As Exodus exits, other ex-gay ministries vow to stay the course

Australian ex-gay organisations have reacted to the news that Exodus International is shutting down, declaring they will continue their ministry.

Exodus’ decision to close comes after the latest in a series of apologies for hurting the gay community. “Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises,” Exodus President Alan Chamber wrote in the announcement of Exodus’ closure.

Ron Brookman of Living Waters, based in Sydney, is continuing his ministry. “At LW Australia we too understand that the same sex attractions of some do not change, or are very slow to do so, and that rarely do they go altogether. But we also know that many same sex attracted people don’t want to act on their attraction, or even continue to have it. Many others realise the ways in which it so often leads us to sin and to personal degradation in the compulsive things it can cause us to do.

“We remain a ministry that reaches out with compassion to stand with them, no matter how slow the process of change may be, and in the case of some, if it budges at all. We celebrate the freedom of many, and of marriages that have both been saved, or been able to happen at all, because of the transformation of people who have found freedom from same sex attraction.”

Haydn Sennitt, another Australian ex-gay activist, told Eternity that Exodus’ theology has been a problem for some time.

“The abrupt termination of Exodus International has caught many by surprise. Over the two years, its president Alan Chambers had been compromising by attending a ‘gay Christian’ conference, where he told attendees that it is permissible to both identify as gay/lesbian and be Christian. This was a consequence of embracing a doctrine of extreme grace whereby a person’s standing with God is unaffected by how they walk once they have been saved. While individuals like New Testament scholar Dr Robert Gagnon and I strived patiently to warn Mr Chambers about the danger of this new direction, our advice fell on deaf ears.

“The demise of Exodus is heart-breaking; tragically this is causing a great deal of confusion. Mr Chambers has said many things recently that have been unhelpful and untrue, for instance that 99.9 per cent of people cannot change their sexuality. He also apologised for ‘all’ the harm that Exodus had done over the last 37 years and for homophobia in the church. This has not helped. However, God has already brought about new opportunities. Already a new ministry, Restored Hope Network, is picking up where Exodus has left off. The founders of the ministry are solid men and women of faith and integrity. It is my prayer that this be a time of growth in this new season.”

Ethicist Rod Benson from Morling College picks up some of the problems of the old Exodus approach that used “reparative therapy”.

“I heard overnight of the decision by Exodus International to wind up its operations and cease ministering to people wishing to be rid of same sex attraction. The spiritual and pastoral needs of the LGBTI community have never been greater. People of same sex attraction are often misunderstood and at times unjustly treated by Christians, and they deserve better. Those who take a hard line on a complex and controversial issue, especially one relating to human sexuality, without careful consideration of developments in science and psychology, as well as the clinical and pastoral implications for individuals and groups, can expect trouble sooner or later.

“On the other hand, the demise of Exodus International should have no direct impact on the good work done by similar organisations here, such as Living Waters, and by countless pastors, ministers and priests who deal with these issues in the course of their professional duties. The church needs such organisations, and such specialised ministry, in order to fully manifest the grace of Christ and to ensure the effective discipleship and mentoring of people who experience same sex attraction and desire sexual purity.”

A strong, sentence-by-sentence response to the Alan Chambers announcement has been posted by leading conservative theologian Robert Gagnon. “‘But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.’ To love one’s neighbor includes not supporting coercive cultural endorsements of behavior that are dishonoring and injurious to the participants, promotes such practices among the young, and leads to the persecution of those who resist calling such practices good.” Read full response here.

Feature image: under CC Licence.