In The Hands Of An Angry Church: Exodus International Repents And Ends Anti-Gay Ministry

After 37 years of trying to “cure” gay people of their homosexuality, the infamous conservative Christian organization Exodus International announced late yesterday that it is shutting down:

“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.”

Chambers continued: “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.”

For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International…

Two words instantly came to my mind when I read the news: Amen, and Hallelujah!!

The announcement of the shut down was preceded by a press release earlier in the day from Exodus International‘s president Alan Chambers apologizing to the gay community “for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole”:

“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” said Chambers. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.

Chambers also said:

“I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced.  I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.

“I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, 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, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry 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.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.

“You have never been my enemy.  I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show I am serious in both my regret and offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.”

This is what is known as repentance. Recognizing one’s destructive behavior, owning one’s accountability, and then turning around to walk in a healthier and more creative direction. I spent some time last night, then some time this morning, considering the letters from the organization. I accept their repentance with full and unhesitating grace, and as a gay man and emergent faith Christian I wholeheartedly accept their invitation of friendship in the desire to create peace and common good.

I also applaud the organization for illuminating the poison of Christian Conservatism that has polluted our culture and has resulted in destroying faith, destroying families, and in far too many cases destroying lives. And its offspring, today’s younger generation of Christian Conservatives, is even more pernicious, as it puts on a great appearance of being tolerant towards LGBT people, but in reality still embraces the sick maxim of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Their greatest talent, put simply, is that they are better liars and hypocrites than their previous generation, more concerned with marketing their own image than authentically loving all who are made equally in God’s image. They are nothing more than lipstick on the pig.

In their letter announcing their shut down, Exodus International alluded to the parable of the Prodigal Son, describing itself as the older brother who arrogantly tried to impose his will and his judgments upon his wayward brother who was equally loved by their father as he was. And as I rejoice in the organization’s repentance today, as well as in the repentance of its president, I am reminded of the words Jesus said just before he shared the parable of the Prodigal Son:

“There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10-31; NIV)

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