Back to Egypt for Exodus International?

By now, many readers will already have heard the news that Exodus International is closing-up shop. What was once a leading evangelical ministry to those struggling with homosexuality has now become defunct. This is in no small part due to the influence of its charismatic president, Alan Chambers, whose views have led the organization into a theological cul de sac.

Chambers announced the ending of Exodus in connection with an extended public apology to those who have been hurt by Exodus’ years of ministry. His apology, however, has caused much confusion and consternation for evangelicals (like myself) who have been watching this unfold from the outside. Among other things, Chambers writes,

I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.

For me, this expresses the underlying problem with Chambers’ leadership. I understand the skepticism about reparative therapy. In fact, there is nothing necessarily Christian about reparative therapy, and I am quite skeptical about some of its claims myself. Having said that, Chambers apologizes not simply for promoting reparative therapy but also for promoting “sexual orientation change efforts” altogether. Chambers seems to be saying that Spirit’s work of conversion does not address sexual orientation. I don’t know how else to take this except as a denial of what the Bible teaches about sanctification (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:23).

Christians have no moral obligation to subscribe to the specific tenets of reparative therapy, but we do have an obligation to believe that the Christian gospel can save and sanctify sinners. Thus Christians must insist that sexual orientation/behavior is alterable. We believe that not on the basis of any particular study—although there are studies that support the claim—but on the basis of what the Bible teaches.

That does not mean that we believe all homosexuals become completely cured of homosexual desires once they become Christian. Nor does it mean that all homosexual converts will become completely free a homosexual orientation in this life. But it does mean that we have hope in the progressive sanctification of all repentant sinners, including homosexual ones (2 Cor. 3:18).

The biblical doctrine of sanctification assumes that all of us are sinners and need to be progressively transformed into Christ’s image over the course of our lives (2 Cor. 3:18). It does not teach that sin will be eradicated in Christians in this life. It does teach that Christians will experience real progress in holiness over the course of their lives (which Chamber’s denies).

A Christian person may struggle with homosexual desires his whole life, but he can know real victory over homosexual behavior. Some homosexuals may even experience a change in orientation, but that’s certainly not guaranteed for every homosexual in this life (Wesley Hill’s book is a must-read in this regard). Some may be called to a consecrated life of celibacy. Others may be called to marriage and family. In any case, we believe that God can alter sinful desires and behavior over time (Phil. 2:12-13). To abandon that possibility is to abandon Christianity altogether (1 Thess. 4:7-8).

It appears that Chambers has abandoned the possibility of transformation, and that is why I am concerned about the public statements he’s been making over the last year or so. The path that he commends enables sinners to be complacent about sin. It enables them to regard holiness as an optional add-on to their Christian faith. Yet the Bible says that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). That means that the very homosexuals that Chambers wishes to reach will never see the Lord if they continue in their sin. Even if they claim to be Christians, they won’t inherit eternal life in the end if they’ve spurned Christ’s Lordship in the present.

I am sad to see what Exodus has come to. I am grieved by Chambers’ apology tour that distorts and confuses the Christian message. But I am not sad to see the closing of the 2013 version of Exodus. It seems that Chambers was leading Exodus back to Egypt, and that needed to end one way or another.

—————–

For those looking for resources on homosexuality and the Christian life, I am hopeful about a new organization called the Restored Hope Network. They have a solid theological basis, and it looks poised to fill the gap left by collapse of Exodus.

30 Responses to Back to Egypt for Exodus International?

  1. Karen Akin June 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    A perfect exposé on this subject. I often find myself in a discussion on the topic of homosexuality and always want to portray the truth in a loving way as Jesus might. Thank you for sharing your position. I am more aware each day of the dumbing down of morals in our country, particularly on this subject. It has taken over prime time television, family shows, school curriculum, and many churches. We are in a spiritual war for the souls of our children and grandchildren.

  2. Mary Gray Moser June 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    I believe that, misinformed as he was, Chambers wanted God to be glorified. He has always been publically criticized by Christian leaders. I don’t know whether or not any of his critics ever approached him in a personal way with an offer for helping him to better understand the truth. I think he could stand some good guidance now.

  3. James Bradshaw June 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    “Even if they claim to be Christians, they won’t inherit eternal life in the end if they’ve spurned Christ’s Lordship in the present.”

    That’s not what they’ve done, though. Many of them simply don’t believe that living as a gay person with integrity (however they define it) is sinful, let alone having an orientation over which they have no control.

    Let me ask you folks something: do you believe it’s possible to sin and offend God without knowing you’ve done so? Do you think you’ll die without a *single* unrepented sin? If so, that’s not only quite an arrogant claim, it’s also a bit optimistic about your ability to time your own death.

    If you DO realize that you’ll most likely die in some form of unrepented sin, why are your sins forgivable but not those of the past members of Exodus?

    • Paula Cullen June 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      We are responsible for what we know. It’s one to thing to be ignorant about the biblical truth of homosexuality; it’s another to deny it, ignore it, or try to distort what the bible plainly says. Gays who claim to be Christians but are not engaged in the battle against the sin of homosexuality, while aware of what the bible says, are in rebellion. Their salvation is questionable. In my personal struggle with the sin of gluttony, should I insist that Weight Watchers shut down because I have not had complete victory over the temptation to overeat? Maybe I should wait for the day when morbidly obese people declare that being fat is the new normal. They will be able to say, like the ex-gays in this video, that they have been deeply wounded by all those Weight Watcher claims that led to repeated failed attempts at change.

      • Lauren Betrand June 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

        “Maybe I should wait for the day when morbidly obese people declare that being fat is the new normal.”

        Being fat already is the new normal. More than 50% of Americans are gluttons, judging from CDC stats on the population that is overweight or obese. And most churches don’t lift a finger in condemnation, let alone kick them out of their churches.

        The gluttony analogy is the most potent exemplification of Christian hypocrisy. It renders the majority of the other anti-gay arguments as null and void within the greater national discourse on culture wars. Does anyone ever question the salvation of gluttons? Non-Evangelical America sees both the fixation on one sin at the exclusion of most others, and also sees the general cultural acceptance of gluttony (often at its worse in fundamentalist churches) and increasingly shrugs its shoulders when the Evangelical churches rant against gay rights.

        • Paula Cullen June 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

          Lauren, I mostly agree with you. The sin of gluttony is completely tolerated in the church. However, being fat is not so well accepted in society. Overeating may be tolerated because it is common and much of our national economy is tied to food. Therefore, gluttonous behavior is actually encouraged. But being fat is still mostly ostracized, however common it may be.
          The main point for me is that when I surrendered my heart to Christ, I became a new creature in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). My nature changed, but not my struggle against sin. That means I now abhor my sin of gluttony and fight against it, instead of hiding it or embracing it by declaring that it is not sin, after all. The Holy Spirit makes me aware of it and helps me in the fight. Ironically, before I became a Christian, I could exercise will power and lose weight fairly easily, but now it is much harder, partly because I’m older, but mostly because I’m aware that I’m really battling the sin of idolatry. I’m aware that God is working out a much deeper spiritual issue in me.
          Alan Chambers did a great disservice by confusing the essential doctrine of the “new nature in Christ.” He was right to admit that SSA will not be “cured” by therapy. However, Christians everywhere need to understand that the battle against sin must be engaged. This battle will dominate our lives, one way or another, because this is the way Christ will reveal His sufficiency, beauty, and power. I am still learning this as a struggler myself. We are not excused from the battle against sin because we repeatedly fail, get frustrated, feel hurt, or become tired. We persevere because “these light and momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

  4. Alistair Robertson June 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Very sad. I’m wondering if you were aware of Exodus Global Alliance. I have heard a number of stories about how Exodus International and Exodus Global Alliance were related, but basically, despite it’s name, Exodus International was mainly American, and Exodus Global Alliance is global.

    Just wanted people from other countries to realise this. There is often confusion about these two.

    http://www.exodusglobalalliance.org/exodus-international-c1447.php

  5. Michael Lynch June 21, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Well said, Denny.

    • Chris Ryan June 23, 2013 at 12:41 am #

      I second that. Very well said, Denny.

  6. Dave Moser June 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    I think you may have misread Chambers’ statement.

    You said: “Chambers apologizes not simply for promoting reparative therapy but also for promoting ‘sexual orientation change efforts’ ALTOGETHER.”

    He said: “I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation THAT STIGMATIZES PARENTS.”

    It appears to me that he was apologizing for a specific treatment within the larger umbrella of reparative therapy, not the framework of reparative therapy itself.

    (The only thing in the apology that makes me think you’re reading him correctly is Chambers’ statement that, “Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make [my same-sex urges] stop.”)

  7. Jim Giordano June 22, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary is good, too. http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2013/06/21/on-exodus/

  8. Jim Giordano June 22, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Here’s just an excerpt from Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary:

    Theologian and expert on the subject, Robert A. J. Gagnon, took Chambers to task for his faulty understanding of grace and forgiveness: “Chambers makes a poor use of the prodigal son parable in Luke 15. He claims: ‘Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.’

    “The Father calls his prodigal son ‘found’ and ‘alive’ because the latter comes back truly penitent. He’s not coming back asking for the other half of the inheritance so that he can continue to squander it on such things as prostitutes. He rather acknowledges that because of his bad behavior he is not worthy to be called a son and should be treated only as a hired hand. Had he continued in gross sexual immorality (and homosexual practice, like sex with prostitutes, incest, and adultery, is viewed as such in Scripture) he would have remained lost and dead.

    “Because Chambers considers all sin as equal in all respects (immoral sexual intercourse is no worse than eating an overly big meal) Chambers wants to assure those who continue in gross immorality that they are found and alive. The older brother’s failing is not that he refused to welcome his brother back while he was unrepentantly continuing in a dissolute life but rather for refusing to give him a full welcome after he had repented and left such a life. Apparently Chambers believes (since he thinks all sin is alike) that the younger brother could have returned to kill his older brother, get his half of the inheritance, and still be welcomed back by the Father as sufficiently penitent.”

    • Chris Ryan June 23, 2013 at 12:38 am #

      All sin is sin.

      And all sin requires repentance.

      As Jesus warned the masses and the Pharisees, its folly to see it any other way.

    • Jerry Smith June 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      Your correct, but most people, all they want is an excuse, an excuse so they can stay in their besetting sin plus have the hope of eternal life. Sad to say many of our brothers & sister are helping them find an excuse. When a person is truly saved, they become a new creature, 2 Corinthians 5:17. From that point on they live under the power of God, 2 Corinthians 8:3, & under the power of God they can be transformed. Yes many of them fail, they fail because they try to change their self under their own power, they never really repent accepting Jesus as their Savior & that will never work. The natural man is very weak, & of course he fails miserably before God.

      Of course I’m no expert, I’m no scholar, I have no degrees, I’m just an old country Baptist pastor that believes the Bible is God’s Word & its true, & that God can change a person just as He says He can, making them a new man, Ephesians 4:24.

  9. Jim Giordano June 22, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    “Homosexuals will continue to find liberation and restoration by the mighty power of the risen Christ. Forget what the MSM and the militants are saying: Christ came to set the captives free, and he is in the business of turning lives around. He has been doing it for 2000 years now.”

    http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2013/06/21/on-exodus/

    • James Bradshaw June 22, 2013 at 7:07 am #

      Jim G: The vast majority of people who are highly motivated to change their sexual orientation are not successful. That’s a fact. Those rare “success stories” are questionable as well. John Paulk was on the cover of Newsweek with his wife to serve as “proof” that change is possible only to later confess that his orientation hasn’t changed at all. Alan Chambers has admitted that he hasn’t seen a real change in orientation for himself or anyone else.

      What are you suggesting about these earnest souls? They didn’t pray hard enough? Wait long enough? Some of them have been so desirous of change they’ve considered or even attempted suicide when their prayers were left unanswered.

      Tossing out a few Bible passages in condemnation of the entire lives of these folks is a bit insensitive.

      • Chris Ryan June 23, 2013 at 12:52 am #

        Only non-sinners should be condemning sinners. And I don’t know any of those. So if anyone’s condemning anyone then they themselves are wrong. And they will be punished for that.

        But, merely encouraging people to seek sanctification and holiness, and praying that they succeed in doing so, cannot be called condemnation, James B. But loving homosexuals & working with them toward salvation cannot ever be considered wrong. Indeed, Christ enjoins us to bring others to Christ! That will never be wrong! 🙂

        We all know that the flesh is strong, but just like alcoholics, and gamblers, and addicts, and adulterers, and liars, and all us sinners can, through Christ, be saved, so can homosexuals. We know for a fact, for instance, that there is a “alcoholic gene” and that people with this gene are predisposed to alcoholism. That does not mean that we give up on the sanctification of alcoholics.

  10. Michael Lynch June 22, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Doug Wilson: http://dougwils.com/s29-culture-and-politics/a-moon-crater.html
    I think the main thing we can take away from this (it comes to mind when reading Doug’s second observation) is that organizations like this aren’t needed. The true church, if it’s doing its job, should be helping men and women who want to obey the Lord with regards to putting off this sin just as it should be helping believers with other sins.

  11. buddyglass June 22, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    “A Christian person may struggle with homosexual desires his whole life, but he can know real victory over homosexual behavior.”

    I doubt Chambers would disagree with this. Chambers, formerly a practicing homosexual, is (ostensibly happily) married to a woman.

  12. Kathleen A. Peck (@purisomniapura) June 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    I agree with Mr. Burk. I listened to the talk Mr. Chambers gave & it came across as though the church had bungled everything up & made a huge mistake in their efforts to encourage homosexuals toward change. This sounded like typical political correctness void of any scriptural call to repentance. Why now is everything the church’s fault, & where is the responsibility of the sinner for their sin? As Mr. Burk said, it’s probably best the doors to this place remain closed for until their leadership adopt a true biblical mandate, they’re not really a biblically based ministry at all.

  13. Chris Ryan June 23, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    This is an excellent post, Denny. You’ve done something here which I’ve never seen anyone do, and that is to suggest that–independent of any biological predispositions people might have–that God still requires us to repent of our sins. So, in reality, the question of whether or not “gays are born this way” is entirely irrelevant from a Christian perspective. Indeed, since the Fall, all men are born in sin.

    For me this is just like the alcoholic gene. We know for a fact that there is a gene which predisposes its carriers to being alcoholics. This is not conjecture; its proven. That said, no Christian would say its ok to be alcoholic. We would say, “In Christ we will overcome it.”

    So as Christians we must be sensitive to the afflictions of others; not condemning them, but encouraging them toward Christ.

    • buddyglass June 23, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      If heard it argued before that biological predisposition is irrelevant. Including with respect to heterosexuals. For instance, I’m biologically predisposed to have sex with every woman who’ll let me. Most evolutionary biologists would back me up on that: human females may be wired for monogamy, but not the males. That still doesn’t give me license to cheat on my wife.

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