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Exodus Board Member: Homosexuality IS Different

With a commentary

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2012

I don’t think Timothy is alone in detecting a change at Exodus, nor do I think he’s off in the weeds. There are plenty of encouraging signs for those who are willing to acknowledge them. I’m cautiously optimistic myself about the potential for Exodus president Alan Chambers’s personal evolution. But while I acknowledge that he has made some positive changes at Exodus over the years, I find myself considerably less sanguine about Exodus’s potential as an organization for the kind of change that would be meaningful to gay people — a people that even now Chambers identifies as those who are “impacted by homosexuality.” The reason is that for years, I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence for a conflict between where Chambers would like to take Exodus and where the ministries which make up Exodus are willing to go. And if Alan takes Exodus too far from its base — the people who pay the bills and keep the lights on — then those lights would go off. I do not believe those lights will go off without a fight.

I can find few items which better exemplify the entrenchment that would take place should Alan try to change Exodus’ position too far than a recent op-ed written by Mike Goeke. He was Exodus’s vice president under Alan Chambers until 2006 and he remains on the Exodus Board of Directors. He also heads the Midland, Texas-based Cross Power Ministries, one of many Exodus member organizations which provide Exodus with their bread and butter. In an op-ed published by the Baptist Press on Wednesday, Goeke reiterates the oft-repeated Exodus position that “homosexual behavior is no different than any sin” before going on to explain why homosexuality is different from “any sin.”

…It is different, however, in that no other sin (or, better said, an identity based primarily on sinful behavior) has impacted, or is likely to impact, culture in the dramatic way that homosexuality has done and will do.

Homosexuality is the only sinful behavior that has a cultural identity and movement surrounding it. What other sin is encouraged to be celebrated? What other sin has a “pride” movement attached to it? What other sin are people so quick to identify their lives by and to adopt as the defining characteristic of their lives? There are not greed pride parades, or people proclaiming on magazine covers “Yes, I’m a gossip.” There are not gluttony neighborhoods or bars where liars openly gather. Men and women don’t proudly self-identify as promiscuous. There are many people who are pro-choice and many who admit to having an abortion, but there are few who celebrate the fact that they had abortions. In fact, if you exclude random individuals like Charlie Sheen, few people would want their sin attached to their name and fewer would proudly boast in their sinful activity.

Homosexuality is also the only sinful behavior that has a growing, accepted theology built around it. Sure, there are fringe “religious” movements for odd things, but within the realm of Christianity there is no other revisionist theological movement based on identity primarily defined by sinful behavior. Denominations are crumbling and fracturing over how to deal with the issue of homosexuality and how to integrate people openly identified as gay or openly practicing homosexual behavior.

To Goeke, homosexuality’s threat is two-fold: it’s a threat to society and culture, and its a threat to the church. I needn’t remind you that to most Evangelicals’ minds, that’s the sum total of what makes up a civilization. And Goeke takes pains to point out that he sees no other “sin” which poses that kind of a threat. I can’t say that he speaks for most Evangelicals on that particular point (others may point to abortion, the media or the Obama administration, for example), but I do think it’s likely that he speaks for substantial numbers of Evangelicals who make up the Exodus church and member ministry networks.

In contrast, Chambers penned an op-ed for Evangelism.net in which he asks some serious questions about how to approach a hypothetical gay couple with children who join a (presumably) Evangelical church:

The question I ask myself a lot these days is, “What would Jesus do?”  followed by, “What would He have me do?”  They are not always one in the same.  The fact is we are not Jesus.  We have no power to heal or change anyone.  We can point to His life and ministry through the Bible and our own experiences, but we aren’t Him.  We are His representatives.  Sometimes I think we are actually guilty of trying to be Him, or at least the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t our job to bring conviction or judge.  We fail to trust the Holy Spirit to do His job well when we attempt to usurp that role. So, in the context of a situation like the one in my dream, what are we to do?

…What if the best thing for a gay couple with children isn’t to immediately end their relationship and split their family and confuse their kids?

A very provocative question. I haven’t seen Chambers ask that question before, and it’s one that Goeke, and most churches and ministries that Exodus has cultivated over the years are not prepared to answer. If they have an answer, it would be, as Goeke puts it, to “hold firm to truth as we navigate the waters of culture.”

If Exodus is merely trying to re-brand themselves, you can see how that effort is doomed to failure. As GM demonstrated in the 1990s, it’ll take more than a shiny chrome grill up front and new wood trim on the dashboard to convince people that there’s something significantly different under the hood. But if Alan is really trying to effect change at Exodus (and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now), you need look no further than to his fellow board member to see the outlines of the looming conflict. The wildcard is whether Chambers has the stomach and wherewithal for that fight. John Smid found that he had to leave his ex-gay ministry Love In Action before he could undergo his metamorphosis. Meanwhile Love In Action, which remains an Exodus member ministry, marches on without him.

Comments

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Blake
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

Oh, I love you guys. Have y’all every won an award for this blog? Because you should.

Anyway. I share your worry Jim, but hopefully Chambers is up to the task & he’s not alone in toning down the rhetoric. Perhaps he’s trying to up his cred with “more-mainstream-but-still-conservative-denominations-and-churches” as opposed to relying on the old big-ole-bigot fundraising base of the past. A lot has changed since 2008.

Ben In Oakland
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

It is so easy to rip Goeke apart. I wish I had the time, but I have to get some work done.

His “examples” are the easy thing to rebut, but his underlying asumptions are not so easy to uncover. He is correct. Homosexuality is a different sort of sin for those of his mind(such as it is)set.

The top reason is that it comports with his prejudices and needs, including his own issues and his bread-and-butter..

The seocnd reason is related to the first. In goeke’s mind– and i use that term only in its broadest sense– there are two classes of sinners– gay people and the usual run of repentant sinners.

The latter are the only ones the receive a get-out-of-hell free card, which makes them superior to gay people.

So, we’re right back to one of the basic aspects of bigotry– the always present, always assumed superiority og heterosexual over homsexual, fundamentalisty Christian over everyone else hweo doesn’t believe as they do.

Richard W. Potts
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

tk: It has come to our attention that Mr. Potts chose to post here using someone else’s email address. The owner of that email address was gracious and a bit amused, but that does not make such behavior acceptable. Ever.

Richard W. Potts is permanently banned from participation at this site.

Timothy Kincaid
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

Blake,

nope, no awards yet.

Rick Brentlinger
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

Alan Chambers says: “…What if the best thing for a gay couple with children isn’t to immediately end their relationship and split their family and confuse their kids?”

Immediately is what jumped off the page at me. His endgame is still to squelch gay marriage, to end loving gay relationships, to split up gay couples and wreak havoc in the lives of their children. I detect NO substantive change in Exodus or Alan Chambers.

Yes, they are becoming more polished in the PR and yes, Alan is slick at nuancing his message but substantive change? I think not.

I see no facts which encourage me to agree with your view that Exodus is changing.

Shofixti
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

Wow, that is surprising from Chambers.

I occasionally post on MercatorNet in an attempt to tease out exactly the issue he raises. If marriage is such a magical societal panacea, how can it be ethical to want gay couples not to seek it out.

Usually I find the intervening notion “there are no homosexuals, only homosexual desire” undercuts any ability to engage with that question with sincerity, nor see how it relates to children.

Goeke however, what a picture of presumptuous piety he is.

StraightGrandmother
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

Alan Chambers = “Sometimes I think we are actually guilty of trying to be Him, or at least the Holy Spirit.”

StraightGrandmother = Ya think?
Good article Jim. And speaking of John Schmid have you been reading his blog lately? He is making some amazing acknowledgements of wrongdoing in his past, I mean really amazing statements.

http://www.gracerivers.com/acknowledge-part-one/

http://www.gracerivers.com/acknowledge-part-two/

“Through my overt and covert alignment with the presumed message of change through the “ex-gay” movement, I want to acknowledge that I have communicated through teaching, private conversation and public venues that someone who is gay is less than someone created in God’s image.

I acknowledge that I was a covert messenger of the false hope for a change in sexual orientation from gay to straight. I perpetuated a message that gave the perception that if someone tried hard enough they would experience a new heterosexual desire that would replace their same sex desires.”

He says a lot more this is only the start

Sarah
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

You’re “sanguine” about it?

You don’t sound cheerfully confident or optimistic…

;-)

Jerry
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

This comment caught my attention. “There are not gluttony neighborhoods or bars where liars openly gather.”

There are a lot of venues promoting liars. We just call them churches and ignore their sins. The ones that protect pedophiles.

Timothy Kincaid
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

There are not greed pride parades, or people proclaiming on magazine covers “Yes, I’m a gossip.” There are not gluttony neighborhoods or bars where liars openly gather. Men and women don’t proudly self-identify as promiscuous.

Ya know, sometimes it’s just too easy

[Dammit, for some reason WordPress is not letting me link all my links.]

Jim Burroway
January 13th, 2012 | LINK

Sarah,

I am 51 years old. Don’t you think I’d know the proper use of the word “sanguine” by now young lady?

You’re right. I don’t. ;-).

Thanks. It’s corrected

CPT_Doom
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

Oh the irony of someone writing “Homosexuality is the only sinful behavior that has a cultural identity and movement surrounding it” on a Baptist Press site. The lack of self-awareness accompanying that statement is truly breathtaking. There’s no cultural identity or movement surrounding Protestantism? As for “revisionist theological movements” that celebrate sinful behavior, I can think of a few “churches” that allow adultery to be celebrated any given Saturday when their divorced members marry.

John
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

There is a greed pride parade. It is the current nominating process for Republican presidential candidate. Every Republican candidate has more or less stated that greed is good.

Ben in Oakland
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

As for a gluttony parade, well, one could view any of the “people of Walmart” videos. One could note the contests where eating more food that most third world people see in a week are popular. One could make disparaging comments about the overall weight problems of America, especially the bastions of morality like the Cow, The Beck, and Rush to the buffet.

One could, but politeness prevents one from pointing out the obvIous.

Theo
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

Burroway is right on this one. If Exodus is having financial difficulties, the last thing it wants to do is become less anti-gay. If this is what Alan Chambers is attempting, he will find that it will fail and that his successor will double down on the politicized anti-gay agenda.

The purpose that Exodus serves from the perspective of its funders is 1) to establish that homosexuality is “mutable” and therefore (they believe) ineligible for civil rights protections and 2) to justify anti-gay punitive measures. With respect to the former, they couldn’t care less what the frequency of change is or how change therapy impacts those who attempt it. As Bryan Fischer pointed out recently, even if a true ex-gay were as rare as a baseball player hitting Barry Bonds’ average, it wouldn’t matter'; even one instance of change means that homosexuality is changeable and thus outside the scope of anti-discrimination protection. With respect to the latter, once you get people to accept that gays have the option of changing, then you can justify imposing all sorts of punitive measures, as the gays are only subject to them so long as they refuse to change.

Priya Lynn
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

I think you got it exactly right, Theo.

Michael Bussee
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

I find myself more in agreement with Jim’s commentary than I do with Mr. Kincaid’s:

“As GM demonstrated in the 1990s, it’ll take more than a shiny chrome grill up front and new wood trim on the dashboard to convince people that there’s something significantly different under the hood.”

Michael Bussee
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

BTW, Alan Chambers claims that the reports of financial difficulty at Exodus are only rumor. Here’s what he posted on the Gay Christian Network page:

“You mentioned that Exodus did this because we are in financial trouble, which could not be further from the truth. Like everyone else in the world, the economy has caused us to be more careful, but our budget hasn’t changed much in 3 years since the initial pinch. So, the stories are not true. My motivation to be at GCN had nothing to do with rebranding or anything like it.” ~ Alan Chambers

Steve
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

Why should we trust anything he says? Lying is what he does for a living

Michael Bussee
January 14th, 2012 | LINK

Here’s what former Exodus VP, Randy Thomas thinks:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Alan does some clarifying in the near future. And don’t forget, he is on the record for years … I honestly believe he has not changed his underlying opinions and core convictions.”

Neither do I. Exodus may “tweak” the language a bit to paint Exodus in a better light, but they will still teach that LGBT people are “broken” and in need of “repair”. They will still fight against equality for LGBT people. They will still overlook and minimize the pain they have caused by their dishonest claims of “change”.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”: the more that changes, the more it’s the same thing.

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