Cross-posted on the Exodus Blog
For years Exodus has been well known for our outreach to people with same-sex attractions (SSA). Sixty percent of the people who seek help through Exodus and our membership network for their SSA are single. Over the years we have sought to highlight stories of men and women who have experienced great resolution in their lives related to their struggles. Often, our most frequent speakers at conferences like Love Won Out have been people that have “overcome homosexuality” and gone on to get married. While I think anyone would celebrate the stories like mine, where amazing marriages have resulted and produced children, I do hear from people who say, “Alan, that’s great for you, but I don’t want your life. I just need to know that it’s okay if I choose celibacy.” In addition, dear friends of mine have said, “Alan, why don’t you ever highlight messier stories where everything doesn’t end in marriage and sounds like complete and absolute change has occurred?”
This year we have made an enormous effort to make sure our ministry to married folks and our promotion of married leaders doesn’t overshadow our ministry to those whom God has called to be faithfully celibate, whether for life or a season. Also, we never want to communicate, even indirectly, that the answer for people with SSA is marriage. While these things have often been at work in our hearts and minds, I have never shared this in a newsletter. Some of my long-term single friens have recently challenged me to make sure that the Exodus Freedom Conference, specifically, is a safe place for single folks who may not want the life that I have, but deeply desire to be faithful celibate Christians. I want to let those folks out there who are single know that Exodus is a place that you can find help on your journey towards holiness. Marriage is a hopeful desire for some, but our experience is that most men and women who come to us for help simply want encouragement for where they are and some tools and help as they move forward one step at a time.
I think it is important for us, as a ministry, as well as the broader Church, to teach that celibacy is not only a reality for millions of people, but the Godly option for people who are not married. There is no place in scripture that states that everyone will get married or that everyone is supposed to get married or that everyone should want to get married. And, it is easy for those of us who are married to want to force that on our single friends. I have a friend who told me once, “Stop trying to fix me up. I’m not in need of your prescription for happiness. I have all that I want and need.” She was right; I needed to back off. My dear friend and fellow Exodus board member, Dr. Kathy Koch, often states, “I am single and more than satisfied.” I love that. And, as a single woman she often helps married couples with their marriages. In fact, this year at the Exodus Freedom Conference, Kathy will be the special guest at Steadfast, our marriage conference within the Freedom Conference.
In addition to making sure we are truly a place for both single and married people, we want to make sure that we accurately communicate what change looks like for Christians with SSA and not present a little shiny silver package that insinuates the process is easy or that people get to a place where they never have to think about it again. I realize we’ve done that. We don’t want to limit God or say that amazing things aren’t possible, but we also recognize that amazing can be a part of the messy journey and not just a descriptor of the final outcome. So, we have an increasing number of testimonies, workshops and resources at conferences and on our website that highlight the reality of our daily pursuit for God’s very best.
On behalf of the membership of Exodus International, it our sincere desire to honor Christ as we pursue holiness on a daily basis and to help others who want to join us on that journey. Whether your struggle is same-sex or opposite-sex or whether you are the friend, spouse, pastor of parents of someone struggling, we want to serve you well by providing encouragement, resources and space to walk out your journey towards Christ. There is hope and there is help.
UPDATE: UPDATE: I am grateful to the The Christian Post for picking up this article.