There has been a great deal of hubbub about Alan Chamber’s announcement that Exodus International would be shutting down. (If you’re not familiar with Exodus International check out out my footnote on them.) I am glad to see that Alan Chambers has begun to seriously begin correcting many of the wrongs done in part by Exodus over the years. I am also glad to see that with Exodus’s closing the mainstream acceptance of reparative therapy has come to an end. Over the last five years Exodus has had an impact on my life in several ways, both negatively and positively, understandably my emotions surrounding their closure are also mixed.
When I started thinking through and acknowledging my predominate same-sex attractions I started looking into Exodus International and their affiliate ministries. I eventually got involved, through personal connections, with a local Exodus affiliate ministry here in St. Louis. Fortunately the ministry I became involved with, through membership in a same-sex attraction support group, never embraced Exodus’s popular reparative therapy model. This organization is known in the Exodus community to allow members to choose the identity labels they are comfortable with rather than always rejecting the gay label. This group was a supportive and helpful environment for me to begin thinking through how my conservative faith impacts my homosexual desires. My summer in that SSA (same-sex attraction) support group was immensely helpful and formative by providing me with a safe space to think through my attractions. Last summer I was invited back to help co-lead the same support group I was once a part of.
Over the last 9 months co-leading this support group, I have been able to hear almost a dozen life stories of these same-sex attracted men of all ages and walks of life. I have seen the positive impact the group has had ion them and the huge role this ministry has played in their lives as well as my own. While this particular ministry is fairly atypical as Exodus International affiliates goes, it is still a part of the Exodus community. For me to completely reject Exodus International I would also have to reject my time in this ministry which plays such a positive role in my life as well as the hundreds of men it has impacted here in St. Louis.
I have also seen the damage done by several of the positions Exodus has stood for over the years. I have heard from several people about the pain caused when their parents felt intense guilt after being told that their child’s homosexuality was caused by their bad parenting. I’ve seen the wounds inflicted by Exodus’s proclamations of “change” especially when such “change” later proved to be short lived or less than originally believed. I’ve watched as men and women fall far from grace and reject whatever change they had once proclaimed who were once figure heads and poster boys within Exodus. Member ministries like Love In Action have done incredible damage through their residential programs, forcing adolescents sometimes against their will to conform to a cultural version of masculinity in order for them to be “healed.” I could also go on about how much time and money people have poured into changing their same-sex attractions, only to have Exodus completely distance itself from it admitting that changing attractions was in reality, almost unheard of.
While Exodus has removed itself substantially from many of its former positions, particularly regarding reparative therapy, the baggage of over 30 years preaching that message remains. It is for this reason that I think Exodus is making the right choice in closing their doors. No re-branding or change in Exodus’s mission and positions would be able to escape decades of a now defunct message of orientation change. Exodus’s overarching mission though, to support men and women who want to live faithfully according to a traditional biblical understanding of their sexuality must be carried on by ministries like the one I am still a part of. How these ministries go about supporting these men and women will change as they adjust to a changing culture but their crucial supporting role and their witness to truth must continue.
Several other gay Christians have written about Exodus’s recent announcement I encourage you to check them out!