Exodus International ‘ex-gay’ ministry closing

By Savi Hensman
June 21, 2013

Exodus International, which for decades claimed to be able to change people’s sexual orientation, has apologised and is closing.

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

Other ‘ex-gay’ ministries have shut down in the past, as leaders admitted that their methods were ineffective and often harmful. Exodus’ size and influence make its radical change of heart especially important, including for the wider church. The directors plan to start a new ministry aiming to reduce fear and help churches to become “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

“I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change,” declared Chambers, who today is open about the fact that he is still attracted to men himself, despite being married. “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.”

He apologised that he “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,” Chambers continued. “I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.”

“I cannot apologise for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologise for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbour as I love myself,” he said.

In future “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.”

Many churches claim they love LGBT people and oppose homophobia, whether or not they are ready fully to celebrate committed same-sex partnerships. If they are sincere, they too should apologise for past injustices and challenge discrimination in society and dangerous practices like ‘ex-gay’ therapies.

They should acknowledge the depth of the relationships between so many same-sex couples and the quality of parenting that many offer. And they should stop campaigning to block legal equality and enter into genuine dialogue with those who want churches to be more inclusive.

Injustice by institutional churches and Christian organisations towards LGBT people and women has put many people off the church, and sometimes Christ. But as the church teaches, and as various former ‘ex-gay’ leaders have shown, it is possible to change.

-------------

(c) Savitri Hensman is a regular Christian commentator on politics, social justice, welfare and religion. She was written extensively on the theological and religious issues involved in debates about sexuality and marriage equality. She works in the care and equalities sector and is an Ekklesia associate.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.