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Posts for January, 2012

Ex-Gay Leader: “99.9% Have Not Experienced A Change In Their Orientation”

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2012

Exodus International President Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel Friday night at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference on Orlando with former ex-gay leader Jeremy Marks, Exodus critic and ex-gay bridge-builder Wendy Gritter, and former Love In Action executive director John Smid. The panel was announced with little notice on Friday, catching many ex-gay survivors at the conference off-guard. GCN has posted audio of that panel discussion (Part 1part 2). In the opening minutes of part 2, Chambers addresses the criticism that Exodus and other ex-gay ministries promise change in sexual orientation:

I think it’s a fair criticism from the past. If there are member ministries today that are promising something that I’m not aware that they’re promising, I’d want to know some specifics. I hear a lot of generalities, but I value specifics. And that’s something that does concern me because the fact of the matter is, and I feel like I’ve been very upfront and clear, both in the media, at conferences, anytime I have the opportunity to write about it, about the fact that I believe the slogan “Change is Possible,” for those of us who are Christians we do understand that when you come into a relationship with Christ all sorts of things are possible.

The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know do still experience some level of same-sex attraction.

And so that’s something, I think, I can’t be any clearer about that. …I hope that we’re coming to a place where we are a much more honest group of people, that when we talk about “Change is Possible,” we are very, very clear about what change means in our lives.

Last November, there were reports that Chambers was considering a modification of their message. At that time, I noted that Exodus has flirted with the idea of retooling its message before. The main message from Exodus has centered on changing from homosexuality to heterosexuality (however loosely defined that change may be). But there has been an underlying theme “the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality, it’s holiness,” which leaves open the idea that becoming straight isn’t the goal. Chambers has been giving variations on that theme since at least 2007. He surprised supporters and critics alike in 2009 when he told the Los Angeles Times, “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete.”

It’s unclear whether this is a further tweaking of that theme or if it represents a marked change in message for the organization. So far, it looks more like a clarification similar to others that he has made when pressed about what change means. The only difference this time is his admission that “99.9%” don’t change. It will be interesting to see is if Chambers repeats his past pattern of clarifying his remarks in ways that bring them closer to more orthodox ex-gay messages. After all, If it does represent a marked change in message for Exodus International, it remains to be seen how this change would go down among the mostly-Evangelical churches which provide the bulk of financial support for Exodus International.

A concurrent story to Chambers’s appearance at GCN is the controversy that surrounded the surprise panel at the conference. A very large number of GCN members are ex-gay survivors, and many of them felt blindsided by the conference. According to some of them who took to Facebook and Twitter to vent their anger, many of them first found out about the panel not form GCN but from a post earlier that day at Ex-Gay Watch. No ex-gay survivors were part of the panel discussion to provide counterpoint to Chambers’s presence, a move which strikes this writer as reminiscent of examples in history where conferences and panels discussed the issues surrounding homosexuality as a mental illness without the participation of a single gay person.

GCN Executive Director Justin Lee spent the first fifteen minutes of the panel discussion addressing the controversy, incorrectly identifying XGW as among those who called him “naive” for hosting the panel discussion. He described the panel as an optional event, and urged those who didn’t feel comfortable remaining in the room to excuse themselves and attend an alternative event for ex-gay survivors. Insiders and social media commenters, some of whom say they are undergoing counseling for PTSD and other disorders as a result of having been part of an ex-gay ministry, complain that the alternative event was hastily organized by survivors themselves at the last minute after GCN failed to organize an alternative to the panel. Lee addressed the controversy this way:

I believe in seeing people’s humanity. I believe even in the midst of strong disagreement in saying you are my brother, you are my sister in Christ. I want to understand you. I want to understand where you’re coming from no matter how much I disagree with you because you’re a human being and God loves you. And I want to love you too even though I disagree with you. That’s important to me. That’s part of what I do.

…One part of me is I want to look at the world from Alan’s perspective and I want to say Alan I respect you as my brother, I respect what you’re trying to do what you think is right even though I disagree with you, and I love you because God loves you, and have this “kumbaya” moment. And there’s another part of me that’s like I’m really, really angry about a lot of things that have happened in Exodus and other ex-gay ministries.

An Open Letter to Alan Chambers

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2011

Dear Alan,

Box Turtle Bulletin and Exodus have not always seen eye to eye on a number of issues. But that is not, as might be assumed, because homosexuals are afraid to hear the truth that change is possible. Nor is it because homosexual militant activists hate God and the church.

Rather, BTB has objected to specific messages, failure to own Exodus’ mistakes, and participation in efforts to deny or remove rights granted civilly. And to be honest, we didn’t much like the mean things that Exodus said about our community. (But I do want to take the opportunity to thank you for pulling Exodus out of the political arena.)

Word has reached us that Exodus International will be revisiting its purpose and positions in an effort to retool the organization into a viable and financially stable organization. As you consider changes, I’d like to propose a few recommendations.

Stop spinning about results. It isn’t fair to our community nor to your own.

It may be true that there is some tiny number of people who have changed their fundamental sexual attractions from persons of the same sex to persons of the opposite sex. But they are certainly rare, and one cannot base responsible policy on the achievements of the very few.

Surely you would not go about the country telling people about Mount Everest and the success that Sir Edmund Hillary had in conquering the mountain and encourage them to fly right off to Nepal and start climbing. That would be cruel and irresponsible and result in disappointment, wounded bodies and disillusioned spirits.

Yet Exodus has for many years testified of the reported success of some people who have struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction in terms that suggested that this could also be reality for those listening. It has been a cruel and irresponsible behavior and has resulted in disappointment, wounded souls and disillusioned spirits. It needs to stop.

Accept the discoveries, terms and language of our culture in discussing homosexuality.

Most people have come to an understanding that each of us have a sexual orientation, a direction towards which our attractions point. Furthermore, an increasing number of churches – including conservative evangelical churches – are reaching the conclusion that ones sexual orientation is not, in and of itself sinful or wrong or flawed or even intrinsically disordered.

It’s time for Exodus to join the rest of the world. Continuing to paint a homosexual orientation as though it were a moral failure (as “the opposite of holiness”) only places Exodus in the position of using language in such a way that it appears to either be delusional, dishonest, or theologically absurd.

Stop trashing my community.

At some point, when all one sees or says about a group of people is their negative attributes, when one feels pity for someone for no reason other than that they are part of that group, eventually it becomes clear to everyone else that you’re operating out of malice and prejudice.

It would be ridiculous and offensive to tearfully lament a poor soul “trapped in an Asian American lifestyle.” And you would feel petty for doing so.

It is no less offensive or illogical to talk about being “trapped in a homosexual lifestyle”. There isn’t such a thing. And using language such as “trapped” implies that one can “change” into a heterosexual lifestyle. It shames and demeans a person for what they are. It’s “sissy boy” and “look at that pansy” and “why are you so girly” all over again, just repackaged as “Christian concern”.

The gay community and Exodus need not be at war. We all know heterosexuals who have decided on celibacy until they marry and even though that prospect seems fleeting with each passing year we do not insist that they change their beliefs. We know those whose spouse may not be sexually compatible but who stay together and committed due to love for each other. Thats endearing.

And, contrary to the regular anti-gay meme, generally gay people have no problem with those who choose not to engage in sex – there are more than a few we know and love for whom this is a reality whether or not they want it to be.

Just don’t imply that the gay man ogling the hot guy is in any way more sinful than the straight man obling the hot gal. It isn’t Scriptural and it isn’t right.

Own the damage youve caused

While I appreciate that you no longer advocate for political mistreatment of gay people (thank you), that isn’t enough. Harm was done. And, more importantly, harm continues.

Invariably, whenever a politician or preacher calls for policies that harm the lives of gay people they justify it by saying that people can change. Sometimes they use Exodus by name.

To let this happen without objection is to endorse their positions. If you change nothing else, you have a moral obligation to clarify that that Expdus does not make the claims that these politicians and preachers use as their basis for discrimination and abuse.

Let go of insistence that homosexuality is in some way chosen.

When Exodus repeatedly denies the evidence in favor of the biological origins of homosexuality, it places your organization further in enmity to the mind. It build a dichotomy in which objective study, scientific research, and thoughtful analysis are pitted against unsubstantiated dogma and “faith”.

It is unnecessary and even blasphemous to insist that faith – real faith – needs to denounces the senses God gave us and to ignore what is evident. And, ultimately, it isn’t a battle that Exodus can win.

Currently, the best research we have suggests that for at least some gay men (there is less study about women), genetics contributes to their eventual orientation. Further, other factors may be biological in origin (though not genetic) or possibly other environmental factors possibly including experiences (though there is no evidence to support this). Most likely the path to each one’s orientation is unique to the individual.

Equally false – and equally offensive – is declaring that rape or early sexualization are responsible for “turning someone gay”. That one not only is absent of any evidence, it is clearly an attempt to give homosexuality a sheen of horror.

Regardless of the set of contributors, most have an orientation that is set – and often predictable – long before they are capable on conceptualizing morality or sexuality.

Let go of “change” as an expected result, a desired result, a hinted result, or even a possible result.

Exodus has strugglers. They struggle and struggle and struggle on decade after decade.

But very very few have any success in materially changing their orientation. They may change the language they use or what behavioral expectations they place upon themselves, but as the Jones and Yarhouse study showed, there just aren’t many (if any) gay men becoming straight men.

Alan, you know this. I do not doubt at all that you love your wife. I do not doubt at all that your sex life is meaningful and that your emotional connection is rewarding. I believe that you are content in your marriage and that it provides everything that you hoped – except for one thing. You remain a homosexually oriented man married to a woman.

And I have no problem with that.

But for God’s sake – and the sake of your participants – just stop struggling already. There is nothing anymore pleasing to God about trying to change one’s orientation than in trying to change any other attribute God gave you.

And furthermore, the fact that Exodus isn’t turning any strugglers straight doesn’t mean that Exodus has no purpose.

Exodus members should just accept their orientation and get on with finding out what to do about it.

So, in closing, I’d advise you to give Exodus a purpose that is theologically consistent, demonstrably possible, and which celebrates the Exodus member without trashing others. And just as important during this current problem, find a reason that potential donors are not going to have their children mock at dinner time.

Perhaps restructure Exodus into a Christian ministry that supports homosexually oriented Christian individuals to live according to their code of sexual ethics. I’m not suggesting that you change what you believe about the moral acceptability of same-sex behavior (though it wouldn’t hurt to be open to revelation). But if your faith says “no sex ever with anyone ever” to same-sex attracted people, then a reasonable and responsible role for Exodus might be to say “and here we are to help you with some tools that make this possible.”

Not every Christian kid is going to hear the message of “we can’t change you” and decide that they want to pursue eternal celibacy. But that’s a choice each must make before God, and seeking to influence that choice through false hope and empty implied promises is not an admirable goal for anyone.

But if you have real achievable goals for Conservative Christians who share your code of sexual ethics, then that – and not all the foolishness – may appeal to donors.

I hope you take this advice as sincerely meant and in the best of intentions.

Timothy Kincaid

Exodus International Ponders New Message To Save Itself from Bankruptcy

Jim Burroway

November 30th, 2011

That’s according to Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts, who learned of a “secret conference” held in New York in November to explore ways to keep Exodus International from going under. Exodus is saddled with enormous debt due to the purchase of their office building in 2007 at the peak of the real estate bubble, and like most non-profits, they are experiencing a sharp downturn in donations. According to Roberts, anonymous sources told him that the emphasis at this conference was on exploring ways to make Exodus more “donor accessible” — in other words, upgrades to Exodus’s fundraising programs and mechanisms. But discussions on possible turn-around plans weren’t limit to just money:

Chamber’s apparently wishes to “re-brand” Exodus into something more palatable to those with funds to give, and the general public alike.  According to our sources, Chambers said that “everything is on the table.”  That everything apparently includes the possibility of his resignation.  It was also clear from the meeting that this is their last resort, their “Hail Mary” so to speak — they’ve tried everything else.  Indeed, it seems certain that Chambers would have made pleas to anyone he knew with money before taking this drastic action.  And we’ve all seen the odd inconsistencies apparent in their public face.  Exodus is an organization fumbling for a solution.

Chambers mentioned how struck he was by the response to John Smid’s recent change in direction, particularly his apology.  He seems to think that doing something similar might be one way that Exodus could gain some positive attention.  Don’t forget, everything is on the table.  We have confirmed that Smid has been in contact with Chambers recently, and has plans for more discussions in the future. It has been our understanding that there is no love lost on Smid by Chambers, so any future corroboration would likely have a more practical basis.

Exodus has flirted with the idea of retooling its message before. The main message that Exodus promotes is that changing from homosexuality to heterosexuality (however loosely defined) is possible. But more recently, an underlying theme has emerged among those who are more embedded in the ex-gay movement that “the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality, it’s holiness.” Chambers has been giving variations on that theme since at least 2007. He surprised supporters and critics alike in 2009 when he told the Los Angeles Times, “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete.”

And yet this is a long way from the direction that John Smid has taken since stepping down as Executive Director of the Memphis-based residential ex-gay program Love In Action. Smid now says that he “never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,”, and he also now says that same-sex relationships can be “a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience,  a great blessing to their relationship with Christ.” He has also offered a generalized apology (although some former clients are skeptical that the apology alone is sufficient), all of which points to a dramatic transformation for him. It’s doubtful that Exodus would be able to pull off a similarly dramatic change and still keep its relationships with the network of Evangelical churches that it has built over the past several years.

Another possibility, instead, may be a stunt that was recently attempted by Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. They recently underwent a rebranding of their own, which included a very see-through thin “apology” and a new (and expensive) program they called “Coming Out Loved.” Cohen claimed his new initiative would be “the catalyst of true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all,” and that “IHF staff will assist anyone who is conflicted about their sexuality and other challenging issues that arise for many in the gay community.” But a quick review of their web site— still at “changeispossible.org” — shows that he is still peddling his own ex-gay messages, including his 2007 book Gay Children, Straight Parents which describes his twelve-step program, complete with hugging, to turn gay children straight. Any attempt by Exodus International to try to pull off that kind of a stunt will be seen through quite quickly.

Exodus will conduct its annual leadership conference in January. Roberts expects that if any changes will be announced, it will happen then, and adds:

“In the coming months when you hear of changes from Exodus, or some event that seems heartfelt and spontaneous, or whatever this re-branding may eventually consist of, remember what got the ball rolling — money.”

Ex-Gay Leader Reconsiders Criticism of “It Gets Better” Commercial

Jim Burroway

October 12th, 2011

Back last May — so long ago that I imagine many of you have forgotten about it — Exodus International president Alan Chambers reacted to a Google Chrome ad featuring Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign. The ad portrayed ordinary people using YouTube, a Google-owned service, to post videos encouraging young people to just hang in there for just a short while longer, a message that had been inspired by a wave of suicides of LGBT youth.  Google’s fast-paced ad showed tiny snippets of celebrities who contributed to the project. One of them was the character Woody from “Toy Story,” who says simply “You’ll be fine, partner.” His cameo made up all of two and a half seconds of a ninety second commercial. That was enough to send Chambers to his keyboard:

“Children all over the world, including my two children are fans of ‘Toy Story’ and to see a character like that endorsing something that at this point children have no need to know about, it’s disappointing,” he told The Christian Post.

Chambers, who overcame homosexuality and is now a father of two, suspects that if the commercial airs while he and his children are watching a show and “if they happen to see that and ask questions and if they get the full understanding of what the commercial is actually about, we will have to have the conversation. It’s not something I plan to talk to my kids, 5 and 6, about.”

As I wrote at that time:

The conversation Chambers could be having with his children is how to handle themselves if they find themselves being taunted and bullying in school. That’s what the commercial was about. If Chambers really isn’t prepared to have that conversation, then he is really falling down as a father.

But of course, that’s not what Chambers is worried about. It’s the message that, even for gay teens who feel very much alone, it will, at some point, get better. Chambers protests, ““For organizations like Exodus International, which has thousands of men and women like me who have lived a gay life, it obviously didn’t get better living a gay life for them.” Perhaps he’d be happier with an “It Gets Worse” campaign instead. After all, that is at the core of their message

Five months later, Chambers has reconsidered his earlier opposition to that ad. In a blog post at Exodus International’s web site, Chambers writes:

A few months ago I went on record criticizing the “It Gets Better” campaign that has gone viral with an anti-bullying message for LGBT teens.  My criticism was over the use of “Woody,” the fictional star from the box office smash Toy Story trilogy.  I reacted because I hate when iconic children’s heroes are used to further what I perceive to be adult causes.  With further reflection and thought, though, I have to admit that I was wrong to question their marketing strategy without expressing my full support for what is the heart of their campaign – encouraging LGBT teens to choose life.

…When it comes to kids killing themselves, I can’t justify criticizing a campaign that, at its deepest core, is most about saving the lives of LGBT kids.  I care MORE about a kid choosing life than whether or not he or she embraces a gay identity. Life comes first. Living out our biblical convictions means fighting for the lives of young people at all cost.  Can any of us actually say we’d rather our teens, neighbors, friends or complete strangers kill themselves than be gay?  I certainly can’t.  Regardless of where someone falls on the debate over sexuality, I hope we can all agree to move the issue of bullying and suicide, especially where kids are concerned, to a non-polarized, non-politicized and non-divisive issue. [Emphasis in the original]

Chmabers’s commentary is well thought out, at least until the penultimate paragraph, where Chambers tacks on his message to kids being bullied. That paragraph goes on to reinforce the core Exodus message that being gay is a choice that God doesn’t approve of:

By the way, for kids being bullied, it does get better.  No matter what you decide to do in life, don’t allow others to cause you to question whether life is worth living. The truth is that God gave us the freedom to choose the life that we want to live and death is the end of that choice. What I discovered as an older teenager was that those few years when I was bullied didn’t accurately reflect who I was.  The names that were hurled at me were careless and ones that God would never say. We serve a great God who created us for more than we often settle for, but He never belittles us for the decisions we make, even if those decisions don’t line up with His best for us. [Emphasis in the original.]

Given the hopeless messages that many gay kids already receive from their churches that God isn’t terribly happy with them as they are, I’m not sure how constructive Chambers’s approach will be by delivering the same message. Yet a very astute kid could read that same carefully constructed passage and come to an alternative reading: that if they can hold out just a little bit longer, they may discover that what Chambers would have them settle for isn’t necessarily what God would have them settle for. Here’s hoping that they do.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 7

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Campus Pride College Fair and Prep Day: Boston, MA. Campus Pride’s College Fair is an opportunity for LGBT students and their families to discuss educational opportunities with participating LGBT-affirming colleges and universities. The fair features expert advice about LGBT-friendly colleges, scholarship resources and even effective tips for campus visits. The Northwest Region College Fair takes place today at Boston’s City Hall, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. More information can be found here. Future College Fairs will take place in Los Angeles (Oct 15) and New York (Nov 4).

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Columbus, OH; Indianapolis, IN and Kent/Sussex, DE.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tucson, AZ.

Also This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Values Voter Summit: Washington, D.C. The Family “Research” Council, one of only a handful of organizations tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center for being an anti-gay hate group, kicks off its annual Values Voter Summit in the nation’s capital this morning with a breakfast talk by Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty Unversity’s Law School. Members of Staver’s Liberty Counsel and law school staff have been implicated in the Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, while teachers have instructed law students to ignore “man’s law” in favor of “God’s law.” And so as you might expect, the Summit just goes straight downhill from there. Other speakers include House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum. And all of that is before lunch, when voting begins for the Summit’s straw poll. Afternoon speakers include GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, plus Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). The evening plenary session features another GOP presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The craziness just goes on and on and on through Sunday morning.

Exodus International Florida Regional Conference. Leesburg, FL. Exodus International will conduct a two-day conference with the theme “Chosen for Freedom,” beginning today and continuing through Saturday. The conference’s featured speakers include Exodus International president Alan Chambers, former Exodus president Joe Dallas, and former Exodus vice president Randy Thomas. Also speaking is Dr. Julie Hamilton, a former president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and whose book, Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions, includes a final chapter by discredited ex-gay activist George Rekers. As we reported in our original investigation of Rekers’s “treatment” of four-year-old Kirk Murphy, Rekers claimed that he had successfully turned the “effeminate pre-homosexual” boy into a straight man. He built his entire career on that supposedly groundbreaking success story. Except there were a couple of problems: Kirk grew up to be gay, and he ultimately committed suicide over the lifelong conflicts he struggled with as a result of that therapy. Yet in Hamilton’s book, Rekers boasted that Kirk “had a normal male identity,” six years after Kirk took his life. Hamilton’s book with Rekers’s boast is still on sale at NARTH’s web site, and I have no doubt that it will also be available at the conference, which takes place today and tomorrow at the First Baptist Church in Leesburg, FL.

Minnesota Anti-Marriage Strategy and Briefing Session: Bloomington, MN. The Minnesota Faith and Freedom Coalition, supporters of the latest proposed constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriage even more illegaler in the Gopher state, will hold a Strategy and Briefing Session at the Doubletree Inn in Bloomington, MN this morning from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Invited speakers include GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Willow Creek Threads the Needle Between Ex-Gay Movement And Pro-Gay Acceptance

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2011

Last month, David Roberts at Ex-Gay Watched happened to notice that the influential Chicago-area megachurch Willow Creek was no longer listed on Exodus International’s affiliate listing as they had been in the past. Roberts obtained a response from a Willow Creek spokesperson confirming that “After a recent review of our affiliations we determined that, moving into the future, we no longer intend to be affiliated with Exodus International.”

Willow Creek is a very large interdenominational Evangelical church with satellite campuses across the country, and has been called the “most influential church in America.” Christianity Today picked up on the story and spoke with the same Willow Creek spokesperson, Scott Vaudrey, who said that Willow Creek’s decision was not intended as a social or political statement, but resulted from “a season of reviewing and clarifying some of our affiliations with outside organizations.”

Exodus International president Alan Chambers answered Vaudrey’s innocuous framing of their decision with his own combative interpretation of Willow Creek’s decision:

“The choice to end our partnership is definitely something that shines a light on a disappointing trend within parts of the Christian community,” he said, “which is that there are Christians who believe like one another who aren’t willing to stand with one another, simply because they’re afraid of the backlash people will direct their way if they are seen with somebody who might not be politically correct.”

Chambers said he sympathizes with Christian organizations that deal with social, political, and financial backlash, but added, “Biblical truth is unpopular, and when you’re supporting unpopular truth, you are unpopular too; which means, some days, getting upwards of 10,000 phone calls and emails, and it can be overwhelming.”

He later added:

“I really do think decisions like this, ultimately, highlight a reticence in the church to stand up for biblical truth, and they’re coming at a time when we’re going to have to stand up for what we believe. I think there’s a way to stand up. We have to find that way.”

Willow Creek however denies that their theological position on homosexuality has changed. Christianity Today’s article cites Susan DeLay, Willow Creek’s director of media relations, in saying that the church hasn’t not “become less welcoming to people with same-sex attractions or more averse to big problems.” It should be noted that “less welcoming to people with same-sex attractions” is not the same as “less welcoming to gay people.” The former phrasing refers to those who would be part of an ex-gay ministry, rather than openly gay individuals or families headed by gay couples. DeLay goes on:

“It’s quite the contrary,” she said. “Willow Creek has a whole host of ministries for people dealing with these issues, and we would never intend for them to feel sidelined. All we’ve changed is how we’ve gone about inviting them into the church, which is the primary issue here.”

It remains unclear how Willow Creek would respond if a group of LGBT parishioners wanted to form a study group or start a PFLAG sponsorship. DeLay’s referencing those who are “dealing with these isssues,” does not suggest that an acceptable way of dealing would be to embrace one’s God-given gifts.

What actually appears to be happening is that Willow Creek may be trying to “thread the needle.” On the one hand, they want to be clear that they are still an ex-gay-welcoming church and they aren’t about to define themselves as a gay-welcoming church. But they don’t want the to erect obvious barriers to gay people walking through its doors. Mark Yarhouse, whose own studies have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of ex-gay ministries in changing sexual orientation, believes that churches like Willow Creek are beginning to notice that Exodus International and the ex-gay movement has become a significant and growing barrier:

Churches are realizing that while there is a small contingent of the gay community responding to language like ‘freedom from homosexuality’ or ‘freedom is possible,’ the vast majority strongly disagree. They’re angry and they believe it’s impossible to change, and to hear this is so offensive that they will have nothing to do with Christians. So I think churches, in response to that vast majority who say, ‘We’re not interested,’ have decided to look at other approaches in an attempt to connect with the gay community on at least some level. That doesn’t mean that churches disagree with the language of ‘freedom from homosexuality’ doctrinally; they’ve just found that it doesn’t work on a social level.”

Exodus President opposes “It Gets Better” campaign

Jim Burroway and I both independently responded to Alan Chambers' criticism of the Google Chrome It Gets Better ad. While we share the same view, our commentaries come from slightly different perspectives and are both presented here.

Timothy Kincaid

May 5th, 2011

What kind of person would oppose a campaign to combat suicide among gay kids? At what point does one become to opposed to “the homosexual agenda” that they object to telling a kid that the despair they are feeling at that moment will pass, that the oppression they are experiencing will end, that it gets better?

Sadly, there are those with whom we share the planet who are so invested in Culture War and in “us v. them” mentality that they lose sight altogether of the humanity of those with whom they disagree.

This occurs on both sides.

When gay people cannot see religious people in any terms other than “haters” or “Nazis” or when conservatives see gay people only as hedonistic and “enemies of the family”, it justifies any mistreatment that they wish to dole out. Those who differ are no longer people to be persuaded but are instead dehumanized creatures which are deserving of misery, pain, and death. One need no longer keep the instinct to do evil at bay, but can unleash all of one’s inner demons of insecurity and anger and contempt and hatred and care nothing about the consequences. They deserve it.

But usually kids are off limits. Even when throwing intolerance and hate at the “intolerant haters” on the other side, few would go so far as to seek to harm children.

So it shocked me that Alan Chambers, the president of the ex-gay umbrella group Exodus International, would condemn the It Gets Better ad aired by Google Chrome on Tuesday’s episode of GLEE. This program’s goal is clear: discourage suicide, give a message of hope, tell kids to stay alive until it gets better.

But Chambers opposes this campaign, and especially Disney’s lending of Woody to give a message of support (Christian Post):

“Children all over the world, including my two children are fans of ‘Toy Story’ and to see a character like that endorsing something that at this point children have no need to know about, it’s disappointing,” he told The Christian Post.

Chambers, who overcame homosexuality and is now a father of two, suspects that if the commercial airs while he and his children are watching a show and “if they happen to see that and ask questions and if they get the full understanding of what the commercial is actually about, we will have to have the conversation. It’s not something I plan to talk to my kids, 5 and 6, about.”

But it isn’t just Woody’s image that has upset Alan. He disagrees with Woody’s message.

Alan Chambers doesn’t want gay kids to know that it gets better. He doesn’t want them to be aware that Anne Hathaway and President Obama and, yes, Woody all think that they are fine just as they are. He wants them to believe that if they accept themselves and love themselves as gay people then it doesn’t get better; it gets worse.

For organizations like Exodus International, which has thousands of men and women like me who have lived a gay life, it obviously didn’t get better living a gay life for them.

Alan’s message to bullied teens is this: the bullies are right. You are broken and unless you follow the dictates of my beliefs then you will be miserable “living a gay life”. The only way for it to get better is to join Exodus and live a life of struggle and celibacy and eternal hoping for the miraculous.

I was hopeful when Exodus dropped the “Day of Truth”, their school based program for condemning gay students. Alan recognized that this program encouraged and endorsed bullying and – at that time – resolved not to contribute to the problem.

I’m saddened that his resolve seems to have disappeared.

Alan Chambers Prefers “It Gets Worse” Campaign

Jim Burroway

May 5th, 2011

Sometimes you have to wonder what they’re thinking.

On Tuesday, Google premiered their “It Gets Better” ad, with its message of encouragement for teens who endure endless taunting and bullying over their perceived sexuality. Spurred on by a wave of suicides last autumn, Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” campaign in which people all over the world have uploaded videos encouraging young people to just hang in there for just a short while longer. If they can somehow find the strength to do that, then things will almost certainly get better.

Google’s ad shows small snippets of celebrities who have contributed to the project. One of them was the character Woody from “Toy Story,” who says simply “You’ll be fine, partner.” His cameo made up all of two and a half seconds of a ninety second commercial. That was enough to send Exodus International President Alan Chambers into a tizzy:

“Children all over the world, including my two children are fans of ‘Toy Story’ and to see a character like that endorsing something that at this point children have no need to know about, it’s disappointing,” he told The Christian Post.

Chambers, who overcame homosexuality and is now a father of two, suspects that if the commercial airs while he and his children are watching a show and “if they happen to see that and ask questions and if they get the full understanding of what the commercial is actually about, we will have to have the conversation. It’s not something I plan to talk to my kids, 5 and 6, about.”

The conversation Chambers could be having with his children is how to handle themselves if they find themselves being taunted and bullying in school. That’s what the commercial was about. If Chambers really isn’t prepared to have that conversation, then he is really falling down as a father.

But of course, that’s not what Chambers is worried about. It’s the message that, even for gay teens who feel very much alone, it will, at some point, get better. Chambers protests, ““For organizations like Exodus International, which has thousands of men and women like me who have lived a gay life, it obviously didn’t get better living a gay life for them.” Perhaps he’d be happier with an “It Gets Worse” campaign instead. After all, that is at the core of their message:

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J. Crew Ad Features Boy In Pink Toenails

Jim Burroway

April 12th, 2011

Fox News points to this ad, and Exodus International President Alan Chambers sees another potential gay-identified activist in the making.

By the way, the Fox News piece is by Keith Ablow, who co-wrote a book with Glenn Beck about parenting. Many have suggested that the cover art to that book, on first blush to those who don’t recognize the two, can easily be mistaken for portraying some gender-nonconforming issues of its own. Makes devoting an entire op-ed to a single photo look kinda silly, doesn’t it?

Apple Bites Back

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2011

The app…

is gone…

Apple hasn’t made an official announcement, but searching through Apple’s App store for Exodus’s app comes up empty.

Everyone with an iPhone and iPad is still perfectly capable of accessing Exodus’s web site via Safari, so Exodus’s ability to convey their message to everyone with a mobile devices remains intact. And just as every other merchant is free to decide what merchandise they think is appropriate to convey on their premises, Apple is free to determine what apps they wish to make available in their app store. That’s freedom.

Exodus President Responds to David Kato’s Murder

Jim Burroway

January 27th, 2011

Exodus International President Alan Chambers responded to yesterday’s brutal murder of Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato. In a post to the Exodus Blog this evening, Chambers wrote:

The leadership of Exodus international and its member ministries are grieved over the tragic murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato and we send our sincerest condolences to his family & friends.

Many know that we have responded to the horrible and truly homophobic public policy being promoted in Uganda.  Public policy that would harshly punish, imprison and possibly execute those who have same-sex attractions and/or identify as gay.  Exodus International, in agreement with many other Christian and gay organizations, have pleaded with the government to show compassion, afford dignity and respect for those who identify as gay.  We are absolutely opposed to the criminalization of homosexuality in any nation.

Exodus International calls on President & Mrs. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to lead their government into an era of treating all of their neighbors as they would like to be treated.  It is abominable that a nation with Christian leadership would endorse or allow anyone to be brutally murdered.  In the words of Jesus Himself, those who are without sin cast the first stone.

Exodus International condemns the murder of David Kato and calls for justice to be fairly applied, not covered up, when the murderers are caught.

Exodus International board member Don Schmierer was one of three American Evangelicals who had conducted an anti-gay conference in Kampala in March 2009. That conference, proudly nicknamed the “nuclear bomb” by Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, marked the start of a massive deterioration in the climate for LGBT people in Uganda which ultimately culminated in the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in that nation’s Parliament the following October. Despite numerous calls for Exodus to denounce the conference and its aftermath, the ex-gay organization continued to defend Schmierer’s participation. Worse, Schmierer’s only public response was to cast himself as the victim, again and again, rather than acknowledging the perilous situation he helped to set up.

One month after the introduction of the draconian anti-gay legislation, Exodus posted a public letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. That letter contained a plea to “consider the influence this law will have” on ex-gay organizations operating in Uganda. There was however little  mention of the influence this law would have on gay people themselves.

Finally in March 2010, more than a year after that fateful conference, the Exodus International board of directors got it right. That’s when they issued their statement condemning the anti-gay bill. “Exodus International has not and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity including, but not limited to, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009.” While the statement was a strong denunciation of the bill, it appeared to stop just short of condemning criminalization of homosexuality generally. Later that summer, Alan Chambers followed that statement with another personal note on the Exodus blog expressing his regret for not taking seriously the warnings that several people (including BTB’s Timothy Kincaid) sent him privately in advance of the conference. He also detailed several other failures in how he and Exodus handled the fallout. Chamber’s statement then culminated in the announcement of a landmark policy statement placing Exodus on record, for the first time in its history, as opposing the criminalization of homosexuality “as conducted by consensual adults in private.”

Chambers’s statement today builds on last year’s moves. Now, if only Schmierer were capable of displaying one tenth as much courage.

Marin, Chambers, Others Respond to Prop 8 Decision

Jim Burroway

August 10th, 2010

Christianity Today has a roundup of responses from various Evangelical leaders to last week’s decision declaring California’s Prop 8 unconstitutional.

The most interesting response, to me, comes from Andrew Marin, who is often credited as being a “bridge builder” between Evangelicals and the gay community. Interesting, only because I’ve been listening to hours of his talks trying to figure out what he really believes, and I don’t think I’m any closer to understanding what he wants to accomplish than when I started, since he won’t just come right out and say what he really believes. In response to the Prop 8 decision, Marin told Christianity Today:

We can continue to politically fight a drawn-out battle with a government that is not governed through an evangelical worldview, producing more casualties for Christ. Or we can learn right now what it means to live in relation to, and relationship with LGBT people as gay marriage is legalized—continuing to actively show Christ’s compelling nature regardless of state or national policy. The choice is ours.

Trying to understand Marin’s position on same-sex marriage (or whether homosexuality is a sin) is like trying to deconstruct the latest statements from the Federal Reserve. When asked directly whether he thinks gay people should marry, Marin adamantly refuses to answer and instructs his followers to do the same. Which, to me, blows his whole bridge-building exercise out of the water. After all, who wants to walk onto a bridge when they don’t know where it goes?  So without a map, we’re left hunting for clues and here we find another: the government is not governed (as evidenced by this decision) through an Evangelical worldview. Many LGBT people might find cause to dispute that — we can’t marry in 9/10ths of the country — but as a self-proclaimed evangelical himself we at least now have an indication that marriage equality doesn’t fit that shared worldview. Take that hint for what it’s worth.

Alan Chambers, of Exodus International responded:

We cannot avoid the glaring scriptural truth that there is, and will always be, a right way and a wrong way concerning just about everything we can imagine. And, yet, I believe that our attitudes towards people (internal and external) are just as important as our positions on the issues at hand. … I firmly believe that if we had spent as much money, time, and energy battling for people’s hearts as we did fighting against their agendas, the gay rights battle would look very different today.

In a recent statement condemning Uganda’s proposed draconian legislation to impose the death penalty on gay people under certain circumstances and to virtually outlaw knowing or providing services to LGBT people, Chambers acknowledged that part of his motivation for waiting sixteen months before adequately addressing the March 2009 anti-gay Kampala conference which started the whole mess was due to the fact that LGBT advocates were calling upon him to do so. That was, I think, a startling and welcome admission. It also marks a change from 2007 when he spoke before a group of anti-gay activists in Florida and characterized the gay community as following an “evil agenda” and actively lobbied Congress against hate crimes legislation and other issues important to the LGBT community. And yet, even in those times, he would offer messages to other broader mainstream audiences similar to the one above. So whether this change is episodic (as others have been) or enduring remains to be seen. (Update: Alan reaffirms that “Exodus isn’t returning to politics, but it was a good venue for talking about having compassion for our neighbors whether we agree with them or not.”)

Other interesting reactions include Timothy George of Samford University:

Christians who thought they would be able to just sleep through this issue will not be allowed to. At stake in the debate is the very nature of marriage itself. Thinking biblically does not allow us to regard marriage as merely prudential or preferential (I like strawberry, you like pistachio), but as a covenantal union of one man and one woman established by God for a purpose that transcends itself. Marriage is not a “right” to be defended or exploited…

Gerald R. McDermott, professor of religion at Roanoke College:

Social science has shown that children do best in a home with two parents of the opposite sex in a low-conflict marriage, and gay marriages make that impossible for their children and less likely for society generally. More children will be created by artificial sperm donation, which in many cases forever cuts the children off from knowing both their biological parents. Gay marriage will also encourage teens who are unsure of their sexuality to embrace a lifestyle that suffers high rates of suicide, depression, HIV, drug abuse, STDs, and other pathogens.

McDermott, a relatively minor figure in anti-gay politics, nevertheless remains unchastened over pushing discredited researcher Paul Cameron’s bogus statistics. His 2004 Christianity Today article, “Why Gay Marriage Would Be Harmful,” was the basis for one of the earliest reports by Box Turtle Bulletin.

Glenn Stanton of Focus On the Family was equally direct in his response:

The gospel is deeply serious while Judge Walker’s decision is a jumbled mess of sloppy thinking and accusation. He asserts religion is the cause of violence against gays. Jesus, when asked a tough legal question about marriage, explained, “God created them male and female.” This dual identity of humanity is no small thing for us nor our Lord because male and female image the invisible God, creating a full human communion. But Judge Walker says, “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.” The Christian’s allegiance is clear.

Gender was a major focus on the 2008 debate hosted by Box Turtle Bulletin between anthropologist Patrick Chapman and Glenn Stanton on Stanton’s white paper, “Differing definitions of marriage and family” (PDF: 80KB/10 pages).

And finally, I’d like to highlight Mark Yarhouse, of Regent University:

I don’t know that there is one response to the Proposition 8 decision that will reflect the depth and breadth of the gospel in the life of believers today. A gospel response is shaped by many factors, including how one views Christ and culture. Some Christians will see appealing the decision as part of the gospel response, drawing upon legal avenues and hoping it will be overturned upon appeal. Other Christians will prayerfully consider alternatives to legal means to be a witness to a rapidly changing culture. I think younger Christians, in particular, are more likely to explore such alternatives.

Yarhouse collaborated with Wheaton College’s Stanton Jones in an ex-gay study that found very little change among the study’s participants. Because of the study’s results, Yarhouse has since downplayed the possibility of sexual orientation change.

Mean-Spirited Tweet of the Day

Jim Burroway

July 23rd, 2010

You know a counterfeit is a counterfeit when the happiness and freedom it initially promised ends up leading to deeper bondage.

– Exodus International president Alan Chambers

“Counterfeit” is ex-gay code-speak for gay people getting together, falling in love, forming families, and living the American dream. “Bondage” is ex-gay code-speak for just going about your life — that is if you’re gay. If you’re straight, then the term is just “living.” But whatever.

Alan Chambers will spend next week taking his counterfeit message to Brazil. He will be speaking for six days at a Summer Institute next week at the Igreja Bautista Central in Magé, near Rio de Janero. Here’s the Google translation:

We are glad to realize another Institute. This time, in partnership with Exodus International. Exodus International is the largest evangelical institution that works to restore and evangelization of the world’s homosexuals. Together, we are bringing the topic: “Grace That Makes Reborn.”

Our purpose is to show the grace of God as the unconditional and sole agent that enables a real transformation in the lives of those who struggle with homosexuality and who are often marginalized by society and the Church of Jesus Christ.

The instrument used by God to bless us in these days will be Mr. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. He will minister every day talking about the emotional and spiritual causes of homosexuality, will speak about the myths we create about homosexuality, the importance of a Christian attitude toward homosexuals, and speak of the structure of this ministry to be applied in the Church to bless the lives of people living this conflict.

We have no doubt that these days will mark our history and our lives, for this reason we invited you to join us. We believe that, as a church, or simply, individuals must have an attitude of love and compassion for those who also loved Jesus. After all, the cross of Christ is not for a privileged few but for all, including homosexuals. God has no favorites when it comes to saving people from their sins. His love and grace are the essential ingredients for a sinner can be reborn. Therefore, we believe this can make FREE qualqur again sinner.

Sign up and receive this blessing.

Exodus President Expresses Regret For Uganda Debacle

This commentary reflects those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

June 8th, 2010

In March 2009, a member of the Board of Directors for Exodus International, Don Schmierer, travelled to Uganda with holocaust revisionist Scott Lively to conduct what has since become a notorious anti-gay conference whose repercussions — including the drafting of a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill to add the death penalty for gay people under certain circumstances — continue to reverberate in that country today. Today, more than fifteen months later, Exodus International President Alan Chambers released an unusually frank statement acknowledging his failure to advice Schmierer to cancel his appearance at the conference.

The statement, posted on Exodus International’s blog, in my view constitutes a fairly comprehensive acknowledgment of Chambers personal failings over his handling of the Uganda debacle. While the statement does not use the word “apology” specifically, he provides a detailed self-examination of his mistakes along some of the motives for making them and expresses regret for them. If there’s one thing I gained from my Catholic education, it’s that I think I can recognize a genuine act of contrition when I see one. This statement goes far beyond anything I had ever expected to see.

In the statement, Chambers acknowledges receiving prior warnings from BTB’s Timothy Kincaid, as well as Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts and Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, but says that he didn’t give the warnings the attention they deserved. What’s more, he acknowledges that the reason he didn’t heed them was “due to who was issuing them.”

My initial belief was that their major concern was over Caleb Lee Brundidges association with Richard Cohen. Again, no excuses, I was negligent in digging deeper and heeding their warnings. While I did share my concerns with Don Schmierer prior to the event, he was on the ground in Uganda and I saw this as an issue that didn’t warrant him canceling his appearance there—after all, in my mind, Don was simply sharing his normal talk on parenting. I do realize that his mere presence there, even as a private citizen, did give the appearance that Exodus was endorsing the conference and eventually the horrific political position that was fueled by that event.

As I have stated in less trafficked public settings, I am disappointed that some of my reasons for not heeding warnings was due to who was issuing them. I believe that probably works both ways, but in this case my error was grave. I cannot undo my initial lack of, then delayed, response or the harm that it caused, but I have learned from that terrible mistake and tried to make amends by condemning the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 and by standing with a cross-spectrum group of people to see that the measure is, itself, killed. Exodus and I will continue to do that with regard to the Uganda measure or any other similar law or proposed law in other nations. We will also seek to condemn that which is condemnable more swiftly; not to do so finds us breech in our responsibility as an organization people look to for biblical wisdom.

I have no doubt that I will be pilloried by fellow LGBT advocates for saying this, but while I find the statement’s tardiness indefensible (as Chambers acknowledges near the beginning of his statement), I also find it to be a complete and heartfelt acknowledgement of virtually all of our criticisms concerning Exodus’ connections with the events in Uganda. Sure, our larger differences over the political goals and therapeutically-questionable methods of the ex-gay movement remain intractable. And Exodus’ ongoing efforts to export the culture war to foreign lands where they may not necessarily appreciate the cultural nuances of the host country remain a source of deep concern. But with regard to Exodus’ connection with this particular debacle in Uganda, this is much, much closer to the kind of statement that I wish they had released earlier.

I do, however, believe that Schmierer owes the world a similar act of self-examination. Aside from a few defensive and self-serving comments, his continued silence remains perhaps the most critical missing voice in all of this.

As Timothy Kincaid has already reported, this statement addresses another critical shortcoming that I and others have called on them to address from the beginning. At the conclusion of this statement, Chambers announced that Exodus has drafted a new policy statement against criminalization of homosexuality. While this isn’t the first time Exodus or Chambers have spoken against criminalization, it is the first time Exodus has placed such a statement directly on their main web site in a permanent location where it will be easy for everyone to find.

This statement is ridiculously overdue, but I heartily welcome it nonetheless. And I hope that it will serve as an example for other Evangelical groups with ties to Uganda and elsewhere around the world.

Addendum: A genuine act of contrition calls on the penitent to make amends. Chambers says that they “will continue to [condemn] the Uganda measure or any other similar law or proposed law in other nations.” For this to be effective, it must be pro-active, not reactive. Responding because their opponents are calling them to account comes across as weak and, as Scott Lively put it, “effeminate”. Time will tell whether that particular message has sunk in.

Ex-Gays Celebrating Misery And Tragedy In Lives Of Gay People Is Hardly New

Daniel Gonzales

May 19th, 2010

Alan Chambers, thanking God for the end of a 22 year relationship.

Earlier today Ex-Gay Watch posted on a statement made by Exodus president Alan Chambers on his Facebook fan page:

Heard from a couple this morning who have been praying for their daughter and her partner to come to Christ for 22 years. Both accepted Jesus, broke off their relationship and are pursuing a life in Christ. God is faithful and answers prayers. Be encouraged no matter your circumstances!

Unfortunately celebrating misery and tragedy in the lives of gay and lesbian people is nothing new for leaders in the ex-gay movement.  A while back I found, but didn’t post about, a passage from Mike Haley’s 2004 book “101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality.” Appearing on pages 46 & 47:

[Question #] 12. My son just told me he’s gay.  He says he’s finally accepted who he is and that he’s never been happier.  Can this really be true?

Mike Haley starts off his response with explaining how gay people often feel elated at coming out so let’s jump to the end of his response where he issues actual advise:

The key for your son in the weeks and months to come is for him to realize it’s not too late to turn back.  This is where the church and loved ones like you come in.  If he hears that change is possible, that he was not “made” this way, and that he is loved within godly boudaries even if his lifestyle choices don’t change immediately, there is hope that when the feeling of relief wears off and the emptiness sets in, he will try to live his life in line with God’s will.

In the meantime, I advise you to pray that he becomes as miserable as possible, as soon as possible, and that God will protect him through it. [emphasis added]

Mike Haley of Focus On The Family, advising you to pray God will make your gay child miserable.

As I said before, I discovered that passage years ago when I first read the book and in all that time have been unable to formulate a response to something so wicked and ugly.  However with Ex-Gay Watch bringing light to Alan’s celebration I realized this sadly is not a unique case and that attention needed to be brought to it.

I should add the first page of Haley’s book is filled with endorsements by Alan Chambers, Jeff Konrad, Joe Dallas, and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.  I’m curious if they too wish for misery and tragedy to fall upon the lives of gay and lesbian people.

Exodus Co-Founder: Inequality Under The Law Is OK As Long As It Persuades People To Go Ex-Gay

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 11th, 2010

Modern day Exodus and president Alan Chambers provide a near non-stop supply of illogical and bizarre statements that keep watchdog sites like Truth Wins Out, Ex-Gay Watch, and BoxTurtleBulletin busy documenting and analyzing them.  My personal favorite is Alan’s claim that he might never have come to Jesus and become straight if gay marriage had been available to him when he was young and gay.

I thought I’d ask Michael Bussee what he thought of Alan’s statement.

Hat tip to Ex-Gay Watch for capturing video of Alan’s appearance at the Prop 8 rally.

(transcript below the jump)

Read the rest of this entry »

Exodus International Issues Statement Condemning Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2010

The board of directors of Exodus International has issued a statement condemning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. This statement comes amid year-long criticism of the ex-gay organization after one of its board members, Don Schmierer, conducted an anti-gay conference in Kampala alongside two other anti-gay American activists, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge. That conference, which included Lively’s infamous “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda”, fanned the already burning flames of virulent homophobia in that country and ushered in the proposal a draconian new law which would, among many other things, result in the death penalty for gay people under certain conditions.

In this latest statement from Exodus International, the Board says:

Exodus International believes that every human life, regardless of an individual’s sexual behavior, is of inestimable worth to God and that defending this principle is foundational in offering a Christian response to any issue. As such, Exodus International has not and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity including, but not limited to, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. We stand with all who are defending this basic, biblical tenet and remain committed to sharing the compassion, hope and life-giving truth and grace of Jesus Christ.

“In November of 2009, several of us sent a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and First Lady Musenevi expressing our concerns regarding The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. The legislation would render some homosexual practices crimes punishable by life imprisonment and possible death. We believe that sexual crimes against children, whether committed by someone of the same or opposite sex, are the most serious of offenses and should be punished; we consider same-sex behavior in consensual adult relationships another matter.

Exodus issued their open letter to President Yoweri Museveni on November 16, 2009, more than nine months following the Kampala conference. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was formally introduced into Parliament on October 15.

On March 10, 2010, barely a full year after the Kampala conference, Exodus International president Alan Chambers left a comment on Warren Throckmorton’s web site expressing disappointment over not having had an opportunity to appear on ABC’s Nightline, saying, ” would have loved nothing better than to share our disdain for this bill and apologize for going anywhere near such a horrible conference.” While this statement from Exodus accomplishes the first goal, there is no apology for having participated in the “Nuclear Bomb” conference.

The latest statement also condemns criminalization of homosexuality as a hindrance to the group’s mission “assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue.”

Exodus’s statement is signed by Alan Chambers, vice president, Randy Thomas, board chair Bob Ragan, and fifty-one other board members and ex-gay ministry leaders, including Don Schmierer. The full text of the statement is reproduced below. The statement appears on the Exodus International blog, but so far it does not appear on the organization’s official web site.

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

Click here to read Exodus International’s full statement.

Exodus President Wants To Apologize for Ugandan Conference. So What’s Holding Him Back?

Jim Burroway

March 10th, 2010

As I write this about now, ABC’s Nightline, which is slated to cover the current anti-gay situation in Uganda, is just about to wrap up its broadcast on the east coast. I still have to wait another hour before I can see it, so I don’t know what the report will look like. But if the shorter segment shown on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer earlier this evening is any indication, it should be a good one.

Among the clips shown in the shorter evening broadcast were interviews with Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa (who comes off looking like a buffoon — no surprise!), and video clips of the March 2009 conference put on by the three American anti-gay activists: Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively (who reiterated that he was very proud of his “nuclear bomb”), Exodus International board member Don Schmierer (who refused to be available for an interview or make a statement) and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge (who was also nowhere to be found).

Alan ChambersExodus International president Alan Chambers has already responded, in a comment left on Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton’s web site:

I am disappointed that Exodus won’t be heard in this piece. Sadly, Don Schmierer declined the interview and our request to go on record with ABC was denied. I would have loved nothing better than to share our disdain for this bill and apologize for going anywhere near such a horrible conference.

If Chambers is sincere that he really does want to apologize on behalf of Exodus, then it is lamentable that ABC decided not to include his statement on their broadcast. An apology would be a very welcome — and I think newsworthy — development. But what’s stopping Exodus from issuing that apology that they know in their hearts is the right thing to do?

As we’ve discussed before, BTB’s Timothy Kincaid tried in vain to warn Chambers personally about the conference before it took place, but those warnings went unheeded. We also know that Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts had also contacted Chambers personally, as did Warren Throckmorton. But those please to contact Schmierer at the posh Triangle Hotel in downtown Kampala — they have faxes, Internet, and telephones like any other world-class hotel — went unheeded.

Instead, we got self-congratulatory sanctimony in the weeks following that fateful conference, when they were still proud of Schmierer’s performance. (By the way, people have been arrested in Uganda since then; we’re still waiting for Exodus VP Randy Thomas to book his flight to “plead for their freedom.”)

Back when the media hadn’t quite awaken to the unfolding tragedy in Uganda and BTB was one of the few outlets refusing to allow the story to go unnoticed, Exodus wrote us off as “American militant gay activists” making a bunch of “North American noise.” Now that mainstream television is highlighting the conference in prime time, Alan feels moved to make an apology. Odd, isn’t it?

But darn, now that he wants to apologize, there isn’t an ABC camera around to broadcast it. Oh well, I guess that means he can’t apologize now.

Seriously, if Exodus were to issue such a policy, BTB would be happy to do its part to get the world out. I’m no Diane Sawyer (Shut up, guys!), but I think we now have the world’s attention finally. I know that Exodus doubts my sincerity, but all I ever wanted was for them to respond responsibly to the mess they helped to create by their action and inaction. There is no better time than right now to make amends. Don’t tell me you you’re holding out for Diane Sawyer to do the right thing.

NARTH: Forced Therapy Is “Unethical and Unworkable”

Jim Burroway

December 29th, 2009

Getting the National  Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) to say specifically whether coercing people into conversion therapy is unethical or not appears to have been extraordinarily difficult, but Grove City College professor has managed to get them to do just that.

The issue has arisen again lately in Uganda, where the Parliament is currently taking up the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would provide for the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances. While the entire bill is wide-ranging and dangerous for straight people as well as gays, the death sentence has garnered particular scrutiny. Now backers of the bill say that they may drop the death penalty and add a clause to provide forced conversion therapy for those convicted. It is unknown whether the forced therapy would be as an alternative to the lifetime prison sentence, or an adjunct to it.

The idea of forced conversions appears to have come from Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, one of three American anti-gay extremists who led a conference in Kampala last March. The other two Americans, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge, were there as conversion therapy “experts,” but they remained completely silent as the idea was allowed to fester for the succeeding nine months. NARTH also remained silent, even though Scott Lively touted NARTH as the leading experts on conversion therapy during the conference.

Finally, Warren Throckmorton was able to get a statement from NARTH. The group’s past president, A. Dean Byrd, wrote this reply to Throckmorton:

Dear Dr. Throckmorton,

As you are aware, NARTH’s Governing Board has accepted the Leona Tyler Principle which states that NARTH, as a scientific organization, takes no position on any scientific issue without the requisite science or professional experience.  NARTH members, as individuals, are free to speak on any issue.

NARTH values the inherent worth of all individuals and respects individual right of autonomy and self determination.

NARTH’s position on homosexuality was clearly articulated by Dr. Julie Harren Hamiliton in a recent edition of the APA Monitor: homosexuality is not invariably fixed in all people – some people can and do change.  And psychological care should be available to those who seek such care.

NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts. It goes without saying that NARTH would support the humane treatment of ALL individuals.

We are aware of the situation in Uganda but thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am sure that you are aware that as a scientific organization, NARTH does not take political positions; however, we are happy to provide a summary of what science can and cannot say about homosexuality for those who do.

Dr. Throckmorton, if history is a good indicator, you will likely not be happy with this response. However, I hope such responses will help you understand NARTH’s mission as a scientific organization.

With warm regards,

A. Dean Byrd, PhD, MBA, MPH

The line about NARTH not taking political positions is utterly laughable. You don’t even have to go beyond the front page on NARTH’s web site before you find links decrying the supposed “dangers” of same-sex marriage.

That aside, it was difficult to find the denunciation of forced conversion therapy. If you blinked, you might have missed it. But here it is again, with my emphasis:

NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts.

After further inquiries from Throckmorton, Byrd clarified:

Research tells us that forced therapy is almost always a failure. It is unethical and unworkable.

Scott Lively specifically recommended NARTH to his Ugandan audience, saying, “After my web site, this is the one I consider the most important.” But if Ugandans go to  NARTH, they will not find a single statement anywhere which provides guidance on coercive therapy. Exodus also continues to refrain from placing a statement on their web site as well, although Exodus President Alan Chambers did say in a Facebook posting, “I am NOT for forced therapy for gay and lesbian people.”

It’s good that NARTH and Exodus leadership has now come out against forced therapy. But since this is not the first time this issue has come up — and it certainly won’t be the last time either — isn’t it time these two organizations finally made these statements official and accessible? What reason could they possibly have for keeping them hard to find and off of their own web sites?

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

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.

Click here to read Exodus International’s letter to President Museveni.

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