Exodus International, ‘Curing’ Gays Since 1976, Closes

The leader of a ministry that has been trying to cure gays since 1976 has announced that he's gay.

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The leader of a ministry that has been trying to cure gays since 1976 has announced that he is shutting the place down. And, incidentally, he’s gay.

Exodus’s press release, “Exodus International to Shut Down.”

Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing(www.exodusinternational.org/apology) to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.

“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 and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Local affiliated ministries, which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.

Alan Chambers took to the Exodus blog with a simple message: “I Am Sorry.”

Our ministry has been public and therefore any acknowledgement of wrong must also be public.  I haven’t always been the leader of Exodus, but I am now and someone must finally own and acknowledge the hurt of others. I do so anxiously, but willingly.

It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church’s treatment of the LGBT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt. 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.

It is also strange to be an outcast from powerful portions of both the gay community and the Christian community.  Because I do not completely agree with the vocal majorities in either group and am forging a new place of peaceful service in and through both, I will likely continue to be an outsider to some degree.

[…]

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. 

And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

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. 

John Aravosis is “quite astounded” at this news, which “is rather huge in my world.” But he’s not satisfied.

Tony Moore can kiss my ass.

These people have been spreading lies for decades, treating people for something that can’t be treated, using false “cures,” giving false hope, and helping to feed the stigma of being gay, and the pain many felt. I got news for you – there is no “good.”  There are no thousands of people “positively affected,” unless you mean all the quack faux-scientists and religious right hate-mongers who have profited quite nicely from the climate of anti-gay hate that Exodus International helped buttress.  Yes, they all did quite well, thank you.  The rest of us, not so much.

Let me tell you about someone who wasn’t “positively affected.”  My cousin was disowned by his parents because he’s gay.  And what did his parents do when they first found out about their son?  They sent him some brochures from their priest, for an ex-gay ministry to “cure” him.  These people gave my cousins’ parents a false and hate-filled hope, they helped his parents hang on to a rationale for disowning their own son.  Where is the good in that, Alan? Tell me, where?

So spare me the excuses about how only “some” people caused harm.  And spare me the half-hearted apology about how a few bad apples overshadowed all of your “good ” work.

The only good that Exodus International ever did was shutting down.

And good riddance.

Joe Jervis is more circumspect:

You can expect celebratory messages from anti-gay groups as Exodus has become one of their most hated enemies ever since Chambers began making conciliatory gestures towards the LBGT community that he so horribly hurt. It remains to be seen what this new “Reduce Fear” group is going to really be about.

I’m more befuddled by the whole thing than anything else. It’s incredibly difficult to shake the fundamental belief and value system in which you’ve been raised, especially if you’re surrounded by people likewise steeped in that system. Indeed, even in his apology letter, Chambers hedges:

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.   

This is a 41-year-old gay man who’s married to and has children with a woman. He’s finally come to accept that being gay doesn’t make him evil and is simply who he is. But, while he seems to understand that being gay isn’t a choice, he apparently thinks that living gay remains abhorrent. He’s no longer going to actively try to change who others are but he’s going to continue to resist his own natural state.

I don’t know what label to apply to that. It’s surely not “evil.”

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    The leader of a ministry that has been trying to cure gays since 1976 has announced that he’s gay.

    No one, and I mean NO ONE, could have predicted this.

    Shocking! Just shocking!!!!!!!

  2. Tony W says:

    Nobody (I’m looking at you WBC) obsesses that much about the behavior of others without an internal motivator. I will stop there.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    He’s no longer going to actively try to change who others are but he’s going to continue to resist his own natural state.

    I don’t know what label to apply to that. It’s surely not “evil.”

    How about ‘deluded’?

  4. JWH says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    He’s no longer going to actively try to change who others are but he’s going to continue to resist his own natural state.

    I don’t know what label to apply to that. It’s surely not “evil.”

    How about ‘deluded’?

    How about “his business?” Maybe he can find some level of happiness and satisfaction with his wife and his offspring. Maybe he cannot. I only hope that he is truthful with both of them. All else is between him, his family, and his god.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JWH:

    How about “his business?”

    After years of his making other peoples sexual preferences “his business” you want to give him a pass? I actually feel sorry for the guy. His religion has deluded him for years. He has faced up to that forthrightly and honestly. It continues to delude him, and his wife and his family. And he is not facing up to that.

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    How about what’s wrong with Tony Moore isn’t that his value system told him that being gay was wrong. It’s that it never said anything contrary about lying, cheating, and manipulating others.

    There’s something fundamentally evil with getting involved in trying to ‘cure’ somebody’s sexuality. Using beliefs about what is good and bad was just a cover story. My guess is that the main people who were in Exodus were all really turned on by the idea of the entire enterprise–it was more pleasure than it was God’s work.

  7. This is a 41-year-old gay man who’s married to and has children with a woman. He’s finally come to accept that being gay doesn’t make him evil and is simply who he is. But, while he seems to understand that being gay isn’t a choice, he apparently thinks that living gay remains abhorrent. He’s no longer going to actively try to change who others are but he’s going to continue to resist his own natural state.

    I don’t know what label to apply to that. It’s surely not “evil.”

    How about “sad”?

  8. michael reynolds says:

    There’s a temptation to want to tell people like this to fwck off and die in a ditch. But this is the course of progress in this country: conservatives have to be dragged kicking and screaming not just to modernity but to simple, human decency.

    Still, I’ll register this as a good thing, and may more such good things come as conservatives not only abandon their bigotry but their contempt for the poor, their insistence on treating women as second-class citizens and their obsession with instruments of murder.

  9. JWH says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Yes. I do want to give him a pass. Hold him accountable for his public deeds and his public statements? Certainly. But it would be extremely self-righteous and hypocritical for me to cast aspersions on how he lives his private life. If I believe that people should generally be left to their own devices in their private lives, then I should accord him the same courtesy.

    If he lives his life as he does, I would consider it his choice. It is his cross to bear, and I would neither add to his burden nor take any of it from his shoulders.

  10. stonetools says:

    I agree with Ozark. As someone who was for a while a fundamentalist Christian, its tough to break away from a belief system and a community that has nurtured you for years. I am happy that he has come so far and I hope he continues on his spiritual journey to a place where he finally accepts himself as God made him(To use language that he would be comfortable with).

  11. Matt Bernius says:

    But, while he seems to understand that being gay isn’t a choice, he apparently thinks that living gay remains abhorrent. He’s no longer going to actively try to change who others are but he’s going to continue to resist his own natural state.

    I don’t know what label to apply to that. It’s surely not “evil.”

    I’d call it “tragic” at best and “hellish” at worst (existing in a constant state of self loathing and feeling that you are constantly disappointing the Divinity you are trying to emulate).

    But to the broader question, it’s all public because he is choosing to make it public. And you can’t talk about it without some judging. The better question to ask yourself is *why* are you judging and *what* are you accomplishing in making that judgement.

  12. Moderate Mom says:

    While I certainly don’t condone the actions of Exodus, or the role Mr. Chambers played in leading the organization, I can sympathize with the struggle he has gone through, because it is personal to me. It took my son a number of years to come to terms with his sexuality. His pain became my pain and I prayed often for him to accept who he is, knowing that his family and his friends, and his God, loved him and accepted him for the wonderful, funny and loving person that he is. He finally did, telling me that he finally was able to acknowledge that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that he is who he is meant to be.

    Now, I just need to find him a nice boy to settle down with. 😉

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    How about “sad”?

    I can go along with that.

  14. Rob in CT says:

    Well that’s a shocker.

  15. mantis says:

    It is sad to see the lengths to which people will delude themselves in service of ancient, ignorant ideologies (you can call them “value systems” if you like, but they are ideologies). They only harm themselves and too often, as in this case, end up doing harm to others in their attempts to deny their own internal conflicts by forcing them onto others. Most of the people who end up in “gay cure” camps are not confused about who they are; they are forced into it by families who cannot cope with reality. They are told by tortured, closeted people that they have a disease, because what else could cause them to have such “evil” urges?

    The evil here is not homosexuality, and it’s not Tony Moore. It’s society’s refusal to shed ourselves of ridiculous notions about humanity written by people who thought the world was flat and seizures were caused by demons. Evil is the harm caused by the persistence of ignorance.

  16. slimslowslider says:

    Has Rod Dreher weighed in yet?

  17. Gromitt Gunn says:

    As someone who was a gay Evangelical teenager, this strikes very close to home. I can understand his personal struggle while at the same time finding the amount of immoral and soul-crushing damage to countless human psyches that his organization has done over the decades unconscionable.

    Without going into the gory details, I endured a (failed) exorcism when I was 14 or 15. Immediately afterwards – as in less than 5 minutes after I told the preacher that it worked just so that it would be over with – I realized that there were only three possibilities:
    – 1) God did not exist, and there was no God around to “change” me.
    – 2) God did exist, and His answer was that I was made in His image with the orientation that He intended for me.
    – 3) God did exist, and His answer was “No.”

    Luckily, I had enough of a sense of self-worth that, even at 14 or 15, I recognized that #3 would mean that it was God that was the monster, not me.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    He may also have heard the Gospel according to Gaga:

    There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are
    She said, ’cause He made you perfect, babe
    So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far
    Listen to me when I say

    I’m beautiful in my way
    ‘Cause God makes no mistakes
    I’m on the right track, baby
    I was born this way

  19. Rob in CT says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    *Applause*

  20. Rob in CT says:

    My other thought (which is perhaps unfair): is “Your move, Marcus.”

  21. Manny Vee says:

    The reason you see so many leaders in ex-gay ministry fall is that they go from seeking the spotlight as a drag queen, etc. to seeking the spotlight as a ministry leader. They seek the fame rather than the relationship with Jesus that will bring about the lasting freedom from SSA’s that I have walked in for over 20 years. I know because I know them all. I’ve know them well and for a very long time. John Paulk, John Smid, Alan Chambers and unfortunately others. They have all been game players who skip the step where you surrender all that you are and all of your desires to the only One who can ever meet all of your needs–Jesus Christ. The one who can give us more than we ever thought or asked. You call him the “face of gay conversion therapy”. That is his problem. First, he is not. Second-that is what he wanted–even more than he wanted healing. There are hundreds of us working out here, not seeking the spotlight, who are seeing men and women experiencing healing beyond their hopes and dreams. Marriages are being restored and entire families reconciled. As far as apologizing to the gay community, they can only speak for themselves–not for me and many others who The reason you see so many leaders in ex-gay ministry fall is that they go from seeking the spotlight as a drag queen, etc. to seeking the spotlight as a ministry leader.They seek the fame rather than the relationship with Jesus that will bring about the lasting reedom from SSA’s that I have walked in for over 20 years. I know because I know them all. John, John Smid, Alan Chambers and unfortunately others. They have all been game players who skip the step where you surrender all that you are and all of your desires to the only One who can ever meet all of your needs–Jesus Christ. The one who can give us more than we ever thought or asked. You call him the “face of gay conversion therapy”. That is his problem. First, he is not. Second-that is what he wanted–even more than he wanted healing. There are hundreds of us working out here, not seeking the spotlight, who are seeing men and women experiencing healing beyond their hopes and dreams. Marriages are being restored and entire families reconciled. As far as apologising to the gay community, they can only speak for themelves–not for me and many others who love and walk with people who are gay and do not judge them. I am sorry they have had bitterness toward gays–but I do not. You may see more leaders fail. But that does not mean that the work and the minstry is not well. It is! Freedom is not found in people–but only in a heart that desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ more than anythinglove and walk with people who are gay and do not judge them. I am sorry they have had bitterness toward gays–but I do not. You may see more leaders fail. But that does not mean that the work and the ministry is not well. It is! Freedom is not found in people–but only in a heart that desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ more than anything