February 27, 2017

June 29, 2012

Exodus International Rejects Reparative Therapy

The Christian Post is reporting that Exodus International has decided to reject Reparative Therapy

Exodus International President Alan Chambers addressed the crowd at the 37th annual Freedom Conference on Wednesday in order to share why the organization will no longer use reparative therapy to help those who struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA), and will use a model that focuses more on discipleship instead.

Chambers told The Christian Post on Thursday that reparative therapy, which seeks to “cure” SSA through activities like counseling and prayer, sets the person seeking therapy up for failure by giving him or her unrealistic expectations…more

I do have a few questions about this move. Apparently, Exodus still considers homosexual behavior sinful - a good thing - but they have rejected the assertion that homosexual temptation can be completely eradicated.

1. Do reparative therapies really claim the power to completely eradicate all homosexual temptation? That seems an almost inhuman claim to make. I thought reparative therapy sought to redirect the desires toward the opposite sex but I never understood that to mean that temptation could be wholly wiped away? Heterosexual men, for example, can come to a place where they no longer actively lust after women other than their wives and for most men that means healing and redirecting the will. But the “temptation” toward lust, I think, recurs at various times throughout a man’s life. I would imagine the same is true for women. It’s a disordered temptation (as all temptations are) but it’s mere existence is not sin unless and until the temptation is indulged and becomes action. So, if reparative therapy truly seeks to eradicate all temptation then I would agree with Exodus’ decision. Even Jesus lived through and fought off temptation - though without sin. How can we be expected to eradicate something that even Jesus, the perfect man, experienced?

2. Does this decision suggest that those who have successfully gone through reparative therapy are liars? If Exodus’ position is that reparative therapy does not work, then what does that mean for those who claim to be completely healed - many of whom with the full support of Exodus?

3. Is this in any way a denial of the power of God to break the chains of sin? I get really uncomfortable when people make pronouncements about what God can or cannot do without any biblical basis. Romans 6, to just name one example, does seem to indicate that God can indeed deliver from particular sins completely (not the temptation to sin but the actual indulgence in it via thought, word and deed). It is true that we’ll never be fully sanctified this side of eternity but the New Testament does lead one to believe that while we will always struggle with sin, God will give his people victory over particular enslaving sins. I have experienced this to be true in my own life. On what biblical basis does Exodus claim to “know” that God cannot completely heal the homosexual person in this life?

The article doesn’t address those questions but I’d love to hear Exodus do so in a coherent way.

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Unbelievable. Are they caving in to the activists?

The temptation of same-sex attraction remains for those whom I have known.

I didn’t know that the goal of reparative therapy is to eradicate the temptation. Others more familiar with this can educate us all.

I suppose it’s possible to eradicate all temptation, but I’ve never heard of that happening outside of legends from esoteric Buddhism. Even Mother Teresa seems to have dealt with temptation up to the end.

Homosexual practice is always a decision, except in cases of rape.

Matt, I agree completely with your point #3.

[1] Posted by Ralph on 6-29-2012 at 04:37 PM · [top]

This is very old news. The Christian Post has cut and pasted a story from the AP—which itself is two years old.

See this story at GetReligion


[2] Posted by George Conger on 6-29-2012 at 07:20 PM · [top]

Hi George+,

It’s not exactly “old” news either. It broke just 3 days ago. When I wrote, “the Christian Post is reporting…” I did not say that it was the only source, nor did I write that it had the scoop. But it was a handy source since it seemed to collect, as you say, all the recent reports. I needed a summary article to frame my commentary which the CP article provided.

[3] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 6-29-2012 at 08:29 PM · [top]

George - just for clarification, this isn’t old news.  For one thing, the Exodus Freedom Conference is taking place this week at Northwestern College in the Twin Cities.  They weren’t there two years ago.

But otherwise, thanks for the link; I hadn’t seen the Get Religion story yet.

I believe real changes are afoot at Exodus.  I am still trying to sort out what changes they are indeed, but I am not optimistic.  Exodus has never been perfect, but it seems like they are shifting away from possibly one error and headed right for another, opposite one.  I was involved in a couple of Exodus-related member ministries in the 1990s; one was fantastic, the other not so much.  I do remember at the time I moved on from Exodus (a positive transition from a season receiving specialized ministry to re-entering “real life”) that I noticed a confidence bordering on triumphalism.  It wasn’t everybody, and I don’t think the leadership intended it to be so, but in accentuating the positive (the message that change is really possible), a message was developing that “success” meant happily married life as the ultimate goal.  For too many people, “change” became an idol, and many became bitterly disappointed when their expectations were not met.  Of course, the real goal is to become closer with Jesus (and out of that, turning away from sin and towards Him as our Lord). 

Sometime over the last several years, some of the more “liberal” member ministries of Exodus started leaving (for example, New Direction ministries in Toronto) and some of the higher-profile defections started to occur (like Willow Creek’s severing of their relationship with Exodus).  The major point was the “failure” of change (all idols really do have feet of clay), but compromises also started to arise.

Possibly more alarming than the Christian Post article Matt references is this piece in the Atlantic, dated June 20 of this year.  Also note from this article that Dennis Jernigan has been thrown under the bus by Exodus…

There has been a marked shift at the “top” of Exodus’ leadership in the last year.  And now some of the more “conservative” ministries are cutting ties.  As an example, Outpost Ministries in Minneapolis had this note on their website as of this evening:

6/27-30 Outpost has withdrawn from Exodus International which has departed from its original vision of offering hope through discipleship. Therefore Outpost will not attend the Exodus Freedom Conference, Northwestern College, Roseville MN

A fuller explanation by Outpost can be found in their May 2012 newsletter (see p. 2 of linked PDF file).

Again, I am very concerned about what I have been observing.  Exodus has always been much more diverse than its rather monolithic image.  Even if/when there was unity over the Biblical view of sexuality, this was still an umbrella organization of ministries full of Protestants and some Catholics, charismatics, evangelicals, fundamentalists, Arminians, Calvinists, Lutherans, etc., etc., etc…  When eulogizing Alan Medinger (former board chair of Exodus) at his funeral in 2010, Andy Comiskey mentioned how Alan was reduced to tears at the enormous responsibility of holding this gaggle together.  I hate to say it, but I don’t think Alan Chambers is up to the task the way that people like Alan Medinger or Bob Davies were.

[4] Posted by Reformed Wanderer on 6-29-2012 at 08:59 PM · [top]

The story that Exodus International is backing away from ex-gay therapies has been in the news for some time. While the conference mentioned is new—the direction the organization is taking has been the topic of news reports for some time.

However, one interesting response to the news of recent days is an article by Robert Gagnon calling for a change at the top of Exodus International.


[5] Posted by George Conger on 6-30-2012 at 07:44 AM · [top]

Hi George+,

Yes, I know it has been coming for some time. The “news” is that Now it is officially here. I posted Gagnon’s article about 20 mins ago here:

[6] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 6-30-2012 at 07:51 AM · [top]

George - I’m confused.  Gagnon’s article which Matt had already posted does not consider this “old news” but recognizes it as the end result of a path Chambers has been walking?  So what exactlly is your point?

[7] Posted by Jackie on 6-30-2012 at 09:31 AM · [top]

Is this related to the fact that Exodus’ support churches and their congregations had been targeted by the homosexual activists, e.g., Willow Creek, which eventually dropped support?

[8] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 6-30-2012 at 03:24 PM · [top]

Matt and George - thanks for bringing Gagnon’s article to our attention.  We’ll see where Exodus might wind up heading, but Chambers appears to have gone off into left field.

As a spot check, I looked at the websites of a few ministries in the Mid-Atlantic which are currently listed by Exodus as affiliates.  It was striking how hard it was to find Exodus on any of these ministries’ sites - no logo, no prominent mention, and if there was a link, it was buried a few pages down in the website.

This is all reminding me of a saying I heard about a year ago: if someone steps out in leadership, but nobody follows, that someone is not leading, they are just on a walk.  It might just be that for a number of Exodus-related ministries, Alan Chambers is on a walk.  I pray that is the case.

[9] Posted by Reformed Wanderer on 6-30-2012 at 11:19 PM · [top]

I thought Alan Chambers’ story as told in the Atlantic was incredibly refreshing.  He’s offering an alternative model to other Christian men who have same-sex attraction.  He’s saying you can make a different choice than to act on your temptations.  We should be cheering him on.

[10] Posted by S. Hamilton on 7-2-2012 at 01:49 PM · [top]

I think I know why Exodus is saying this.  But first I would like to point out that women show more change than men do with reparative therapy, but women are different in that their attractions often change spontaneously and homosexuality is completely different in women. 

So the question is about men.  Listening to those men who have changed, helps explain things a bit.  I will give two examples.  One man said that after 15 years he stopped his homosexual behavior, but it was not until he worked through some personal issues that his attractions changed.  Another man had stuggled with attractions through his thirties when he spent 4 1/2 years in a homosexual relationship.  He said that the world told him to do that, but he felt dead inside while that was going on.  After his partner ended the relationship, he went to a ministry for sexual brokenness of all kinds.  They did not talk to him about how to change his attractions, but they assured him of unconditional love from God whether the attractions changed or not.  He believed he would always have them.  The ministry worked through a lot of issues with him and helped him understand who he was spiritually.  In that situation he did not feel pressured to always be gay as our society says or to actively change his attractions.  But one night he spoke to a group about his decision to stop living into the gay lifestyle and to be true to God and his own values.  A young woman came up to say how much she admired him.  After he talked to her for a while, he realized he was attracted to her.  She is now his wife of several years.

In both cases these people’s chronic anxiety over their attractions decreased and their attractions changed.  Murray Bowen, who studied families, noted a relationship between anxiety homosexuality.  Christian ministries do not work by pressuring people to change attractions, but by loving people and helping them deal with their issues in godly ways.  The church is to love people, even if their attractions do not change, but it is never to claim that God made people gay and to reject them if they do change, because they must be liars.

Also, in John Burke’s “No Perfect People Allowed” he gave an example of a transexual man who had tried hormones, marriage, and the gay lifestyle.  At Burke’s church the man got into a group that simply loved him and helped him with his music.  After a while the man realized that he seldom felt the need to be woman anymore.  The church has an important role to play here, but we shoot ourselves in the foot if we are not able to love people unless they choose reparative therapy.

[11] Posted by Jackie Keenan on 7-3-2012 at 07:28 AM · [top]

S. Hamilton:

He’s offering an alternative model to other Christian men who have same-sex attraction. He’s saying you can make a different choice than to act on your temptations. We should be cheering him on.

You can certainly make a different choice than to act on your temptations, no matter what they are, and no matter how they came about.  If you’re a Christian, you must do so.

But I remain convinced that reparative therapy is effective for many and, along with “alternative models,” it should still be considered part of an approach to healing from homosexuality that is both/and, not either/or.  Ex-gay ministry needs to be free from a view of “healing and deliverance” that has more in common with gnostic mysticism than it does with New Testament doctrine.  True discouragement comes about by failing to understand how we’re saved and transformed by God’s grace and why we need to be in the first place.  Addressing that issue remains primary, but reparative therapy is not a part of the problem when it is rightly understood and properly conducted, even if it does not fully benefit everyone who undergoes it.

In January, Alan Chambers was willing to meet with members of the Gay Christian Network, an organization that allows its members to take either a “pro” or “con” position (and apparently anything fuzzy enough to fit in between) on the moral quality of homo-genital acts.  That outlook is certainly gay enough, but it isn’t Christian at all.  By meeting with those folks, I think that Mr. Chambers made the same mistake Willow Creek Community Church did by sitting down with the Soulforce activists, treating them like equal partners in a discussion aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement.  A clear and unequivocal presentation of a Biblical view of human sexuality can easily get lost in the shuffle when everyone is eager to be “nice” about the whole thing.

I have read Dr. Gagnon’s paper and I agree with his conclusions.  No professing Christian can continue to live in an ongoing state of mortal sin while recognizing no need to repent of it and still claim that he is being saved.  Mr. Chambers has now compromised himself in more ways than one and I also believe that he should resign.

May heaven help us, the Emerging Church is still “emerging.”  Orthodox Christians need to be clear about what they’re up against.  One more domino may now be falling and, mirabile dictu, we won‘t be able to simply blame this one on the Episcopal Church.

[12] Posted by episcopalienated on 7-3-2012 at 10:54 AM · [top]

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