Randy Thomas, Exodus International’s former vice president, has posted an apology to the gay community on his personal blog, covering three specific areas in which he has been active during his two decades as part of Exodus and its member ministries. I only want to post a few excerpts here, but would encourage you to read the whole thing. The first part covers his work in public policy:
I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus’ commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I’m disappointed in myself. Please forgive me.
I directly empowered people to co-opt my testimony and use it against the gay community. There were a few times I almost worked up the nerve to confront them, only to hear them invoke my name at an opportune moment. “Of course I love gay people,” they would say. “Just look at my good friend Randy…” It was very selfish of me to back down in these situations. I apologize.
The second part deals with how he dealth with some of the problems he observed at Exodus:
In 1992, I was part of an Exodus affiliated ministry in Texas that believed being in relationship with Jesus alone was our goal. I never felt pressured to change my same sex orientation. I saw my life greatly improved by having the freedom to question my sexuality and identity. I assumed this was what happened at every Exodus group, and I ended up idealizing the entire ministry based on my singular experiences in Texas. However, after joining the Exodus staff, I was confronted with the reality that some methods used by some of our local ministries ended up bringing hurt and pain to the very people they were trying to comfort.
There are many good people in the broader Exodus movement that I didn’t want to hurt by sharing the bad we’d uncovered. Other staff members and I dealt with some of these ills privately. But by keeping quiet, and not even letting our own leaders know the depths of what concerned us, I contributed to the negative response surrounding Alan’s recent apology. To protect some leaders, which wasn’t totally inappropriate, others didn’t know how bad some things had gotten. Therefore, some have been shocked that Alan apologized and that I, among others, were supportive. In order to protect the reputation of some, I chose silence. I apologize for remaining silent and passive. Looking back on my time with Exodus, it seems I was always waiting for a convenient time to discuss some of my concerns publicly. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”
The third part relates to some of the teachings he helped to promote at Andrew Comiskey’s Living Waters program. It’s worth remembering that Comiskey was one of the first Exodus ministry leaders to publicly criticize Exodus president Alan Chambers after Chambers acknowledged that “99.9%” of ex-gay ministry members “have not experienced a change in their orientation,” disavowed the particular form of sexual orientation change therapy known as Reparative Therapy, and acknowledged that gay Christians can enter heaven. Comiskey is now board chairman for Restored Hope Network, comprised of a hard core breakway group of former Exodus ministries. Comisky has denounced Chambers’s apology to the gay community, which Chambers delivered immediately before shutting down Exodus International altogether. Of Thomas’s work with Comiskey’s Living Waters, he writes:
When I look back at some of my old interviews, group meetings, and keynotes over the past twenty years, I realize there are many things I would communicate differently today. In the past I taught quite a mixture of performance-based accomplishment along with God’s grace. I taught that God is always present, but if we don’t manage our sin properly, it could negatively impact our relationship with Him.
That’s not grace. It doesn’t take seriously the finished work of the Cross.
I look back on my time as a Living Waters coordinator (eleven years ago) with the most remorse. Even though there is some good in this program, it often ripped open old wounds in the name of healing by attempting to manufacture an environment for the Lord to work in. I have to apologize for the times some people may have felt manipulated to bare their souls to a group full of strangers. I apologize for any pressure we, on the Living Waters team I led, might have placed on group participants as we tried to help them cultivate “authentic experiences.”
As a trained Living Waters coordinator, I used to hang on to every word Andrew Comiskey said. I even did some online consulting work for him. But today, over a year after leaving his employ as a consultant, I look back and recognize there were signs that something was wrong. In retrospect, I realize I helped build Andrew Comiskey’s online platforms – platforms which have increasingly gotten more vitriolic and stigmatizing toward the LGBT community. I regret that and I’m sorry.
As I said, his entire apology is worth reading. No single apology or statement can ever cover two decades of work. When someone sets about writing such an apology, the first difficulty they will encounter is the near-impossibility of addressing those things which perhaps they don’t remember, which didn’t leave much of an impression on them, or can’t bring themselves emotionally to address, but were nevertheless harmful to others. When there is so much to address, where do you begin? All you can do is to begin where you know to begin. That’s why turning over a new leaf is such a lengthy process, of ongoing and continual discovery and, perhaps, repeated or new apologies. It would take an entire memoir’s worth of apologies to cover it all.
So there will always be things that people can point to and say he left this out or he glossed over that. And many will inevitably be right. This apology — or any apology — won’t be the thing that sets things right. But it can be the thing that allows the work of setting things right to begin.