Published July 11, 2013
IRVINE, Calif. (BP) — Exodus International, a decades-old ministry of helping people overcome homosexual behavior, announced it is closing down the same day its president, Alan Chambers, issued a public apology to people who have been hurt by the organization.
“Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered,” Chambers said in a written statement June 19, alluding also to the development of a new ministry to “reduce fear.”
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the folding of Exodus International “doesn’t mean the folding of an evangelical sexual ethic, though it does mean a move away from a therapeutic model of sexual sanctification.
“Evangelical Christianity increasingly addresses sexual issues more in line with the older Christian tradition of sin and temptation and triumph than with the language of therapy,” Moore told Baptist Press. “We can’t have a utopian view of overcoming temptation of any sort.”
Jesus never promises any Christian freedom from temptation, Moore said, but He does promise the power of the Spirit to fight against the pull to temptation, whatever the temptation may be.
“Increasingly churches are addressing persons with same-sex attractions the same way they address everyone else: in terms of the Gospel and a lifelong call to take up one’s cross and follow Christ,” Moore said. “This means the Christian grappling with same-sex attractions needs to hear that the Gospel addresses him or her, and that this person needs the whole body of Christ, in community, not just an accountability group of those who are defined by the same temptations.”
Chambers’ apology was to appear on an episode of “Our America” with Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network June 20, but in a speech given earlier at the Exodus Freedom conference at Concordia College in Irvine, CA and in a statement released earlier that day, Chambers said he must “finally own and acknowledge the hurt of others.”
“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church’s treatment of the LBGT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” Chambers wrote. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.”
Chambers, who has served as president of Exodus International for 11 years, said his newfound beliefs “center around grace,” rather than sin.
“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.... And then there is the trauma that I have caused,” Chambers wrote, pointing to his decision for years not to disclose his own ongoing same-sex attractions.
Chambers’ apology continued, “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents....
“I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart.”
Most of all, Chambers said, he regrets that people have interpreted “this religious rejection by Christians” as God’s rejection, and he said he will never again allow his beliefs about marriage and sex to interfere with loving his neighbor.
Bob Stith, who served Southern Baptists as a national strategist for gender issues until funding for the position ceased last year, told Baptist Press he has no problem with making apologies and asking for forgiveness.
“I personally have known many men, women, and parents who have been hurt by well-meaning words and actions by ministries, individuals and churches,” Stith, a former Exodus International board member, said. “To that extent, this apology could hopefully challenge us to be more thoughtful and Christ-like as we interact with an increasingly secular society.”
But Stith took issue with some components of Chambers’ apology, including the statement about gay parents being every bit as capable.
“While it may well be true that some same-sex couples have provided more stable and loving environments for children than some heterosexual couples, this statement seems to ignore that Scripture only gives one pattern for family and nowhere can I find any justification to change that,” Stith said.
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