Speaking at Washington National Cathedral During DC Pride Weekend (2 Videos)

I had the honor of joining the Washington National Cathedral for the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (this past Sunday). It was a very difficult morning with the breaking news of the massacre in our home town. Even so, I hope you are encouraged by the message. The first video is the sermon and the second video is a Q&A we did with the congregation. The transcript of the first video is at the end of this post.

Good Morning. It is a tremendous honor to be standing in the Canterbury Pulpit as the guest preacher for 2016 Pride Weekend.

For those of you who know me and my story, you too, know this is truly momentous.

Special thanks to Bishop Budde, Ruth Frey, my friend, Kevin Eckstrom, and all of the Cathedral staff for this rare gift.

Thank you, members of the Cathedral for allowing me to share with you this morning.

Thank you to the LGBTQ+ community for welcoming Leslie and me both to this weekend and to the community.

We do not take your friendship lightly.

Many have speculated about the reasons Leslie and I have for being here this weekend.

Some say it is to advance our own agenda—that we are seeking to remain relevant.

Some say we are preaching the same old message but in a nicer way.

Others say we are here promoting a new agenda—Y’all know….THE GAY AGENDA.

I must confess being here is difficult because of the push and pull we feel from all sides and from the diverse chosen communities of people we call family.

Today we joyfully stand with one of our chosen tribes—people we hold dear—people who in the push and pull have embraced us as we are.

The truth is we do have an agenda.

Because we believe through faith in Christ, we, whose sins are many, have the forgiveness of sin and guilt and shame,

Because we believe we are justified by faith in Christ and not through works of the flesh,

Because we believe we have been crucified with Christ and have new life though we remain in this suit of flesh,

Because we believe Christ’s life and death served a purpose and is not nullified,

Our agenda is to follow HIS commands: To love God and to love people.

Admittedly, that agenda appears passive to people who want clear answers or position statements or who want me to wear any number of labels.

Conversely, to demonstrate love in certain arenas feels aggressive to those who believe we have succumbed to an errant theology; a sloppy grace, unreflective of Christ.

But, this is our choice. Our life.

It’s true—we have fallen prey to grace and it has wrecked us.

It is messy, sloppy, and troublesome, but we have found it is the only key that unlocks the prison of legalistic religion and set the captive truly free.

True, we are here to support and celebrate the gift of living in a society where people are free to live outside of the dark, frightening, and lonely closets in which they’ve been imprisoned whether for short or long periods of time.

True, we celebrate and honor the amazing families who have finally been given the legal recognition they deserve.

True, and most importantly, this morning we celebrate as members of one body, The Church, and as a remnant hoping the diversity we have in this House this morning will lead others in our body to open their Houses of Worship to ALL, as well.

As was the case in the first Pride weekend in June 1970 on the streets of midtown Manhattan, we are here to celebrate a growing movement of honesty, transparency, and pride.

Shame is an antonym for pride. And, we’ve had enough of shame.

Leslie and I are also here to celebrate our story—that of our family of 4. Our 10 and 11 year olds, Molly and Isaac are attending our home church today in the greater Orlando area.

We are here to celebrate the minority of others, like us, who don’t fit the narrative of many gay families.

We are here to make amends to people who’ve been hurt by sexual orientation change efforts like our friends Q, Michael, Chris, and others.

We are here to honor friends like Jill, Amy, Don, and others who, because of their faith convictions, have chosen to remain celibate.

We are here to reunite with dear friends like Julie who in embracing her sexuality has found peace in the embrace of God.

We stand here NOT as people plugged into the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — pointing to one story as good and another as evil.

We stand here NOT as people whose moral pendulum has swung from one side to another, but rather as people who are joyfully and irrevocably plugged into the Tree of Life seeing people as God sees them: redeemed, holy, blameless, righteous, and beautiful.

Our pendulum has fallen off its axis never to swing again.

And our hearts have expanded to include a community of people we once felt in opposition to and estranged from.

We are here for reconciliation and relationship.

Most importantly, Leslie and I are here to promote the amazing grace—Kairos—Charis of a really good Father.

Along the road we’ve traveled we encountered a pure gospel—THE Good News.

That gospel—THE Gospel—illumined the narrative of our Good Father who gave his only Son to be radically EXcluded, marginalized, cast aside, tortured, and executed so that all of humanity could finally be radically INcluded once and for all—included in a Kingdom that would never end.

The only Kingdom that ever has or ever will matter. Allowing all of us to be adopted into the family of a King who will reign forever and who willingly bestows on his children every good and perfect gift.

Sadly, many of us who found ourselves recipients of this amazing deal—this amazing adoption—have twisted the Gospel and made it exclusionary.

We’ve mixed in the Law and referred to it as THE TRUTH. But, Jesus fulfilled the Law through his death, burial, and resurrection. Grace came through his ultimate and unparalleled sacrifice.

We’ve demanded that grace without the truth of the Law is sloppy, hyper, slippery, greasy, CHEAP.

But, cheap grace, like cheap super-glue is the kind that does not withstand the elements.

It falters under pressure. It fails.

God’s grace—his infinite unconditional and unmerited love—never fails, never falters, never stops working or holding—no matter what comes its way.

It is all-inclusive and, because it cost him everything, is the antithesis of cheap.

God’s grace is lavish. Priceless. Free to all.

The TRUTH is, God is full of GRACE.

I once led the largest organization in the world dedicated to proclaiming freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ. I did so with the best of intentions.

My goal was to educate churches and make them safe places for LGBTQ+ people, and unfortunately, to help those churches convert LGBTQ+ people—to help them change.

My stated objective was to put Exodus International out of business because the Church was doing its job.

Three years ago this week, ironically, I stood on a stage at our 38th Annual Exodus Conference and announced Exodus was shutting down.

I repented publicly—I changed my mind.

That night, I amended the statement I’d lived by all 12 years of my presidency to this, “Exodus must go out of business so the Church can do its job.”

My beliefs about the church’s job had been altered, too.

Today, I believe the job of the Church is to continue the work and ministry of Jesus.

To love and serve others, to be radically inclusive even at the expense of comfort and understanding. To proclaim the pure Gospel.

The job of Christians and Christian leaders isn’t to usurp the roles of God, Savior, and Holy Spirit.

It isn’t to condemn—Jesus was the ONLY perfect human being who ever lived on planet Earth.

The apostle John states that Jesus didn’t come to condemn but to save.

It was Jesus, after all, who in the story read this morning from the book of Luke, rebuked Simon the Pharisee and showed favor to the prostitute who gave all she had out of a pure heart.

So, then, why do we condemn? Why do we judge? Why do we exclude?

I wonder if we – and by we, I mean those of us who call ourselves Christ followers and have condemned, judged, and excluded – have allowed fear to rule us.

Fear of the unknown, fear of that which is different—other.

Do I dare say – fear that God’s angry judgment would rain down on us like it did in the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah?  A story I believe we have gotten terribly, terribly wrong.

If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is NOT to fear.

I don’t know that I’m brave, but I am convinced I’m a child of a really good God.

I am convinced that HIS perfect love, demonstrated in the life of Jesus— who is the Tree of Life—casts out all fear.

My heart is plugged into Him and into Life. I trust Him. I fear NOT.

Without fear, I have a lot more time and energy to love God and to love people—and shop.

In the last few verses of the book of Acts 28, Luke writes something astoundingly prophetic to his friend Theophilus:

30 And he (Paul) stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

This is our mandate in the Church – To Welcome all. To preach the Kingdom of God—the pure gospel. And to share the life found in Jesus with all openness. Unhindered.

In the book of Matthew verses 13:45-46 we find the story of A Costly Pearl.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Many interpret this story to mean that we are the merchants and upon finding the priceless gift of Jesus, we should go out and sell everything we have in order to follow Him. It’s not a bad concept. Jesus is worth everything we have.

But what if there is more? What do we possess, what do we own, that if we sold it, would ever be enough to purchase the entire field in which Jesus is found?  

What if instead, this is a story about our Good Father?

What if He is the merchant?

What if He paid the ultimate price – the price of redemption – in giving His own son/Himself/All He had to purchase us?

That would make us, that would make you and me the pearl of great price. For God SO loved the world….

It is time this becomes our anthem. So let it be. Amen.

“Alan & Leslie Chambers Interview on Steve Brown, Etc.”
by Dr. Steve Brown w/ Alan & Leslie Chambers

Sorry, listening to the audio on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

 

DMy Exodus Book: From Fear to Gracer. Steve Brown, founder of Key Life Network, is a good friend who has stood with Leslie and me through the tests and trials we’ve walked through as leaders in the evangelical church. I am thankful for his wise counsel, encouragement, and friendship.

Leslie and I sat down with Steve and his cohosts, Zach Van Dyke, Justin Holcomb, and Erik Guzman last October to talk about our latest book, My Exodus: From FEAR to GRACE (Zondervan, 2015).

Click below to listen to the show. Please share your comments.

 

 

The All New Muppet Show, One Million Moms, and Franklin Graham

Choosing discussion over battle is a good thing. Let's do better...

Thursday I began seeing Facebook friends post comments attributed to Franklin Graham about the all-new prime time Muppets Show on ABC. I was surprised….that there was a new Muppet Show not that frontline Christian culture warriors like Franklin Graham and the American Family Association might be against such a show.

I try my best not to react to Facebook posts or articles. I try, rather, to respond after I have all of the facts. From time to time I fail. People notice, challenge me, assert that I am no longer a follower of Jesus Christ, and call me to repentance. I don’t mind being challenged. I need to be challenged and respectfully called out when I make a mistake like overreacting to something or someone. I am a public figure and I should take that responsibility very seriously. I also must repent publicly when I have made a mistake publicly.

I do repent about my hasty decision to call out Franklin Graham for his comments about The Muppet Show before I actually watched the debut. Repent, translated from the Greek word Metanoia, means to change your mind. It didn’t take me very long to change my mind about the rashness of my post. I was wrong to criticize anyone without knowing the full story. I am sorry for doing so.

Yesterday morning I signed into my Hulu account and watched all 21 minutes of The Muppets, which according to the American Family Association’s One Million Moms is “perverted”. Franklin Graham said this:

Tonight ABC is premiering a new “mature version” of the Muppets that reports say will cover a range of topics from sex to drugs to “interspecies relationships” with no subject being off limits. It sounds to me like the whole show should be off limits! Hollywood seems to be in a frenzy to see what new moral low they can reach in their programming. Their agenda is to promote sin to a younger and younger audience. I applaud the group One Million Moms for speaking out against this and urging parents to call on ABC to take it off the air. The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” That goes for Kermit the Frog as well!

I was prepared to eat my words. I was hoping, however, to be pleasantly surprised by The Muppets and to be able to introduce the new show to my kids. I won’t be doing either.

Starting with the latter, I found the show boring and the humor stupid rather than clever. I know my kids and they wouldn’t like the show. I’m glad because I didn’t like it and in order for them to watch, knowing there are adult-themed topics, I would have to watch it with them. I’d rather watch something truly mindless with them or something about which we can have an intelligent conversation.

With regard to the accusation that the show is a Hollywood plot to promote sin, I understand why parents who grew up on the show might not let their young children watch this new version. There are adult themes my two 10-year olds wouldn’t get or understand and ones I am not ready for them to get yet, but hasn’t that always been an issue in the world in which we live? Don’t we all shelter our kids from certain realities until we are either ready for the long conversation or until we believe they can make sense of it all? But, I didn’t find it any more perverse than Family Feud.

I am grateful for movie reviews, some watch groups, and others who share information about all sorts of things in an effort to keep kids safe. I think we should err on the side of caution in a number of areas. Leslie and I don’t consider it a burden when the parent of one of our kids’ friends calls prior to a play date or sleep over and asks us how we handle TV, video games, and junk food. But I also think, especially as Christians, we should be far more gracious to others and less sensitive to the things going on in the world around us, with which we might have objection.

If you don’t want your kids to watch certain shows, or TV in general, or listen to certain types of music, or eat junk food then, by all means, impose the restriction. But know this, your friends and neighbors, and very likely the person seated next to you in the pew on Sunday morning, isn’t necessarily going to agree with you or appreciate when you call their favorite show, band, or food evil. Doing so might insight hostility rather than encourage a discussion.

And, in my opinion, I’ll choose the discussion over the battle every time. My uninformed overreaction to Franklin Graham isn’t cause to question whether I follow Jesus Christ. Franklin Graham’s fear-based overreaction, in my opinion, to The Muppets doesn’t justify my screaming (because it was in all caps), “Dear Franklin Graham: PLEASE. RETIRE.”, on Facebook.

We can all do better. I’m game. You?

Kindness and Trust

Foundations worth standing for

Growing up, I lived a couple of houses down from a red headed boy named Bradley. In the picture my memory conjures of him, his face is sprinkled with a handful of freckles and his ear-to-ear smile is missing some of its Chiclet-like teeth. He was older than me, but I was bigger and stronger. I was the boss of him. Once, in an effort to bolster my superior position I bit Bradley – hard. My mom, who was ironing nearby, contemplated stepping in but instead waited and pretended not to see. She knew I needed to respect his humanity and he deserved the chance to earn that respect. And boy did he. He drew back his flaming red head and bit me with such force that the power struggle came to an abrupt and mutually respectful end. We played very nicely together after that and she was able to finish her ironing.

My kids are getting older and as much as I try to control their outward behavior, it is becoming utterly clear that I cannot control their inward motivations. As such, they occasionally fight over whether they should watch Pokémon or American Ninja Warriors and other such uber-important issues. Words like, “I promise that if you both treat each other kindly and in a way that earns the other persons trust, you will not be disappointed and I won’t have to lecture you anymore and the only consequences you will face will be positive ones,” are often floating around in our house. Kindness and trust are foundational elements. I long for my children to understand that if our choices are “trust builders” rather than “trust destroyers” and if those choices exhibit kindness, there’s a pretty good chance we will make wise choices.

Stepping back from stories like these, comparing them with how I treat those I’m in relationship with today, I marvel at God’s brilliant design. The very best of his creation was humankind. He ordered our lives. He set us up in families and then called himself Father. He gave us brothers and sisters with whom we had to share a room or sit next to in the backseat of the car on a ten-hour road trip to visit Aunt Betty. Then he called those of us who believe in him brothers and sisters in Christ.

My Dad’s Sweet, Strong Heart

I was recently asked, “Where do you get your understanding of God?” Because I desire everything in my life: my worldview, my relationships, my actions and reactions, even what I think about myself to be based on who I understand God to be, this is an important question. While both my own study of the Bible and sound teaching from others have shaped my awareness of God, my immediate answer was, “from my father.” I am by nature a picture person and things come to life when I see them. My dad was a picture of a good father. I see God as a Good Father and everything I read and hear about Him verifies that picture.

Before and especially since my dad passed away on August 2, 2013 my thoughts have lingered on this question and my answer. My earthly father gave me the gift of understanding what it’s like to be in relationship with my Heavenly Father. Because of who my dad was and how he treated me, I rest in the unconditional and gracious love of God. I know that’s not the case for everyone. There are some fathers who have abused and/or abandoned their children causing them to feel ashamed, unworthy, and insecure. For you dear ones, I am sorry and I long to help. Hopefully, sharing a bit about my dad will help paint a better picture of a good father and more importantly the Good Father.

Towards Peace & Conversation

 

The world is fraught with bad news. It has been since the beginning and will be until the end. Ironically, after however many thousands or millions of years (depending on your theology, or lack thereof) humans are still surprised wars continue to happen, that people die, and senselessly bad things happen to really good people. We don’t expect this reality. Maybe because God didn’t create the world or its inhabitants to experience the decay that has been unstoppable since Adam and Eve fell in the garden. Our expectations match what was to be our original perfect reality and not what became our actual reality post fall.

Andy Crouch, prolific author, speaker, and Executive Editor of Christianity Today, says it like this,

“We live in a bad news to bad news reality in the church. We start in Genesis 3 (the fall) and end with Revelations 20 (the lake of fire).”

Andy’s point is that even the Church, the entity Pastor Bill Hybels calls the hope of the world, has succumbed to this grim, joyless, and visionless existence. As Believers we live like the rest of humanity, in shame and defeat, with a poor image of God the Father, Redeemer, Creator, Author, and Finisher. And, we become a poor reflection of Him.

An Unlikely Love

One year ago this week Leslie and I walked into the dark, unremarkable basement of Hollywood Presbyterian Church and sat down in a circle made up of people whom some in the mainstream Church would rather forget. There was a time when I believed they should be forgotten or at least ignored. I was the leader of Exodus International, the largest Christian organization in the world offering hope for change to anyone impacted by homosexuality. That change had come to mean ridding oneself of homosexuality. These folks all came from Christian backgrounds and had damaging stories about Exodus and the Church. They were no longer interested in the change Exodus represented. Though I hadn’t been connected to or even met most of them, the organization I was leading bore responsibility for some of the anger and hurt they carried into the ominous basement that Sunday afternoon. As the leader of Exodus International, I was their enemy.

I had been intentionally listening to stories like theirs for months. I knew something had to be done. The hurt was extensive and I believed it was my duty to make things right. I needed to repent and apologize to this group. The apology had to be unequivocal, unconditional. I asked Lisa Ling and her crew to capture the apology on camera so others could also hear and receive. The entire 3 hour and 25 minute ordeal was filmed and portions of it ended up being featured in an episode of her hit TV series Our America on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). It only seemed fitting to partner with Lisa as she had facilitated a coming out journey of sorts for me when she pursued me for an interview that aired in March 2011.

One Drawer At A Time Sweet Jesus

Leslie croppedOne day, only a few short weeks ago, I had the strangest thing happen. I found myself with nothing pressing to do. The kids were at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. The house was clean enough. There was left over lasagna for dinner. The dog was bathed. My family was healthy. I was planning on a bike ride with the kids later so I didn’t need to exercise. I’d been to the grocery store and Target the day before. I’d finished my laundry before the sun rose. I had even given my hair a color tweak so the bothersome greys were history! What to do, what to do….

With the question of how to spend the day before me, it only took a few seconds to feel the weight of what I should do. The schoolroom and office closet was a mess. I should clean it out. The front door needed a coat of paint. I should paint it. The garage had several stacks of things to be sorted. I should sort them. I should work in the yard, pull weeds, and re-pot plants. I should call a friend I haven’t talked to in ages. On and on and on… I started “shoulding” on myself. I couldn’t handle the burden so I decided instead to clean out a drawer. This I could handle. One small drawer. In about an hour a drawer that began the day so full it could neither be opened nor closed became orderly and functional. The best part however, was finding long forgotten trinkets and treasures I gave to my kids when they got home. It was like Christmas! Those other things I should have done, the truly important ones, were still there the next day.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

Leslie croppedOn the morning of January 3rd, 1998 I repeated the prayer that had been mine for nine months for the very last time. I woke up early and began getting ready for what I knew would be a full day. I needed to be dressed and at the church by 7:30a.m. for pictures. It was my wedding day. I was 31 years old and knew that the fulfillment of this day’s plan would change my life on this earth.

Long before I started dating Alan, I made a mental list of what I wanted in a spouse. My list was short. It didn’t include the things I was attracted to but rather those qualities I thought important in the man I’d share my life with. As a believer in God I knew I would be attracted to another believer. As a person who loves to laugh, I knew I would be attracted to someone who was at least fun if not funny. As someone who is average looking, I didn’t expect to get anyone who was more than average looking. There were only two things I wanted from my husband.

  1. I wanted him to like me first.
  2. I wanted him to be someone who could tell me “no.”

In other words, I wanted him to be interested in and pursue me first. I wanted him to see me, to know me, to want me, and to love me. I didn’t want to be responsible for pursuing him or catching him. I didn’t want to change his mind. I wanted us to be his idea! As a person who has some strength of opinion, I also wanted someone I could follow. I wanted someone I could trust to not only lead me to where I wanted to go, but more importantly to places I didn’t want to go.

Alan is the only person to ever meet those two qualifications. Subsequently on our first date, when he leaned over the table and looked me straight in the eye and asked, “So when are we getting married?” without reservation or hesitation I answered, “January 3rd is a Saturday.” That was March 10th, 1997, the day I began my 9-month prayer. With as much honesty as I could muster, I acknowledged that I loved Alan and thought that marrying him was the purpose God was leading me towards. I admitted I could be wrong and asked God to please interfere if He knew better. On our wedding day, as I put on my make-up I asked God to stop the whole thing if I had missed the mark. I thought it would have to be a sizeable obstruction at that point, like some horrible car accident, but I was willing. Because the day proceeded with only minor hiccups (like our hired Roles Royce not showing up to take us from the church to the reception and a lit candle flying out of a candelabra), I married Alan and have never doubted whether it was the right thing to do. I trusted God and my relationship with God.

After a year of wedded bliss, I had another lesson to learn. Alan and I got into a bit of a squabble. Nothing earth shattering. It was simply about money. So typical. After a short exchange of unpleasant words, Alan left to run errands and I was left vacuuming. In my heart I heard a gentle whisper that could have only been God. “Do you trust ME?” I answered, “Yes.” He asked a second time and I responded the same. He asked a third time. I turned off the vacuum and sat down and said, “Of course I trust You.” “Then trust the ME that is in Alan.”

It was a new level of trust. I trusted Alan and wouldn’t have married him if I hadn’t. The reality is though that humans make mistakes and disappoint people. I needed to trust the God in Alan and their relationship even more than I trusted Alan himself. In that moment I learned to rest. It isn’t my job to be his accountability or his teacher or his savior in any way, neither are those jobs his to perform for me. I run the same risk of being wrong as he does. Only in God’s hands are we secure enough to be trustworthy. Only in His hands can we rest securely, peacefully, and thoroughly.

In the New Testament of the Bible, we are shown a picture of Jesus as our bridegroom. Those who believe in Him are called His bride. I am so thankful that He liked me first. He saw me, knew me, wanted me, loved me, and made a way for me to be in relationship with Him and His Good Father. I did nothing to make Him love me. He pursued me. He keeps me. I am so thankful that He is my guide and counselor and friend. He leads me to where He wants me to go whether it is beside still waters or through the valley of the shadow of death. I can and do follow Him.

One last thought, as a bride of Christ, we get so much more than we think or imagine we deserve. It’s like me ending up spending my life with someone who is incredibly handsome (especially with the beard, rrr!), exhaustingly funny, and who not only believes but also lives his faith.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

‘Twas The Night Before, The Night Before Christmas

Crahing Christmas Tree 2013

‘Twas the night before, the night before Christmas

When all through the house, not a creature was stirring

I’m not sure what we’d do if we found a mouse,

The stockings were hung on the dresser with care

Because in Florida, there aren’t many chimneys anywhere.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Super Mario Bros. and My Little Pony danced in their heads.

I don’t have a kerchief and Alan doesn’t wear a cap,

But we had settled down for a long winters nap.

When out in the living room there arose such a clatter,

We sprang from our bed to see what was the matter.

We ran to the room and were there in a flash,

The poor dog was petrified from the sound of a crash.

There was no moon, only rain clouds in the sky.

Hopefully with this cold front, we can kiss the 80’s good-bye. (That’s 27 for our world

wide friends.)

When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,

Our sad fallen Christmas tree, OH DEAR!!!