Thursday, June 20, 2013

Exodus International Is Shutting Down

On June 19th, Exodus International president Alan Chambers posted a public apology for the harm that the so-called "ex-gay" organization had caused. Now, Exodus International has announced that it is shutting down. According to the announcement, Exodus' board of directors reached their decision after a year of discussion.
“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”

Chambers continued: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”
Alan Chambers and the board of directors plan to create a new ministry, Reduce Fear, with the goal of helping churches "become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities." The nature of Reduce Fear remains to be seen, as will the reception it received from the LGBTQ and faith communities.

Exodus' apology and closure comes amidst a second Lisa Ling investigation into the so-called "ex-gay" movement, scheduled to air tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). (To read about her first exposé in 2011, click here.) It also comes as Exodus International hosts its 38th Annual Exodus Freedom Conference. Finally, the bombshell follows publicized dissent within the ex-gay community, such as Exodus International's recent decision to withdraw from the Exodus Global Alliance.

I'm relieved that Alan Chambers has recognized the error of his ways and that Exodus International is closing its doors. His apology was refreshing in its honesty and humanity. However, a public apology and closure don't erase the organization's many sins. Exodus International has promoted homophobia and spiritually poisonous messages for years, harming countless LGBTQ people in the process. Events such as the Love Won Out conference spoke of homosexuality and dysfunction in the same breath, while framing LGBTQ status and Christian faith as mutually exclusive. The organization has targeted service providers who work with LGBTQ persons, promoting toxic messages at equipping events such as the one I infiltrated in 2012. Let's not forget that Exodus board member Don Schmierer participated in an anti-gay conference in Uganda in 2009, which preceded the introduction of a draconian anti-gay bill currently under consideration in that country. Exodus International has a lot to answer for, and it will have to work long and hard to undo the damage it has inflicted.

The LGBTQ community has received the news with a wide variety of responses. Truth Wins Out, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, commended Alan Chambers for his apology and looked forward to the day when he could be considered an ally.
"His written apology was open and one-hundred percent honest, and quite frankly, it took a real man to write it; to acknowledge the pain that Exodus has caused over the years; to apologize without equivocation, and with specificity; and to do all this with his own livelihood on the line. Much work remains to be done to defeat the lie of “ex-gay”/reparative therapy, but this is a huge step in the right direction. In his talk tonight, I saw a humble, honest, and most importantly authentic man who isn’t afraid to face the music, and to do what he can to fix the problems he’s had a part in creating.

Alan stated in his talk tonight that he doesn’t want to see another “ex-gay” organization fill the void left by Exodus’s closing, but called on the Church to actually become a safe place for gays and lesbians. Of course, the Restored Hope Network is having their conference in Oklahoma City, featuring the biggest quacks in the “ex-gay” industry, so they’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure that Alan’s vision of the Church being a loving place will never come to pass. Thus, our work must continue. Exodus was a large pillar in the “ex-gay” world, but this fight is far from over."
Writing for Ex-Gay Watch, Mike Airhart sees the Exodus International apology and closure as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it liberates moderate members to seek out freedom, but on the other hand, it also helps hardliner ex-gay activists avoid accountability.
"Closing the organization so soon after the apology may give moderate Exodus leaders a chance to start over, free from the baggage of impenitent and allegedly abusive members — or it may allow those unapologetic members to escape ongoing confrontation with the consequences of their alleged abuse.

The closure of Exodus forces remaining ex-gay activists to make clear choices: Do they follow the new ministry’s model of reluctant grace and self-denial; do they affiliate with [Restored Hope Network's] political and religious extremism; or do they seek out the religious and personal freedom that — critics say — both Exodus and RHN have denied to them?"
Apologies and closures do not negate the past, however, and Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is holding Exodus International accountable. In a June 15th commentary at San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Ogle reminds readers that Exodus International and the Exodus Global Alliance have perpetrated great harm across the globe. 
"Chamber’s organization on May 28 withdrew from Exodus Global Alliance after 18 years of membership. The Global Alliance has networks in South America, Brazil, Indian Asia and Africa. They are most famous for presenting four papers and organizing a series of workshops at a large Evangelical Conference in Capetown, South Africa in 2010 where 4,000 leaders heard about their quackery and proceeded to implement a series of anti-gay laws across the continent that would reply on this misinformation as a basis for punitive actions against LGBT people.

Even the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Law in Uganda has the premise that gay orientation is deliberately chosen and can be reversed to heterosexuality. The Capetown Conference attendees (organized by Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda who preached at the closing ceremonies) were given enough significant misinformation about LGBT people that Exodus and the Global Alliance probably need to apologize to more than a few million people in the U.S. alone. They need to apologize to the whole LGBT global movement.

Compared to the invasion of Iraq based on the false premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, the Evangelical Christian community can be forgiven for years of anti-gay persecution because it was misinformed by Alan Chambers and his international network. The damage is profound."
Other still remain angry at Exodus International. At Americablog, John Aravosis dismissed Exodus' apology, arguing that Chambers' statement did not begin to capture the devastation that ex-gay programs inflict on LGBTQ people.

"These people have been spreading lies for decades, treating people for something that can’t be treated, using false “cures,” giving false hope, and helping to feed the stigma of being gay, and the pain many felt. I got news for you – there is no “good.”  There are no thousands of people “positively affected,” unless you mean all the quack faux-scientists and religious right hate-mongers who have profited quite nicely from the climate of anti-gay hate that Exodus International helped buttress.  Yes, they all did quite well, thank you.  The rest of us, not so much.

Let me tell you about someone who wasn’t “positively affected.”  My cousin was disowned by his parents because he’s gay.  And what did his parents do when they first found out about their son?  They sent him some brochures from their priest, for an ex-gay ministry to “cure” him.  These people gave my cousins’ parents a false and hate-filled hope, they helped his parents hang on to a rationale for disowning their own son.  Where is the good in that, Alan? Tell me, where?

So spare me the excuses about how only “some” people caused harm.  And spare me the half-hearted apology about how a few bad apples overshadowed all of your “good ” work.

The only good that Exodus International ever did was shutting down."
Exodus International's bombshell is a major blow to the ex-gay movement, and a sign that the faith community is slowly rejecting homophobia. I hope recent events mean that the end of toxic ex-gay ministries is approaching.


For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Salon: “Ex-gay” Christian group to LGBT people: We’re sorry

Slacktivist: ‘Ex-gay ministry’ Exodus International apologizes, says it will close and stop hurting people

Rachel Held Evans: Alan Chambers of Exodus International Apologizes to LGBT Community

8 comments:

  1. This is amazing news. Consider me floored.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michelle -- Consider me relieved!

      Delete
  2. Well, good for them.

    I guess.

    My estimate is that they were losing money and need to appeal to believers who were previously found to be unsaveable.

    Rejoice in the Lord?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suzan -- I do wonder what role dwindling donations played in the matter. Still, the apology and closure are positive things, and I'm relieved that they're happening.

      Delete
  3. No, it doesn't negate the past - but it takes a lot of courage to own up to your mistakes. Nice to see some progress. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Postmormongirl -- It gives me hope, and it demonstrates that the tide is turning.

      Delete
  4. I just saw this on MSNBC earlier today and thought of you. Hopefully it will become a trend...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Donna -- Thanks! I hope for the day when every so-called "ex-gay" group apologizes and closes its doors.

      Delete

All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.