Yarhouse nails the post-Exodus problem
June 21st, 2013
In response to the announcement that Exodus will cease to exist and will be replaced with an organization that will “come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities”, Mark Yarhouse (co-author of the Jones and Yarhouse study on religiously mediated orientation change) had this to say,
When I think about what may be interesting in the years to come is this: Is there is room in a diverse and pluralistic culture for a Christian ministry to retain its beliefs and values about sexuality and marriage while moving away from the expectation of change (at least in the form of reparative therapy)? … A ministry would then have to ask: Is there an audience for that kind of ministry when many people (most?) who come to a ministry want the very change held out as normative in reparative therapy? All indications are that the message will be that of Christlikeness (or what Christian refer to as sanctification), and, I would guess, that the focus on sanctification will be independent of the question of whether attractions change.
Yarhouse is correct in noting that if a ministry seeks to encourage a life in accordance with one’s faith, then the question of whether one’s orientation changes is irrelevant. Whether same-sex attracted, opposite-sex attracted or possessed of little sexual attraction at all, we each choose how we express our sexuality.
But that isn’t really a revelation. Other than to the wackadoodles who (to comport with their own political and religious demands on society) insist that Christian doctrine demands that one make impossible changes, this is intuitive.
But Yarhouse does raise the one question that no one seems to have pondered: is there an audience for this message?
I believe that there is value in providing a safe haven for conservative Christians who are negotiating their sexuality. Those who are as yet uncertain – or even those who have concluded that they want a life of celibacy – can benefit from fellowship with others who share their experiences and values. And it goes without saying that many a conservative church needs to hear that their rejection of their gay and lesbian youth is an affront to Christ.
But does anyone want it?
Will the young conservative Christian man who discovers his own attractions seek out a support group that encourages celibacy? Or will he desperately look for a cure, a solution, a way that lets him be like his brothers? The old Exodus would have an appeal to him, but will the post-Exodus group?
And will the youth pastor confronted with a young woman in his church who discovers that her crushes on other girls is not a passing phase have any use for counsel that advises him to accept and support her and that she’s not going to ever fit the church’s presumptions? Or will he be drawn to a group that says, “you don’t have to mellow your rhetoric, she’s broken and we can fix her”? I suspect that the latter is less of a challenge to him than the former.
I think that the post-Exodus group has something to say to the Christian community. But I think Mark Yarhouse’s question is a good one, Is there anyone who wants to hear it?