I am weary these days. I know the truth of my story about walking away from homosexuality. I celebrate the freedom I have found in Jesus Christ. Yet, I am weary, because so many are still being deceived by the haunting echoes of Alan Chamber’s opening speech from the 38th Annual Exodus Conference. As a result of those words I find myself having to defend my beliefs and my testimony to a wider demographic of people than ever before. Never in a million years would I have thought I would find myself head to head debating Christians or at least people who claim to be “Christians”, about the acceptance homosexuality in the church.
I was there that fateful night. I can only say that I appreciate the distance, time has given me. Exodus, like the Titanic, was once grand, but seemingly overnight it’s stability was compromised and it sank out from under us. Those of us in the proverbial lifeboats or worse yet in the water were either left to succumb to the elements or be set adrift as Chambers and colleagues moved on to start a new ministry. Which is perplexing, because Chambers himself said “we believe that Exodus must go out of business so the church can do its job. And this will leave a void, one that I hope will not be filled by anything else but the church.” He stated that the new ministry would help the church reach a new generation.
So let me get this straight. It was better to close a well-established organization that has stepped alongside churches for the last 37 years so that the church can do its job. And the void should not be filled by anything, but the church, unless it’s a new ministry run by the old Executive Exodus Staff that plans to step alongside the church to help the church minister to people.
Wasn’t that what Exodus was doing?
The questions I am facing sent me to the facebook page of Chamber’s new ministry. Apparently, the only ministry capable of filling the void left by Exodus, a void that should “not be filled by anything else but the church,” but is being filled by a ministry. Still working on that one. Anyway. In one of the postings I saw this message from Alan. “I just watched my opening message from the 2013 Exodus Conference… So glad I did. It encouraged me greatly. Inspired me…If you haven’t watched it, please do. If you have, watch it again… I believe it is the most important message I have ever given and that it was truly God-inspired…”
I accepted the invite and listened to his message. Once again, it left me as frustrated and angry the second time around as it did the first. One of his statements in particular has been flitting about like Miley Cyrus on MTV, stirring up trouble and breeding confusion. Not everyone was as inspired and encouraged as Alan. In fact, his apparent shift in beliefs sent people into a downward spiral of confusion and doubt. I myself wondered if it would be safe to share how Jesus Christ helped me leave my homosexual life behind. Alan tried to reassure the attendees that this new direction of Exodus “doesn’t mean you don’t tell your true story.” He even says things like, “I am one of you.” and “I stand among you as one of you.” Yet as the conference wore on, his words fell like curt platitudes in an effort to keep everyone on board. The truth was this: Exodus was no longer and Alan’s media interviews seemed of more importance to him than the conference proceedings or the attendees. From that point on many of the “true stories” coming off the stage at Exodus stood only to breed more confusion in light of Alan’s reassurance.
The first testimony we heard was from two parents who spoke from an emotionally imbalanced place rather than a representation of the true story about sin and how the enemy not an organization is the only thing that can steal away a person’s life. My gut check about their story was confirmed weeks later. I saw that “The Huffington Post Gay Voices Column” had given the parents story top billing. Hmmmm. Exodus and the Huffington Post are in agreement with one another. This was more than a cause for alarm.
Alan often responds to his critics with the question, “Why didn’t you call me to talk about this first?” I wonder, “Why didn’t you consult any of us, before you threw our life’s work and ministry into 5 lanes of oncoming traffic?” To be sure I have said nothing heard behind closed doors and that has not been seen in the mainstream media. Everything I am referring to or sharing today are either direct quotes from Alan or can be found on the Internet, the Lisa Ling Show or the various, newspaper interviews that Alan has been quoted in.
Finally, the statement causing such a ruckus; “during his address to a Gay Christian Network conference, (Alan) stated that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality and apologized for the previous Exodus slogan “Change Is Possible”. During his address at the 2013 Exodus Conference Alan voiced a similar statement that “99% of the people that I’ve met, myself included, continue to struggle with or have SSA. That for the majority of people who deal with this issue, those things don’t go away.”
99.9%? I would love to see those research documents. But…there aren’t any. These two statements are based on one man’s, excuse me, one very influential man’s opinion on the matter. I take issue with these statements, because they are extremely misleading and self-serving. How many of us have made similar statements off the top of our head and embellished the numbers to sway public opinion to our side. By no means am I calling Alan a liar, but I believe his numbers are more for emphasis than they are true to life empirical data. I take offense to this statement, because it is not entirely true. A statement such as this one can’t simply be thrown out without giving a fair amount of explanation. Alan is right in that this may be a struggle that some struggle with the rest of their lives. Agreed. The writer Paul had a thorn in his flesh that God chose not to remove. This did not give Paul creative license to build a life in response to that thorn, any more than we are supposed to build a life around our homosexual desires because God didn’t take them away when we prayed. If Alan would have said 70% or even 80%, he would have at least allowed room for hope for those who were still fighting. Yet the very suggestion that 99.9% caused people to simply give up when they heard the message of Exodus was now apparently that “Change wasn’t Possible”.
The biggest part I take offense to in Alan’s statement is this: “99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality.” Matt, Matthew, Alan M., Mike, John, Bob, Min, Josh, Ed, Marcus, Mike, Stoney, Kenny, Jason, Christine, Sy, Bill, Russ, etc.. That is a part of my personal list of people I know have experienced a considerable amount of change to their sexuality and sexual desires. Alan makes the statement that Exodus has hurt people. Well I would like to make the statement that Exodus has helped people. A whole frickin’ lot of people. The 99.9% statement is a literary prison Alan erected for young men and women who at one point were questioning homosexuality and then abruptly had the wind knocked out of their sails.
Each of us is responsible for the testimony we share with the world. If I were to stand up and say that I don’t ever experience any temptation in the way of same sex attractions, I’d personally give you permission to make me watch an entire season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But if I stood up and said that I have not experienced a marked change in the area of my sexuality I wouldn’t be representing the truth. As previously mentioned in one of my blogs, my attractions have changed from being sexually driven to being more mood driven. I don’t lust day in and day out like I used to over nude pictures of the male physique or porn. Over the last 15 years Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit have shown me how homosexual desires developed in my life and have brought healing and restoration to the broken parts of my heart. That healing in turn has caused my attractions and sexuality to fall more in line with God’s will for my life. I have not arrived, but I am not where I once was.
All these people misrepresenting the gospel aren’t offering hope, they are offering a watered down gospel devoid of any power to change our hearts and lives and lead us away from our patterns of sin. The bible is clear in 1 Corinthians 6 that there are those who have walked away from homosexuality and sexual brokenness. Temptation does not mean that I am still a gay man. People get their undies in a bunch when I use labels to describe the various phases of my life. As far as I am concerned they can walk around with an eternal wedgie. I don’t’ live my life for them. The truth of the matter is that I consider myself a straight man who is occasionally tempted by the sexual sin of my past. If you don’t get that I am sorry, but I will never again call myself a gay man and saying that I am ex-gay locks me into a state of limbo. One practice that helps me with temptation is found in Galatians 5:16 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” I am headed to a place where I can one day be married to a woman, have kids and live out the plan that God ordains for all men and women. Now if I said, I am headed towards being a straight man, even though, that is what that statement basically means, there are few who would have me flogged for using a label.
1 John 3:3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Alan says Exodus has been an organization “focused on behavior, sin management and short on grace.” Short on grace is bad for any ministry, but if behavior is not curbed and sin is not managed then the natural and logical direction according to the bible is death. Death or sin management? That my friends, is a no brainer. My relationship with Jesus Christ showed me that I was loved and in need of behavioral change and sin management and the Holy Spirit led me along that path. Exodus for me was simply an extension of that Godly directive. As leaders we are called to lead people to Jesus and help those who ask for guidance to augment and change detrimental behavior.
At one point Alan says, “They said, I’ve given people a license to sin, as if I have that power.” After this statement, a few people can be heard laughing. I wasn’t one of them. The eyes and ears of the world were focused on Alan Chambers that night and had been for many years. Like it or not, His position of influence and authority and every word He says has the potential to impact lives throughout the world. In yet another contradictory statement He says “We are not abandoning you, we wouldn’t do that.” Then he says “My prayer is that you’ll find some safe people or that you already have some safe people or a ministry that you’re a part of or a church…”. Did he really just say that? Many of the people sitting there in that audience had already found that place. It WAS called Exodus International.
I am a little leery when I hear people say the Holy Spirit is leading them, yet their actions are about as biblical as a group of Chippendale Dancers on a Women of Faith Cruise. Alan spoke of how he and his board were led of the Lord to close Exodus down. One of the reasons it seemed was that there were certain member ministries that had hurt people. When the early church experienced trouble with an immoral brother causing harm to the body, the bible called them to counsel him and if need be, expel him from the body, not shut the church down.
In reference to the last 18 months at Exodus, the ministry had been embroiled in a scandal, Alan stated, “I’m not smart enough to create a scandal like that. And therefore I am convinced that the scandal is of God’s making.“ I disagree. It’s a similar statement some made of Jesus, saying He casts out demons with the power of the devil. I believe He follows His own statement that says a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is but one author of scandal in the word and his name ain’t God. Yet, when you align the above statements up next to Alan’s overriding goal for Exodus since the day he took over, you see an interesting coincidence. He proudly says that his view of success as the Exodus president was seeing Exodus close its doors, because the church is doing its job. I think in the beginning his goal was admirable and it was to use Exodus to teach the church and then ceremoniously close the doors. At some point, though, the true nature of that statement took on a more destructive nature as the enemy came against Exodus. The goal that Alan stated at his interview was no longer a dual purposed mission, but an emphatic, necessary goal regardless of the consequences.
In hindsight I wonder if any organization should hire someone who vows to shut down the company during the interview. I understand the statement that Alan so proudly touts, but in the end it seems if your overriding goal is to shut an operation down, every goal, every focus, every other aspect of your business will result in a self defeating pathway leading ultimately to corporate demise.
In regards to the closing of Exodus, Chambers says, “It’s the fulfillment of of what I was hired to do.” Yet it wasn’t. He even says so himself. “Exodus must go out of business, not necessarily because the church is doing its job, but we believe God is calling us to go out of business so the church can do its job.” By his own definitions and admissions, Alan’s mission as the President of Exodus was unsuccessful, because Exodus is closed and the church still falls short in the area of ministering to the gay community. That is why so many of us who were abandoned when Exodus closed, continue to run ministries that will do the work of ministering to the gay community.
I obviously don’t write this blog for popularity. I am by no means trying to make anyone decide between Team Alan or Team Matthew. I honestly think it’s extremely necessary though that when evil rears its ugly head that we have to speak up for the truth. Alan may be resting up nicely as the head of a new, unnecessary as it may be, organization, but he left a thousand loose ends and wounded hearts in the wake of his perceived successful reign. As often as that speech is referenced, I will share my “True Story” of what being there felt like. It was like waking up to a battlefield of dead bodies from a war we didn’t know was being fought. For some that was their first taste of what Exodus. For others it was witnessing the death of an old friend. Wherever you fit into this picture my friends, please remember that Alan Chambers is just a man as I am just a man. Opinion on either side does not compare the word of God that was the catalyst for powerful change in my life. Change is indeed possible. Don’t build a foundation for your eternity on the opinions of men. Seek out your own answers in prayer, in the bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit.