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What Does Ex-Gay Consolidation Mean?

Timothy Kincaid

August 12th, 2009

Exodus International is growing. Or, to be exact, they are going to be taking over functions previously administered by other organizations.

The largest and best know of these is the Love Won Out conferences previously run by Focus on the Family. Blaming a lack of finances, Focus is reassigning the conferences to Exodus. This is a move that is logical and will probably help both organization focus on their own mission.

But there was another consolidation that occured last month that is even more interesting. on July 17, Focus’ news site CitizenLink announced:

One by One, an outreach equipping the Presbyterian and Reformed faith communities to compassionately and effectively address biblical sexuality and Transforming Congregations, a likeminded ministry to The United Methodist Church, announced plans to merge with Exodus International. Exodus is the world’s largest Christian outreach to those dealing with same-sex attraction.

Together, the ministries will form a new division under the leadership of Exodus that will equip church leaders worldwide to break the polarizing debate over homosexuality through an approach that is both biblically orthodox and truly compassionate.

One by One came out of a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) conference in 1994. They are a ministry within the Presbyterian and Reformed faith communities and, as such, have traditions and religious perspectives that are a bit outside the fundamentalist/charasmatic/megachurch affiliations that seem to dominate Exodus’ spiritual sphere. One by One’s website expresses an intention to establish a church network, but there does not seem to be one in place. They seem, to my eyes at least, to be less harsh and less political than either Exodus or Transforming Congregations.

Transforming Congregations was founded in 1988 to address the issue of homosexuality within the United Methodist Church. At one time it had at least 75 congregations that affiliated with the organization. However, now Transforming Congregations is a national education and lobby group within the church and they have for some while left individual ministry to Exodus.

Over the years, we have found that to be impractical. A change in pastors or lay leadership often resulted in an “about face” on the issues of human sexuality. Because most of these churches did not request removal, it became virtually impossible to keep our list accurately updated. So now we refer folk to the Exodus International Church Network.

Neither organization appears to be focused primarily on individual one-on-one ministry or even on addressing the specific needs of same-sex attracted congregants. Rather, they seem to be organizations within their denominations that seek to support and encourage those who have an anti-gay theology and to encourage others who may not yet have addressed the issue of the roll of gay men and women within the body of faith.

One by One’s mission statement is:

OneByOne’s mission is to educate and equip the church to minister the transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ to those in conflict with their sexuality. OneByOne’s goal is therefore two-fold: (1) to serve as a resource for educational material; and (2) to help create and/or support local ministries to those struggling with sexual brokenness, including but not limited to homosexuality. OneByOne representatives are available to provide seminars and workshops for church leaders and/or members who want to learn how to minister Christ’s compassion without compromising Christ’s standards.

And that of Transforming Ministries is:

Our Purpose: Equipping the Church to model and minister sanctified sexuality through Biblical instruction … Personal and Public Witness … Compassionate Outreach

So it seems clear that Exodus is not merging with external collections of congregations to increase their base size. Nor are they establishing new relationships; these two organizations – along with Focus’ Love Won Out – already work closely with Exodus.

What they are getting, is two mainline denomination affiliated groups that are, as best I can tell, dropping the denomination affiliation and becoming a “project” of Exodus, an outreach to mainline churches under the Exodus label. They are picking up two voices for anti-gay theology from a mainline perspective.

Why?

I can, of course, only speculate. But here’s what I think is happening:

Mainline churches are adopting a welcoming and affirming approach to gay Christians at an astonishing rate. While neither the PC(USA) or the UMC are as fully inclusive as, say, the United Church of Christ or the Episcopal Church, they are steadily marching in that direction. “Compassionate” condemnation, such as that coming from such Presbyterians as Dr. Robert Gagnon or Methodists like Karen Booth is increasingly seen by their fellow worshipers as bigotry and outside of the message of Christ.

If I had to guess, I’d suppose that Exodus is recognizing that anti-gay activism is losing the home front. Perhaps they are wanting to let up on some of the anti-gay political activism and bolster their forces in the pews. And that may be reflected also in Exodus pulling a bit away from the highly political Focus on the Family.

So it may well be that these groups are experiencing fatigue and losing heart. Perhaps they think it best to retreat and consolidate resources so as to present one face of anti-gay protestant Christian response to same-sex attracted persons.

But that comes at a cost. Those who fight from without are never as strong as those who fight from within. I very much doubt that Exodus can be as effective a lobbyist on church policy in either the PC(USA) or the UMC as were One by One or Transforming Ministries. And neither organization was, frankly, doing that great of a job to begin with.

We’ll have to wait and see what eventually happens as a result of this transition.

Comments

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Bose
August 12th, 2009 | LINK

When I was active in the Episcopal church, on the plains of the midwest in the 70s thru 90s, the change-making promoters of diversity and lgbt acceptance were ordinary folks. In addition to affirming lesbian and gay folks, they were foot-soldiers on other issues, serving on committees, bringing a dish to each potluck, adding their names on volunteer sign-up sheets even when it wasn’t convenient. Most importantly, they were sprinkled through the hierarchy and geography of their fellow Episcopalians.

In that context, a new pastor (or rector, to be precise) might spark a tactical adjustment, not a strategic realignment.

The idea that Methodist and Presbyterian anti-gay leaders have disbanded their organizations and handed the reins over to outsiders at Exodus makes no sense to me.

DavidMichael
August 12th, 2009 | LINK

I think the main problem any straight based homophobic church will have, is realizing that homosexuals are not “broken”. Their viewing of homosexuals as “broken” is their problem.
That is a hard pill for any church to swallow. But then I haven’t heard. Do they swallow?
Discuss!

Lynn David
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

Consolidation usually means greater power. But I think here it means that their power is waning and they must consolidate to preserve what they have.

William
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

Those bloody words “compassion” and “compassionate” again. And then they try to reinforce their doublespeak by talking of “true compassion” and being “truly compassionate”. It makes me sick.

Duncan
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

We probably make them equally sick when we say we care for marriage, or that some of us are Christians. Have some empathy with them.

Mattaz
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

I concur with Lynn David. This consolidation is actually a contraction and as such contraction happens the poison will become more ludicrous and vile. See what is happening with the remains of the GOP as an example. It may be a blessing that the more poisonous daitribes from these programs will turn more against them.

William
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

“Have some empathy with them.” – Duncan

O.K., I’ll try … Sorry, no, can’t do it.

Duncan
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

I should clarify that I use empathy as distinct from sympathy (approving of what they think) or compassion (liking them as persons). I mean being able to understand their way of thinking, and reproducing it in a thought experiment. It is useful in debates – and elusive.

Jarred
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

Duncan: There’s a huge difference, however. One group makes claims that can be backed up by evidence. The other, not so much.

A gay Christian can conceivably point to the Nicene Crede or the Apostles’ Creed and affirm that they agree with the beliefs expressed therein. A gay Christian can also point to Romans 10:9 and honestly say that they have met both of the requirements for “salvation” that is listed there. Anyone who still argues that point is trying to make an extremely specialized definition for the word “Christian.”

Similarly, a gay person who says they care about marriage can demonstrate this by how they handle their romantic relationships with fidelity, honesty, and many other virtues. Anyone who wishes to doubt the claims based on such evidence is again using a specialized meaning of what it means to care about marriage and others should be suspiscious of that specialized meaning.

What evidence can groups like the above really give to support their claims for compassion? All they offer is their “support” if gay people choose the path that such groups say we should take? That’s conditional support, which is a very different thing from compassion.

And many of these groups also like to spread stereotypes and lies about gay people and so-called “gay activists.” That’s the antithesis of compassion.

The comparison you’re making is like comparing apples and bicycles. They’re not even both fruit.

William
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

All right, Duncan, fair enough; I see your point. But I can’t imagine myself as heterosexual (never mind as heterosexual and anti-gay), because I’ve never been heterosexual. I’ve always known that most other people are, of course, and have always accepted that without any trouble; as a child I always expected to be heterosexual myself (not that I knew that word then); until I was about 13 I wasn’t even aware that any other possibility even existed; and it was another couple of years before I seriously considered that the possibility of being gay might apply to me. So putting myself absolutely into their shoes isn’t really a psychological possibility.

What I can do, however, is to imagine that as a gay man I want to do the same or equivalent things to heterosexual people as they – or rather some of them – want to do to us.

I try to persuade them that their natural sexuality is “wrong” or “bad” or “sick”, and I try to drive a wedge between them and their families by telling them that they should blame their parents for it.

I want to stop them from forming meaningful sexual relationships, and I fight tooth and nail to stop them from having any relationships that they do form from being given any kind of social or legal recognition.

I want them to get their heterosexuality “cured”, and when that fails, as it invariably does, I tell them that God demands that they lead lives of perpetual sexual abstinence, and that if they do ever meet anyone who could potentially be their heterosexual lover they must turn and make a run for it.

If they obstinately refuse all offers of a “cure” or “treatment” for their heterosexuality and insist on living their lives as they see fit, then I want them to be discriminated against in various ways. For example, I want to prevent them from earning a living, or at least from following their chosen trade or profession. I might want to deprive them of their medical insurance.

If students show signs of emerging heterosexuality, or are suspected for whatever reason of being heterosexual, I’ll fight to the last ditch to scotch any efforts to prevent them from being bullied.

And so on and so forth. I call it “true compassion”.

It makes me feel mean, small-minded, spiteful and cruel. It makes me sick.

Ephilei
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

I can’t see these moves as wise strategy. I think Timothy’s wrong that “Exodus is recognizing that anti-gay activism is losing the home front” only because they’re too naive and optimistic for that. It will take something like Wheaton College turning pro-gay and kicks out their Freedom Conference.

Don’t assume rationality. In church politics, sympathy can change anything. I can image Exodus taking them out of pity. Or maybe Exodus just liked the idea of more influence. It’s not clear to me that these orgs DID ANYTHING other than write mission statements.

“Because most of these churches did not request removal, it became virtually impossible to keep our list accurately updated.”

If you can’t keep your membership accurate, that means you’re not talking to your members. And if their mission is equipping churches, they’re cleary not doing it.

Timothy Kincaid
August 13th, 2009 | LINK

I saw Fiddler on the Roof this past weekend. Sadly, Topol was sick; but the understudy was wonderful.

In addition to the many parallels to the battle over marriage today, there was also a very comparable illustration of “compassion”.

The constable likes Tevye. He has compassion for him. He doesn’t really want to see Tevye hurt too much.

But he still roughs up Tevye’s family and drives him out of his home. He had to. There were orders, you see.

This is very much like the “compassion” and “love” that anti-gays have. They don’t really exactly want to hurt us – or not as individuals. But they will continue to seek to harm our lives, deny our freedoms, and destroy our spirits. They have to. There are biblical commandments, you see.

cd
August 15th, 2009 | LINK

I agree with Lynn David and Tim. Consolidation increases their power, but needing to put aside their differences and pooling resources is rarely associated with more donors, supporters, or real clout.

I expect the Exodus sorts to ail along for about another ten years. As all they stand for crumbles away.

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