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Jun 20 2013

Exodus International Closes Its Doors

This week is the annual Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, California, put on by “ex-gay” group Exodus International. But as the conference opened, the organization announced that it is shutting down the largest and best known “ex-gay” conference in the world. This happened only hours after founder Alan Chambers posted an apology to gay people on the Exodus website.

To Members of the LGBTQ Community:

In 1993 I caused a four-car pileup. In a hurry to get to a friend’s house, I was driving when a bee started buzzing around the inside of my windshield. I hit the bee and it fell on the dashboard. A minute later it started buzzing again with a fury. Trying to swat it again I completely missed the fact that a city bus had stopped three cars in front of me. I also missed that those three cars were stopping, as well. Going 40 miles an hour I slammed into the car in front of me causing a chain reaction. I was injured and so were several others. I never intended for the accident to happen. I would never have knowingly hurt anyone. But I did. And it was my fault. In my rush to get to my destination, fear of being stung by a silly bee, and selfish distraction, I injured others.

I have no idea if any of the people injured in that accident have suffered long term effects. While I did not mean to hurt them, I did. The fact that my heart wasn’t malicious did not lessen their pain or their suffering. I am very sorry that I chose to be distracted that fall afternoon, and that I caused so much damage to people and property. If I could take it all back I absolutely would. But I cannot. I pray that everyone involved in the crash has been restored to health.

Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.

And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.

Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.

You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.

Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

And late Wednesday night they announced the end of the organization:

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.

Can’t wait to see the Christian right freak out about this.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    Artor

    Wow- a real, sincere, thoughtful apology. That’s a rare thing to see from a public figure these days. It’s no surprise that the board of Exodus couldn’t handle a breath of fresh air, and feel the need to shut it down after an admission like that.

  2. 2
    doublereed

    I’ve heard so many people in my life say how people don’t change. Not really, anyway. People are stubborn. They never change their minds.

    I’ve always disagreed. It seems to me that people expect that people immediately change their mind when presented with contradicting evidence. And of course instead they dodge and use fallacies to avoid doing so. We’re political creatures, and have to save face.

    People do change, but it’s often not sudden. He’s probably been changing his mind for an entire year, while Exodus was continuing its extremely harmful “services,” before releasing such a statement and shutting down the organization.

  3. 3
    blorf

    Somebody get this man cured of religion so he can take over CFI…

  4. 4
    Vasha

    I’m really impressed; that’s thoughtful, serious, and shows a lot of growth. He’s saying that even though he still thinks his own religion doesn’t permit same-sex marriage or sexual relationships, he’s pledging to never denigrate people who believe otherwise, never suggest that their families are lesser, and never try to prevent them from marrying who they want. I actually think that’s good enough, if it could be carried through — and he sounds like he’s thoughtful enough to be able to.

  5. 5
    John Pieret

    To paraphrase Shakespeare: Nothing in the life of Exodus became it like the leaving it.

  6. 6
    ArtK

    @ John Pieret

    Well played, sir.

  7. 7
    abb3w

    At the end of the announcement of their closing, they seem to mention starting a new “separate ministry”; watch this space….

  8. 8
    d.c.wilson

    I’m sure they’re going to reorganize under a new name very soon.

    But kudos to Chambers for recognizing the harm his organization has done and trying to make amends.

  9. 9
    juniperann

    Wow. That’s amazing. Congratulations on your truly brave statement, Alan Chambers.

  10. 10
    Bronze Dog

    Takes a lot of bravery to admit you’ve done something wrong, especially on this scale. I hope he stays open to change and continues learning.

  11. 11
    Michael Heath

    Alan Chambers writes:

    Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person.

    Well you did intentionally hurt people, a lot of people, and it didn’t take a million years but a mere handful.

    Alan Chambers writes:

    For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel . . .

    While this guy seems to have gotten on the right track, he’s got a lot way to go before he reaches honesty and emotional maturity. Right now he remains where most conservative Christians reside, in a state of denial regarding facts inconvenient to their faith.

  12. 12
    gworroll

    I’m somewhat concerned about the new ministry he’s starting, but this apology is good. He actually apologized for stuff and didn’t try to deflect blame, he recognized that intent doesn’t excuse evil. I’ll give him a chance, we’ll have to see if this new ministry is actually something better.

  13. 13
    besomyka

    I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt now that this seems to be a legitimate (ie: not a hacked posting) thing. Despite the harm caused, I’m willing to because the note makes it appear that he actually understands what the problems were and why. The explanation shows comprehension, so even though there are some parts that could be taken ungenerously, it’s possible he could come around on those as well.

    Well see.

  14. 14
    eric

    @7 and @12 – Just from reading the apology and announcement, I’d say they are trying to wipe the slate clean so that they can start pro-equality evangelical groups that don’t carry the legacy of the anti-gay evangelical groups around as baggage.

    IMO there’s two dead giveaways for this. First, in the letter Chambers explicitly says that he has no desire to fight gays on their quest for greater rights. While his organization might not share that opinion, as a personal statement it seems pretty sincere. Second, the organization’s announcement mentions ‘changing culture’ and ‘new generation.’ The writing’s pretty much on the wall about what young people think. Passing the policy-making baton to them (no double ententre intended) is basically equivalent to giving up a hardline anti-gay-rights position.

  15. 15
    Ace of Sevens

    My read is the same as Eric’s. Not necessarily a group that engages in pro-equality activism, but an organization for gay Christians that won’t try to change them.

  16. 16
    tynk

    More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

    I too am sorry, I am sorry that someone who has caused so much harm can not understand they need to just go the fuck away. Shut up, close shop, get the fuck out of the conversation.

    It’s time he, his group, and his ilk just step the fuck out of our lives and find a nice pasture to hide in.

  17. 17
    M can help you with that.

    I’m not buying it.

    The “deeply held biblical beliefs” bit in particular tells me that we’re not going to see anything like a promotion of equality. It’s pouring the same old heterosexual-supremacist crap into a new bottle with smiley faces painted on. Dude’s promising not to gloat quite so much at destroying relationships, and to be nice and empathetic when insisting that his god demands that everyone decline to pursue any same-sex attractions (and that the law must follow). All we’re being offered is a kinder and gentler vocabulary for religious-based heterosexual supremacy.

    Because the apology is for tone, and for a few of the subsidiary false claims, not for the core position. It’s “we’re sorry that we were overzealous and caused collateral damage in pursuing our noble goal of making everyone either heterosexual or celibate,” not anything like genuine acceptance.

  18. 18
    mithrandir

    “M can help you with that.” @17:

    Even from that perspective, there is still a substantive change: “We promised people for thirty years that they could be free of same-sex attraction, and we failed them.” A massive blow to the concept of “reparative therapy” will still do much good, even if, as you fear, it is replaced with an emphasis on celibacy.

    It’ll take a lot longer than thirty years for hardline Christianity (or any of the other sex-controlling religion-philosophies, for that matter) to acknowledge that, for most people, celibacy is itself unhealthy and unsustainable. It’s more likely that they’d collapse under their own weight, and that has taken millenia to even get to its present point.

  19. 19
    steve oberski

    From wikipedia:

    In 2009, several Exodus International executives, traveling in their capacity as Exodus International spokesmen, attended a conference in Uganda that promoted what critics describe as promoting “shocking abuses of basic human rights”. Close to a year later, Chambers expressed regret for the organization’s involvement, and spoke out against the nation’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

    It’s going to take a lot more than an apology to undo the damage that this man has caused.

    From the Exodus International press release:

    Local affiliated ministries, which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.

    And this isn’t a good start.

  20. 20
    Michael Heath

    Anderson Cooper kicked-off his show tonight with a piece on Exodus International. He also announced at the end of that segment that Alan Chambers will be on his show tomorrow night.

    i’m confident these two will cover the symptoms that caused so many to die or suffer on account of Mr. Chambers. But I highly doubt the root cause reason will be addressed, i.e., Christianity and religious faith in general that relies on faith, dogma, and blind childish delusional submission to authority; as opposed to favoring a moral standard which consistently promotes humans and life on this planet flourishing.

    Chambers still has a lot of growing up to do and if his facing up to the fact he and his religion caused so much suffering doesn’t take him all the way to wisdom, I doubt we’ll see complete contrition tomorrow night. At least sufficient to face up to the systemic causes of what he’s done, that’ ain’t going to happen anytime soon. Instead he seems to be adapting to a new scam to lure in the people abused by their Christian parents and Christian authority figures; abused to think that being gay means one is somehow defective and an abomination to God and more importantly, the conservative and black Christians who are the predominant forces which cause gays to suffer here in the U.S.

    This move is a big win for humanity and an enormous short term loss to conservative Christianity, no doubt. And Chambers deserves credit for what is a giant step for him. But as an individual this move doesn’t wipe away all the pain he’s caused nor will it optimally alleviate future suffering. That would have required Chambers to reject his faith and demand equal protection and acceptance of gay people and their families. Where he’s still promoting dogma which demands we continue to see gays as flawed simply for being gay and not worthy of a family, flawed enough they don’t deserve to be full fledged members of the very churches Chambers still supports.

  21. 21
    iangould

    “Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me. ”

    Any chance of a lawsuit?

  22. 22
    anubisprime

    In the words of the immortal bard Dr Sheldon Cooper….”BAZINGA”

    For three decades Chambers and his tinpot organization have set out to ‘deliberately’ hurt cripple and maim folk because of their sexuality, by hiding behind a corrupt and twisted version of their banal delusion.
    A great deal of their ‘therapy’ involved ‘shaming’ their ‘clients’

    That cretinous twisted interpretation of a bronze age delusion was used to bully, cajole, threaten, and heap misery, that in some cases, ruined lives even to the point where it and it alone actually killed the victims of this evil little scam.

    And all of a sudden when the winds of change herald in no uncertain terms that their self dreamt up mission has pathetically failed and failed miserably, not only in their area of contamination, but globally…then suddenly all is given up and time to re-brand the business!

    Because that is all it is about…business!

    And business dictates a re-brand, re-launch, and new angle!

    Nope…no one that spouts the vile philosophy this cretin espoused and for so long and so deep and so pugnaciously has any …absolutely any intentions to ‘change’ direction, just find other avenues to exploit because this scam has gone tits up in the face of radically changing attitudes in society, and profit from sadness, fear, ignorance and insecurity is always an attractive opportunity for those that consider themselves god’s little bankers!, and there is plenty of sadness, fear, ignorance and insecurity out there, this scam is dead roll on the next one, and if bullying and threats are required to fill the coffers so be it, after-all they know how that works now!

    An apology?…fuck me this cretin should be jailed for life!

    He knew full well what was going on, he admits it himself, he knew and did nothing in fact did it himself, sorry but fuck you you evil little shit, go burn in your own hell on earth.

    What the rest of you folk and the LGBTQ Community do is up to you and they, but I for one reject completely and unequivocally this crocodile tear ‘apology’

    It stinks of re-framing so they can operate elsewhere without baggage of three decades, (they hope), it stinks of cowardice and it stinks of jeebus con and above all it stinks with the stench of arsehole trying to wriggle away from the shit pile it created….!

  23. 23
    John Pieret

    Can’t wait to see the Christian right freak out about this.

    Never fear … the Freepers are on the job:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/3033664/posts

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