On Re-Entrances and Exits

exodus-international-EVENT-love-won-outI kind of accidentally on purpose took a two- or three-week sabbatical from blogging before last week’s post about homosexuality. Truth be told, most mornings I just didn’t have it in me to jump onto the computer and type away. So I didn’t. Call it burnout or just plain laziness, but that’s why I disappeared for a while.

With my post last week, I intended to resume a more consistent schedule closer to how I had been posting for most of the first year-plus of this little diary: twice to three times a week. But then my wife and I both got hammered with upper respiratory infections, hence my more recent absence.

But now I’m back! I definitely have some things to follow up on from last week’s post, but for now, as I re-enter the fray, I for one am grateful that one major player is exiting it:

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry.

It looks like Exodus – the most famous of the gay-reparative groups whose deceptive, almost completely unrealized promises of change in sexual orientation led to untold suffering for many young men and women and their parents – is going away, but its leaders are trying to channel its supporters into more productive endeavors, such as “com[ing] alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

I liked this quote from Exodus president Alan Chambers: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. 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.”

The decision follows a lengthy letter of apology from Chambers, who hid his own inability to change his same-sex attraction despite claiming otherwise, and who acknowledged in the letter the trauma, division, wounding and suicides caused by the group’s methods. Chambers doesn’t mention, but I will, that the group continued its methods for 30 years despite increasing evidence from the scientific community that same-sex attraction is not usually changeable, that it is not strictly a product of environment, and that efforts to change it can lead to mental trauma.

For Christian teens in the 1980s and ’90s experiencing same-sex attraction, Exodus falsely promised hope, reinforced their feelings of shame and often alienated them from their own parents. Leaders in the organization claimed to be “cured” of their attractions only to be ruined by scandal when they could no longer repress them. The kids they counseled, however, were not so lucky: They often walked a lonely road of misery, many taking their own lives, others abandoning their faith.

Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. 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 there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. 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. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

Amen. May we all strive to do so.

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