Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

O Almighty God, who alone makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will: grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

News: Alan Chambers Apologizes to Gay Community

Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International, the largest single ex-gay organization in the world, issued a public apology to the LGBTQ world last night.

I am overjoyed by this. Other figures once prominent in the ex-gay world (like John Paulk) have issued apologies on their own behalf, but this is, I believe, the first time that the current head of a group like this has had the honesty, the humility, and the bravery to make such a statement. I find it a beautiful witness to Christian faith -- confession of sin and asking forgiveness are kind of the M.O. of Christianity, after all -- and I very much hope that this will be a part of repairing what has been a bitter, hurt-filled relationship between the churches and the queer world, not only here in North America but all over the world.

And he's putting his money where his mouth is. Not only has Chambers apologized; Exodus is shutting down. You can read their statement here.

Thank you, Mr. Chambers. I know that many in the gay world, Christian and otherwise, will throw this apology in your face; and I know that many Christians will castigate you for this. I'd like to say, as a gay man, that I am moved by your apology and grateful for it, and that I forgive any pain you may have caused me and the ones I love; and I'd like to say, as a Christian, that I respect and applaud the strength it took to confess so publicly -- it displays a justice, humility, and conviction that I aspire to in my own life -- and that I believe this act can be a channel of the grace of God.

Some highlights of the apology for me:

"It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church's treatment of the LGBT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt. Today it is as if I've just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church. ...

"I imagine it to be very much like a man I recently heard speak at a conference I attended, Father Elias Chacour, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Israel. He is an Arab Christian, Palestinian by birth, and a citizen of Israel. Talk about a walking contradiction. ...

"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 that 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 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. ... 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."

(The full text is here.)


  1. This all concerns me the tiniest bit. Not that I believe in ex-gay stuff, not at all. But in itself, really, it is just one more narrative of "salvation" (if on Freudianesque terms rather than Biblical ones). If we demonize one narrative of salvation as "not working," how are we to answer the accusation (which you have discussed quite eloquently here on your own blog) that all the remedies Christianity offers don't necessarily "work" in any reliable or straightforward sense either, that we're promised to be made New Men, holy saints, to have virtue and supernatural happiness...and yet 99.9% of people find that they are still sinners, many find that we make no particular progress, and many many still are "unhappy" (at least in the straightforward emotional sense of the term). I'm hesitant to call any narrative of salvation snake-oil when Christianity's own prescribed remedies are likewise only ambivalently successful. The minute we start evaluating success in spiritual pursuits with the framework of the minute ALL philosophies offering any sort of redemption or salvation go down the drain.

    And yet I feel like SOMETHING is "off" about Exodus, that makes it different, and perhaps it boils down to something like "authenticity" or something. I have to think about that more, but either way I don't think the "ineffectiveness" of orientation-change therapy can in itself be the reason for dismissing Exodus without also calling Christianity itself a giant con that most of us find doesn't really change our lives in the practical ways we'd expect (nor even the emotional ways for more than a few years).

  2. I have to say I feel rather mixed about this news. Not the apology, which I agree with, but that Exodus is closing. I did not experience anything negative by them in any of my dealings with them. In fact, I'd likely have killed myself back in '05 had I not found so much hope from them. It was everyone else who told me I was damned, who hated me, who ridiculed me. I didn't get that from Exodus' members. I was welcomed and never told anything other than to try to live my life for God. I was told that my sexuality could change, but was never told it was a gaurantee, nor that it should ever be a major focus (even though at times I tried to make it so).

    I feel mixed because I know Exodus had some major flaws, and had in fact hurt many people. However, I know I was helped, and I cannot brush aside the testimonies of others I've known who were also helped by them. And if it hadn't been through them, I'd likely have never gotten to know you or others I've met online over the last few years. And so, I'm not sure how to feel about this news.

    I've said for some time now that there are other and better approaches than what Exodus has used. Maybe their closing is just a step toward something better that can really help bridge the Church and LGBT individuals. I will hope for that.