Great Thread at ExGay Watch

I was very excited to see Wendy Gritter do a guest post on XGW and
believe that it marks an important shift in Exodus’ evolution.

There is way too much in that thread to respond to, but I
will simply say, I invited Wendy to share her heart at the Exodus Leadership
Conference in January knowing that she was going to bring new life and ideas to
the table for consideration. I was one
of the ones nodding positively as she spoke. I know there were many others with the same response.

I agree wholeheartedly that clarifications need to be made
on confusing terminology that at times has been used incompletely or
misused. The ‘change’ factor is one that
has confused many.  In one of my talks at
Love Won Out I have begun saying, "When we use words like ‘change’ the
burden is on us to clearly state what that means in our lives. Some have used the word ‘change’ hoping that
it meant something it doesn’t."

I echo Wendy’s apology to those that have been
unintentionally, but at times recklessly, misled by poorly defined labels and
words used to describe the process out of homosexuality. It is no secret that I dislike the label ‘ex-gay’. For so many people I know, it doesn’t apply—though
they struggle with same-sex attraction they never identified as ‘gay’. Is it applicable to some? Yes. But, it isn’t a label I choose to use for myself or for Exodus
International. For that matter, I don’t think it should be a label that anyone
uses primarily to describe themselves. We are all so much more than our sexual expressions.

There are a lot of challenging things written in the XGW
thread (post and comments) on Wendy that I am thinking and praying about. What is said by gay activists is not lost on
me. I do care how people are impacted by
my words, actions and ministry. Ironically, I know the Lord uses every voice, suggestion, encouragement
and criticism to shape me.

It is a New Day at Exodus International and despite our irreconcilable
differences with some, I pray that we find new opportunities to dialogue with
others, learn and grow in Christ’s image.

Thanks, Wendy, and all of you who contributed to the
discussion at ExGayWatch.

ExGayWatch

Alan Chambers is the Chief Visionary and a Founding Partner of Speak. Love. He served as the final President of Exodus International, North America. Alan travels the globe promoting peace, reconciliation and understanding on issues surrounding the Church and the LGBT community. Alan and Leslie Chambers live in Winter Park, Florida with their kids, Isaac and Molly.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

25 thoughts on “Great Thread at ExGay Watch

  1. Wow. Thanks for posting that. Wendy has handled that thread amazingly, and I as only able to skim though the zillion comments. Honestly one of the best threads of genuine discussion I have ever seen on a forum on this topic.

  2. Alan,
    I just read over on ExGayWatch that Exodus is dropping its political involvement to focus on ministry. Personally, that is an answer to prayer. I have had grave concerns about Exodus' political involvement for several years.
    I do wonder how that will actually look though. Will you continue to post political things on your personal blog? What about Randy and Mike? What about the people Exodus affiliates with (organizations that are very political)?
    When people read the personal blogs of leadership of major organizations they usually do not separate the person from their organizational role. Young people, especially are leary of what looks like speaking out of both sides of one's mouth.
    I've noticed that Groundswell has what feels like political language on it–will that change too? Currently, I feel a little uncomfortable recommending it because of its Religious Right language in some areas. At Exodus' last conference, I was disturbed by some of the videos that were shown with politicians (offering words of encouragement) with American flags in the background. Will that kind of thing end?
    Thanks for having the wisdom and courage to continually evaluate the ministry and change things when needed. I hope that this new change will go far enough and not just be a surface change.
    PS–The idea of protecting our religious freedoms is an interesting one–and one I am still thinking through. Naturally, I want to have religious freedom, but I wonder if sometimes in our fight for our rights, we forsake the gospel. Should we not be willing to give up our rights and suffer persecution if that is what is necessary? I think the current fight for preserving our rights often prevents people from seeing/hearing the gospel.

  3. Karen,
    Your postscript blew me away. I have often said that Christians, of whom I consider myself one, are often more concerned about being right than about being a light. We are so concerned about our "rights" (and they are important), that we are blinded to those around us who really need the love we could offer if only we'd be willing to lay aside our "rights" and share the light. It brings to mind the story of the Good Samaritan. The religious leaders were to concerned about being "right" to be of any help. It took a stranger and a foreigner to break down what our real rights are.
    Alan, I'm encouraged by this new step you are taking.
    j.

  4. Karen,
    I know that people would love for us to get into a box and stay there. I don't think we will ever be a ministry that makes everyone happy all of the time. I am not trying to make anyone happy or mad. I am trying to follow the Lord and serve people.
    I am sorry you were disturbed by video greetings from the conference last year. Not sure who you thought was a politician because we didn't have any greetings from any. As for the American Flag in the background, I can't understand what would upset you about that. We will continue to run video greetings from a wide variety of friends and influencers. If Hillary Clinton wanted to greet the crowd and endorse us I would welcome that.
    As for what these changes will look like….they will look like us not lobbying or having a person on staff that deals with policy issues.
    Alan

  5. By the way, Karen. Despite what XGW and other pro-gay blogs say, Exodus never has focused on anything more than it has on ministry. The amount of time and money we spent on policy issues was insignificant compared to the time and money we spent on ministry.
    In fact, I have spent more time saying these very things than I ever did on policy issues.
    Don't believe everything you read on XGW or the like.

  6. I personally am encouraged by Alan's announcement, as I believe the political/policy entanglements have over the years had a negative impact upon ministry, and I have earnestly desired a shift away from that. Also, I so appreciated hearing Wendy's thoughts at the Exodus leaders event. She is a tremendous encouragement to all who are committed to ministry without partisan entanglements, humility in regards to unresolved scientific questions, and invitations expressed in an accessible language. This truly can be a new day!
    Sonia

  7. Hi Alan,
    Thanks for your response. I certainly don't expect that Exodus can make everyone happy. I am simply in agreement with the exhortation and suggestions Wendy made in her talk. And hope that Exodus will seriously consider her feedback.
    And, I don't believe everything I read on ExGay Watch or elsewhere. My concerns are not based on something I read there. It is based purely from personal experience and what I have observed over the last several years since Bob Davies passed on the baton (I got involved in ex-gay ministry in the mid-90's). I mostly sensed this change to more "political" from the Exodus newsletters–more political language, pictures in the newsletter with Exodus staff on Capitol Hill, Press releases on the website of political related bills, etc. And, very partisan personal blogs by Exodus staff. Its certainly your right to do politics on your blog, but realize that as a leader of a major organization it will alienate certain evangelicals–the very ones you hope will join the Church Network.
    Also, in regards to the video with the American flags in the background–do you really not see how the American flag is easily associated with politics and patriotism? A picture is worth a thousand words. I am not sure why anyone would need to be standing in front of an American flag to be giving a word of encouragement at a Christian event.
    Certainly you can have anyone you want give greetings etc. I just think that Exodus would reach more people if it was more culturally sensitive. Right now the culture of it feels Religous Right. At least to me anyway. I grew up in the Religious Right and the "feel" of Exodus reminds me a lot of the church culture of my youth. And, that is a culture less and less young Christians relate to these days–which means if Exodus doesn't change, it will ultimately have less impact.

  8. Alan,
    I find that what some may be newly excited about regarding change in "political" involvement on the part of Exodus may lead to disappointment when it's not clearly defined. I believe you are working to bring clarity to what that means (not lobbying, having a staff person for policy) which is good. It could be that the problem is clarity in general because this also ties to use of "change" and "ex-gay".
    As well, clarity regarding change is very important. Some see living a celibate gay life as "change", but according to your book, "God's Grace and the Homosexual Next Door" (p. 218) you state that "…just living a celibate gay life is just as sinful as living a sexually promiscuous one." I understand you may have good reason to say that a celibate gay life is not "change", but it should clearly be stated that Exodus does in fact subscribe to and understanding of "change" that means just that.
    Thank you for listening to the Spirit and I pray the Spirit moves in what you continue to do. Thanks for reading my few words as well.

  9. Alan, Was your reply to Karen out of thoughtless frustration? How could you disagree with most of what she said? Are you aware that you struggle with double-mindedness? I'm not condeming, but rather I'm saddened for you. The world and church sees it… humble yourself and step back a bit and see what's going on. I think you mean well and hav a good heart, but at the same time, you are not grounded in a single focus. People have been telling this to you for years. Why do you discount us again and again? Is anyone on Alan's Board reading this? Please lovingly help him.

  10. Karen,
    Forgive me if my comments seemed thoughtless. I am frustrated, but I would imagine you are, too.
    I disagree with your last two paragraphs. The American flag is the American flag. Is it associated with patriotism? Of course—that is a wonderful thing. If the video greeting was from a foreign delegate I would be thrilled if they were standing in front of their country flag. The flag doesn't equal politics or politicians.
    I would have LOVED for my church growing up to have been 1% of what Exodus is today. Had it been, I wouldn't have needed Exodus' help. Exodus is reaching young people because we are different—a balance of grace and truth—the example of Jesus.
    Young people are turned off by politics? Um, consult the polls for the democratic party. Young people are flocking to the polls. MTV is spending millions on young voters. The DNC and RNC are spending millions on young voters. Young people are turned off by the same ole same ole. Exodus isn't that.
    All that said, Exodus isn't now nor has it ever been a political organization. A small fraction of our time and money was spent on some important issues for a short period of time. And, we are reallocating both for ministry focused endeavors.
    Lastly, Exodus was involved in policy long before my tenure. I was just more vocal about it.

  11. Thanks Alan–apology accepted. :) It is certainly a difficult job to be the leader of an organization like Exodus. You must get feedback and criticism coming from all directions, and I'm sure that gets pretty exhausting and frustrating after awhile. Please know that I am not trying to attack you in any way. I do not see you as my opponent but as my brother in Christ. My feedback is given because I care about Exodus and am concerned for it.
    I think perhaps what we are experiencing in our conversation is just cross-cultural miscommunication. For you, the American flag does not carry some of the symbolism it does for me. I mistakenly thought the greetings at the Exodus conference were from politicians because from my cultural framework when I see a flag that is what I associate it with. Maybe it depends on what part of the country one lives in?
    I know in the more conservative Christian culture I grew up in, the American flag was very present. In more conservative circles, Christians love the American flag. Lots of people I know in those circles have flag bumper stickers etc. However, I grew to become uncomfortable with that because I saw some Christians blurring faith with nationalism. This isn't just something that I noticed–if you talk to a church historian or read books on church history they can articulate the cultural characteristics of various Christian groups better than I can. Marsden is one excellent church historian who has written on fundamentalism in America.
    Also, I agree that young people are very interested in politics these days–but a different kind of political involvement. They are tired of political polarizations and politics that only focus on two issues (abortion and homosexuality). Even Dobson recently expressed concern about who was going to take over for the "patriarchs" because he notices too that young people are not as interested in organizations like Focus on the Family as they used to be.
    Have you read the book "UnChristian" with the Barna statistics. It statistically backs up a lot of what I am trying to say in terms of where young people are at–both Christians and "outsiders." Dan Kimball's book, "They Like Jesus, but Not the Church" addresses it too.
    I personally think that we can learn a lot from the Ex-Gay Survivor folk as well as Soulforce. They understand the culture and how to reach young people better than most Christians. You'll notice Ex-Gay Survivor focuses on personal stories, art, drama etc. Soulforce was brilliant in developing their tour bus of young people that go around to college campuses and engage with other young people. They are having an impact.
    Also, their type of activism resonates with where young people are at these days with politics: Social Justice–the fight for freedoms and rights and helping those who are oppressed. Whereas the Religious Right (and Exodus) is often perceived as fighting against people's rights–the opposite of what young people are wanting to do politically. Most young people, if you polled them, Christian and non-Christian, would probably be fairly disturbed at the idea of fighting against something like a hate-crime bill. In their minds, they are thinking, "How can anyone be against a hate-crime bill? How can anyone not want to protect people who are getting beat up?" You can explain about religious freedom and all that, but its not likely to make sense to a lot of young people and where they are at in their mindset.

  12. "Most young people.. would probably be fairly disturbed at the idea of fighting against something like a hate-crime bill. In their minds, they are thinking, 'How can anyone be against a hate-crime bill? How can anyone not want to protect people who are getting beat up?'"
    This is exactly why it's important for people to speak out on their views–so that people will not adopt a misunderstanding (such as this) about one side's viewpoint.
    With the hate-crimes thing, nobody was against protecting people from being beat up (though some people wanted to make it look that way). The issue we have with activists who claim to be fighting against anti-gay abuse is that their solution often involves convincing everyone that, in order to not be a bigot or bully, you must believe what they do.

  13. Hi Mike,
    I definitely agree with you that its important to clarify the misunderstandings. I am with you on that. And, certainly there are those on both sides who can be extremely intolerant of divergent viewpoints.
    I wonder a couple of things though. Using the hate crime bill as an example–how many people really had a grasp of what Exodus' viewpoint was on this? Sure, clarifying misconceptions is a worthy goal, but is it realistic that most people are ever going to find the time to research it and understand it? Its easy to blame people for not "doing their homework"–but the reality is there are a billion issues in the world to worry about and most people don't have the time to really look at it deeper. They are only going to get a first impression and the first impression is going to be "Why are they against helping people who are getting beat up." Ultimately, there is a backlash. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? That is a very important question to ask because the backlash against the Religous Right is severe and far-reaching.
    Secondly, even knowing the reason Exodus was fighting the hate crime bill, I have trouble, personally, feeling good about that effort. Its still not something I really want to stand behind. Primarily because it is self-focused and I feel my call as a Christian is to be concerned first and foremost with the well-being of others over and above myself–particulary those who don't know Jesus. I am concerned about the Religous Right's preoccupation with self-preservation/self-protection at the expense of the gospel.
    Could it be that a focus on such a bill is an unneccessary stumbling block to people who don't know Jesus, and a diversion from our primary calling in this short life we have here on earth?
    I just don't see any biblical basis for fighting against "sinners" like the Religious Right does. This fighting mentality seems more characteristic of Christian fundamentalist culture (and I use fundamentalist not in the loose sense as it is today, but in a church history/sociological sense). Fundamentalism, culturally, tends to be reactive and separatist. When I was in this culture there was very much a "fortress" mentality of hunkering down in the church away from the bad folk outside. And, a lot of fear/anger at sinners (a fear that certain Christian organizations still play on to mobilize people for political efforts).
    A lot of the political involvement seems more an outcome of the self-protective culture of Christian fundamentalism rather than what the Bible calls us to–the Great Commandment (love God and love others) and the Great Commission (make disciples of all nations). I am always open to being corrected on this if I am not seeing things clearly, but that is where I am at right now. And, I hope you will also really try to hear what I am saying and to consider whether there might be any validity to my concerns.
    Do you hear what I am trying to say? Do you understand the concerns I am trying to express?

  14. Karen,
    I do understand the concerns you're expressing, and honestly I share them as well.
    At least for my part, I know Exodus didn't do "a lot of work" to "fight" hate-crimes legislation. We took a couple of hours one afternoon and posed for a photograph for an ad, the purpose of which was to hopefully make people think about an issue.
    Also, I realize there are a lot of issues out there that are vying for people's attention. I certainly don't expect everybody to read up on everything Exodus stands for. But if someone feels deeply affected by what we're doing, and especially wants to respond to what we're about–then it IS their responsibility to know what they're responding to.
    If we ought to step back from discourse for fear of being misunderstood, how far back to we need to retreat? Especially when there are people out there who mean to see that we're misunderstood?

  15. Alan: You said: "Despite what XGW and other pro-gay blogs say, Exodus never has focused on anything more than it has on ministry. The amount of time and money we spent on policy issues was insignificant compared to the time and money we spent on ministry."
    It's not the amount of money or time, Alan. It's that EXODUS did it at all. It's not what EXODUS was created to be. That "insignificant" amount of time and money created very significant problems. It should have been focussed purely on ministry. I believe that Wendy Gritter of EXODUS agrees. EXODUS's continuing involvement in and defense of its political activism is a dangerous detour from the mission.
    You said it yourself: “(EXODUS) decided to back out of policy issues,” concerned that it “might be alienating people that simply wouldn’t call us for help because of the perception that we were becoming a partisan and political organization rather than a ministry for all.”

  16. I don't believe it caused significant problems at all, Michael. It caused controversy. People disagreed with our involvement. It was important at the time and we knew we were supposed to be focusing some time and energy there.
    In 2008 we are not focusing on policy issues. We will continue to share our stories wherever and whenever we can and support those who have policy as a focus, but we are focusing on ministry and the church.
    Michael, as far as the creative intent for Exodus, things change in all organizations over the course of 32 years. Exodus is stronger today than ever. I will always be grateful for your part in the founding of this ministry.

  17. Alan: Thanks for your response. Contrary to what you think, I believe it did cause substantial problems, not just controversy. You lost a lot of trust and respect that you may never regain.
    You also alienated many people who, in your own words, "simply wouldn’t call EXODUS for help because of the perception that we were becoming a partisan and political organization rather than a ministry for all."
    But, thanks for the explanation, anyway. I am disappointed, but it's OK. I am used to it by now. I didn't think it really meant that EXODUS was "getting out of politics". Now, I will not expect any substantial changes.
    "Not focussing" on "policy issues in 2008" only means a shift in priorities for this year. That is obviously not the same thing as "making a clean break with politics" as Wendy Gritter has strongly urged EXODUS to do.
    You have made it very clear that EXODUS fully intends to continue to "support those who DO have policy (politics) as a focus" and that EXODUS may become very politically involved in the future — if God tells you to. No commitment to be only a "ministry for all" for the long haul.

  18. Seems like Karen K. was a bit premature when she said: "I just read over on ExGayWatch that Exodus is dropping its political involvement to focus on ministry. Personally, that is an answer to prayer."
    It's not answered quite yet, Karen. EXODUS is clearly NOT "dropping its political involvement". It just won't "focus" on it this year or have a staff member devoted to it. Big difference. EXODUS will leave that dirty work (the direct politicking and lobbying) to the Arlington Group — an organization which Alan admits IS "political" and of which EXODUS intends to remain an active member.
    Experience has shown that what EXODUS says is not always what it means.

  19. i have a question for Karen K: you said that Soulforce and Beyond exgay, the non-Christian organizations are focusing on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we can learn from them how to focus on the gospel better. You must be kidding, right?

  20. Jijitsu,
    Actually, what I said was: "They understand the culture and how to reach young people better than most Christians."
    That is, they understand how to communicate cross-culturally with youth better than most Christians. I think they understand well some of the concerns brought up in the Barna book "UnChristian."
    While I personally disagree with their perspective on homosexuality, I have to admit they are much better cultural communicators–and I think we could learn from them. I don't have to agree with everything someone says to be able to learn from them. In fact, I often see my biggest blind spots from those who see things differently than I do.

  21. Karen,
    Soulforce, imho, is villyfying Christian churches, colleges, and organizations by calling them spiritually violent, simply because they believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. Their trespasses on Christian colleges are laughable, imho. I think that by using their cross-cultural approach, they are presenting people with a false god, thus they are consufing the youth. They are promoting the friendship with world, and this is highly condemned by God (James 4). Thus, I don't see anything positive, here. Like Alan said, it is important to serve God, regardless of the feelings of people from different culture. Our youth is being misguided these days, by this thing called "cross-culturalism" and it is our job as Christians to save our youth from this kind of influence.

  22. Jijtsu,
    Even the most conservative Christian missionaries learn cross-cultural skills to communicate with peoples they are reaching out to in other countries. Why would we not do the same here in the States? Our country is becoming very culturally diverse on many levels, which means we need to learn how to communicate better with those (including our youth) who come from a different worldview.
    To be clear, I don't mean learning this so that we can manipulate people. There are plenty of folks on both the "conservative" and "liberal" sides who use "techniques" to get people into their camp. I am not interested promoting cross-cultural communication to "hook" people. But, rather, it is about seeing people as human beings; it is about caring enough to stop and listen to what people are saying, and trying to understand why they believe the things they do.
    The more we undestand the culture from which a person comes the better we will have good communication. And good communication leads to good relationships.
    Also, I don't believe in "demonizing" someone I disagree with. People have very good reasons for why they believe what they do. If we actually took the time to put ourselves in other people's shoes it might open doors to very meaningful and productive conversation. No one is going to consider the viewpoint of someone who insists on condeming them. God brings us to repetance by his kindness.