Love Closed Down Exodus International
As the "ex-gay" ministry ends a 37 year run, Alan Chambers sheds light on his decision.

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."

June 20, 2013

Displaying 1–10 of 20 comments

Tim wright

July 02, 2013  10:13pm

Alan Chambers "yeah right" About as courageous as a blind person turning in their drivers license. If he can't see the spiritual reality of the lie that people can change their sexual orientation, he is only leading people to hell. I think scriptures talk about people with millstones around their necks!

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Original Anna

July 02, 2013  6:53pm

So the homosexuals used Exodus to pick up homosexuals, really. It's funny because I never gave that a thought but after studying homosexuals, they have no pride, they are just all hell bent on getting the next penis. It's an addiction that controls their lives and that's how it needs to be treated. With addiction, some won't even try to get rid of it, some will continue with it and tell you that you are the problem not their addiction. Like alcohol or drugs, some will never make it to the other side, suicide is easier like my next door neighbor who couldn't get off the drugs and alcohol and tried to but found his Father's gun easier to get to the other side. Homosexuals need to make their addiction, their life style legal so it makes it easier for them, so they don't have to face the truth but the kick is that being legal doesn't make it easier, ask a true alcoholic who can't get off the floor after throwing up. When he does get off the floor he heads for the next bottle. In our area homosexuals can head for the public bathrooms in the parks, malls, etc. because homosexuality is legally accepted now and parents have to get their kids home before the homosexuals come out. Being legal doesn't help the homosexuals though, the politicians and judges have done them no favors. It just makes it harder for the police and public to be free from homosexuals.

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Jeffrey P. Rush

July 02, 2013  2:02pm

What "root truth of the gospel" did Alan commit to? The root truth of the Gospel is that homosexuality is wrong. Chambers and the Exodus board ran away from that truth and capitulated to the masses, especially the homosexual masses. And capitulation to someone with a gun is always - always - wrong.

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Lonnie Fuson

June 30, 2013  4:17am

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, in his book, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, gives the best view of what SSA is. "The branch of mental health that focuses on unconscious emotional conflict as a source of "neurosis'"–more or less turned away from homosexuality as too difficult a problem to deal with consistently. A parallel phenomenon occurred with respect to problems of so-called "narcissists"–a related condition in fact..." J. Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996) p. 45 (Ebook version). I must agree, homosexuality is difficult to treat, and as we see, with the demise of Exodus International, the "wounded healer" concept hasn't worked very well when treating homosexuality. What works very well is leading LGBT persons into healthy, God centered relationships with people who do not struggle with SSA. If one wishes to amass wealth, for instance, he/she will not go to skid row and seek the wisdom of the homeless or the down and out. No those who wish to amass wealth will follow the likes of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Donald Trump. The main reason Exodus International failed is that LGBT people know how to be gay, but do not know how to have relationship. Exodus International, far from producing a health atmosphere which encouraged and empowered people to change all too often found itself used as a dating service for gay religious people. Having said that I do not lay the lion share of blame on Exodus International. They could only give what they had a lot of: gay. The churches which used Exodus International as a dumping ground or "closet" for their unwanted gay problem, bear the most blame. Exodus may have been a good idea, but it was not God's idea. There is no promise from Christ that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Exodus International. Jesus promised that His Church would not be overcome by the gates of Hell. God has always known how to deal with homosexuality, and we know that because of what the Holy Spirit says through Paul, "And such were some of you..." God knows what to do, but the Church will not go, as they have been commanded by Christ. "Go into all the world, and make disciples..." Jesus makes no proviso when telling us to go. Jesus never said, "If they're LGBT you don't have to go..." What the Church lacks is faith in God. The worst sin of the Church is apathy. 44 years ago The Stonewall Riots in NYC sparked the modern gay rights movement. 44 years! And still Christians make excuses, "We don't know what to do." Okay, I'll give the Church a few years to recover their wits after a huge chunk of the gay world came out of the proverbial closet at once. But 44 years??!! That isn't ignorance that is cold hearted indifference! guess what? God has a pronouncement for people who will not learn. "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." Proverbs 12:1 The Church of Jesus Christ is called to be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ, (Romans 8:29) And Jesus overcame the world. "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world," John 16:33 And the Holy Spirit speaking through John, in 1 John 5:4 "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world." Reaching sexually broken people of every stripe isn't optional. The Church of Jesus Christ will not fail to overcome the world. "...and such were some of you..." is not a nice thought to keep us warm until we cross over into glory. If we will not go, ignorant or not, then we're missing out on God working in and through us to offer Christ's overcoming power. Christ cannot fail to overcome homosexuality, and if Christ cannot fail to overcome the world, then the Church cannot fail to do so either. If the Church will not seek to understand and apply God's way of leading sin broken people to "...and such were some of you..." then we're not serving God's call, purposes, and plan.

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June 22, 2013  11:14am

I would tend to agree with Julie that living in an openly gay relationship and raising children is not a God-honoring option for Christians with SSA, but I wonder about those who are already in such a situation when they come to Christ. What about the home and the children, who may nevertheless have only known love and measure of stability in such a circumstance? This is a very messy situation that calls for grace and where it seems to me there is a lot of grey in terms of how best to apply the principles of Scripture. Certainly missionaries encountered something of a similar dilemma when members of tribes where polygamy was the norm began converting. Definitely celibacy is the goal for such a couple, but something analogous to "divorce" with all the negative fallout that implies is the inevitable option if they are not of the same mind about Christ and His will in this regard. Much of that same fallout is likely even if they are of the same mind because of concern about the "appearance of evil" of their continuing to live in the same household with the children they have been raising together coupled with the temptation to resume the sexual aspect of the relationship. The voices I would most respect and want to hear from in this regard are those who have come through these situations and are now on the other side of them. What advice would they have for others and what message do they believe ministries to those with ssa should be sending about this issue?

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June 22, 2013  11:05am

What most people don't understand, and what was appalling that came to light was that the methods used in Conversion...:::cough:::.."therapy" are also the very same one's used by the Military's Psy-Op's unit on enemy combatants...and non-combatants. I have to say that though the apology seems sincere to me, the reality of the continuing fall-out far out-weighs the apology. We now have to deal with the remains of this "ministry's" legacy which will far outlive any of the other indiscretions made by individual Christians. All this could have been avoided though if people...sorry, Christians stopped before they acted, took a deep breath and sat down, and carefully thought out the ramifications and challenges of the change in themselves before they act on that initial reaction of "I MUST SAVE EVERYONE WHO IS CHAINED LIKE I WAS!" because right that very moment is where the source for all of Christianities problems...that moment where self-righteous motivation meets spiritual ignorance...and voila...a new problem is born for future Christians to deal with. Perhaps, and this is a suggestion to all the Pastor's here that you take a Sunday, once every year, to regale your laity with the benefits of thinking before acting, praying and studying before commenting, and of course, taking time to let the change soak into one's soul and thought-life before marching out to...well, whatever ministry entices them at the moment of awakening.

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Laura Leonard

June 21, 2013  8:42pm

As someone who has known multiple people who had incredibly negative experiences with Christian "conversion therapy," I would say that the Chambers' apology was refreshing and much-needed. Over and over again studies have shown that conversion therapy not only rarely works in the long-term but also "represents a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people." So many people have left the faith for good when therapy did not work for them, or even took their own lives because they could not bear to live with their "failure." If this does not grieve us and lead us to search for new, better dialogues then I fear we have missed the point of the gospel. Chambers' admission that for most people it will not work is an acknowledgment of what time and experience has proven to be true, and this is more gracious, loving, and hopeful for it because it allows us to move forward from there. If we continue to demand the opposite because it might work for some, it leaves those for whom it does not work to believe that their faith was not strong enough, that God does not love them, that they have no hope. This doesn't delegitimize the experiences of those who have had success–Chambers makes this very clear in his statement–but apologizes to those who have found themselves on the other end and invites them back in to the love of God. He is not saying God doesn't offer change, just that we can't put define change in our own terms. To me that's a cause for rejoicing.

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Paul Pastor

June 21, 2013  6:51pm

Julie - I'm confused where you got the idea that I, or Chambers, suggests that a believer "give up on change." You seem to understand the Christian options here as "Out, proud, and sexually active," (bad) or else joining a process that has a very specific successful outcome (good). If I'm oversimplifying what you're saying, I apologize. You're probably familiar with celibate gay Christians (Wesley Hill is a prime example), who find through a lifelong sexual struggle the stuff discipleship's made of. They are just one of a host of examples of how the gospel intersects sexuality in compelling, Christian, but deeply difficult ways. Richard Hays, of course, is key on the biblical foundation for this (and there's strong pastoral wisdom too, in "Moral Vision of the New Testament"). In my view, discipleship can intersect wherever in life someone Jesus is calling might be. Because of this "change" looks different to different people. The call to a gay believer is the same as it is to all of us–"come and die." Talk about change. Taking up one's cross could include reparative therapy for the 90% you mentioned (thanks for sharing that statistic, by the way). Fine. Chambers says that. I'm saying that. Wonderful that they have that as part of their story. But I hope you're also able to understand that the remaining 10% are not discipleship failures. Christ will meet them wherever they are. But for them, an apology for an oversimplified view of discipleship might go a long way toward healing well-intentioned wounds from the church. Change can be invisible for a while. Sometimes, for a lifetime. To say that no change is happening because you can't see it on a person's surface is like saying a river's died when it's frozen in winter. Immobility on the top masks roaring life underneath. That life will eventually break through, either here or in the eschaton. But it is a mistake to call things dead where life may merely be hidden. And isn't that the central reality of the gospel? That we are called in our mess to come and die? And doesn't it make sense that that looks different, though equally devastating and life giving, for each of us? I am slow to judge here, lest I be judged, and in my blindness to the work of God be found far more wanting. There's not a one-size-fits all approach to wholeness and discipleship. In saying this I'm not saying that anything goes. Of course not. Scripture is our common call to holiness and wholeness. This isn't a relativistic breakdown of Christian morals. It's a robust engagement with the mess of being human, and the patient, unpredictable power of God. So disagree as you feel led, I respect your voice. But please hear mine clearly. Christ brings change that is far bigger, more patient, harsh, and lovely than we can usually grasp. Chambers has caught a corner of that glorious vision. I think that I have as well. And so I encourage you to not lose your passion for deep, felt change as you continue with us to look for the work of God in unexpected places. If anyone else has perspective here, please join the conversation.

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Julie Roys

June 21, 2013  5:28pm

Paul... I'm sure we do agree on a lot, but I tend to take Scripture at face value.Other than Paul's thorn in the flesh, which is extremely ambiguous, I can't think of any place where Scripture suggests that a believer give up on change – especially when it relates to a moral issue. Unless I'm missing something, that seems to be precisely your message (except for the very rare changeable exceptions). How does that not dispel hope for the person desperately seeking change? Below is an excerpt from my correspondence today with my friend Mario Bergner, who leads Redeemed Lives (offered with his permission): "Believe it or not, of the 400 men and women with ssa issues who have gone through RL, I can't even think of 10 who permanently entered the LGBT world after RL. I know of three that did, and then returned to the arduous Christian Way. But, then again, RL has a tough screening process, and we only accept people we know will probably make it, which is usually about 90% of our applicants." That's a message of hope, my friend.

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Paul Pastor

June 21, 2013  3:11pm

Julie - Thanks for clarifying your position. It sounds like we agree on a lot. I'm glad that you recognize the nuance here when we talk about redemption, and that your personal ministry experiences back that nuance up. You ask about scriptural basis. You don't need to "find" something in scripture for it to be theologically valid and true for the orthodox church. Scripture sets the bounds for doctrine and practice, and goes a long way in developing them. Systematic theology does the rest. I know that you're a well educated Christian. If your hermeneutic disagrees that's fine, but please understand that that's where I'm coming from. I acknowledge the full power of God to heal and save to the uttermost now, in our personal day to day experience. I rejoice in that. I also acknowledge that that he frequently chooses not to heal in that manner. I rejoice in his patient choice to exert redemption in his timing. Your personal experience and examples are as valid as anyone's. They're as valid as mine, but mine are different. For the young man devastated by Chambers' apology that you heard of, there are others who are saying "so my faith isn't broken because I'm not changing yet?" In all humility, I am saddened and at a loss for your opinion that my perspective is "dispelling" faith and hope for people. I respectfully think (and sincerely hope) that you have that wrong. As I've maintained all along, I welcome your perspective that for some Christians, reparative therapy was or is an important part of their sexual story. But for many Christians that wasn't or isn't the case. You may contend all you like that that's from a lack of hope, faith, or proper technique, but I don't think that it's that simple.

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