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.)
Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter
O Almighty God, who alone makest the hearts 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 sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely be there 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.