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

own library

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.

#Grace #Church

graceorlando

Leslie and I were in church yesterday morning for the first time in 3 weeks.  The last two Sundays we played hooky.  The first week we celebrated a birthday.  Last week, Leslie’s mom kept the kids for the whole weekend and, well, we savored every moment of our much-needed time off by doing very little.

But, because our church is such an amazing place we simply cannot stand to stay away for long.  We love it.  Every part.  We love our pastor and his wife.  We love the other pastors, staff, and their families.  We love our Life Group. We love the people—the ones we know well and the ones we don’t.  We love the music. We love the teaching. We love Grace Church. It’s home. It’s family.

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.

Alan Chambers Featured In September/October 2013 Issue of RELEVANT Magazine

Photo/Graphic Credit: RELEVANT Magazine. Click image to read the article featuring Alan's testimony and recent decisions concerning Exodus.

Photo/Graphic Credit: RELEVANT Magazine. Click image to read the article featuring Alan’s testimony and recent decisions concerning Exodus.

This article by Eddie Kaufholz is from RELEVEANT Magazine Issue 65: SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013 as well as their podcast. Here is the intro:

“Change is possible!”

That was Exodus International’s slogan, an unapologetic answer to the dicey “are people born gay?” question. Often described as the largest “ex-gay” ministry in the U.S., Exodus worked with Christians who dealt with same-sex attraction for 37 years. That all changed in June, when Exodus International’s president Alan Chambers stunned the world by apologizing for his ministry and shutting its doors for good.

Chambers sat down with RELEVANT Podcast castmember Eddie Kaufholz (who happens to also be a pastor) to discuss that apology, tell his stories and give his vision for the future.

An Overview of Alan Chambers’ Summer Media Appearances

Click Image to see the three part video interview with Anderson Cooper 360

Click the above image to see the three part video interview with Anderson Cooper 360

This has been a busy summer for Alan in many ways, including media. Here is a list of some of the highlights over the past few months:

Special Report: God & Gays – Lisa Ling, Our America

‘Ex-gay’ group Exodus International shuts downBBC World News

Exclusive: ‘Gay cure’ advocate apologizes – Anderson Cooper 360 (Three part video interview available online at link)

Some Christians shift on gays: Column – by Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today

Exodus International: Let the Recycling Begin! – by Brandan Robertson, Revangelical Blog

Homosexuality & The Question of Christian Unity – by Brandan Robertson, Revangelical Blog

Why I’ll Accept Your Imperfect Apology – by Laura Ortberg Turner, Christianity Today

Exodus international: bending history’s arc – by Christian Piatt, Red Letter Christians

My Response to the Closing of Exodus International – by Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians

Can Christianity Learn to Say, “I’m Sorry”? – by Stephen Mattson, Red Letter Christians

Watermark interviews former Exodus figurehead Alan Chambers – by Susan Clary, Watermark

Alan Chambers, Exodus International’s Former President, On Sexual Labels, ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy – by Michelangelo Signorile (Includes audio of Alan’s interview on Signorile’s Sirius OutQ Radio program The Gist.)

Exodus to Speak Love – article by Erik Guzman and audio is included of Alan’s interview on Steve Brown Etc.

This is definitely not a comprehensive list and two more important interviews are coming soon to Buzzfeed and Relevant Magazine. Stay tuned!

Exodus International to Shut Down

exodus-logoOriginally announced June 19th, 2013.

Exodus International to Shut Down

Thirty-seven-year-old ministry for those with same-sex attraction marks its last national conference 

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing (www.exodusinternational.org/apology) to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.

Exodus Int’l President to the Gay Community: “We’re Sorry”

Cross-posted from the Exodus Blog:

Exodus Int’l President to the Gay Community: “We’re Sorry”

Leader of 37-year old ministry admits grave errors

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, issued an apology to the gay community for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole.

The apology (http://exodusinternational.org/apology) dovetails with the ministry’s 38th annual conference in Irvine, Calif. – and the Thursday, June 20, airing of the television broadcast “God & Gays” on Our America with Lisa Ling. On Ling’s program, Exodus President, Alan Chambers, sits down with gay and lesbian people hurt by the Church with the goal of reconciliation.

A Changing World – Letter from Alan Chambers May 2013

exodus logo

Cross-posted from the Exodus Blog

In 2009 I spent ten days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Prior to going, I spent time researching the country, its people, and the state religion of Malaysia—Islam.  Months before my trip I called one of my Malaysian friends and asked her a number of questions about how the Christian Church is treated in her country.  Her answer both surprised and comforted me.  She said, “We are guests of Islam and Islam is a gracious host. We are guaranteed freedom of religion, worship and practice as long as we do not proselytize (seek to convert others).”

Once I was in Malaysia, I saw a thriving Christian Church and population, one that wasn’t fighting its host country or culture, but rather co-existing quite nicely and peacefully.  I found the Christians there incredibly servant-hearted and patriotic, loving a country, culture, government, and people of whom they were the minority by far.  In my own hotel room there was a Koran, an arrow on the ceiling pointing to the east, a mat for me to kneel on, and instructions on how to pray.  I also learned that all citizens of Malaysia, regardless of the religion they are allowed to profess and follow, are considered Muslim.

Leslie Chambers Tackles Heterosexuality, Hyper-Grace, and Offers Hope

Leslie croppedCross-posted from the Exodus Blog.

Have you ever wondered what people think of you? As my husband is Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, I have. At present, he is somewhat of a conundrum for a lot of people. There seems to be some confusion about who he is, what he is saying and what he stands for. Here it is in a nutshell: while he has repeatedly stated his biblically orthodox view of sexuality, he has also stated his belief that one particular sin is not some how more offensive to God than another. As his wife, I have stayed out of most of the chaos but there are a few things that I cannot be silent about any longer. So here it goes…