dignity of GLBT persons. He is affirming gay families and parents as equal or superior to his own, and is publicly recognizing his own wrong doing and wrongs of his community.

        I think our country would be a better place with more “homophobes” like that.

        • Rob Davis

          I didn’t know “evangelical” was a racial identity?

          Yes, I am free to group evangelicals together when the majority of them think or do the same things. There are always exceptions, of course. But, that doesn’t mean the generalization is wrong.

          I would say that anyone who is not FULLY supportive of the FULL inclusion, acceptance, equality, etc. of LGBTQ people is doing so out of fear.

          And, no, he isn’t standing up for their rights.

          • I disagree Rob. I do not think religious conviction equates to fear. It most certainly can, and many times does but just because people are not FULLY supportive does not mean it is fear based.

            • Guest

              Jeremy, I guess this is one of those things where our “plausibility structures” aren’t going to mesh. From the outside, it’s clear to me that it’s based in a fear of God, or ones religious community, or even of not believing/thinking in line with “the Truth.” But, I can also see how that’s difficult for someone to see who is coming from a religious perspective.

              • Thursday1

                No, they are in love with a certain ideal, into which gay sex does not fit.

              • Simon

                Rob, are you essentially saying all religion/belief in God is essentially fear-based, so any religious belief about homosexuality is rooted in fear, so all people who have religious reservations about GLBT issues may rightly be labeled homophobes?

                I have always taken homophobia as more of a description about people who are fearful of or uncomfortable around GLBT folks.

                Would it be accurate to label all Baptists who think Muslims are going to hell islamophobes?

                • Guest

                  Not all. Just those ideas that are strictly rooted in certain interpretations of the Bible and certain traditions, rather than anything objective.

                  But, sure, let’s “label all Baptists who think Muslims are going to hell islamophobes”! Why not?

                  • Simon

                    Thanks for the clarification. I guess one reason not to is because I wouldn’t call a Muslim who feared for my soul a Christophobe just because his religion counted me out of Paradise.

                    I don’t think Catholics are necessarily Protestophobes because they don’t let me celebrate communion with them.

                    It just isn’t that scandalous to me when religious people make particular or exclusive truth claims.

                    I’d rather address the substance of the claims than ascribing motives to their beliefs or calling them names.

                    (Point of fact: I’m not Baptist. It was just an example.)

                    • Guest

                      Poe-tay-toe, poe-taw-toe?

          • Thursday1

            I would say that anyone who is not FULLY supportive of the FULL inclusion, acceptance, equality, etc. of LGBTQ people is doing so out of fear.

            Please read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. People who think that gay sex is wrong do so primarily because they “see” an essence or ideal into which gay sex just doesn’t fit. Conservative religious people are for something more than they are against something.

            You could argue that they “see” something that isn’t there, but you can’t argue that they aren’t seeing it. And telling them it isn’t there probably isn’t going to work anymore than telling someone that the table they ate breakfast on this morning doesn’t exist either. When you see something, you see it.

            As a general remark, people really do need to read up on the psychology of religion before they open their mouths these days. We aren’t in the realm of pure speculation anymore.

            • Guest

              I have that book, and I’ve listened to many Haidt lectures – even went to see him speak at Duke a few months ago. Good stuff.

              • Thursday1

                OK, then why say that those who do not think gay sex is right are acting out of fear*? Haidt’s research seems to indicate that that is untrue.

                *This is often phrased as a fear of losing power, though I won’t put words in your mouth.

                • Guest

                  I guess you “get” something from Haidt that I don’t.

                  • Thursday1

                    Then I’d suggest reading him again. Particularly the part of the book starting p. 283 in the hardcover, p. 330 in the paperback.

                    • Simon

                      Wow Thursday1. You know this text pretty well.

                    • Guest


          • Simon

            True, Evangelicalism it isn’t a racial identity (who said it was?). That wasn’t the point of the comparison. Allow me to clarify. My point is that it is unhelpful, and trivalizing to refer to one action as the action of the whole.

            “Evangelicals” didn’t apologize, Alan did. Suggesting anything else, frankly gives Evangelicalism too much credit.

            You seem to cynically dismiss (what I’d bet is) a very sincere and vulnerable apology by somehow pegging it to some unidentified Evangelical agenda to rebrand. I doubt very much that Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed and Alan Chambers got into a room and said, “okay Alan, you go admit that reparative therapy is garbage,that you hurt a lot of people, and that gay parents are equal to straight ones because that will really help us with the 20 something demographic in 2016.”

            That narrative is a little too tidy for me. I’ll pass on the “white hat” progressive, “black hat” evangelical point of view. It doesn’t seem that descriptive to me. I like my religion and politics complicated, and Mr. Chambers seems like a sincere and complicated guy. Most organizational leaders don’t go out and publicly admit their short comings like this. (Can anyone think of something comparable?) This isn’t just some politician who is caught in some elicit act, and goes out and says mea culpa. He came out and essentially said, “I believed and taught the wrong thing. I acted like, I had everything together. It turns out I don’t.” That takes grit. I don’t think he should be called a “homophobe” because he hasn’t “FULLY” come around to your point of view.

            Alan Chambers should get a mark for courage not fear today.

            • Guest

              I’m sorry, it’s just going to take a lot more for me to see this as an entirely positive thing. I’ve been in way too many evangelical PR situations where “apologizes” have been offered, while the core remains the same (I used to work for a prominent Acts 29 church, for some perspective). Now, if he really “came out” and announced he was going to start supporting some real pro-equality organizations that don’t fit into the evangelical paradigm…THAT would be progress.

              • Guest

                Haha I said apologizes. Brilliant.

              • Simon

                Don’t see any reason why pro-equality groups wouldn’t necessarily it within the “evangelical paradigm.”

                For example, I have roughly the same position (I think) as Mr. Chambers. No one called me names when I volunteered to help defeat a recent anti-gay ballot measure in my state even when I disclosed my rather traditional religious view of marriage. In my experience, not all “inclusive” folk require the Rob Davis standard “FULL” ideological purity to avoid the slur “homophobe.” 🙂

                • Guest

                  Ha! Well, I’m definitely not alone in my “radical” views.

                  • Simon

                    No you are not. And I didn’t call you “radical.” I am not saying lots of people don’t share your point of view. I am suggesting that civil rights, and civil conversations exist with evangelicals in pro-equality groups. But caviler generalizations and name calling isn’t moving the ball forward.

                    • Guest

                      Just getting a little tired of “civility” toward intentional ignorance.

                    • Simon

                      Sorry to tire you out. I assure you my ignorance is unintentional.

                    • Guest

                      Honestly, I usually avoid engaging in these conversations. It’s a bit like arguing about gravity or evolution.

                • Guest

                  I just noticed that what you described as “ideological purity” is actually the stance of trying to understand and live in REALITY…

              • Maybe you can’t see it as entirely positive. Understood. But positive? Certainly! Looking back at my life, I made some BIG changes in beliefs but those did not come instantly. They, for the most part, came incrementally. I give the guy credit and will be interested in what comes next.

  • Marta L.

    To my mind, the Christian ideal of forgiveness has to strike a balance between whitewashing the past and tethering people to it. The Bible and Christian tradition are full of people who did things even more horrible than Exodus International (Saul/Paul, who if I recall correctly is described as actively rounding up Christians for execution, springs to mind) and they were allowed to move on to do good. This could be Chambers’ way of saying he realizes anything good he does from here on out would make things harder for those he’s already hurt, and he won’t try to rehabilitate that group – but he also doesn’t want to not work for good where he can. That gives me room for optimism, although I’ll still be watching this group carefully.

    On Dan Savage: I do think Christians need to try to call out those of us misusing the name and philosophy. No question. But when the media sees Christian as fundamentalist (or really, any religion as fundamentalist), quite often you can end up screaming into the wind on that one…

    • Um, kids and teens have committed suicide because of places like Exodus. That’s really bad, wouldn’t you say?! Also, people stay in the closet and self-hate and believe G-D hates them.

      • Yes, I hate Exodus. I think I’ve made that clear on numerous occasions. That’s why I’m reveling in their dissolution.

  • Guest

    Just came across this:

    My guess is that this “new conversation” will be centered around mandatory celibacy for gay people and the working out of straight and cisgender folks feelings about homosexuality and the Bible. Which means not really a new conversation at all. They will continue to say things like “This is your struggle and you need to glorify God in the midst of it” (read: be celibate forever). Or “We all have sins and temptations that we struggle with” (read: being gay is a sin and a temptation). In fact, it’s the same conversation we’ve been having for decades in a “kinder, gentler” homophobic package.


  • Dean

    I think part of the confusion in some of the exchanges on this blog stems from the fact that not all Evangelicals oppose homosexuality for the same reasons. I tend to think that most of them do because of cultural reasons and the Bible gives them an easy justification for their animus. But certainly there are many who oppose it on doctrinal grounds and it poses a challenge for them in the sense that they want to stay faithful to the text even as they realize the difficulties in maintaining their position. I think you see that happening with some of the more sophisticated leaders of the evangelical community in major metropolitan centers when they speak out against homosexuality, the language they use is increasingly tepid and the arguments they rely on are increasingly qualified. Even opposition to gay marriage is on the decline because I think it’s really hard to justify it without a direct appeal to theocracy, which at least in this country is not tenable. I think ultimately that’s why the Supremes are going to rule in favor of gay marriage.

    But if I can speak to just the Christians here for a moment, let me just say that what we really need to do is talk about how we’re reading the Bible. This is where folks like Tony and Brian McLaren come in and why I appreciate the Emergent Church movement even though I don’t really see myself as a part of it. The broader discussion really needs to be whether as Evangelicals, we have totally lost our way in terms of what the Bible is about, what information it is capable of providing, and what the appropriate relationship Christian communities should have with it. It’s become patently obvious to me now in just the short amount of time that I’ve been looking into this that there are a host of reasons why Evangelicals, American Evangelicals in particular, are just completely wrong about all sorts of things and they all stem from not reading the Bible correctly (or at all in many instances). I’m not saying any single person has the “perfect” hermeneutic, but I think there is ample reason to be believe that many folks sometimes get it completely wrong.

    If there one thing I’d like for Christians to abandon is the belief that the Bible can be read as one consistent book and that the only proper hermeneutic is to read all the passages with equal weight, trying to formulate an overall system that reconciles each passage with one another. That’s basically high Calvinism. Non-Christians often fall into this trap as well, but that’s not their fault, they’re not the ones who are saying the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is of no consequence to them that the Bible makes no sense when read in this fashion, they don’t expect it to. I honestly think that’s the primary source of most of the American Church’s angst right now, it’s trying to make sense of an ancient collection of texts by reading it with the perspective of a 21st century American with little or no knowledge of history, or philosophy, or science, etc. It pretty much guarantees you’re gonna get a lot of things wrong, this obsession with gays is just one example. And to top it all off, Americans are no longer literate in any functional sense of that word. So you have throngs of Christians relying solely on what a handful of clergy are telling them, and they are so poorly equipped to even engage one another on matters relating to their own subsistence, how could they possible make a sound determination as to whether the Bible is actually saying these things or not? Doesn’t that sound a lot like another period of time in history?

    • Thursday1

      The authority of the Biblical text is important for why most evangelicals are opposed to gay sex, but I don’t thinks quite it’s as important as many others, both conservative or progressive, think. There are no anti-abortion texts and yet evangelicals aren’t giving up on their anti-abortion politics. I suspect it’s much the same for gay sex. After all opposition to gay sex is a strong theme in pretty much all religious traditions, and they don’t rely on the Bible either. So, the Biblical texts are, for the most part, a convenient hammer. An easy “gotcha.” What this is really about though is “seeing” certain moral realities in the world, like purity, ingroup loyalty, and respect for authority, that are not reducible to harm and fairness. For devout Christians, the Biblical text certainly shapes this moral outlook in particular ways but is working on top of an underlying psychology.

      In any event, it remains an open question whether the Bible can be separated from a premodern way of “seeing” that includes natural kinds, forms, essences, and ideals which have moral import, and which have no place for gay sex. This is a wholy different way of perceiving the world than the modern way, where the world is all just a bunch of little particles of “stuff” with no inherent meaning in it, with perhaps some kind of soul or consciousness (and meaning to go along with it) tacked on here and there. And once you realize that it is a premodern text, you can see how all of the Bible, Old and New Testament, is just permeated with a radically different kind of perspective from how we moderns (and postmoderns) look at reality. Progressive Christians are not just going up against a few explicit commands, but an entire sensibility that utterly permeates both the Biblical text and the minds of their more conservative bretheren.

      The ability to “see” these moral realities also seems to correlate with the ability to “see” God (or the gods). They aren’t identical, but the ability to see these other “transcendent” moral realities seems to rely on some of the same psychological systems. Which is why the people who doubt the reality of these essences, forms, ideals, also tend to have more doubt about the existence of God (or the gods). IIRC, our host has said he doubts the existence of God every day. I’d bet a rather large sum on money that John Piper doesn’t.

      Whether these other moral realities exist is of course another question, but it’s important to get the facts straight descriptively before both sides can even begin to talk to each other.

      • Christyinlosangeles

        I think a big piece of why conservative evangelicals remain so anti-gay is tied to their explicitly anti-feminist worldview. If you’ve organized your churches around the idea that Jesus only calls on the boys and your model of marriage is based on male headship/female submission, then you CAN’T accept gay people, without letting go of all the hierarchical bullshit too. After all, if two men or two women can have a committed, healthy, loving relationship, then viewing the world through a lens of hierarchy and complementary gender roles doesn’t make any sense. And if it doesn’t make any sense, there are a whole lot of deeply personal ramifications that I think they are afraid to consider.

        • Thursday1

          Evangelical opposition to gay sex most definittely is related to their opposition to feminism. They “see” certain essences or ideals for men and women, and these do not include having sex with someone of the same sex.

          However, if you are saying that this is just about evangelicals, particularly evangelical men, retaining their power position in a particular hierarchy then that would be incorrect. Evangelicals, men and women, are genuinely in love with these sex ideals and will often make considerable sacrifices to fulfill them.

          After all, if two men or two women can have a committed, healthy, loving relationship, then viewing the world through a lens of hierarchy and complementary gender roles doesn’t make any sense.

          This makes sense if you are basically a utilitarian/Rawlsian in your moral orientation (i.e. happiness, suffering, and how to divide those things up are the baseline for morality).

          However, conservative Evangelicals do not view morality that way, so the functionality and happiness of gay relationships is not necessarily determinative of whether they are right or wrong.

          If you find this confusing, I’d suggest reading Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind.

    • Wondering

      Dean, I could not agree with you more. I think the way evangelicals understand and read the bible is one of the major hurdles that is faced here. Until evangelicals come to understand that there are different ways of seeing and reading the bible, this debate is not going away…

  • Guest

    For anyone interested, I was interviewed on The Armchair Philosopher podcast yesterday with Greg Horton about this:

  • I really love, with all due respect to my friend, Rachel Held Evans, how all you non-gay people who have no idea the pain and agony Exodus has afflicted upon gay people for nearly 40 years, are saying what a great thing it is with Alan Chamber’s non-apology. He still believes being gay is a sin and the only two appropriate avenues for us gays is celibacy or marrying an opposite sex person. This is not healthy and STILL perpetuates lies that we are second class citizens. I personally have been deeply affected in a harmful way from
    Exodus. So all you evangelicals applauding this supposed apology can suck my big toe!

    • So, RHE isn’t a good enough ally? Is that what you’re saying, Adele?

      • WOW Tony! You effing amaze me but I shouldn’t be surprised. I love Rachel but have never heard her say whether she still believes it is a sin or not. My POINT was that she says it takes guts to issue an apology when it was not really an apology benefitting those harmed by Exodus and ex-gay therapy. You get so defensive whether it’s about you or your inner circle posse! Grow up. You did not experience this crap Exodus perpetrated for nearly 40 years. BTW, just because of my initial comment on this thread does not mean I think Rachel is not an ally. So, get off your high horse and settle down.

      • Oh, and Tony, I just love how during a time when emotions are running deep for those of us, including myself, who experienced Exodus and its harmful ways, you have the nerve to turn my comment around on me and ask if RHE is a good enough ally.

        • I’m just saying, when you start with “with all due respect,” everyone knows an insult is coming, and that puts everyone on the defensive.

          Who could have/should have pointed out this story that would have been acceptable?

      • Oh, and Tony, I love how some allies take a critique or disagreement from a queer person and turn on them by saying something like, ‘aren’t we a good enough ally for your cause?’ To be honest, the queer community is tired of being lambasted when we point out to allies where they aren’t helping much. The role of ally is bestowed by the queer community.

        In your response to me above, your question felt like I was being lambasted for not appreciating RHE enough, which is farthest from the truth. If you’d allowed my entire comment to sink in you would have seen that.