Home > Christianity, Conservative, God, Mental Health, politics, self help > Exodus Ministries: The Great Debate

Exodus Ministries: The Great Debate

Specifically, the concern of many liberals is that Chick-fil-a donates to an organization called Exodus Ministries (also known as Exodus International).  This is a faith-based ministry to homosexuals, families of homosexuals and leadership within the church.  Exodus, above almost all organizations in my opinion, is one of the most speculated, hated (by both sides), and misinterpreted.   Exodus statements are twisted, manipulated, and flat out lied about.  The rumor mill never stops.

Exodus was founded in the late 1970’s by several men whose desire was to leave the homosexual lifestyle and help others overcome homosexuality.  It was brought to my attention the story of a man by the name of Michael Bussee, one of the founders of Exodus now advocates against the organization based upon its practices at the onset.  To be clear, I don’t know specifics of the beginning of Exodus. What I do know is that homosexuals in that period of time (and now!) needed care.  They needed love.  The church kicked them out without trying to support and walk along-side of them.  The gay community was terrified in with what became known as AIDS and there was a profound need.  There were no other organizations or ministries in existence.

I have no doubt they made mistakes.  We all do!  But, their passion, their motives, their heart for the gay community and for those who struggle with same-sex attraction was ignited.  They took a leap of faith, a shot in the darkness, and launched not knowing the specifics of how Exodus would take shape.  What I can say is that the church is often criticized and hated for mistakes.  Let me be clear.  In many ways the church as a whole has stumbled and failed to address issues properly – and we still do.  But, the fact is the church is made of fallible, imperfect sinners.  We don’t have a magic wand.  We don’t carry a get out of jail free card or some dry erase board of our personalities or our tendencies.  We still fumble.  There are very well-intentioned people who genuinely believe they are doing good when they are actually setting back the ministry and message of the Bible.

Consider this: every institution has flaws. 

Education

We have education boards and PTA to evaluate and reevaluate the methods that are most effective for learning and knowledge retention.  But, it is a fact that each individual responds differently.  Each child and even into adulthood, we learn in different ways.  Our personalities, our disabilities, and our passions each contribute to how we ingest information and process it.  The teachers we employ, how much do we pay them?  What about tenure?  How about the curriculum that is used?  The education process is constantly revamping its methods (or should be, I suppose.).

Medicine

We have laboratories and grant-funded medical research teams that are specified in trying to find cures for diseases such as AIDS, autism, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.  These are debilitating and heart wrenching diseases that scientists are feverishly trying to find effective treatments and cures.  They can only find such developments by trials, tests, and continued research.  They’ve tried and failed in avenues that at one point seemed to have hope, only to be forced to go back to the drawing board.  When it comes to certain illness, hundreds of years ago the medical practices seemed effective but now that science has continued and pressed on for more information, we no longer practice.  Bloodletting, lobotomies, etc.

Government

Don’t even get me started….Seriously….

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The issue of Exodus, it’s practices and beliefs is of importance to me for a few reasons.  I am clinical counselor who retains a Biblical worldview.  And I also have a heart for the gay community.

It is vital to understand a baseline for this discussion: there is a difference between a homosexual lifestyle and homosexual orientation.  Homosexual lifestyle is the acting upon desires, thoughts, impulses, and attractions.  A homosexual orientation is the desire for, thoughts, impulses, and attractions themselves.  This is a necessary distinction to determine what is actually “sinful” according to the Bible.

As far as the view of homosexuality and changing, I would posit that there are people in three “camps”:  1. Those who believe it can be “cured.” 2. Those who believe that homosexuality is an unchangeable, biological fact, and that to attempt to change is harmful and 3. Those who believe that a homosexual can, with proper support, change his lifestyle. (strong emphasis on “lifestyle”.)

It must be understood is that there are people who believe that homosexuality can be cured.  To use the word “cure” has multiple interpretations.  There are people who genuinely believe that through therapy (faith-based or clinical) one can wipe out homosexual orientation.  At this point I must confess, I don’t know much about reparative therapy.  It is a small orientation of thought that I have not been educated in, therefore to make strong comments about it would be inappropriate.  However, I can say this, there are many schools of thought in psychology that I do not ascribe to.  As any theoretical adaptation, man has put forth ideas to observe behavior, modify behavior, and assist clients in their pursuit and navigation through life.  Some techniques are effective, some are not, and many are debated for their effectiveness.

Throughout the history of social sciences, people have modified their opinions and ideas based upon ethics (such as electroshock therapy) and upon new interventions (such as twelve step programs).  As individuals in life, we all go through a cycle of research (limited or extensive), thought, and action.  We all learn lessons, are rewarded, and punished.  When we step back and reflect upon a transaction in life that has not been beneficial and reassess where we can improve, make necessary changes and then move another direction, progress occurs.

My approach to change in the homosexual is a little different from a “curist”.  My belief is that Christ can change any heart.  However, that does not mean that our propensities vanish (although sometimes they do).  A sex addict who accepts Christ may never have temptation again.  An alcoholic who has tried everything, may never desire a drink after an encounter with Jesus.  But for most of us, life is a series of difficult pursuits to avoid what we carnally desire, yet what is harmful and condemned in Scripture.  Most of us battle anger and tempers, food addictions and smoking, though we depend upon the Lord’s strength.

And that is the point!

We need the Lord’s strength to overcome our temptations.  As difficult as it is, our failures of heart, our weaknesses can either defeat us and we surrender back to the lifestyle or can cause us to draw nearer to Christ for strength.

You will find that Alan Chambers states he is thankful for his same-sex attractions.  A controversial statement that many people misunderstand, but the point is that as a result of his weakness, he found God.  And it is God who can help us everyday overcome our failures and temptations, if we allow Him.  This is in His timing.  So often people who are trying to change habits get so frustrated wondering when it will just “happen already!”

But, the process and journey looks different for every individual.

That point cannot be underscored enough.

I believe Exodus is in another phase of evaluation.  A natural one.  As a matter of the therapies that Exodus has endorsed, though not personally practiced, they reevaluate the methods of support that is offered to individuals.  It is important to reemphasize the fact that every method of support is not effective for every individual, just as education is not straightforward across the board.  The intent of this organization has never been to hurt people, denigrate individuals or make strong political statements. I have been to Exodus events and have many of their publications.  The term “ex-gay,” while initially accepted has been vehemently rejected in the last decade by Exodus.

I truly believe that it is the goal of this organization is to love others and to equip the church to balance truth within the absolute scope of compassion.

They mean to assist people in their struggles, to walk alongside them as they navigate through life.  Alan Chamber’s recently spoke a fabulous message in which he states that for far too long people have made this one issue center.  The fact is that we all struggle and move through life.  I have a propensity to worry, to become anxious for which the Bible tells me not to!  Jesus is my comfort, yet I forsake Him when I worry or become anxious.  He died so that I would not be in bondage to that sin.  Another man or woman may have a propensity to homosexual orientation.  And when those desires are acted upon, they forsake Christ.  One statement that Alan makes struck me.  In essence he said, “Christ did not hang longer on the cross for homosexuals.”  How true!  Christ didn’t detail every moment, “Now this minute is for the adulterers.  This minute of pain is for the gossips.  That nail is for the swindlers.”  No!  Rather he bled and died on that tree for the freedom from ALL sin for ALL of mankind.  The unfortunate fact is now we want to divvy out whose penalty was greater.  That is missing the mark and desecrating the whole purpose in the sacrifice.  The point is that we accept his punishment.  Period.  You need salvation, I need salvation.  When we bicker about who is more sinful, we waste precious time and energy.  We all must accept the forgiveness for our sins.  None of us are forgiven unless we allow the Lord to forgive us.  This is an incredibly simple concept with tremendous incredulity.  How amazing is it that God grants us forgiveness for every wrong simply by taking the step of faith to trust and accept it!  Yet, how complex we make it!  How cumbersome it is for many to actually make that step!

Finally, I have learned this:  there are some individuals who will continue to intentionally misrepresent Exodus no matter the facts.  No matter how often mission statements and messages pledge allegiance and uncompromising commitment to loving and supporting.  No matter how often people deliberately overlook the daily, humble action of quietly loving and walking alongside people who genuinely struggle.  There will be people who are malicious and hateful.  What I have to remember is this:

Christ died for them too.

We continue to love in action.  We continue to stand for truth as it is given to us in the Word of God. And we continue to serve.

I leave you with two important bits of information:  One is the quotation from Exodus about its mission.  And the second is the message Alan Chambers made at this year’s conference Alan Chambers:  Made for More.

I’m always curious to see what people are saying about Exodus and as the PR person, I’m pretty sure there’s something in my job description about that too. I’ve heard some winners in the years I’ve spent working on and around this subject. Hmm . let’s see. According to some, Exodus believes in inhumane psychiatry that harkens back to the Dark Ages. Others say we peddle nonsensical, mind-altering remedies to unsuspecting prey that erases any and all attractions. Still others’ seem to think we hold mysterious camps with all the security measures of the FBI training facility in Quantico – just in case anyone would think of escaping. Of course, none of that is remotely true and all of it is wholly laughable, but it is amazing how hearsay begats rumors and rumors begat hard news. So, here’s the 411 on the top myths about Exodus International to set the record straight (no pun intended):

U.S.S. PRAY THE GAY AWAY:

Prayer is certainly an important part of a Christian’s life, but it’s not a magic formula. If you find one let us know. J This mantra ignorantly dismisses the complicated issues that often underlie attractions and deeper still – identity. As I said before, we don’t think many, if any, wake up one morning, down their coffee and decide to be gay. Sexual attractions develop for many known and unknown reasons and no one chooses those. As complex individuals, we must also take into account the way others hurt us and the way we hurt ourselves. For many who contact Exodus, hurt has become a familiar, but unwelcome fixture in life. Talking to God about these things is part of a dynamic relationship with Him, but it doesn’t always change the fact that dealing with it is just plain hard work.

CAMP GAYBEGONE:

As for those mysterious gay-to-straight “boot camps,” they don’t exist. And neither do any other Exodus camps – mosquito infested or otherwise. We do have an annual conference and some local ones too – held at churches, conference centers and Christian college campuses -just like other Christian conferences, though I’ll freely admit that the content is eye-poppingly unlike most other Christian conferences. We aren’t interested in bludgeoning others with our big black Bibles or our views. Truth be told, we can barely keep up with the 300,000 calls and e-mails we get every year from those who do want our input.

Exodus International doesn’t exist to make gay people straight, promote a formula for “success,” to make money or even to pass legislation. We exist to help others live a life that reflects the Christian faith. We’ve found that the opposite of homosexuality is most certainly not heterosexuality. It is holiness. It is loving God and being loved by Him. It is accepting His identity for us, instead of everyone else’s. But those things don’t often make headlines and I suspect that, unfortunately, we’ll continue to see more crazy things out there churning around in the rumor mill.

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  1. July 28, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Good thinking out loud post, Jen, the way you share your heart and your own questions on what is best. And like you said, “But for most of us, life is a series of difficult pursuits to avoid what we carnally desire, yet what is harmful and condemned in Scripture. Most of us battle anger and tempers, food addictions and smoking, though we depend upon the Lord’s strength.” Glad for your grace and truth in this very sensitive issue.

    • Order in the Quart!
      July 28, 2012 at 4:36 am

      Thanks Darc, it is a very sensitive topic that deepens the chasm between groups of people. The more I live, the more I am dependent upon the Lord for that perfect balance of truth and grace. (which I haven’t found a formula for yet!) It’s so out of balance everywhere we look. We just have to keep our eyes focused on Christ. Discern knowing when to stand up, when to sit and listen, and when to be silent, on our knees in prayer. The last few years, the Lord has had to firmly refine me in this. Its hard not to get caught up in the emotion in the web of issues spawned by the “Chick-fil-A” controversy from all sides, but I believe we need to take a breath and reflect before we speak. Rationality and civility in discussion are sadly amiss, but again I must focus on my conduct and not give way to an impulsive response. Thanks so much for your comment and encouragement, friend!

  2. July 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    please know I have not forgotten our discussion, it just started at a time where things are a bit crazy/busy in my home. Both children have playoff games for their respective sports and both have peer mentor training within hours of each other. I still think that as a mother being able to be in two places at once would come in handy.

    • Order in the Quart!
      July 28, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      Yes! It would! Do promise me that if you find that magic wand, you will share with other Moms 🙂 No worries, believe me, I understand!

  3. Karen
    August 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Jen, thank you for your obviously sensitive, thorough, thoughtful and balanced presentation of what you have come to understand. I wish all folks, and especially professing Christians, could be this way when they seek to present their convictions, but to be honest we are all at times (I am tempted to say most of the time!) just mindlessly driven by our passions (in the negative sense of “compulsive fears and disordered ego-centric desires”). Keep up the good work!

    • Order in the Quart!
      August 2, 2012 at 1:35 am

      Thank you for your encouragment and kind words, Karen! Yes, I believe that much of the Church, as a whole, lacks that necessary component of humility in our own weaknesses. We are all prone to a degree of pride and vanity, and as a Believer, I have to surrender myself, my pride and my passions to the authority of Christ. Unfortunately, historically, the Church has often had a “hands-off” or one might call it a holier than thou approach. It IS essential that we follow the teachings of the Word. However, to say that we do not struggle with our own compulsions is a blatant misrepresentation. It is a delicate, albeit, necessary balance of truth and grace only portrayed in Christ. We aren’t superheros. WE arent the authority. I believe a host of ills would be cured if we could submit to this thinking (though, I have to ask for the Lord’s help DAILY in it!). God bless you!

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