Alan Chambers of Exodus International

Alan Chambers of Exodus International

After 37 years of what it understood to be a “Christian ministry” which promoted an “ex-gay” cure for homosexuality, Exodus International has announced it is closing. That press release came shortly after Exodus president Alan Chambers issued an apology.

From the Exodus International announcement of closure: (emphasis added)

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. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.

“˜We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change ““ and they want to be heard,’ Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. …

‘Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,’ said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “˜For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.’ …

… (T)he Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “˜This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,’ said Chambers. “˜Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.’

And from the earlier I Am Sorry release by Chambers

To Members of the LGBTQ Community: …

Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International … .

… There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. …

Today, however, I accept these feelings … . The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does. …

Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. …

Please know that I am deeply sorry … for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. …

Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

Think Progress adds this:

In an address at the group’s final annual conference … Chambers … encouraged the attendees to work to change their churches to be more like a loving, accepting “˜father church’ than scolding, judgmental “˜older brother church.’

As dramatic as it is, the change isn’t surprising, and until the newly organized group is working ““ reducefear.org ““ we won’t know just what, to use Chamber’s words, a “father church” approach will look like.

Some background from LGBTQ Nation:

Founded in 1976, Exodus was an umbrella organization which had grown to include over 120 local ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries in 17 other countries.

The demise of Exodus International has been two years in the making.

In 2011, John Smid, the former Executive Director of Exodus’ oldest ministry “˜Love in Action,’ publicly admitted that he is gay, and disavowed the message he preached for years that promised gays they could change.

In January 2012, during an address to a Gay Christian Network conference, Chambers stated that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality … .

… (I)n June 2012, Chambers stated that conversion therapy is potentially harmful to those participating and that it does not work.

Earlier this year, John Paulk, the former chairman of Exodus, formally renounced his past and said he was “˜truly, truly sorry’ for the pain he caused by advocating that gays could change their sexual orientation through prayer and therapy.

From The Advocate:

While there has always been ample skepticism about the “˜ex-gay’ movement, recent developments indicate the movement is becoming more marginal than ever ““ it’s not dead, but it’s certainly in critical condition.

Here are a few other reactions to the announcement.

Truth Wins Out:

While much more work obviously remains to be done to make sure that Exodus is truly serious about never again destroying the lives and families of LGBTQ people in the name of faith, the apology is striking in that there is little to no equivocation.

Joe My God:

You can expect celebratory messages from anti-gay groups as Exodus has become one of their most hated enemies ever since Chambers began making conciliatory gestures towards the LBGT community … .

John Aravosis at America Blog:

This is rather huge in my world. Exodus International, the lead religious right organization claiming that gays can be “˜cured’ of their homosexuality, just closed up shop and issued an apology to the LGBT community.

Aravosis provides excerpts from Chamber’s apology, and some analysis.

“˜The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.’

Really, and what “˜good’ would that be exactly? …

These people have been spreading lies for decades, treating people for something that can’t be treated, using false “˜cures,’ giving false hope, and helping to feed the stigma of being gay, and the pain many felt. I got news for you ““ there is no “˜good.’

Finally, from Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program (who refers to Exodus as a “pseudo-religious organization”:

“˜We are encouraged that Exodus International has made the right decision to close … a welcome first step in honestly addressing the harm the organization and its leaders have caused over the past 37 years. Now we need them to take the next step of leadership and persuade all other religious-based institutions that they got it wrong. This is the right kind of reparative work that is left for them to do.’

That’s the key ““ will the reformed Exodus / Reduce Fear do “reparative work” with those who continue with the harmful myths and methods?

(Alan Chambers via Exodus International)