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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for May, 2012

Exodus Condemns Family “Research” Council For Honoring Anti-Gay Pastor

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2012

From today’s press release:

Exodus International, the world’s largest Christian ministry helping individuals and families struggling with same sex attraction, denounced the Family Research Council’s choice of pastor Ron Baity to receive its highest pro-family honor, the 2012 Watchman Award.

Baityis on record saying, “gays act worse than maggots,” will make society “more filthy,” and God had an “urban renewal plan for Sodom and Gomorrah.” Baity also compares gay and lesbian people to murderers and says gay marriage is America’s “death warrant.” Baity is founding pastor of Winston-Salem’s Berean Baptist Church and head of the pro-marriage organization, Return America.

“It’s time conservative Christians who claim biblical principles such as loving their enemies and neighbors, and considering the welfare of others first, to speak swiftly and strongly against this type of action,” says Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.

“For too long we’ve stayed silent and allowed our brothers and sisters to tip that hat toward hate. It’s a terrible witness for Christ, and clear hypocrisy to a watching world.”

Exodus hasn’t had a very close relationship with the Family “Research” Council for quite a while. Exodus has traveled more in Focus On the Family’s circle than FRC’s, and their association with FOTF has been curtailed somewhat after Exodus took over the Love Won Out travelling roadshow conference in 2009. Last fall, there were reports that Exodus would undergo a rebranding exercise in an effort to stave off bankruptcy. The first evidence for that exercise came in January when Exodus president Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel of a meeting of the Gay Christian Network and said that “99.9% of them (ex-gays) have not experienced a change in their orientation.”

That provoked a mild rebuke from NARTH. Meanwhile, Exodus removed books on Reparative Therapy,(*) NARTH’s signature form of therapy, from Exodus’s online bookstore. It now appears that Exodus has removed references to NARTH altogether from its web site.

I don’t think we can deny that changes are taking place at Exodus. What’s unclear is how deep those changes go, particularly to member ministries and churches. It’s also unclear how deep these changes are held within Exodus’s leadership. Last February, Exodus board member Mike Goeke wrote an op-ed for the Baptist Press describing why he thought homosexuality was in a special category that made it different from all the other “sins.”

That’s why I had hoped to attend another Love Won Out conference to see what, if any, changes had been made in its messaging. The last time I attended one was in 2007, and I was prepared to go to Albuquerque to attend one that had been scheduled for May. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to a lack of interest. I had also wanted to try to attend the Exodus Freedom Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota at the end of June, but finances won’t permit it.

So I’m in the same boat as the rest of you, trying to read the tea leaves from afar. And as is the case with tea-leaf reading, the result likely says more about the reader than any message contained in the leaves: Exodus is either making all the changes we’ve hoped they were making, or they are frantically trying to say or do anything to stay alive. I happen to believe the truth actually lies elsewhere — not in the tea leaves, but simply by watching and noting each development as it unfolds. To be sure, Exodus is not becoming a pro-gay or gay-affirming organizaiton. But I think today’s statement condeming the FRC’s honoree does break new ground, if for no other reason than for the fact that Exodus International has strongly criticized a very powerful and influential anti-gay organization. I’m not willing to read anything more into this statement than that. But I’m also not willing to read anything less.

[(*) NOTE: Reparative Therapy is a very specific term which describes just one particular type of therapy out of a large array of therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation. Reparative Therapy derives its name from the theory that gay men become gay because they suffered a “masculine deficit” due to the failure to form a healthy bond with their fathers. That “masculine deficit” sets up a “reparative drive” in the son, wich is defined as the son’s impulse to “repair” that masculine deficit by seeking out relationships with other men. Reparative Therapy depends on this particular theory of male homosexuality, and it is quite rigid on that point. Many ex-gay therapists are not Reparative Therapists, and some are quite emphatic on that point.

This is why we here at BTB do not use the phrase “reparative therapy” as a generic term for sexual orientation change therapies because that usage is incorrect. We only use this term when we are talking about this particular form of therapy intended to address the so-called “reparative drive.”]

Dissention Rises Within Exodus International

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2012

Last January, Exodus International president Alan Chambers appeared on  a surprise panel at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference in Orlando, and made the surprising admission that “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.” At about that same time, it was noticed that Exodus International had removed several books on Reparative Therapy from their online bookstore.

[NOTE: Contrary to popular misconceptions, Reparative Therapy is not a generic term for sexual orientation change therapy. It is a term describing one particular form of therapy promoted by Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Reparative Therapy derives its name on Nicolosi’s theory of the so-called “reparative drive.” Please see this for a  more complete description.]

It quickly became apparent however that the rest of Exodus may not be fully behind Chambers’s overtures. Mike Goeke, an Exodus International board member and former vice-president, published an op-ed just two days later describing homosexuality as being different — and in its way, worse — than “any sin,” a position that is in marked contrast to Chambers’s discussion of homosexuality from a theological standpoint. Now Andrew Comiskey, who heads Desert Streams Ministries, opened the debate on the clinical front by issuing a letter expressing his “concern over Exodus distancing itself from reparative therapy” and calls for changes at Exodus over Chambers’s recent comments and actions.

The letter was posted briefly at Andrew Comiskey’s web site, but it was later removed. A copy has been uploaded at Ex-Gay Watch (PDF: 180KB/7 pages). In the letter, Comiskey takes issue with Alan Chambers’s statements indicating that Exodus would de-emphasize the possibility of sexual orientation change as part of its ministry. Saying that Desert Streams Ministry (DSM) employs “the most commonly employed ‘healing’ format in (Exodus International’s) network,” he adds:

Regarding sexual orientation change, we at DSM will continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with SSA who are earnestly seeking Him and who are willing to do the hard work of resolving their gender disintegration through Christ and His healing community. (We realize that not all will graduate into a state of readiness for marriage. However, that should not preclude anyone from seeking full sexual restoration.)

Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands. To question sexual orientation change on the basis of residual struggles is weak theology and psychology. Very few who have overcome destructive, life-dominating issues live without a trace of the problem. To then describe that ‘trace’ as a reason to tone down the idea of change makes no sense to us.

As for Exodus’s drawing back from promoting Reparative Therapy in particular:

We at DSM are only indebted to the good of reparative therapy and its underpinnings in developmental psychology. How else would we understand how we become disintegrated in our gender identities, as well as gain objective markers en route to wholeness?

We cannot afford to distance ourselves from the whole healing community, which must involve solid reparative therapists. They can do what we cannot in our ministries, and vice-versa. We need them! …We would like to know how Exodus plans on representing and integrating solid clinical insight on the Board and in its offerings.

Comiskey’s disagreement with Chambers is twofold. First is the disagreement over Reparative Therapy and the prospects for change in sexual orientation. The second disagreement however is theological, and Comiskey devotes several paragraphs over those theological points. Exodus International, like Chambers, has always been Evangelical in its underpinnings. And so has Comiskey, having come from the Vineyard movement which was the genesis of the dominant Christian-based ex-gay movement in the 1970s. But lately, Comiskey appears to be leaning much more toward Catholic theology, which would mean that if Chambers is making a departure from a clinical standpoint, Comiskey is making a similarly pronounced one from a theological point of view. Nevertheless, Comiskey charges that Chambers’s particular theological positions — some of which are perfectly at home in just about any Baptist setting, for example — places Exodus in danger of “cater(ing) to the culture.”

Comiskey closes with four “recommendations,” with the third recommendation just barely stopping short of calling for Chambers’s ejection from Exodus:

1 That a distinction be made between Alan’s calling and job description, and the needs of the member ministries. Alan is not equipped to handle all that he is currently trying to do. We perceive him as neither a theologian nor a healer but as an inspirer and evangelist, a bridge-builder in need of refinement. He is being chastened for making unfortunate comments. God bless him; haven’t we all? We trust that those he trusts will help him to stay low and clarify the way forward for his renewed season of service.

2. In order for DSM to remain a member ministry, we need to see a higher caliber of commitment to theological and clinical excellence from Exodus. Consider the courage of those with SSA who are seeking genuine integration. They deserve the best! The stakes are high—we are all experiencing the fall-out from a few misplaced, well-intentioned words. We must all do our part, and could draw upon expert friends of Exodus, e.g. Nicolosi and Gagnon, and Exodus elders like the Worthens and Joe Dallas.

3. The process of distinguishing Alan’s role and that of the member ministries must be done slowly and carefully, with Alan playing a reduced role (at best) in the process. We would suggest team leadership here, and sensitive protocol between these newly distinguished expressions of Exodus.

4. Pray more and facebook less. We could all repent of a little wounded self importance. Those overcoming same-sex attraction are inclined to narcissism and its wounds. We all need to get low and give this work back to Jesus. We at DSM hesitate to follow any one person’s lead. Jesus will make such things clear as we wait together.

Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts, who first reported on plans for a re-branding effort at Exodus International last November, saw Comiskey’s letter as “the first public shot in the coming insurrection at Exodus” among Exodus member ministries who are “hard line ‘change is possible’ and reparative therapy proponents.” Warren Throckmorton, similarly, wondered aloud whether the letter marks a “schism” at Exodus. Undoubtedly it sparked some interesting conversations behind the scenes, to say the least. Comiskey has since removed the letter from his web site. He has offered no explanation for its removal.

Exodus chooses their own change

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2012

Henry Ford once quipped that “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” And behind that bit of snark is an important idea: life always gives you choices, but sometimes the choice is limited to how you choose to respond to inevitable circumstances. You can always change things, but sometimes the change is limited to changing your own perspective.

And after many years of prayer, effort, and contemplation, Exodus International, the umbrella organization for ex-gay ministries seems to have reached that realization. When in January at a panel presentation to the Gay Christian Network it’s president, Alan Chambers, said that 99.9% of ex-gays don’t change their orientation, it was to the first half or that reality that he was speaking.

But there is always room for change. And when it came time for each of us to recognize our orientation, we all went through change. And for young Christian youth growing up in a conservative family and church, change is necessary for survival. Without reconciling your sexuality and your faith, you will never be at peace.

Most of those reading chose to question the things we had been taught. We found a path that allows for relationships and sexual expression without seeing such as eternally damning. But the change one chooses is individual and there is no “correct” response. Some choose to apply to themselves and their lives the same conservative sexual code that they would apply to single heterosexuals. And that is their right.

And within that context, “change” becomes simply that: movement from one state of being to another. The effort to achieve goals and objectives measured not by how gay or straight one is, but by whether one lives according to their chosen life plan.

In February, Alan wrote a commentary in which he discusses change and what it means to him. At that time we were going through an almost daily shift in marriage law expectations across the states and our coverage of those stories would have drowned out this issue. And as we have for many years challenged Exodus to explain “change”, I want to give Alan’s explanation an opportunity to be heard.

I have SSA but that reality is only relevant to me personally and those with whom I am in deep relationship. I choose to be faithful to my relationship with Christ and the truth that my Heavenly Father’s creative intent for human sexual expression was for one man and one woman in the bonds of heterosexual marriage. For me, anything else falls short and is to be resisted. Because I experience some level of SSA I monitor what stimuli I receive. The same is true of my relationship with other things that have consumed me in the past from food to materialism.

When it comes to orientation, attractions, desires, feelings or whatever word you choose to use, I think very little about them. They are what they are. I know them. I understand them. I know how to live with them. I also know a lot of the things that cause them to manifest. SSA isn’t a greater struggle or more concerning to me than other things in my life. Again, they just are. I guess that is why I have no problem talking about them, admitting them and feeling really great about myself even though I have them. They do not define me.

Leslie isn’t threatened by my SSA, either. She knows how I feel about my relationship with Christ first and how I feel about her followed by our kids and so on. She isn’t a surrogate for sexual acting out. She is my treasure and the object of my deepest human longings.

Have I experienced change in my life? To be sure. And to be clear, the change is primarily a matter of seeking to live out what I value most. It is centered on who I am in Christ and flows outward in a way that is specific to me and doesn’t contradict what the Bible teaches. The same was true for me as a single, celibate Christian man.

Exodus International Drops “Reparative Therapy” Books

Jim Burroway

January 26th, 2012

As further evidence of a possible shift of Exodus International’s focus, Warren Throckmorton pointed the removal of books on reparative therapy from Exodus’s bookstore. When Throckmorton asked Exodus International president Alan Chambers for comment, he responded:

The reason I removed RT books from Exodus Books is because I don’t agree with using this research as a means to say that “this” is how homosexuality always develops, “this” is the primary means in which to deal with it and this is “the” outcome you can expect.  Too, Exodus, as a whole, is not a scientific or psychological organization…we are a discipleship ministry and that is where I think our strength is and energy should be focused.

This comes two weeks after Chambers told an audience of gay Christians that “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.”

Before we jump to conclusions here, it is important to step back and unpack this a bit to understand what is happening. When most people think of the phrase “reparative therapy,” it is generally assumed that what is being “repaired” is a person’s sexual orientation. But clinically, that’s not what is meant by “reparative therapy”. Reparative Therapy is a very specific term which describes just one particular type of therapy out of a large array of therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation. Reparative Therapy in particular derives its name from the theoretical underpinnings of this particular form of therapy, which is based on the assumption that gay men become gay because they suffered a “masculine deficit” due to the failure to form a healthy bond with their fathers. That “masculine deficit” sets up a “reparative drive” in the son. That “reparative drive” is defined as the son’s impulse to “repair” that masculine deficit by his seeking out relationships with other men. As Joseph Nicolosi suscinctly sums it up: “We advise fathers, if you don’t hug your sons, some other man will.” Reparative Therapy, therefore, is aimed at addressing that “reparative drive” by ostensibly increasing the client’s self-perception as a male and reframing the boundaries of his relationships with other men.

Reparative Therapy, strictly speaking depends on one single theory of male homosexuality, and it is quite rigid on that point. This is why we here at BTB do not use the phrase “reparative therapy” as a generic term for sexual orientation change therapies. We use the term only when we are talking about this particular form of therapy intended to address the theorized “reparative drive.”

While Reparative Therapy does not describe just any form of sexual orientation change therapy, it is a central focus, almost to the point of being the exclusive focus, of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization which was co-founded by Nicolosi. He is not only known as “the father of Reparative Therapy,” but he literally wrote the book on it (see Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach). Although Reparative Theory doesn’t represent NARTH’s official position on sexual orientation development (officially, NARTH has none), it is nevertheless the predominant assumption behind much of NARTH’s literature and web site, and it is also fervently embraced by much of NARTH’s membership.

In contrast, Exodus’s official statement regarding Reparative Therapy reads:

Reparative Therapy is a specialized counseling approach that focuses on resolving relational deficits and/or trauma believed to be a contributing factor in the development of same-sex attraction.  Exodus International believes that Reparative Therapy can be a beneficial tool.  Exodus International is not a clinical facility but does affiliate, within the Exodus Professional Counselor Network, with licensed therapists.  A minority of these professionals may ascribe to some aspects of Reparative Therapy.

Reparative Therapy has been beneficial to some within our network therefore Exodus does provide limited referrals to a select and small group of independent and licensed Christian professionals who offer this resource.

By removing Reparative Therapy books from Exodus’s bookstore, Chambers has now signaled something of a dissatisfaction with RT’s underlying assumption that the reparative drive is the only explanation for sexual orientation development. This is not a new position for Chambers. In fact, it’s not even new for him to consider the possibility that biology can play a part. When I attended the annual Exodus conference in Irvine in June 2007, I heard him challenge his audience to consider the possibility that there may be a biological basis for homosexuality. I don’t have the exact quote with me, but I do recall that he then went on to challenge his audience to remain committed to living according to what he considered to be “God’s best” for them (i.e. a life of celibacy or sexual monogamy with another person of the opposite sex in marriage) regardless of whatever sort of biological errors (my words, not his) may have occurred.

This, of course, is anathema at NARTH. But seen in the overall context of the past half-decade at least, Chambers’s recent moves do not represent a dramatic departure for Exodus. Exodus was always more ministry than psychology, and it appears that Chambers is moving to sharpen the organization’s focus toward the former and away from the latter. But those moves may signal a growing split between Exodus and NARTH (which bills itself as a “scientific” organization), both in approach and tone. That change hasn’t gone unnoticed at NARTH. As evidence, Throckmorton points to an article by David Pickup, who frequently presents at NARTH’s convention and who runs NARTH’s private Facebook page. Pickup blasts Exodus for deemphasizing Reparative Therapy:

In my experience, Exodus has, quite unintentionally for the last 20 years, failed to understand and effectively deal with the actual root causes of homosexuality and what leads to authentic change. I laud their willingness to admit their naiveté’, but I do not see anything so far that indicates they now truly understand the psychological, developmentally-based causes of homosexuality or what produces real change.

…If Chambers and Exodus do want to truly understand the nature of homosexuality, then they should be open to understanding the psychological underpinnings of these issues and start to recommending qualified therapists who are experts at facilitating significant change. If not, then Exodus will fall into deeper controversy than they are in already. They will be reduced to the myopic ministry of simply helping people to deal with their homosexuality through behavioral changes, which, by the way, reflects the American Psychological Association’s belief about Reparative Therapy: that real change is not possible and people may be helped only in the sense of conforming their behavior to reflect their religious beliefs. In short, Exodus will eventually lose even more effectiveness and begin to flounder.

For an idea of how Pickup addressed his reparative drive, check out this video.

So what does all of this mean? It’s hard to tell at this point. Exodus may not sell books on Reparative Therapy, yet a number of reparative therapists are a part of the Exodus referral network. Chambers may acknowledged that “99.9%” of people don’t change their sexual orientation, but the Exodus website says otherwise, and even dangles out there the carrot of marriage:

Exodus affirms reorientation of same sex attraction is possible. This is a process, which begins with motivation to, and self-determination to change based upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We facilitate resources for this process through our member ministries, other established networks and the Church. The key outcome of this is measured by a growing capacity to turn away from temptations, a reconciling of ones identity with Jesus Christ, being transformed into His image. This enables growth towards Godly heterosexuality. Exodus recognizes that a lifelong and healthy marriage as well as a Godly single life are good indicators of this transformation. [Emphasis mine]

But it does look like there have been some nips and tucks in other areas which may reflect Exodus’s increasing autonomy from Focus and NARTH. For example, in 2007 I attended Love Won Out, Exodus’s traveling infomercial for ex-gay ministries, which featured a detailed exposition of Reparative Theory as the only significant explanation for male homosexuality. The lecture was delivered by Nicolosi, who spent about an hour making the case first thing in the morning. When Nicolosi left LWO a year later, his place on the schedule was taken by former Exodus president Joe Dallas, who delivered Nicolosi’s talk on Reparative Therapy with only a few minor changes here and there. That was when LWO was a joint venture between Exodus and Focus On the Family. Beginning in 2010, Focus bowed out and LWO became an exclusively Exodus project. Since then, the published agenda for LWO has changed drastically. I can only assume that the changes reflect a change in Exodus’s emphasis, but I can’t be certain from this vantage point. I guess this means I’ll have to book a flight and attend another conference to get caught up to date.

Exodus Board Member: Homosexuality IS Different

With a commentary

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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