Exodus’s “Dialogue” Turns Ugly

Alan Chambers meets heartfelt sentiment with snark and sarcasm.

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2007

Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke, two of the organizers of the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference repeatedly invited several Exodus leaders to use the opportunity for their all being in town at the same time to begin a dialogue between ex-gay ministries and the survivors of those ministries. Despite tremendous pressure, a very few Exodus-affiliated ministry leaders were brave enough to engage in that private and confidential dialog.

I’m not privy to those conversations. But I’m pretty sure no minds were changed and no arguments were won. But I’m also happy to see that there are those who dedicate themselves to ministering God’s Word, and who trust in Him while reaching out to those with whom they disagree. I personally saw a few people wearing Exodus conference wristbands at the Survivor’s conference. They were respectful and respected.

But as that was going on, Exodus president Alan Chambers turned up the volume with an unusually snarky and sarcastic response to the apology issued by former Exodus-affiliated leaders:

In the early 1990’s I was a participant in an Exodus Member Ministry and was negatively affected by Darlene Bogle’s decision to go back into homosexuality. To have a leader who had written a book, led a ministry and spoken at conferences make such a decision was challenging for me in those early days. I was disappointed and mad. But, I also understood as an adult that we all make mistakes and that just because Darlene went back didn’t mean that I couldn’t make it. I appreciate the apology she made, but I don’t think she was apologizing to people like me.

Chambers’s statement goes on like this. He thinks Michael Bussee, one of the original co-founders of Exodus should “move on” and (apparently) just go away.

This is a very surprising response to be coming from Alan, but he has been under some pressure lately. He took a lot of flack for his brave stance in a recent LA Times article. When Chambers delivered his opening remarks to the Exodus conference, he promised that he wasn’t going to back down from that position.

And on top of that flack, maybe the Ex-Gay survivor’s conference was just too much for him. Alan is more accustomed to dealing with protesters who, frankly, know very little about the ex-gay movement. But this time Exodus was met not with protesters but with ordinary people who know very well what the ex-gay movement has meant in their own lives. This clearly put the Exodus leadership in a situation they hadn’t seen before, and they handled it poorly.

Exodus vice-president Randy Thomas is quoted as saying, “We are always in ongoing communication with people who disagree with us, people with similar testimonies… We definitely will be in communication with them.” But the response so far has been to treat this “communication” as yet another battle in the culture war.

There may be many reasons for Alan to lash out the way he did, but there really aren’t any excuses. When one person apologizes to another, a third person doesn’t act like a jerk in reaction. Alan met heartfelt sentiment with snark and sarcasm. This behavior is beneath him. I find this response to be particularly disappointing because I know that Alan is a much better man than this. I’m sure this won’t be the last chance for dialogue, and maybe next time Alan will be more free to respond according to his better nature.

Update: Darlene Bogle Responds

PW

July 1st, 2007

I was in ex-gay therapy group for a few years and I knew guys who abandoned the journey for various reasons. But I don’t recall thinking that those guys owed me an apology for making such choices; so I’m not relating to Mr. Chambers attitude as revealed in his statement.

AM

July 1st, 2007

I, too, am curious about the “take” on this.

Did Alan also feel betrayed by John Paulk and his Mr. P.’s excursion (the one he was caught at) as *he* (John) had also “written a book, spoken at conferences, been a ministry leader (actually a gender specialist)”?

Or did the “spin” on it make the boo-boo go away (sorry for the sarcasm) as John was just going back to get “unmet needs met” (in a gay bar not among straight men in his church!) and Darlene has the courage to say that she *is* gay oriented which makes one, Alan Chambers, angry, etc…?

What is one person’s gay relations (or not) is truly in the eye of the beholder according to Exodus.

Joe Brummer

July 1st, 2007

Perhaps Alan responded in anger or frustation. That doesn’t make him a jerk, it makes him human. Perhaps, Alan was tired and cranky when he wrote this repsonse, that also doesn’t make him a jerk, it also makes him human.

I would love Alan to respond to the apology when he is calm, collected and rational. I bet his response will be his better side. Either way, I still don’t think he is a jerk. He is human.

Scott

July 1st, 2007

Joe, I think you’re great and I’ve read your blog for a while now.

However, how much benefit of the doubt are you going to give to Alan?

He’s been caught in lie after lie after lie. It’s obvious that his job is only a front for exposure so he can sell books and get honorariums to speak.

Why do you assume the best of this person when it’s obvious he’s working the Christian speaking circuit (and you)?

gordo

July 1st, 2007

This is just more of Alan’s Big Bag of BS.

Hate crimes? He was a victim.
Apologies? He’s owed one.
Civil Rights? He’s been discriminated against?

Oh, please.

Joe Brummer

July 1st, 2007

Scott,
How much will I give him the benefit of the doubt? Until I have no more left to give.

He is human. At one point in time, the same people we are praising for apologies for what they have done, where Alan. We have no idea what the future will bring and we must support each other no matter what. It is just my belief.

Alan is blind to the harm. He is scared of it, but I have never seen any ex-gay so willing to at best, try. He does try. Will he be perfect, no and neither we will.

I do not object to Jim’s take on the apology, but I do take exception to Jim calling Alan a Jerk. I see Jim may have said it out of haste, just like Alan’s post may also come out of haster. It shows none of us are perfect. BUt calling Alan names like Jerk isn’t that helpful, not do I think it is Jim’s best.

Lynn David

July 2nd, 2007

If Alan posted out of anger and frustration which led to him being tired and cranky, does that mean the Exodus Freedom Conference came off badly?

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2007

No, I didn’t act in haste. And if you read what I wrote, I didn’t call Alan a jerk. Well, not directly, anyway. But if I got too close to doing that, I won’t quibble.

But I think it’s appropriate to compare his actions to those whose response might be characterized as a jerk’s response. That’s what I was getting to. It was the first thing that came to my mind, and on two day’s reflection it still seems to be the best way to describe his actions. I could have described his behavior as “childish” instead, which was my second thought (and I did end up saying it was childish here.) But in this post I went with my first. It may not be my best, but I stand by that characterization of his behavior. He may not be a jerk, but he certainly behaved like one. And I’ll repeat: Alan is a better man than this.

As far as the Exodus conference going badly, that doesn’t seem to be the case — at least not according to my personal observations. I don’t see how they can see it as anything but a rousing success. But I do think that perhaps Alan may not be accustomed to having an informed presence to speak to other experiences from the same movement that Alan leads.

Darlene

July 4th, 2007

I’m always amazed at how the story gets told through the years. If my brothers and sisters from Exodus were concerned about me “going back” from my faith commitment and held discussions on that topic…Where was their Biblical response to come after me to restore me? Amazing. I know folks were confused that I made a change in my being comfortable with a same sex relationship, but my faith was as strong and still is, in the belief that Jesus is leading me each step of the Way. I was surprised at Alan’s response to our apology, but if he feels he needs to be caustic to make a point, then that is for him to live with. I have long ago forgiven those who do not walk in love toward me, or the hundreds of men and women who have come to celebrate their sexuality and their spirituality. Our discussions will continue in Heaven someday. Peace

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