June 20, 2013

RIP Exodus International

Exodus Internation logo

Exodus International, the nearly 40-year-old Christian organization that claimed that same-sex attraction could be mitigated through “reparative therapy” is shutting down. The extraordinary announcement came last night at the Exodus Freedom Conference, the 38th such conference that is running from June 19 to June 22.

The demise of the group has the unanimous approval of the board of Exodus and was announced in a press release and in the opening address of the conference by Exodus president Alan Chambers. Chambers has also posted an essay on the Exodus Web site titled “I Am Sorry.”

No doubt, there are many LGBT people and many straight progressives who will have a hard time getting their minds around the announcement from Exodus. What, after nearly four decades, caused such a dramatic corporate turnaround?

Two major themes factored into the turnaround. The first is the realization—a realization that came to many long ago—that turning homosexuals into heterosexuals through reparative therapy (or virtually anything else) does not work. In his opening address, Chambers said,
… 99% of the people I’ve met, myself included, continue to struggle with or have same-sex attractions; that for the majority of people who deal with this issue, those things don’t go away.
The other theme involves the hurt that Exodus has caused over the years. That hurt came both from raising unrealistic hopes for a “cure” for same-sex attraction and from a misguided Christian judgmentalism visited by Exodus on LGBT people. The press release contains this quotation from Chambers, employing an image he incorporated into his opening address as well:
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.
Churches have used fear to intimidate people into “right” behavior. As Exodus shuts down, therefore, a new ministry will be started that seeks to reduce that fear and to and encourage “churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Kimberly Knight, writing about the Exodus International turnaround, identifies grace as its cause. She may be on target. In his mea culpa, Chambers wrote this:
My wife Leslie and my beliefs center around grace, the finished work of Christ on the cross and his offer of eternal relationship to any and all that believe. Our beliefs do not center on “sin” because “sin” isn’t at the center of our faith. Our journey hasn’t been about denying the power of Christ to do anything—obviously he is God and can do anything.
At 10 PM EDT tonight on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Chambers will appear on Our America in a special report on “God & Gays.” Don’t miss it.

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