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Alan Chambers Apologizes and Closes Exodus International
In June of 2013, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus Interntional, apologized to the gay community for the harm Exodus caused the gay community. His apology to the gay community is interesting for both what it includes and what it does not include. In the preamble to his June 2013 apology to the gay community, the head of the ex-gay ministry Exodus International, states that he feels like an outcast to powerful parts of both the gay and Christian communities. One is left wondering if Alan Chambers is so naive and clueless that he really does not get it. After years of being part of a ministry that harms gay people, what was Alan Chambers expecting, a love-fest from the gay community? Expecting to be accepted by the gay community after years being the leader of an ex-gay movement could be compared to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, expecting to be accepted by the Jewish community. Exodus and other ex-gays were only given token acceptance in conservative Christian circles, because Exodus served their fundamentalist theo-political goals. The assumption in conservative Protestant circles is that gay people cannot be celibate, so there is no way any ex-gay leader with Exodus will be accepted. The hatred and fear of gay people in conservative Christian circles is too strong for leaders of ex-gay ministries to ever be truly accepted. Now that Alan Chambers has admitted people do not change their orientations he is not likely to be be given even token acceptance in conservative Christian circles. In many respects, Alan Chambers is viewed by many gay people and by many Christians as a traitor.
Now, getting to Alan Chambers' apology. Apologizing takes guts. For apologizing, the gay community can thank Alan Chambers. The apology may help reduce religious hatred and religious homophobia and we can hope it will reduce internalized homophobia in the gay community. While Chambers' apology does not undo the emotional and spiritual trauma within the queer community that was caused by people associated with Exodus International, the apology is appreciated. Some moderate Christians may see the apology coming from the leader of the largest ex-gay ministry as a reason to reexamine their belief system.
In Alan Chambers' apology he talked about a car accident he had. There is a difference between a careless act when driving that results in pain and injury when the intention was to only drive from point A to point B and setting out to take gay people, a group of people who were created and born in the image of God, and to trying to make them turn into straight people. The purpose of Exodus Interntional was evil to the core and contrary to God's will. Alan Chambers may have wanted to do what is right at Exodus, but the very act of being part of ex-gay ministries, unlike the act of driving, is wrong. Exodus Interntional, in the opinion of this contributor, was part of a spiritual ethnic cleansing in churches and a spiritual genocide.
Alan Chambers is not just a person who casually got caught up in an unhealthy organization. He ended up being the leader of Exodus International. Receiving either pay or prestige from work at Exodus places Alan Chambers in a far different position than a humble volunteer who got suckered into working with a local group of Exodus.
Alan Chambers' apology hit most of the key areas. Generally, he said what needed to be said. He seems to understand the pain Exodus inflicted on gays and their families. Unfortunately, Alan Chambers' apology, does not say he supports either same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages. As long as Alan Chambers holds that same-sex relationships and that same-sex marriages are wrong, neither his apology nor his ministry are likely to be accepted by the queer community.
Those who believe God hates people and demands rigid, unthinking obedience to a lot of rules and that anything short of mindless and unfaltering obedience will result in eternal damnation have unhealthy spirituality. Ex-gay ministries are operated by people who tend to have unhealthy spirituality. People who reject same-sex marriages often do so, because they base their understanding of morality on a literal understanding of an English Bible, an understanding that ignores the historical, cultural, textual and linguistic context of a few passages of the Bible.
Our hope and prayer is that God will help Alan Chambers discover that he is 100% loved and accepted, always has been and always will be and that gay men and women who have same-sex relationships are living as much in harmony with God's will as are men and women in straight relationships. Only then will Alan Chambers be able to live with deep inner happiness.
A natural question that arises is related to forgiving Alan Chambers and Exodus International. Members of the queer community and their loved ones and allies need to forgive Alan Chambes and Exodus International, not because it is a duty and not as a favor to Chambes and Exodus. The queer community owes Exodus International and Alan Chambers nothing. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people need to forgive Alan Chambers and Exodus, because forgiveness is a gift for the queer community.
Those who struggle with forgiving such an evil organization may find it difficult to forgive because they do not understand what forgiveness is. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Forgetting wrongs can be dangerous. We need to remember. Those who forget the damage done by ex-gay ministries such as Exodus could find themselves being hurt by another unhealthy religious organization, because they did not remember important lessons. What we do not want to do is to live our lives constantly re-living the painful experiences. Forgiveness is the gradual process of letting go of pain and anger and of choosing over and over again not to hurt back.
The queer community can forgive Alan Chambers and Exodus, but that does not mean members of the queer community should have anything to do with Alan Chambers or should trust his spiritual leadership. Trusting Alan Chambers is not the same as forgiving him. Alan Chambers will need to earn trust and trust may be very elusive, because so many gay and bisexual people and their families were harmed by ex-gay ministries.