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Exodus Sends Letter To Ugandan President

Jim Burroway

November 16th, 2009

Exodus has announced that they have sent a letter to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni concerning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament. The letter, which is signed by Exodus President Alan Chambers, vice president Randy Thomas, “former homosexual” and AIDS survivor Christopher Yuan, and Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, the letter begins by making a distinction between child sexual abuse and consensual relationships between consenting adults. It then continues:

While we do not believe that homosexual behavior is what God intended for individuals, we believe that deprivation of life and liberty is not an appropriate or helpful response to this issue. Furthermore, the Christian church must be a safe, compassionate place for gay-identified people as well as those who are confused about and conflicted by their sexuality. If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue. The Christian church cannot and should not condone homosexual living or gay-identified clergy within its leadership, but it must be permitted to extend the love and compassion of Christ to all. We believe that this legislation would make this mission a difficult if not impossible task to carry out.

Written as it is by an organization which is does not affirm the dignity and worth of LGBT people to live their lives responsibly in freedom and self-determination, there is certainly much in this letter that merits criticism. Furthermore, the letter makes no recommendations except to “consider the influence this law will have” on the work of those who believe that the only valid option for LGBT people is to self-deny their own existence. The “influence” this law will have on LGBT people themselves, well that’s apparently inconsequential and not worthy of discussion.

Content-wise, there is almost nothing I can agree with. But then, this letter wasn’t written by an LGBT advocacy group, nor was it written on behalf or in defense of LGBT people. It was written by an organization who wants to make gay people straight – an already improbable task from a practical standpoint, soon to be made impossible by the legal impediments this law would impose. From that viewpoint, this letter makes their case well.

Besides, the contents of this letter shouldn’t allow us to refrain from both acknowledging its importance and welcoming its tardy arrival. For more than eight months after Exodus board member Don Schmierer participated in a conference in Kampala which fanned the flames of hatred that brings us to where we are today, Exodus remained officially silent. This letter breaks that long and exasperating silence. The damage done by eight months of silence won’t be fixed by a single letter, but it’s a start in the right direction. And as first steps go, this is a very good first step.

But to really be meaningful, this letter needs to be followed up with more actions and statements. I have a suggestion: The Observer, The Independent and The Monitor, all independent Ugandan newspapers, have printed letters and op-ed columns criticizing the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act. I’m sure they’d be interested in the opinions of an American evangelical leader who presents himself as an expert in homosexuality and wants to approach the subject “with grace and truth.”

Will Exodus follow up with more action? Given the stonewalling we’ve seen to date, I’m not willing to place any bets. It seems to me as though they are looking for ways to do as little as possible, but just enough to inoculate themselves from criticism. This letter, by itself, is not an inoculation. Many more boosters will be needed. Eight months of silence is too long a trend to reverse in one shot. Besides, it’s not about criticism from us and other LGBT advocates that should be the issue. It’s the lives at stake in Uganda, lives made much more precarious following a certain conference last March.

The complete letter is reproduced below.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

November 16, 2009

President & Mrs. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
c/o Principal Private Secretary, Amelia Kyambadde
State House Nakasero
P.O. Box 24594
Kampala, Uganda

Dear President & Mrs. Museveni,

As evangelical Christian leaders dedicated to advancing the truths of the Bible worldwide, we commend your work to promote ethics in Uganda. In addition, your efforts to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic have been appropriately praised internationally and we are praying for your continued success.

We want to humbly share our concerns regarding The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, introduced before the Ugandan parliament on October 14, 2009. First, we believe that sexual crimes against children, homosexual or heterosexual, are the most serious of offenses and should be punished accordingly. Homosexual behavior in consensual relationships, however, is another matter.

While we do not believe that homosexual behavior is what God intended for individuals, we believe that deprivation of life and liberty is not an appropriate or helpful response to this issue. Furthermore, the Christian church must be a safe, compassionate place for gay-identified people as well as those who are confused about and conflicted by their sexuality. If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue. The Christian church cannot and should not condone homosexual living or gay-identified clergy within its leadership, but it must be permitted to extend the love and compassion of Christ to all. We believe that this legislation would make this mission a difficult if not impossible task to carry out.

Many of us and those we know and work with have personally struggled with unwanted homosexual attractions and once lived as gay individuals, but have since found a new identity in Jesus Christ and have gone on to live lives that reflect the teaching of the Christian faith. We sincerely believe that such transformations cannot best be achieved in an environment of government coercion where the vital support, care and compassion of others in the Christian community is discouraged and prosecuted.

Please consider the influence this law will have upon those who may seek help in dealing with this difficult issue as well as church and ministry leaders committed to demonstrating the compassion of Christ to all. We are praying for you, for this matter and for the people of Uganda.

Sincerely,

Alan Chambers
President of Exodus International, Orlando, Florida
Former homosexual

Randy Thomas
Executive Vice President, Exodus International, Orlando, Florida
Former homosexual

Christopher Yuan
Adjunct Instructor, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois
HIV Survivor
AIDS Activist
Former homosexual

Warren Throckmorton, Ph.D.
Member of the Clinical Advisory Board of the American Association of Christian Counselors
Grove City, Pennsylvania

Comments

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Michael Bussee
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

I agree with this: “The damage done by eight months of silence won’t be fixed by a single letter, but it’s a start in the right direction. And as a first steps go, this is a very good first step.”

Timothy Kincaid
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

Jim, I’m sorry but I have to disagree.

Look at what this letter says and what it doesn’t say.

It does not say that executing people for being gay is immoral. It does not say that it is contrary to Christian principle. It does not say that it is wrong to imprison gay people for life.

And it actually seems to endorse the death penalty for those whose “aggregated homosexuality” is based on sex with someone underage.

First, we believe that sexual crimes against children, homosexual or heterosexual, are the most serious of offenses and should be punished accordingly.

While we Americans read this as child molestation, in Uganda it will be seen as a call to execute an 18 year old in a relationship with a 17 year old.

This is NOT a denunciation of the pogrom against gays. In fact, the only thing it has to say about how to treat gay people is:

The Christian church cannot and should not condone homosexual living…

What is does say, however, is that the church should not be required to report gay people. While there is no complaint whatsoever about treatment of gay people, there is about treatment of the church.

So if the Ugandan government wanted to meet Exodus’ recommendations, all they have to do is either remove the reporting requirements or make an exception for churches.

Then it’s a win-win. The government can execute gays and the church can convert them.

The only losers are human rights, morality, and of course gays.

Frankly, this may do more damage than good. Because while it says “don’t make our work harder” it treats the lives of gay people as inconsequential and condemnatory.

Burr
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

Too little, too late.

The fact that they only care about it hampering their efforts rather than the fact that it’s just *gasp* wrong to kill people for this is telling.

Michael Bussee
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

I know it won’t make everyone happy and may be seen as “too little too late”, but I read their letter as opposing the criminalization of homosexuality and being against this bill. Did I get that wrong?

Of course, being an ex-gay group, they are focussing on how it would make their own mission harder. But I really don’t care why they oppose it as long as they really do.

What kind of statement could they make, given their belief that homosexuality is sin and reparable, that might satisfy us?

Timothy Kincaid
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

Michael,

They didn’t oppose the bill. Read it again.

They had “concerns” about the part that made their job more difficult and asked for “consideration” of that and that alone.

Again, Exodus has NOT made a statement that they oppose this bill.

Let’s not let them, once again, get away with playing word games. I’m sick of their carefully contrived sentences that say nothing once you look closely.

Warren Throckmorton
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

From the Exodus website:

Exodus International sent the following letter to Uganda’s President Museveni regarding The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 currently being considered in the Parliament. The bill would criminalize and prosecute homosexual behavior and would require pastors, missionaries, health care providers and counselors to report those suspected of such behavior. Exodus International, along with its board members and broader network, opposes this legislation as it inhibits the global Christian church’s mission to share the life-giving truth of the Gospel and extend the compassion of Christ to all.

John
November 16th, 2009 | LINK

What I find ironic about this bill and this sudden concern in Uganda about predatory gays abusing underage males is that it completely ignores the daily reality of Uganda, Sudan and other neighboring countries.

Girls and women fetch water in these countries. Men do not fetch water. Wells are often significant distances from their huts (particularly if they have been displaced). Girls and women get raped during this daily chore all the time.

Several friends of mine who have done medical, relief and even military support work in this area report the daily rapes of underage girls. In many areas, there isn’t even an attempt to conceal the crime.

But the “moral” people of Uganda would rather work themselves up over homosexuality and use this legislation as a tool against their rivals, than do anything to protect the women and girls that get raped every day fetching water for their home.

Michael Bussee
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

I am convinced that Warren Throckmorton would not have signed the letter if he was not convinced that Exodus opposed the bill. After all, Warren created the Facebook group (now numbering over 4,500 members worldwide)which opposes the Ugandan law.

“Exodus International, along with its board members and broader network, opposes this legislation…” — OK, they oppose it.

“…as it inhibits the global Christian church’s mission to share the life-giving truth of the Gospel and extend the compassion of Christ to all.” — OK, and that’s Exodus’s reason.

They may not oppose it for the same reasons we think they should, but I hold them at their word that they do.

Lynn David
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

You miss the second part of that sentence, Warren.

Exodus International sent the following letter to Uganda’s President Museveni regarding The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 currently being considered in the Parliament. The bill would criminalize and prosecute homosexual behavior and would require pastors, missionaries, health care providers and counselors to report those suspected of such behavior. Exodus International, along with its board members and broader network, opposes this legislation as it inhibits the global Christian church’s mission to share the life-giving truth of the Gospel and extend the compassion of Christ to all.

Furthermore, their entire paragraph on why they (you) oppose the bill sounds like nothing more than a plea by ministries/churches for way to conduct their business. What did I say before on your blog, “the sanctimonious and self-righteous always get a free ride in such a culture.” And likely they will give Ugandan Christians and other ministries one when they revamp the bill.

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Warren,

Thank you for the clarification. I wish that their opposition had been stated in the letter.

But, as their statement makes clear, their opposition is not based in the treatment of gay people but rather in the treatment of the church. They do not oppose the bill because it is immoral and inhumane, but because it inhibits the global Christian church’s mission.

As you were a signatory on the letter, you may have a better understanding:

Does Exodus oppose criminalization of homosexuality?

Or would removing reporting requirements make this bill acceptable to Exodus?

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Michael,

Their opposition is conditional. The words “as it” are the key to understanding their position.

This is a political statement and should be read as such. And when a politician says, “I cannot support this bill because it contains X,Y, and Z”, you know that it is pressure to remove X,Y, and Z.

My question is whether the removal of the reporting requirements would satisfy their opposition. If so, and I say this sincerely, then the Exodus leadership is completely morally bankrupt. If their position is that the church should not be inconvenienced, but that gay people can be executed, then we are dealing with truly evil people.

If that is not their position, however, why won’t they just be clear?

Christopher™
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Why is Alan Chambers still leading Exodus?

After allowing the Uganda conference debacle, he should have resigned in disgrace last March. This man’s confused and spineless leadership has permanently damaged any shred of legitimacy Exodus ever had as a “ministry.” The fact that no one at Exodus has demanded Alan’s dismissal proves that the organization itself is just as morally bankrupt as he is.

Nothing has changed with this letter. Exodus is still parsing words, and we’re still trying to figure out what they mean. People have already died in Uganda as a result of Exodus’ involvement, and we’re supposed to be impressed by their verbal Sudoku eight months later?

By their inaction and moral fecklessness, Alan Chambers and Exodus have now proven themselves to be a real danger to GLBT communities everywhere, and they need to be called out for this forcefully and consistently. One mealy-mouthed blog posting and a weakly written letter doesn’t cut it when real human lives are at stake.

This constant pandering to Exodus has to stop. Now.

Ken in Riverside
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Breaking news: Exodus morally bankrupt. More at 11.

Alan Chambers
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Our position at Exodus is that we hate this bill. I hate that one of our board members was involved in the initial conference that lent credibility to this. I remain absolutely sure that Don Schmierer had no idea what all of this was about until on the ground there and that his desire in speaking was to teach what he always teaches about giving grace to those in need.

Until I read the horrible comment Scott Lively made in World Magazine today about homosexuality needing to criminalized I was convinced that his intentions were also honorable there.

The truth is I don’t believe homosexuality should be criminalized. I don’t think therapy should be mandated, I am opposed to the death penalty in general not just where homosexuality is concerned.

Contrary to your belief, Timothy, I didn’t try to carefully word this letter. It was a joint effort and a genuine, albeit late, response to what is happening in Uganda. I wish I’d spoken publicly sooner and I wish Exodus’ name wasn’t associated with anything that could be construed as support for an evil bill and position against people whom Christ loves and died for. Hopefully our attempt to reach the President of Uganda will help end the hysteria there. We won’t stop with this letter.

We came at all of this from the angle that we believe in and that we thought would bridge the gap between the very conservative Ugandan government and the mostly liberal folks crying out for mercy. As a conservative organization, Exodus speaking in concert with gay activist decrying this law will hopefully carry weight.

Priya Lynn
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

I remain absolutely sure that Don Schmierer had no idea what all of this was about until on the ground there and that his desire in speaking was to teach what he always teaches about giving grace to those in need.

Until I read the horrible comment Scott Lively made in World Magazine today about homosexuality needing to criminalized I was convinced that his intentions were also honorable there.

LOL, please! Don’t insult our intelligence.

Christopher™
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

If it wasn’t obvious before now, your answer proves why you should resign from Exodus. Immediately.

“I remain absolutely sure that Don Schmierer had no idea what all of this was about until on the ground there…”

Total BS. Anyone with half a brain knows that conferences are planned well in advance. Don–and you!–knew who was going to be speaking before the conference took place, probably well in advance. You both knew that Scott Lively and an associate of Richard Cohen were going to be featured panelists. This means only one of two things. Either:

1. You and Don are expecting us to believe that you are completely unaware of the Holocaust revisionism of Scott Lively, along with his work with an organization considered an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC. You and Don also expect us to believe that you are ignorant of Richard Cohen’s expulsion from the American Counseling Association because of his dangerous “reparative therapy” techniques. If you, as the head of Exodus, are truly this uninformed about the past history of fellow speakers at the Uganda conference, then you have no business being the head of Exodus. There is no excuse for such ignorance. None whatsoever.

Or…

2. You and Don know full well the background of both speakers, but decided to participate anyway–despite repeated warnings in advance from bloggers such as Jim Burroway about being involved with such a conference in an anti-gay political powder keg like Uganda. This shows incredible hubris and insensitivity on your part to the needs of those whom you claim to serve. If this is the case, then you have no business leading Exodus, as you have lost your way.

So, Alan, which is it? Neither answer is acceptable coming from the head of an organization such as yours. I’m sure you realize this.

“Until I read the horrible comment Scott Lively made in World Magazine today about homosexuality needing to criminalized I was convinced that his intentions were also honorable there.”

Are you seriously asking us to believe that you think anything Scott Lively has said or done is remotely honorable. Seriously? This man has promoted blood libel against the GLBT community here and abroad with The Pink Swastika, and you think this man is in any way “honorable”?

Either your statement about Lively is a outright lie, or you are truly this ignorant of who he is. Neither answer is acceptable from the head of an organization such as yours.

Alan, your lack of moral leadership and accountability is no longer in dispute.

I call on you to resign from Exodus immediately.

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Alan,

Thank you very much for your response. I could have been very appreciative if you had been as blunt in both your website statement and in your letter.

I take you at your word that you will throw the weight of your organization against this bill. And I welcome the opportunity to work in concert for the same goal.

I also believe you when you say that you did not understand Scott Lively’s intentions.

But, Alan, you know why I am frustrated and why I am so demanding that Exodus speak clearly on this matter. Before Don went to Uganda, you and I corresponded about the conference and you chose to ignore and downplay my concerns.

But that is in the past. As are the weakly worded letter and the inadequate and perhaps offensive web comment.

I truly hope that your forcefulness which you used here can be also expressed in a non-gay setting. I hope that when speaking with conservatives, you don’t ignore or dismiss the plight of gay men and women in Uganda, choosing only to lament the loss of religious rights. I hope that Exodus’ opposition to the bill will be expressed in terms that are not conditionally tied to the church’s counseling efforts.

I welcome you to the stand against Ugandan human rights violations. I hope that this is but the first of many areas in which we can find common cause.

Christopher™
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

“I also believe you when you say that you did not understand Scott Lively’s intentions.”

PLEASE tell me that you’re not this gullible, Timothy.

Michael Bussee
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

I think it’s possible that Exodus did not firmly grasp what was going on, in spite of the warnings. Now, perhaps they do.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” — Hanlon’s Razor

Ken in Riverside
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

Isn’t legislation like the kind that proposed in Uganda the logical progression of the whole gay-is-a-choice-and-is-dangerous-to-society false narrative?

Lynn David
November 17th, 2009 | LINK

In the case of stupidity then, Michael, Exodus should get out of the business.

But where I come from the good old boys have a different kind of aphorism for the kind of statement Alan Chambers gave above: ‘give the guy enough rope and he’ll hang himself with it.

Alan Chambers
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

I am sorry.

Glad I/we can help now.

Alan

Timothy Kincaid
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

Alan,

I accept your apology. I too am glad that we are now on the same page on this issue. Let’s hope that the future will find many other areas in which we can agree.

Timothy

Michael Bussee
December 1st, 2009 | LINK

Don Schmierer was added as one of the signers: http://blog.exodusinternational.org/2009/12/01/don-schmierer-added-to-letter-opposing-ugandan-anti-homosexuality-bill/
Serious mistakes were made. We are working together towards a solution.

I believe that Exodus’s statements and Don’s signature on the letter are very positive developments towards correcting those errors.

I am concerned that Stepehen Langa apparently dismissed the letter as a fake. Can something be done to reassure him that it is real?

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