Late yesterday, Exodus International, the 37-year-old benchmark for Christian "ex-gay" ministry, apologized to people it had hurt and announced its closing (and transformation to a new ministry). The official statements (apology and announcement of closing) are national news.
In his talk last night at the Exodus Freedom Conference (below, start 20:00 in), Chambers fills in much of the story behind the decision to end Exodus. In 1976, when the ministry was founded, it was as a safe haven for a minority of believers who had no place to run in the church. "The truth of our stories have not changed" Chambers said, affirming that closing Exodus does not negate the true stories of those, himself included, who found some sense of exit from unwanted same-sex attraction or lifestyle.
Chambers observed that
"We live in very messy reality. Everyone lives in that reality. But in the midst of that reality, we have a God...who is crazy about us. Mess and all. Your mess isn't the 'gay stuff', it's simply the 'life stuff.'" "But [God] would rather have messy children than no children at all.
"...We in the church have been motivated by fear. It is our fear that keeps us straight, our fear that keeps us off all sorts of chemicals, fear that keeps us looking a certain way, and acting a certain way, and living a certain way, and treating anybody who doesn't live and act in those ways like sinners in the hands of an angry god. It is fear that is the biggest motivator for people in the body of Christ acting in the religious ways that they do. My true story is I spent the majority of my life pretending that I was something I'm not, because I was afraid of the church, and I was afraid that they might be right: that that's how God felt too.
"...I long for the day when everyone lives the life that's pleasing to God, because they can, not because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't. Do you know what that means? All sorts of people will live in all sorts of ways that you might not endorse or condone. But let me let you in on a secret: you're not God, and it doesn't matter what you think anyways. Only God is God, and he alone will judge the human heart... He didn't call us to be prosecutors in this life, he called us to be witnesses. Most of us live our life acting like prosecutors. And the reason people don't come to church... is that the world is far better sometimes than we portray the church and God to be.
"Over time, like the church, Exodus has become entrenched in rules. Rather than be the father standing at the gate, waiting for his son to come home, we've been the older brother. It's indicative of the American church culture that we live in. And while there has been so much good at exodus, there has also been bad."
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