June 20, 2013
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.”
In an interview with The Atlantic, Chambers added
"I'm someone who has risked everything. I don't know many people who risk their livelihood in the way that I've risked it. I have no guarantee we're going to have any income come next week, honestly. We've risked our reputation. We've risked everything for this thing we believe in. Who am I? I am someone who believes so much that I'm willing to put all of those things on the back burner to be in relationship with people, to not talk about things in the way we've talked about them before, to love people in a way that goes far beyond anything we've ever done before. Our desire is for people who have been like us and are like us to do something good rather than fight wars, and to endear people on the other side to come to the table, in the hopes that all of us together can reach a group of people who have been caught in the battle and lost in the war. We're willing to give up everything so that those people aren't wounded anymore."
Is the the beginning to the end of the gay/evangelical culture wars? I think it is, and is in (it seems) a faithful and loving direction.
Whatever your stance, Chambers' posture of humility and commitment to the root truth of the gospel is hard to argue with. I'm interested to see what rises out of the ashes of Exodus.