The End of Exodus International

[Content Note:  Brief mentions of Sexual Orientation Change Effort and those who have promoted such efforts, both past and present]

Exodus International has announced that it is closing its doors.  In their announcement, Alan Chambers indicated that they have realized that the organization has become “imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”  Chambers continues thus:

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.

Exodus Off SwitchThat’s a pretty stark, honest, and self-incriminating statement for Chambers to make, who has often been (justifiably) accused of equivocation in the past.  His apology, which he offered the same day as this announcement (and which I hope to cover in a future blog post), was equally candid and vulnerable.

Of course, Alan and the other Exodus board members don’t intend to merely disappear.  They hope to build a new organization:

For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

It will be interesting to see how this new organization shapes up and how they plan to live out their goals.  I’m curious to know what fear they hope to reduce?  Are they hoping to reduce the fear that many LGBT people justifiably have of many conservative Christian individuals, churches, and organizations?  Are they prepared to consider what they really may have to do to truly undo that damage and transform their churches into places that some LGBT people might again find welcoming?

Or will those involved fall into those same old patterns that are so familiar to them?  Will they fail to see some of the subtler attitudes and behaviors that will continue to leave many LGBT people feeling wary of them?

And as always, will they give up their own sense of safety in order to meet LGBT people where we are and where we already feel safe, or will they remain in their “more welcoming” cloisters and wonder why still so few seek them out?

One thing is for certain, while this is the end of Exodus, it is not the end of Exodus’s legacy or the ex-gay movement among Christian movements.  There will still be other organizations — such as the relatively new Restored Hope Network — to carry that torch for years to come.  All the same, I’m glad to see the Exodus board pulling the plug and refusing to carry that torch any further themselves.

10 thoughts on “The End of Exodus International”

  1. I’m hoping that the fear they will reduce is the fear those in the pews have of anyone that is even slightly different from themselves. THAT is the fear that need addressed in order to stop the harm that causes the MORE than reasonable fear in the LGBT community. Wouldn’t it be pretentious and entitled – privileged even – for them to address the LGBT community’s fears of Christians? I mean, sure, they can reach out in real love and humility and gentleness, but their track record isn’t great in those virtues. So hoping and praying that this can accelerate an enormous change of attitude.

    1. In some ways, I disagree with you, Stacey. I think the one thing that Exodus needs to absolutely avoid is centering and catering to the feelings of those who are already comfortable in the power structures of the current institutionalized church. If anything, they need to address the misinformation, deception, and demonization that has been built up to fuel and motivate those fears. They need to deconstruct harmful anti-LGBT narratives (and repent of both promoting them and holding them in the first place.

      1. I get you. I was thinking more about making those people uncomfortable with the fear . .. . wow. I am just still so entrenched in my own privilege I keep missing these important points. Would you agree that they need to focus on the church community instead of outreach to the LGBT community?

        1. I think the whole concept of “outreach” in Christian circles — and not just in terms of their relationship with the LGBT community — needs to be reexamined and even deconstructed. Outreach as it seems to be most commonly understood in christian circles is based in the notion of “We [the Christians] have something you need.” Whether that something is defined as a relationship with Jesus, sexual orientation change efforts, a life of celibacy, or something else, it’s always that central notion that Christians know exactly what it is that I need, maybe even better than I know what I need myself. Rather than asking me, “hey, what are your actual needs” and seeing if and how they can help address them.

          Also, this idea that Christians know what I need also turns whatever it is they’re offering (salvation, “freedom from homosexuality,” whatever) as a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s as if many have become a special breed of “goat” that sees someone who is sick and offers them a chance to say the sinner’s prayer, sees someone who is naked and asks them if they know where they’d go if they were to die tonight, and so on.

          I think Christians need to redevelop their understanding of outreach as a matter of reaching out to people where they are, getting to know them, getting to know their real needs, and becoming true friends and loving neighbors to those people.

          1. I don’t want to sound like a douche, and I’m not exactly sure how to ask what I want to ask, but please know I am honestly interested in your opinion.

            What is it about “outreach” that rubs you wrong? Is it the idea that Christians want to introduce someone to a relationship with Jesus, the methods that are used in that attempt, the strings that are oftentimes attached (e.g. you have to believe exactly as I believe – no theological wiggle room), or something else?

            Thanks!

          2. You mean besides the issues I already mentioned? (i.e. the idea that Christians already know exactly what everyone else needs as opposed to inquiring about what individuals actually need and the fact that their outreach becomes a “one-size-fits-all” marketing scheme which tends to ignore actual needs people may have)

            1. Far too many forms of outreach turn those being reached out to into “souls to win” or “conversion projects” rather than fully human and multi-faceted people.
            2. Much of outreach is fraught with a failure to listen.
            3. Related to #2, much of outreach is fraught with a tendency to straw-man those being reached out to.
            4. The fact that much outreach has reached the point where, as the venerable Fred Clark once noted, “it has ceased to be one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread and is no instead one fat man trying to convince another fat man he’s actually starving in order to close on the sale of another loaf.”
            5. The fact that much “outreach” still centers the comfort and relative sense of safety of those doing outreach while demanding vulnerability and the loss of some amount of comfort and/or safety of those being reached out to.

            That’s not an exhaustive list, mind you. But it’s a good start.

  2. I was excited to read Chambers apology. Even though it could have gone further, it took a lot of guts for him to say the things he did. I am also blown away that an organization like Exodus had the courage to realize that the best thing they could do was shut down. I agree with your concern about the new organization, but like Stacey, my hope is that the fear they want to reduce is the fear of the Church against the LGBT community. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  3. It’s about f’in time. I have known so many people to be hurt by Exodus’ “ministry”. Here’s hoping the new thing actually does some good.

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