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Exodus Board Member Resigns

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2012

Dennis Jernigan speaking to reporters in Jamaica.

In a remarkable show of accountability, Exodus International has announced that board vice chairman Dennis Jernigan has resigned his position at Exodus following a controversial visit to Jamaica in May.

Jamaica, which has a very long and violent history towards its LGBT population, is under international pressure, including from the Obama Administration, to rescind its anti-gay law which provides up to ten years imprisonment for consensual same-sex relationships. Jernigan denounced the pressure from the Obama administration in remarks to a Jamaican newspaper.

Jernigan also spoke with reporters alongside local anti-gay activist Peter Garth, who read out portions of a 1987 satire by Michael Swift, titled “A Gay Revolutionary,” which the more extreme anti-gay activists often mis-identify as “the gay agenda.” The satire begins, “We shall sodomize your sons, emblems of your feeble masculinity, of your shallow dreams and vulgar lies….” (The satire labels itself as a satire in the prologue, which is typically omitted when deployed by anti-gay extremists.) Following that partial reading, Jernigan, who identifies as ex-gay, said, “If I was still in that group and was still a part of that agenda, of course I would take that as my battle cry and I would do everything in my power to bring it to pass.”

In a statement released by Exodus International, the group’s president Alan Chambers said:

“Dennis shared his belief that President Obama is deceived about homosexual behavior and the biblical morality of it. Dennis assured me he is not for the criminalization of homosexuality, and he will release his own statement on this matter. However, Jernigan offered this immediate response”:

“I believe my heart and intent were misconstrued and therefore, may have harmed Exodus’ mission of ministering to those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). To that end, as of this moment, I step down as Vice Chairman of Exodus.”

The statement notes that “Exodus board member, Don Schmierer, experienced a similar collision with the media on a trip to Uganda in 2009.” The statement also reiterates Exodus’s new policy statement which places the organization on record as opposing the criminalization of homosexuality. It continues:

It is our resolution that unfortunate incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” said Chambers. “As president of Exodus International I take full responsibility for any board member, staff member or ministry affiliate’s ignorance of global issues, especially as they travel. I will make it a priority to keep all who are professionally affiliated with Exodus apprised of the nations where legislative initiatives or laws clearly violate our policy opposing criminalization of homosexuality. We will also craft a policy for our ministry that prohibits our involvement with groups and nations that violate our policies.”

You can read the full statement below.

This positive development stands in remarkable contrast to Exodus’s handling of board member Don Schmierer’s disastrous participation in a 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda. Fifteen months later, Exodus president Alan Chambers apologized for its connection to that conference and for Exodus’s slow response to the criticism. He also announced the organization’s first policy statement against criminalization.

On a personal note: When I wrote about this yesterday, I finished with this: “In a truly accountable organization Jernigan would hand in his resignation. But don’t count on that happening.” With this announcement coupled with forthcoming policies to head off future international incidences, this marks yet another notable change at Exodus.

Exodus International Releases New Policy Statement On the Criminalization of Homosexuality

Ministry responds to Christian Music Artist and Exodus Board Member, Dennis Jernigan’s Remarks in Kingston, Jamaica

Orlando, Fla—Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with homosexuality, released a new policy statement on the criminalization of homosexuality. While the ministry has long held this perspective, they felt compelled to release a written statement in light of Exodus Board Vice Chairman, Dennis Jernigan’s, comments to the media in Kingston, Jamaica. Exodus board member, Don Schmierer, experienced a similar collision with the media on a trip to Uganda in 2009.

“Dennis Jernigan recently traveled to Jamaica to share his testimony and lead worship at a number of venues,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “While there he was thrust into a media firestorm and asked to comment on President Obama’s threat to issue sanctions against Jamaica for their laws concerning the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Dennis shared his belief that President Obama is deceived about homosexual behavior and the biblical morality of it. Dennis assured me he is not for the criminalization of homosexuality, and he will release his own statement on this matter. However, Jernigan offered this immediate response”:

“I believe my heart and intent were misconstrued and therefore, may have harmed Exodus’ mission of ministering to those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). To that end, as of this moment, I step down as Vice Chairman of Exodus.”

Here is an excerpt of the Exodus policy statement, also supported by its Board of Directors.

We will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship. Finally, we stand with the LGBT community both in spirit, and when necessary, legally and physically, when violence rears it’s head in Uganda, Jamaica or anywhere else in the world.

Chambers is working with the Exodus International Board and staff to craft strong statements, policies and procedures that will ensure their position on life-impacting issues such as this one.

“It is our resolution that unfortunate incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” said Chambers. “As president of Exodus International I take full responsibility for any board member, staff member or ministry affiliate’s ignorance of global issues, especially as they travel. I will make it a priority to keep all who are professionally affiliated with Exodus apprised of the nations where legislative initiatives or laws clearly violate our policy opposing criminalization of homosexuality. We will also craft a policy for our ministry that prohibits our involvement with groups and nations that violate our policies.”

Comments

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Tara TASW
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

“I believe my heart and intent were misconstrued….”

This guy is a disgusting liar.

I believe my heart and intent may have been misconstrued to suggest that I was calling him a disgusting liar.

Smith
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

I find the continuing use of this “Michael Swift” writing piece to be breathtaking in its dishonesty. These people are not dumb. They are not incapable of evaluating when a piece is genuinely expressing an idea rather than satire. And they are not incapable of evaluating when a piece is representative of widely-held beliefs. For example, they could grasp that the Manhattan Declaration is intended to express widely held ideas, but some 10-year old internet blog post written by a solitary anonymous blogger is not.

Yet they continue to cite as evidence of the “gay agenda” a 25-year old piece by a pseudonymous author, which appeared a single time in a small local paper that is no longer in publication. And the piece itself, leaving aside the fact that it identifies itself as satire, refers to growing young men in test tubes and having the US governed by homosexual poets.

It is a knowing, demonstrable lie. These ex-gays and anti-gays must have utter contempt for their audiences because they obviously have concluded that these audiences will believe anything.

Norm!
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

First, it’s terrific that Exodus promptly responded and Jernigan resigned.

However, I continue to find the Exodus policy statement language nuanced and unclear. Instead of saying they ‘support the decriminalization of homosexuality’, their careful statement is that they “will not support” legislation. Wasn’t the issue in Jamaica about decriminalization? Is Exodus saying they will not support new anti-gay laws, but will remain silent on existing anti-gay laws?

Timothy Kincaid
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

My sincere appreciation to Alan for accepting responsibility, responding appropriately, and asking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Mike Airhart
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

As you might guess, I’m less than fully satisfied with the response from Exodus International.

First, thousands of Jamaicans who read the Observer have not been told — by the Observer or by the clergy who hosted Jernigan — that Jernigan misrepresented both Exodus’ position on Jamaica’s laws AND the likelihood of success from reparative therapy. So they will proceed with their antigay pogrom, believing they have U.S. religious support.

Second, Jernigan was not pressured to resign until he was exposed. Granted, the events in Jamaica were reported just three weeks ago. But I am curious to know what Exodus knew, from the time of the initial reports until critics of Exodus discovered Jernigan’s blog post a few days ago.

MattNYC
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

I was unfamiliar with the Swift piece. I will check it out.

This kind of reminds me of a twist on the “Protocol of the Elders of Zion” — a piece of fiction written by Stalin’s secret police chief — that is STILL used today by neo-Nazis, et al, to prove of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

Donny D.
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

MattNYC wrote,

This kind of reminds me of a twist on the “Protocol of the Elders of Zion” — a piece of fiction written by Stalin’s secret police chief — that is STILL used today by neo-Nazis, et al, to prove of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

I’m sorry, MattNYC, but that’s a lie. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was forged by the Okhrana, the secret police organization of Czarist Russia, decades before Stalin was in power.

The Czarists were viciously anti-Semitic, and used anti-Semitism to keep people from uniting against the Czarist state and Russian aristocracy.

MattNYC
June 16th, 2012 | LINK

my bad.

I just recall it was Russian. Even I was scratching my head as I was typing because the timeline didn’t make sense. Should have Googled first ;)

Blake
June 18th, 2012 | LINK

Good on them.

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