There has been much talk about a distinct “shift” in language over the last six months within Exodus that has surrounded Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International. This shift within Exodus began last year in a Lisa Ling interview on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) when Alan was asked if he believed a homosexual could go to heaven. Alan responded, and always responds, that he believes that anyone who trusts Christ as Lord and Savior will not be excluded from Heaven. Alan is a non-denominational evangelical who believes in eternal security (sometimes called once saved, always saved).
The shift took a distinct turn when Alan, in January of this year, was asked by Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network to participate in a panel at the GCN’s annual conference. He has admitted that he did not communicate well in his attempt to apologize for past approaches which may have caused harm within the gay community and to individuals that had come to Exodus ministries. He said that Exodus had promised changes that he now says cannot be guaranteed.
The shift may make it seem that Exodus is changing its views on homosexuality as it has been repeatedly reported through various media outlets. The most recent, as of this writing, was an interview on CNN’s Hardball where Alan did not back away from Exodus’ biblical beliefs. Just prior to the recent Exodus Freedom Conference, Alan was mentioned in our own local newspaper, along with some 300 other papers, as a part of a national AP article titled, Christian group backs away from promising a “gay cure.” (Keep in mind that these are the reporter’s words, not Alan’s.)
“The president of the country’s best-known Christian ministry dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer is trying to distance the group from the idea that gay people’s sexual orientation can be permanently changed or “cured.” That’s a significant shift for Exodus International, the 36-year-old Orlando-based group that boasts 260 member ministries around the U.S. and world. For decades, it has offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer, infuriating gay rights activists in the process.” (Patrick Condon, The Associated Press, Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012)
At Hope for Wholeness and Hope For Wholeness, we have always focused on discipleship. The basic shift that is happening in Exodus now is a move back toward that discipleship ministry method, rather than a therapeutic model which some of its member ministries have used in the past. Exodus has separated itself from NARTH and Reparative Therapy, also known as conversion therapy, with which it had been aligned for many years at a core level. One of the reasons is the claim by some associated with NARTH, Reparative Therapy, and other forms of conversion therapy that guarantee a 100% cure of homosexuality or same-sex attractions.
A few years ago, I attended an Exodus Freedom Conference at Wheaton College where Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality and head of NARTH, led a workshop. I remember listening as he shared about “EMDR” or Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Through some research, I now understand that this is a controversial therapeutic model that trained clinicians typically use with post-traumatic stress disorder cases. In the class, Nicolosi shared how the EMDR model very successfully cures one’s homosexuality by passing one’s eyes back and forth over pornography. I was dumbfounded! He was sharing this on a Christian campus, and there was nothing Christian about this class or its methods. He even stated for us to, “go home and get your best piece of pornography, and try this out on it.” I was so upset that I got up and left the class. I’d like to say that I did something about it other than be upset, but I didn’t. Nicolosi had been highly respected. Today, I am glad to learn that Exodus has distanced themselves from Nicolosi and NARTH for this reason. I find no problem with his book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality. It helped me a great deal in understanding myself, my childhood, and so many of the men and families that I have worked with. It basically calls for close relationships with males, primarily father to son and men to men in restoring one’s masculinity. It is sad that this helpful research is now overshadowed by an unorthodox and unethical new practice.
This newsletter contains what I feel is the most important part of the GCN panel discussion and a transcript of Alan Chambers’ keynote address which he gave on the first night of this year’s Exodus Freedom Conference in Minneapolis Minnesota. This was my 15th consecutive conference. I must say that I found Alan’s address and each general session and testimony personally liberating and the most Christ-centered that I have experienced to date. If you are associated with this issue at all, I would strongly urge you to visit www.catapes.com and get each general session and the testimonial track.
It all comes down to what change, freedom, and healing mean. What are realistic expectations? What are unrealistic expectations? After spending six months on this matter, reading, listening, praying, asking questions to Alan and other leaders, and finally hearing Alan’s address, I now see and agree with this direction and shift. I hope you will take the time to read Alan’s words from the conference and hear his heart. I believe he is sharing a very Christ-centered approach to the thousands of men, women, teens, and families that personally struggle and are affected by this very personal issue.
I know it is difficult to completely understand this subject, especially if you do not have a personal connection to same-sex attractions. However, having walked away some 21 years ago and working in this field for over 14 years, I have come to see that things are not as concrete and absolute as the public, or even the church, may think.
I get hate mail from angry people who believe we are trying to “cure” homosexuals. Frankly, that’s not what we do, and we are NOT in the “curing business” or as the media often portray our organizations as “pray the gay away.” We are an organization that helps men, women, families, and teens understand the issue and find freedom from the clutches of a homosexual struggle. What does that look like? Very simply, through Christ, having control over your life and future, rather than the issue identifying you and controlling you.
If you have ANY concerns or questions pertaining to this ‘shift’ or language, please do not hesitate to give McKrae a call.