One of the arguments against homosexuality by many conservative Christians is that homosexuality is an aberration of what is “normal”. As such, they believe that homosexuality can be “cured”, and there are many churches and ministries that run so-called “ex gay” programmes to help gays go straight. These are hugely controversial, flying in the face of medical science, research and a growing pile of anecdotal evidence.
So, it must be hugely notable then that today the head of one of the most high profile ex-gay ministries is not only shutting Exodus International down, but also issuing a very public and strongly worded apology for all the hurt and damage his ministry has done over the years. You can read Alan Chambers’ full press release here, or an extract below.
There are obviously people who have had interesting journeys as their sexuality has developed and grown. Sexuality is not a binary state – it is a spectrum. And different people find themselves in different places on this spectrum. I am sure people can move along this spectrum too. And people experiment as well. The Bible has quite a lot to say about all of this, instructing people not to experiment sexually and giving lots of case studies of what can go wrong when you don’t. And people shouldn’t go “against their nature” either.
The apology is well worth reading – it’s from someone “on the inside”. This is not how the church should approach homosexuality.
I Am Sorry
by Alan Chambers, Exodus International
19 June 2013
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 through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.
Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.
Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt 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 that there were times 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 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. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.
I cannot apologize 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 apologize 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 neighbor as I love myself.
You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.
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.
Source: Exodus International
In the end, the Bible is right: Love wins.