As announced by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the ministry of Exodus International has “shut down.” They formally terminated the ministry on Wednesday evening. Chambers was interviewed about the ministry, its history, the decision to end the ministry, and a new direction for a future ministry in The Atlantic. Christianity Today included a report on their blog.
In many ways, in light of some of the comments made last year by Chambers in Christianity Today, I am not surprised to hear this. That seemed to be an incremental step in this direction.
My concern with the ministry of Exodus International in the past was their strong sense of “reparative therapy” such that what they meant by it was that the only true healing for those with homosexual inclinations or attractions is to be married and have children – a slight overstatement but only slight. I believe they were well-intended, but over-zealous. It is, in fact, the reason why this ministry, or a representative of this ministry, was not asked to speak at last year’s EFCA Theology Conference. Instead we heard from Wesley Hill, which was intentional and purposeful, and very helpful.
But what we are experiencing is what happens so often. If their original goal was defined by meaning heterosexual marriage with children, one side of the pendulum, then what we are hearing now, at least as it appears to me, is the other side of the pendulum swing such that they are backing away from holding firm on the clear teaching of Scripture. This is not stated explicitly, but it is what it sounds like, or at least there is a equivocation on what can be said and how strongly those things can be said. On some of these sexual matters, the Bible is not silent. Therefore, to equivocate or to suggest that it might be right for me, and it will be what I embrace, but I will not say what someone else must embrace is also a moral issue. Not to speak clearly when and where the Bible speaks clearly is morally wrong. The Bible still clearly and explicitly speaks of change/transformation (1 Cor. 6:9-11), and it also reminds us that we groan while we still live in this fallen world (Rom. 8:22-25).
And added to this is the all-too-typical apology made by Chambers to the LGBTQ community. I am not suggesting repentance and apology are wrong. Where wrongs have been done and where sins have been committed it is right, in fact it is morally right, to repent, to apologize. But often the apology is made in so comprehensive a manner that it negates any and all of the past ministry, including the good. And there was some good that happened with this ministry. I was encouraged to hear Chambers acknowledge this, at least in his own life. And acknowledging there was some good is not hedging whatsoever that there was some bad for which an apology was right. And I also wonder – should the LGBTQ community be the only one to whom an apology is given? Certainly the one sinned against is the one to whom an apology is to be given. Would it, however, also be fitting to give an apology to Christians too? I think so.
Here are a few concluding, summarizing thoughts.
- When one is converted by the gospel and transformed by the Holy Spirit, it is often concluded that that becomes the way God works in everyone’s life. In other words, my experience is universalized. The truth is universal; the promise of the gospel is absolute; my experience of it is personal, first, and corporate, second.
- Because the gospel brings liberty, freedom, and it is wonderful, one desires that same freedom for everyone else. But in that desire for others to experience the same deep and profound freedom and transformation that the Lord brings through Holy Spirit’s application of the gospel in one’s life, there is a temptation to go about it as if that change can be orchestrated and done by man, by a talk, by a ministry, by a program, by an institution, and not by God. Apart from Him we can do nothing.
- It is an ongoing challenge to keep the gospel central in both doctrine and in practice. It is absolutely critical to embrace both the doctrinal centrality of the gospel and the functional centrality of the gospel, that the gospel is central in lips and life, in belief and behavior. Often the Lord gives a person a passion for a ministry that is an entailment of the gospel. This is related to something the Lord has allowed them to experience or to have learned or something from which they have been saved. Because a person becomes so impassioned for this ministry which is to be seen and understood through the lens of the gospel, it becomes the lens through which the gospel is seen and understood. It, then, becomes central and essential, and the gospel is assumed, at best, and misaligned through the grid of this special interest, at worst. This may well be some of what happened with Exodus over the years.
- One side of the pendulum is that one becomes passionate and zealous for all to experience the same thing he or she did, and it is expected that it will happen in the same way, at the same time and with the same result. To treat all that way will be hurtful, even if it is well intended. But then the other side of the pendulum is to make everything personal, individual and private, and we do not expect much gospel transformation in others at all. There is little to no expectation that the gospel can and will bring forgiveness, liberty and transformation.
- This is related to an over-realized eschatology that expects too much here and now, almost as if the future, end-time kingdom has come in full. Once one realizes that we live in a redeemed-but-not-yet-glorified state, it can lead to an under-realized eschatology that expects little to nothing of transformation here and now.
- In much of our Spirit-prompted and Spirit empowered putting to death the sins of the flesh and putting on the graces of Christ, our battle in sanctification, we forget that we still live in a fallen world. We, like creation, groan, longing to be glorified. And not only must we understand this in our own lives, we must also see others in this way as well. No one is exempt from the command to be holy; no one will fully attain it in this earthly life; all ought to long for it.
- A ministry begins with a desire to serve and minister and help others. In order to do that most effectively, it creates programs and becomes an organization or an institution. Neither one is inherently bad, but each carries with it certain challenges. It must be remembered that programs, organizations and institutions exist to serve people. When that is lost, then a Christian ministry does need to reconsider its meaning, its purpose and its existence.
- There is a huge cultural shift on many moral issues of the day. This is an implication of living in a postChristian day. It causes, maybe even forces, Christians to reconsider things, which can be good. But it must not lead to a denial of the Scriptures, or updating the Scriptures in an attempt to make the truth more palatable. This decision has a bit of this feel. We must not separate or isolate ourselves, for how can we be salt and light if we do so, and we must not accommodate or capitulate to the culture, for then we have compromised. We stand on, proclaim and live the truth. We do so boldly, courageously and humbly.
- There is much to learn!
What do you think? How do you process this?