Last night Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International announced that this ex-gay organization would be shutting down. This announcement came less than a day after Mr. Chambers offered an apology to the LGBT community for the way that Exodus specifically, and the Church in general, have treated them. In a candid interview with Jeff Chu, Chambers specifically renounces the idea of gay-to-straight conversion.
Naturally, there are a number of people who are skeptical of the apology and wary of the future plans of those involved in the organization. And I think there is reason to hold that. Nearly 40 years of damaging teaching is a lot of history to overlook. When you have been a part of systemic oppression, your words will be scrutinized at a higher level. Exodus has caused a lot of harm for a lot of people.
Additionally, Chambers has said that he still believes that homosexuality is sinful and he has hedged on his thoughts about marriage equality. Needless to say, for many, this is still largely problematic. For people who simply want to marry and have the same legal rights that their straight friends enjoy, that issue matters greatly. For those who don’t want their loving relationship to be seen as sinful simply because it’s with someone of the same sex, that view can still be hurtful.
I do not want to gloss over the profound grief that this organization has caused. I do not want to ignore the pain that views like the ones that Chambers still holds can inflict.
However, I also want to celebrate that after nearly 4 decades, Exodus International has proven that change can happen.
Not the kind of change that they have claimed. Reparative therapy does. not. work. Being gay is not a choice and it can’t be prayed away. You don’t become a straight woman by wearing skirts and lipstick or a straight man by playing football or riding a motorcycle.
But they have shown that people can change their minds.
We can renounce hurtful behavior. We can become more accepting and loving toward people who we have, in the past, spoken of critically. We can choose to work to repair relationships that have been broken.
I have seen this happen, not just with Alan Chambers and Exodus International, but far closer. I have seen it in my church. I have seen it in my friends.
I have seen it in myself.
Fifteen years ago, when my best friend came out to me, I was not the person that I am now. I was not fully accepting of her. I did not love her the way that I should have. I did not have her best interest in mind.
This change took a lot of time. It’s not fair to Tina that she had to wait for me to be fully accepting of her. It’s not fair to the LGBT community that it took almost 40 years for a hurtful organization to admit that it has contributed to the pain and even death of many gays and lesbians. It’s not fair that people still consider the rights of others to be up for popular vote. And I will work with my LGBT friends to help continue the work necessary for equality and acceptance. I want to thank those in the LGBT community who have been so patient with me and with others as we’ve made this journey, too often at their expense. I want to thank them for the buckets of grace that they have given when they were not obligated to do so.
Thank you for allowing me to prove that prove that people can change.