A couple of days ago, Exodus International president Alan Chambers announced that the organization would be shutting its doors after nearly 40 years of service to the Christian community. I experienced mixed emotions over this announcement. I am aware of the position that Exodus took for most of its existence regarding reparative therapy. I think much harm and damage was done to people through these tactics. On the other hand, I attended the 2012 Exodus freedom conference in June of that year with my friend and pastor Kerry, and his wife Laurie. That trip remains one of the most valued experiences I’ve had over these past few years and remains such a positive memory; both because of the special people who accompanied me to the event, as well as the event itself. It stands out, really, as a turning point for me in that I had never before been exposed to so many others who were pursuing a similar path as I was. I know that I am not the only person at my church who is dealing with these issues of same sex attraction, but at that time I did not know of anyone else who was. And so it was good for me to see others with whom I shared a similar struggle, and to worship the Lord together with them.
The message of Alan Chambers on the opening night of the conference seemed so clear to me. It was the message that my faith in Christ as one who experiences same sex attractions is lived out by my pursuit of holiness – and not necessarily some sort of pursuit of heterosexuality. That God created marriage to be a relationship which depicted Christ’s relationship to the church. And this marriage relationship is clearly demonstrated in the Bible as being one which is between a man and a woman. But despite God’s design, my attractions and temptations toward sexual relationships with other men are not in and of themselves sinful. We are all tempted toward various types of sins, and Jesus Himself was tempted (Heb 4:15 ESV). And in really realizing that my faith in Christ was not about becoming “straight”, I felt like a large burden was lifted from me. That I didn’t have to fall in love with a woman, get married and have children to prove the genuineness of my faith to my fellow Christians. What I needed to do, just as my brothers and sisters need to do, is to pursue holiness through an ever deepening relationship with Christ.
So I will say that when I initially heard the news of Exodus closing I was a bit distressed. This is an organization that I know has a lot of baggage and (in my opinion) a questionable past – but this was not the Exodus that I knew and experienced at that conference in June 2012. It was not the Exodus that promoted a change in sexual orientation as being the litmus test for true Faith. And as I read the articles about the end of Exodus, my mind immediately went to an email I had written to my friend Kerry nearly two years ago:
It’s kind of stupid thinking as I doubt it will get to this point in my lifetime, but as the domino’s continue to fall and homosexuality continues to gain more acceptance, what happens if I am the last man standing who holds my beliefs? Would I be true to God’s Word and stand firm or would I be another of the millions who have compromised their faith by being corrupted by the world? Would I stand or fall? I think I know the answer to that question, but this is why I need support from other Bible believing Christians. If it were me, being in the Body, versus the world it would be one thing, But now, as homosexuality continues to invade the Church, it is me versus the world AND a good chunk of the Church which makes it that much harder. I do sometimes wonder what these other “Christians” are seeing in God’s Word that makes them think homosexuality is good, because when I am honest with myself I don’t see it. Heck even when I am not honest with myself I don’t really see it, but sometimes the door opens just that little bit to where I am intrigued by it.
My concerns upon hearing this news of Exodus were largely fleeting and as I look to Christ for assurance on this path I am on I get the same answer I have heard over and over through these past few years: Trust in ME. And while as a man, when I look to understand why God prohibits homosexuality yet allowed me to be created with these attractions and desires – desires that go beyond merely the sexual and encompass even a longing for companionship and closeness to another man – I simply must admit that I do not know why He has forbidden me from pursuing the love that I still desire to experience in a relationship with another man. But I do know that my Father is all-knowing and I am not. That He created everything with a purpose and a plan. He is the Creator and I am the creation. My flesh is corrupt and sinful and He is Holy. I am broken and He is Whole. In the end it really doesn’t matter to me if I ever understand why the Lord prohibits sexual expression between people of the same sex. In faith I simply know that He has reasons which I am not meant to know at this time; but someday I will understand (1 Cor 13:12). And a part of our belief, of our faith in Him is characterized by trust. And knowing that God is opposed to this form of sexual expression has to be sufficient enough a reason for obedience for the follower of Christ.
There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12 NASB
While I know that there is plenty of celebration taking place by some over the demise of Exodus International, for those of us who have mixed feelings about this or perhaps who are even a bit demoralized over this news, let us all remember that our faith, our trust, is never to be placed in a man, in mankind, in our local church, or in a Christian organization such as Exodus. Our faith must always be in Christ and Christ alone.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 NASB
- After Exodus, What? (spiritualfriendship.org)
- The Exodus of the Gospel From Exodus International (moorematt.com)
- Exodus to shut down but Harrisburg ministry will keep trying to cure gay people (pennlive.com)
- ‘Ex-Gay’ Group Exodus International Shuts Down, President Apologizes (towleroad.com)
- Grace to Those Coming Out of the Closet (blogs.christianpost.com)