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.

As we sat in the dark recesses of the Hollywood Pres. basement with the hurt turned angry children of God, we not only listened to their words, we heard how their emotional and spiritual wounds had come to engulf their hearts. Leslie and I were focused and ready to not only listen to their tragic stories of neglect and abuse, but to own their pain, all of it, on behalf of and as a part of, a culpable body. I have no doubt many in the room hoped I would not only apologize for the wrongs they had experienced, but that I would capitulate and endorse all things gay. At the same time, they probably expected me to rebut, refute, and challenge them and their stories. I’m sure some may have even thought I would make all sorts of excuses in an effort to justify myself and dramatically leave the building. I am equally sure that as people watched the show many in the Christian Church hoped for and expected the same behavior. Such actions would have been heralded as a victory and I would have been awarded for standing up to the pro-gay agenda and its propagators. But, neither group would be completely satisfied. Such unChrist-like actions would have dealt a crushing blow and served as the worst abuse of all.

We did the only thing we could do. We listened. We believed their stories and acknowledged their pain. We apologized. We vowed to never again promote or condone the type of behavior that had caused them such pain. We hugged them, posed for a few photos with them, and our time together came to an end.

That day and every person there have had a life shaping effect on our lives. Friends sitting with us and on the sidelines that day will be friends always. It was the last piece of a huge puzzle leading to the closing of Exodus. Our lives will quite literally and figuratively never be the same.

Leslie and I are imperfectly human. In our own power and strength, the basement session and year following would have been unbearable. The words used to describe us in the last year could fill volumes. Hitler. Hero. Traitor. Antinomian. Hypocrite. Hater. Lover. Good. Kind. Evil. Brave. Pretty much every good and bad name you can think of has been awarded to us. It could have driven us mad. In the end though, we are simply a Son and a Daughter of our Good Father God following the example of Jesus, the One who laid everything down and died for us. We were not called to die for the men and women sitting in the circle that day. We were called to listen to them, acknowledge them as fellow human beings and believers in Jesus, and to apologize. Leslie and I were called on to represent the Church by the head of the Church, not by all the members of it.

From any vantage point, Leslie and I have been marginalized. For years we have been marginalized by society for our belief that God’s creative intent for sexual expression is one man married to one woman for one lifetime. Now in our efforts to simply and wholly love and serve people, we have been marginalized by the mainstream Christian Church who once hailed our story as miraculous. We are now an embarrassment to many and I’m not always exactly sure why. Ironically, it is now the LGBT community who respect our complex story and are increasingly accepting us for who we are: unlikely friends.

As I see it, the truth God whispered to me, a gay teen sitting in a gay bar more than two decades ago, is the same truth I proclaim today, God loves me. Knowing He loves me compels me to proclaim, “He loves you!” Being secure in the fact God the Father loves and is pleased with us, believing what Jesus accomplished through living a perfect live, sacrificing himself on the cross, and rising again for everyone is enough and I will promote nothing else.

This reformation has set Leslie and me free. We are free to love boldly, publicly, liberally, and without fear of being misrepresented, mislabeled, or misunderstood. Outwardly we have become what we inwardly always longed to be: friends to anyone who wants to be friends with us. We will welcome all who come to us. We will speak only of our Good Father and His Son Jesus and we will do so with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:30-31). Our story is more miraculous than ever. Our marriage even stronger. Our legacy to our children will be one of love without condition, the same legacy Christ left.

As we mark this anniversary of our liberation and look ahead to Easter this weekend I am so grateful for all God has done in our hearts and lives over the last 12 months. In our flesh, we wouldn’t have chosen this path. Instead, we chose to submit our flesh and follow Christ and His ultimate example. We are both beneficiaries of His unfathomable grace and people who can now more clearly point to Him and His Grace and our Good Father God.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 (NASB)


      • says

        Alan, I’m not sure if you will see this. But for the last 2 hours I have been reading about you , exodus and the reasons for closing Exodus. The Words you speak are of Christ and in Christ . John1

        I see so many of the world, including myself , looking for the correct answer , the correct scripture to read, the correct words to speak on the topic of Homosexuality. I want to read somewhere, anywhere something I can write down or memorize that will answer all the many questions around homosexuality, so I will know for sure what the right answer or answers are. And as I struggle with trying to find the words to read or the words to write and speak about, I realize as you have so eloquently demonstrated, the Words aren’t on a piece of paper, a book or published article. The Words I so desperately seek are the Words of Christ, Christ himself and God himself. What matters is that I Believe that to be true and that anyone seeking the words from a friend , acceptance from society or friends, public or judicial court approval only needs to turn to Christ. His promises are contained within him. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1

        Thank you for your courage , thank you for loving as Christ loves . I hope and pray one day to meet you.

        In Christ Jesus , my lord and savior who I love with all my heart Mind and soul.

        Your brother Neil

  1. says

    “From any vantage point, Leslie and I have been marginalized.”

    Oh PLEASE hold on while I call the WAHHMBULANCE.

    You are great at playing the victim but some of us are not buying what you are selling.

    • says

      We certainly do not mean to sound like victims—we aren’t victims. We were not trying to be whiny, either. I hate that it came off that way. And, as for what we are selling, well we are not selling anything. We have no organization and make no money these days. Just sharing a story.

  2. Samuel says

    Ever since I first watched you on the first Lisa Ling special and then later saw you at my first conference, I have held a deep respect for you. I am so thankful for your deep relationship with God, that leads you to love in such a radical but simple way. It inspires me, touches me, and beckons me to do the same. Thank you.

  3. says

    Unexpectedly, that show and your apology changed my life. I, too, have found freedom to love boldly, publicly and liberally. Thank you Alan and Leslie for your much needed work between the Church and the LGBT community.

  4. says

    I’m so grateful that you and Leslie are no longer condoning or promoting the work of Exodus International. Now I’m wondering what your next steps might be… how are you working to reconcile and reverse the harm that’s been caused and continues to be carried out due to the influence of your previous efforts?

  5. says

    “From any vantage point, Leslie and I have been marginalized.”

    But so has everyone else. Everyone is marginalized, who isn’t either very rich, very provocative, or very well connected. We’re all not only marginalized, we’re atomized — splintered away from humanity’s former communities. We don’t think of “we” anymore, we think of “I” or (almost as bad) “my” family, not our neighbors’ families.

    But besides being marginalized and atomized, aging evangelicals and their liberal counterparts have also become boring and out-of-touch.

    Talk to anyone about one-man-one-woman marriage, and they will yawn at you: you haven’t told them anything that they don’t already agree with, or haven’t already refuted from the Bible or history or whatever.

    Talk to anyone about grace, and things MIGHT change — if you are willing to tell them what they don’t want to hear. But as any prophet will tell you: You can’t make a living from being a prophet, you can only expect to be stoned to death by the self-righteous.

    Alan, if I may say so, I think one of Exodus’ problems was its fear of being prophetic. Exodus sought to please everybody, and pleased no one as a result.

    When you and Leslie are ready to say something that is rigorously factual, something that is we-centered and not me-centered, and that will cause the self-righteous on all sides to stone you, then you’re headed in the right direction. And when you call people away from their self-righteous poles toward community collaboration and selfless charity, then you’ll have done your part to dis-empower society’s Sadducees and zealots.

    You won’t make a cozy living from it — not enough to support a spouse and kids — but you’ll know that you’re making the selfless sacrifices that form the core of Christian spirituality.

  6. says

    Not trying to be a smart aleck or anything but I don’t think I know what it is you believe anymore about sexual intimacy outside of marriage (between one man and one woman). Is that God’s design for all (whether you have heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual desires)?

    Are those who come to believe in Jesus called to follow Him as He leads?

    Is the Bible the most reliable way to know God’s will?

    Is following Jesus leading people into a greater holiness in their life (is sanctification to be expected–no matter how slowly it might be (and it is in my life).

    Or do you believe something more like “God loves you—just love God (however you want to define loving God) and do as you desire because God loves you and He loves to forgive?


      • says

        Thank you. I saw this in Wikipedia, “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change.” Sorry as in believing that has generally been your fault? Sin does bring shame and guilt. That is the nature of life.

        Before I look into those videos, are you saying that repentance is often a faltering process and we should bring people to the Lord and let Him work on them without being too religiously demanding, ourselves?

        And/or, are you saying Martin Luther was wrong, about not letting birds nest in his hair, though they may fly over his head?

        Or, that entertaining homosexual motives, in particular, is not sin?

        And/or, that Jesus does not actually demand repentance from our attachment to sin?

        It is not the truth teller’s fault that the truth is painful, despite any perfect or imperfect methods he may chose.

  7. Sunny Jenkind says

    Hi Alan I have a question concerning my testimony I shared with Exodus Min. a few years. How can I retrieve it since the Ministry no long exist?

  8. says

    Being marginalized is an inevitable part of seeking to follow God, and I’m encouraged to see Christians like you remaining faithful through it all. I’ve just started a blog about my experiences as a gay evangelical Christian in order to share the struggles and the joys of this existence. I’m glad to have run across your blog that seems to share this goal.


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