Alan Chambers has closed down Exodus. The gay community rejoices. The Christian community doesn’t quite know how to respond. Some have joined Alan in his apologies to gays who have been “harmed” through Exodus ministries. In my opinion, this seems like an unfortunate overreaction, a classic case of swinging a pendulum from one extreme to another.
For over a decade I have served as an advisor to a local ex-gay ministry and have supported their work with prayers, finances, and encouragement. I will continue to do so as I hope more and more churches will add these embattled ministries to their missions’ budgets.
When I say that some have swung the pendulum from one extreme to the other, I do so with reluctance because I do not believe that most ex-gay ministries ever really promised more than they could deliver. I don’t think the pendulum was out of whack to begin with.
But some Christians are making it look that way. One prominently posted blog claimed that Exodus ministries “touted” that people could “simply” take their “pill” and they would be “healed,” would get married to someone of the opposite sex and “never” struggle with same-sex attraction again. This is a straw man, if ever there was one. Such overstatements, misrepresentations, and sarcastic language significantly harm an already difficult discussion. The ex-gay ministries I know and the ex-gay literature I have read simply do not do what this blog and others claim.
To be sure, many people enroll in ex-gay ministry activities and never see change. Some, out of despair, have then entered (or reentered) a gay life with gusto. It’s true. But that scenario may not be as prevalent as some have portrayed. Others have found wholeness and sexual sanity and cleansing. And, yes, some have seen God change their desires and attractions toward people of the opposite sex. Some have gotten married and have stayed married. Some still struggle with same-sex attraction but find that sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex actually contributes toward the transformation process. Some report gradual change over the course of decades, a time frame our current culture finds intolerable.
I wonder if we find living with such ambiguity or inconsistency to be the problem. Could it be that our insistence on a one-size-fits-all, simplistic, all-or-nothing solution is really an idol we can’t let go of? And so, finding the pendulum swing impossible to resist, some Christians say that, if some people haven’t been changed, we’ll claim that no one can be changed, fold up our Exodus ministry, and say we were wrong all along.
Does God cure cancer? Some of the time. Does he always cure cancer? Certainly not. Should we conclude that, because God does not always do what we want, we should stop claiming that he sometimes cures? Not wanting some to get their hopes up, should we adopt a less-than-Biblical position?
This is, perhaps, what I find most disturbing in this discussion. It looks like a backing away from scripture’s claims that God is powerful enough to do the miraculous. Some have argued that scripture never promises change. But I believe a compelling case can be made that 1 Cor. 6:11 does indeed imply that the “washing” that changed “some of you” is more than just forgiveness and more than just positional truth. Desires may be more malleable, in the hand of God, than we imagine.
My prayer is that God will now raise up a new Exodus (with a different name) to serve as an umbrella for the many, many local ex-gay ministries that have brought hope and wholeness to those who struggle in this area. (Some are already moving in that direction.) To simply cave under the pressure of a culture that worships sexual expression is to abandon brothers and sisters (as well as outsiders!) who know the emptiness and pain of the gay world. We dare not leave them in harm’s way.