Chambers fails on two fronts. First, his understanding of the Lordship of Christ doesn’t seem to include sexuality. Second, he seems to be accepting that there are adjectives that go in front of “Christian” to mark a man’s identity, i.e., “gay Christian.” I think there were a lot of wrongheaded people in Exodus to begin with: the goal was never turning from gay to girls. Repentance from same sex sexual activity is about turning toward Christ and worshiping him with our sexuality, which means abstinence in singleness and fidelity in male/female marriage.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Even if GW couldn’t spit the aphorism out of his mouth and into the journalist spitoon, it’s still a good adage. I feel like Exodus International, the ministry set up to help convert homosexuals to heterosexuals, fooled me twice. They’re closed now.
A lot has been written over the last week about the closing of Exodus International (for especially good round up visit Christianity Today and AlbertMohler.com). Many will move past this relatively small potatoes story in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Prop. 8 and DOMA. Capable people have already commented on the story, like Chris Yuan and Wes Hill. But I had some reflections I wanted to share.
Exodus has always been a big, BIG, tent. Over its history it encompassed every attempt to turn gays straight from shock therapists, charismatic exorcists, reparative healing, and gospel/grace-centered repentance ministries. My first encounter with Exodus was as a teen. Between porn binges I happened on their website and thought I’d found salvation. Problem was, at the time, the nearest affiliate ministry was far away and I had no car. I was about 16 I think. In college I came under the care (briefly) of Dr. Warren Throckmorton who was, at the time, a nationally known advocate for reparative therapy.
I was first hurt by Exodus in those early encounters. Other than one psychologist who helped me understand my self-worth was in Christ, all my counselors, including then NARTH board member Throckmorton, were so interested in helping and healing my sickness that I came to see myself as “sin adjacent.” I had a problem that I needed to get rid of and there were things I could do to get rid of it. Cognitive behavioral tools + self-worth exercises were supposed to make me feel better, heal my dysfunctional family, and turn me on to girls instead of guys.
It was a big flop. For real. All the self-help nonsense did was help me compartmentalize my problem. I despaired at my lack of success. I couldn’t try hard enough. I was depressed, angry, and diving further than ever into same-sex activity.
Then I came to Harvest USA. Harvest staffer Tim Geiger told me my problem wasn’t sickness, it was sin. If it was sickness, I was screwed because the evidence was mounting: you couldn’t heal homosexuals. The problem was that I loved myself and my desires more than I loved Christ. That sounds harsh, but it was freeing. Harvest focused on gospel-centered, Christ exalting friendship, counseling, teaching, and discipling. It was less about me, and more about Jesus. And finally, I experienced the freedom I had in Christ. Harvest, at the time, was an Exodus affiliate. I can only hope there were more like them out there.
And now, Exodus is closing. As YA Lit author John Green says, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world … but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” I’m glad I was affiliated with Exodus, even if I’m pretty hurt by their switching sides. I’d say that the Exodus team is more in line with the Gay Christian Network, which sees sexual preference as an identity. Former Exodus President Alan Chambers, in his apology, seems to indicate that a person who experiences same sex attraction is identified with it, shouldn’t seek to change it, and can be a Christian while embracing it. Chambers fails on two fronts. First, his understanding of the Lordship of Christ doesn’t seem to include sexuality. Second, he seems to be accepting that there are adjectives that go in front of “Christian” to mark a man’s identity, i.e., “gay Christian.” I think there were a lot of wrongheaded people in Exodus to begin with: the goal was never turning from gay to girls. Repentance from same sex sexual activity is about turning toward Christ and worshiping him with our sexuality, which means abstinence in singleness and fidelity in male/female marriage.
It’s a bittersweet goodbye. I only hope that grace and the gospel draw more and more people to Christ exalting sexual expression.
Allan Edwards is Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and is pastor of Kiski Valley Presbyterian Church. He also works part-time at the RPTS Biblical Counseling Institute as a counselor and assistant instructor. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.
[Editor’s note: To read more on the background of Exodus and its history and it eventual closing, go here.]