Exodus “Ex-Gay” Ministry Closes Up Shop

Source: Religion Dispatches


“I long for the day when a gay or lesbian kid feels like the first place, the best place, to call or go for help is the church,” said Exodus leader Alan Chambers, in his opening remarks at the ex-gay ministry‘s 38th annual convention in Irvine, Calif., Wednesday night.

To the ears of most gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, that sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

Church has in fact been the very last place for LGBT people to seek help—a claim validated by the Pew Research Center who recentlyfound that nearly half of LGBT people claim no religion at all. Not a surprise considering that many LGBT folk spent a chunk of their childhood sitting through homophobic sermons and Sunday school lessons wondering if God really did hate and condemn them.

But, and most significantly, Chambers also delivered the dramatic news that Exodus would be shutting its doors. Earlier this year, in an appearance at the Gay Christian Network conference, Chambers admitted that “99.9%” of those in ex-gay ministries never change their sexual orientation.” A short time later Chambers swore that Exodus would no longer use “reparative therapy,” or the notion that you can “pray away the gay,” in their programs.

This week, Chambers issued an apology to the LGBT community, saying he never saw it as the “enemy.”

“I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

“More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religiousrejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.

What has emerged to fill the void is a fledgling organization called “Reduce Fear,” that seeks to offer “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” When LGBT people hear “safe” and “welcoming” and a new organization from Exodus, it’s natural to be suspicious. 

Julie Rodgers, a speaker for Exodus who has been with the ministry for ten years, since she was 17, says she understands that.

“Time will reveal as we begin this new venture,” she told Religion Dispatches. “Alan coming out with this apology and this move is already an enormous step. We’re saying that gay people matter and where we’ve caused them harm we’re going to own that and work to end that pain.”

When asked if a “safe and welcoming” place would include those who may come to the ministry and may still decide that God calls them to live fully as a gay or lesbian person, in relationship with someone of the same gender, Rodgers said, “We would walk with them toward Jesus and continue to listen together. Ultimately we believe it’s God’s job to convict and it’s our job to love.”

Indeed, LGBT people are used to the love that hopes they will one day agree that the ex-gay ministry is right and their desire to live into their sexuality is wrong. But, Rodgers is adamant that, though they readily admit they hold to a “traditional view of the Bible” on homosexuality, the new organization has no hidden agenda of “change.”

“We recognize our beliefs are not a trump card,” Rodgers explained. “We realize many, many churches hold a more liberal view on this issue and we believe it’s time for us to come to the table and value one another in the midst of our differing beliefs.”

Rodgers also noted that the new organization would probably not seek to change other ex-gay ministries that continue to use “reparative therapy” or other harmful “treatments” on LGBT people.

“We’re not interested in fighting anymore,” Rodgers said. We want to work on suicide prevention and anti-bullying causes. We’re more concerned with seeing human flourishing.”

It’s all very promising and conciliatory talk from an outfit that has done much harm to the LGBT community in the past. But if the new iteration of Exodus is truly committed to dialogue—which invites both sides to be open to changing opinions and ideas—they will be a welcome partner in fostering understanding of LGBT people both inside the church and out.

However, my own suspicion as a theologian is aroused by the new Reduce Fear’s reliance on the Prodigal Son parable as the foundation for its mission. Chambers says Exodus has, in the past, been the older brother who resented the father’s extravagant welcome of his returning son with open arms and a feast instead of condemnation. Now, they seek to be the father, who runs to greet the wayward son as he returns.

I have two problems with this. First, it paints LGBT folk as “wayward” people who have squandered the gifts the father gave them—gifts we LGBT Christians see for what they are and in no way squander. Secondly, even though the son is welcomed back, no questions asked, it’s understood that he’s not going to go out and do it again. The message to LGBT people is clear:—you’re welcome and forgiven, but going back to that “lifestyle” is forbidden.

I hope my reservations are unfounded, because so much is at stake in this move. If time reveals this new organization to be nothing more than a shuffling of the Titanic’s deck chairs then it will only reinforce the LGBT belief that the church is the very last place they can turn to for support.

Emphasis Mine 

see: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/7160/

No Need to Choose Between Religious and Secular America

N.B: We still need to maintain church/state separation!

By Bruce Ledewitz, from Religion Dispatches

“Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism

What inspired you to write it? What sparked your interest (person, event book)?

After what I considered the disastrous reelection of President George Bush in 2004, I began to ponder the implications of the fact that the more often a person went to church, the more likely she was to vote for the president. We were developing two political blocs: a pro-God and an anti-God coalition, roughly Republican and Democratic. While there was some overlap—there were of course many believing Democrats—this belief division was true to a dangerous extent and it undermined the possibility of a genuinely popular, progressive political movement.

At the same time, in constitutional law, Americans were being told by both the left and the right, by both Ronald Dworkin and Antonin Scalia, that we had to choose whether we were a secular society that tolerates religion or a religious society that tolerates non-belief. This was all the worst kind of identity politics.

Finally, rapidly growing secularism, especially among the young, was being fed anti-religious propaganda by Christopher Hitchens and the other “New Atheists.” I was a part of this secularism, having fallen away from a Yeshiva upbringing, but I saw this reflexive hostility toward religion as leading to materialism, relativism, and nihilism among secularists.

In a trilogy of books on the public and private roles of religion and secularism, I have tried to counter these trends. In American Religious Democracy in 2007, I defended religious beliefs in politics against the charge of theocracy. In Hallowed Secularism in 2009, I described a path to a secularism very close to the religious traditions. And now, in Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism, I interpret the Establishment Clause to permit government use of religious imagery in the service of commitments, such as objective values, that transcend the religious/secular divide.

What’s the most important take-home message for readers?

There is no chasm between religious belief and non-belief, certainly not in terms of politics and not even in personal terms. For example, the reference in the Declaration of Independence to “unalienable rights” with which we are endowed by our “Creator” was not understood at the time as a claim about the existence of God but about the reality of rights. Are rights in some sense real or are they just gifts from government? This is a question for all of us, for my fellow secularists as well as for believers. The national motto, In God We Trust, raises the question whether reality is trustworthy or is just random events? These questions have nothing to do essentially with the existence of supernatural beings. There is a great deal of common ground possible here. We don’t have to choose between being a secular nation or a religious one.

Is there anything you had to leave out?

In three books, I said everything I had to say. Now comes the opportunity to engage secularism and try to broaden it.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?

The misuse of terms like “reason.” All human beings employ faith commitments of various kinds. It cannot even be conclusively established that there is a mind-independent reality “out there.” So, when secularists claim that they live lives based on reason whereas religious believers base their lives on faith, they are just fooling themselves. We would do better to examine our faith commitments with humility and try to understand ourselves better.

Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?

Clearly, my intended audience is non-believers. I want to see a secularism more open to religious imagery and the wisdom that it contains for living. Since my constitutional analysis permits more mixing of church and state than the doctrine of separation would suggest, some religious believers like the book and have pushed for its acceptance. But in my own mind, I am defending a genuine government neutrality toward religion.

Are you hoping to just inform readers? Give them pleasure? Piss them off?

I wrote this book to change the world, both in the courtroom and in the culture. For years now, Establishment Clause doctrine has been stuck trying to answer the divisive Dworkin/Scalia question. I am trying to help us get beyond the formulation of religion versus secularism to find common ground.

What alternative title would you give the book?

My original title was “Higher Law in the Public Square” but Indiana University Press found that a little obscure. Still, the higher law tradition has always included believers and non-believers, so it had advantages as a title.

How do you feel about the cover?

I love the cover though I had nothing to do with it. The State Capitol and a church were obvious symbols to capture my meaning and IUP used color very effectively. It’s sort of a little red book.

Is there a book out there you wish you had written? Which one? Why?

I wish I had written Andre Comte-Sponville’s The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. If more non-believers read that book, we would find it easier to talk with each other and with religious believers. We would also be happier and more fulfilled.

What’s your next book?

No book soon, that’s for sure. I hope to be able one day to write a serious book challenging the assumptions of capitalism on behalf of a resurgent Marxism.”

Emphasis Mine