Exodus International is repeatedly accused of seeking to make gay people straight through conversion therapy and prayer. As the media and culture rage around us, drawing battle lines in the sand and seeking to fuel the debate about homosexuality, my team and I have been working diligently to clearly state the calling of this great ministry and focus solely on that work. We want to reiterate that our mission is, first and foremost, to serve, support and equip the Church in providing refuge to individuals or families impacted by same-sex attractions (SSA). Quite simply, our goal is to make the Church famous for loving and serving people as Jesus would and pointing them to Him.
I realize this may not be new info for some of you. Yet, I believe it is important for everyone to hear this from me, as “all sides” are seeking to define Exodus and quite frankly, no one is doing a great job. It’s time we set the record straight. Pun intended.
While my office seeks to serve the Church, the 260 churches, ministries and counselors here in North America and our alliance of partner ministries across the world are there to serve individuals who freely come to them for support. People seeking this encouragement and guidance do so because they have decided to pursue an identity or life based on their relationship with Christ over their same-sex attractions. In most cases these are Christian men and women who desire to live in accordance to God’s design for sexuality, clearly defined in scripture. Exodus also has an extensive support system for family members or friends of those who are same-sex attracted and/or gay identified.
We believe that in Christ we have been given completely new hearts and the ability to have power over the sin that remains confined to our earthly flesh. While believers absolutely can fall to temptation, the mark of a maturing believer is finding increased victory in areas that have, at times, overwhelmed us. Exodus does not believe in a punishing or demanding God, but One who loves us as a perfect Father and desires the very best for us. For our benefit He has given us boundaries in scripture on a host of matters relating to life, including human sexuality.
We respect everyone’s right to pursue their own course as it relates to seeking resolution for struggles. No one is ever coerced, forced into therapy, nor do we seek to ‘pray away the gay’ as many have suggested. In fact we are no longer an organization that associates with or promotes therapeutic practices that focus on changing one’s attraction. I found the greatest amount of freedom when I stopped focusing on my sin and struggles and started focusing on the grace and peace found only in Christ and the man He created me to be. This life isn’t most about sin management but about living daily as the sons and daughters of God. In part, it is the peace and rest found in that identity alone that transforms us daily.
Exodus does not believe SSA is sinful. However, sexual expression resulting from SSA is. Making such clear distinctions has been a failure of the Church that is slowly being realized and changed. At Exodus International one of our primary missions is to communicate that we all have propensities that if indulged can lead us into sin, but those attractions or inclinations are not sinful. We believe that the ground was level at the foot of the Cross and that being transparent with all of our stories is what will compel people to seek refuge in the Communities of Christ known as the local Church.
We must all recognize that behavior resulting from SSA is not easily overcome. Many may struggle for the rest of their lives with some form of temptation or unwanted feelings. That is the nature of human experience on earth. However, we do believe God’s grace can give us the ability to live beyond the power of our temptations as we acknowledge and yield our weakness to Him. Change is possible for every human being who has a destiny-altering encounter with Jesus Christ. But, change isn’t the absence of struggle but rather the freedom in the midst of struggle to choose differently.
Many of us at Exodus experience same-sex attraction. We have gay friends and loved ones. We uniquely understand the marginalization they sometimes face from the Church. In that sense we stand with them, asking the body of Christ to extend compassion and a welcoming spirit to anyone who stands at the door hungry for a relationship with God and life-giving community. Nothing supersedes our desire at Exodus to see all people come to know Christ.
These are exciting days for the Church. I believe it is time for all of us to move far beyond the ugly political debates over these issues and squarely focus our time, energy and attention on Christ and His heart, desire and redemption for people. There is nothing more aggressive, more life changing and more culturally impactful than boldly loving your neighbor as you love yourself. That is the Gospel and it remains really, really Good News.