I was never technically involved with Exodus International, but they have been a periphery organization that has starkly influenced my life nonetheless. (Something of a “thorn in my side”, to be quite honest.) Several times since my days at Moody Bible Institute it was suggested that I attend meetings or get counselling from the group; for over 30 years they have been the hallmark of that that maintained that homosexuality could be “cured”, and switched to heterosexuality. Last year that changed. Alan Chambers, head of the organization, in 2012 admitted that “99.9% have not experienced a change in their orientation” (Warren Throckmorton, 2012). In June of 2013 he went even further: Exodus is closing its doors.
They have apologized to the gay community. Actually, Mr. Chambers has apologized, personally accepting the blame. “I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced. I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents… I am sorry that …I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.” (Exodus International, 2013) It’s funny; I’m one of those many people who experienced that hurt for decades as I tried to change. I wrote off Exodus over a decade ago, assuming that they would never change. That they couldn’t change. Now I see they’re trying. So very carefully I look back to hear what they say. I’ll admit I’m critical; trying to accept an apology does not mean I’m not going to stop being aware. Forgiveness does not mean excuse.
The group is apparently launching a new ministry; referred to as “ReduceFear.org”. As of this writing there is nothing on that website; just a request for email addresses “to receive announcements and updates on this exciting new ministry.” So as of yet there is no comment to be had.
The only quote that I found difficult: “We’ve fought the culture war, and we’ve lost. It’s time for peace.” (NPR, 2013; The Toronto Star, 2013) I found this nowhere as a written statement on the Exodus International website; I hope it was just a quick and poorly thought through quip by Mr. Chambers. Although one can look at the whole topic of homosexuality today as a battle in the “culture wars”, it’s a bit more than that to us who are on the front lines. This is our lives, our selves, our loves. This is not unique to our “culture”. We have LGBTQ brethren who span time and space. To have our freedom to express our love as we were made relegated to, become simply a “lost” moment in a “culture war” is as demeaning as some of the other comments Mr. Chambers has said in the past. It’s one of the reasons I fear he might be repackaging his old message. We’ll have to see when there is something worth exploring on that website.
The reactions of the Evangelical Church have been sadly predictable. Rather than listening to those who have worked the most in this area and who should understand the situation the best, they are hiding in their theological foxholes and clinging to their ideological weaponry.
Steve Strang, Editor of Charima Magazine: “I’m sad that Exodus is apparently caving in to the pressure of the gay agenda” (Charisma Magazine)
R. Albert Mohler Jr, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “Sadly, it appears that this rethinking [the understanding of a Christian approach to homosexuality] has resulted in something like a surrender to the cultural currents of the day.” (Baptist Press)
Andrew Comiskey, of “Restored Hope Network”, the next version of Exodus International: “It
would have been better for them to have stepped aside and allowed others to carry on the message of hope for transformed lives” (Press Release)
Apparently those above missed the point about why Exodus has closed it doors. The truth is: our orientation does not change when as we like it to, or as our prayers are geared. I am glad that Exodus has apparently come to its senses. But they were just a symptom of a larger problem. Until the rest of the Christian world comes to realize that one’s sexuality has nothing to do with one’s spirituality and that following God is equally expressed by gays, lesbians, straights, bi’s and trans, they will continue to stay rooted in the past and unable to enjoy the freedom of the future. If they continue to insist that God will does not accept practicing LGBTQ people, they run the risk that God will not accept them.