Alan Chambers Issues an Apology to the Gay Community

o-LISA-LING-EXODUS-INTERNATIONAL-ALAN-CHAMBERS-facebookAlan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the flagship umbrella organization with affiliated ministries around the world, has issued an apology to the gay community. You can read it here.

A couple of points stood out to me. One was Chambers’ own contributions to the pain of others when he did not share that he experienced ongoing same-sex attractions: “There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions.” This seems especially important, as many people assumed that if Chambers married a woman, he no longer experienced attractions towards the same sex. Many people make that assumption when people who identify as ex-gay marry heterosexually. Or, even if they don’t marry, many people will assume that is what is meant when a person uses the term “ex-gay” to describe themselves.

Chambers shares that his feelings of attraction brought him shame (“They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away.“), which is why he tended to omit that he continued to experience his attractions.The point about shame is really important, as shame tends to lead to isolation and can lead to presenting a false impression to others. What can a person do rather than rely on denial or minimization? Chambers says, “Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there.” I don’t know how other react to this, but I read this as more like how Christians respond to besetting conditions (or experiences that are ongoing and unlikely to change).

Interestingly, Chambers also shares what he is not apologizing for in this letter. Specifically, Chambers references his beliefs as a Christian about sex and marriage:

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.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.

At the end of his apology, Chambers points toward a future that will certainly be interesting to witness in the years to come:

Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

When I think about what may be interesting in the years to come is this: Is there is room in a diverse and pluralistic culture for a Christian ministry to retain its beliefs and values about sexuality and marriage while moving away from the expectation of change (at least in the form of reparative therapy)? There will still be people offended by the teachings of such a ministry, so I don’t think we are talking about diversity that is not offensive to anyone. By definition, that is not possible in a diverse and pluralistic culture.

Also, what will that kind of ministry look like? What will it hold out as its mission? It’s goals? A ministry would then have to ask: Is there an audience for that kind of ministry when many people (most?) who come to a ministry want the very change held out as normative in reparative therapy? All indications are that the message will be that of Christlikeness (or what Christian refer to as sanctification), and, I would guess, that the focus on sanctification will be independent of the question of whether attractions change. Is there an audience for that message? Let’s see.

2 Comments

  1. I think your last paragraphs are kind of ironic! You, if anybody, seem to have an answer to what a ministry could look like in coming alongside individuals who are trying to understand their same sex attractions in a gay affirmative culture. How about a ministry that helps a person to make meaning of their attractions, helps them to think about different weighted aspects of their identity, and helps them ultimately achieve congruence? I think the next step is to meet with Mr. Chambers to discuss SIT…:)

  2. Pingback: Exodus International Closing – It’s About a New Voice | Aslan is on the move

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