Desert Stream Ministries Outlines Differences with Exodus

In an email this morning, Andy Comiskey delineates the differences between Desert Stream Ministries and Exodus.  They are:

A different view of the consequences of sexual sin. Whereas Exodus believes that practicing ‘gay’ Christians may well inherit the Kingdom of heaven, we beg to differ. We believe that Christ followers must reckon with homosexual behavior as a serious betrayal of their humanity and spirituality, and repent of it in order to be assured of salvation.

A different expectation of change for same-sex strugglers. Though we agree with Exodus’ desire to more accurately define ‘change’ for those with SSA, Exodus now appears tentative and unclear as to the degree to which the same-sex attracted will experience change at all in their sexuality. We believe that Jesus brings change to every Christian with SSA who seeks Him whole-heartedly. He cannot help it. Jesus is our Creator and Redeemer who made us to represent Him in our gender and sexual selves. He places such a high premium upon sexual integrity that He acts incisively to redeem our sexual disintegration. Jesus frees every repentant heart to resume the journey toward wholeness.

A different theological anthropology. Desert Stream Ministries anchors our understanding of the ‘new creation’ in the truth that we are created in God’s image as male and female. That means that every same-sex struggler who follows Jesus is reconciled to his/her capacity to be a good offering to the opposite gender. We recognize that each soul differs in how they will live out that calling. Yet differing levels of progression in mature heterosexual relating don’t change one’s capability in Christ to resume that journey. Exodus advocates the noble goal of holiness, yet offers insufficient clarity as to what sexual wholeness means for those with SSA.

A different reliance upon reparative psychology. Exodus recently broke ties with ‘reparative therapy’, a broad school of thought developed by theorists and therapists who view same-sex attraction as a symptom of the breakdown in whole gender development. While Desert Stream Ministries is founded on theological, not psychological values, we rely upon reparative insights to understand what is blocked or missing in our souls. These keys help guide our pursuit of Jesus and His community to secure what we need in order to proceed onto wholeness.

A different reliance upon moral effort in becoming whole. Exodus appears to hold a comparatively passive understanding of sanctification; we believe that hard moral effort, inspired by grace, is essential in progressing into maturity. Our morality becomes beautiful as we engage actively in the spiritual and psychological disciplines that enable us to become mature Christians.

A different approach to ‘gay’ Christians. Exodus seems intent on building bridges with practicing ‘gay’ Christians. We believe that God wants only the best for all people, including practicing homosexuals. In His love, we fight for their repentance. However, we disagree with making peace with Christians who advocate homosexual practice; to us, these are false teachers who are guilty of leading others into darkness, an offense worse than Christians caught in sin who know it.

Many people outside of the evangelical world may see little distinction between Exodus and Restored Hope. However, as Comiskey’s note makes clear, the differences are large within this world.

A Look Inside the Restored Hope Network

In the Spring, a group of ministries once affiliated with Exodus International broke away and formed the Restored Hope Network. The first conference of the network will be held September 21-22 in Sacramento, CA. At that conference, the current group of leaders will more formally organize into an Exodus-like entity. Recently, the group released more information about they will conduct business.  In many ways, the RHN sounds like Exodus.

What is RHN’s mission statement?

Restored Hope is a membership governed network dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin especially those impacted by homosexuality. We proclaim that Jesus Christ has life changing power for all who submit to Christ as Lord; we also seek to equip the church to impart that transformation.

As Exodus used to do, RHN brings together the idea of sexual orientation change with spiritual beliefs and change. In other words, really good Christians will experience sexual reorientation as a consequence of submission to the teachings of Jesus.

You can join the group as an individual but only ministries will have a vote. It sounds a lot like how Exodus is organized.

Who can join Restored Hope Network?

The membership of RHN is composed primarily of member ministries. Member ministries must sub-mit an application to be considered for membership. The application will be available after August 15, 2012. Member ministries must be approved by unanimous vote by the Board of Directors. Membership must be renewed every year.

Most of the current leadership team are former long time Exodus leaders:

Who will lead Restored Hope Network?

The initial leadership of RHN are individuals who are part of the group of people who have come together under the banner Restored Hope Network. The forming committee was chosen by popular vote by the larger group. The Forming Committee is Stephen Black (First Stone Ministries,) Andrew & Annette Comiskey (Desert Stream Ministries), Joe Dallas (Genesis Counseling), David Kyle Foster (Mastering Life Min-istries), Dr. Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Seminary), Michael Newman (Christian Collation Reconciliation Ministries), Anne Paulk and Frank Worthen (New Hope Ministries).

This board will serve until a Board of Directors will be elected at RHN Ministry Leader’s Meeting in September, 2012.

While I disagree with the change paradigm (and won’t recommend RHN for anyone), I think it will be helpful to have a way to identify organizations who hold to it. Traditional evangelicals who want that approach can find it, whereas those who affirm the congruence paradigm within conservative circles will move more toward Exodus. Folks who aren’t sure where they heading or who don’t want to be affiliated with a non-affirming group might move toward Andrew Marin’s Living in the Tension groups.

 

Porn in the Strangest Places: Reparative Therapy and Pornography

There has been some debate in recent days about whether or not reparative therapists use pornography as a therapeutic tool. Recently, Alan Chambers stated that reparative therapists use porn as a part of the change process. This practice is one of the reasons Exodus no longer recommends reparative therapy. One other large reason relates to the unrealistic hope it generates for total change. I will take that up in a future post. For his part, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi denied Chambers claims.

In a Facebook posting, Nicolosi summarizes the allegation and then provides his response: First he says:

Alan: It has been brought to my attention that you have posted the following comments on Facebook:

“As for Reparative Therapy, I do not support it. I don’t think it’s ‘fine’. They use pornography as a means of making people “100% straight”. We stopped allowing Joe Nicolosi to teach because he encouraged attendees to pick up heterosexual porn to encourage heterosexuality. Also, he and others have said that they can “cure” people 100% of SSA.”

Also–

“Joe Nicolosi and a few others are on record in workshops and other places saying that they employ pornography. We do not wish to slander Joe, but it is important for people to know that this is a part of the RT practice even if it wasn’t used in your therapy. This is a fact.”

To these accusations, Nicolosi responded:

Furthermore, I do not use heterosexual pornography with my clients. I do ask them (if they wish to do this; some clients do not, and I never expect my clients to do anything they do not wish to do) to bring up a compelling image from gay porn that they wish to reduce the power of, and we work on diminishing its power (a technique with which we have had considerable success).

However, I do not use straight porn; I use pictures of women they find attractive in mainstream magazines and we work on developing a physical attraction to them, through their imagination, while looking at these non-pornographic pictures.

On point, I have obtained a description of a workshop proposed by Dr. Nicolosi which was not accepted for the 2010 Exodus conference. The description is pretty clear:

Gay Pornography as a Therapeutic Tool
Reparative Therapists have recently developed a therapeutic technique utilizing gay pornographic images to expose deeper emotional needs beneath mere sexual arousal. While many clients have been told that their homosexuality is a defense against emotional needs, this technique offers “experiential knowing” resulting from personal experience. The result is a diminishment of pornographic appeal and movement toward resolving deeper conflicts.
For men and leaders.

The belief appears to be that same-sex pornographic images are only attractive because of the emotional wound of the person viewing it.

I have also obtained audio from an Exodus workshop that was approved and conducted by Dr. Nicolosi that certainly seems to encourage the use of gay pornography and to a lesser degree straight porn. Listen to the explanation:

It appears that everybody agrees that at times gay porn might be a part of reparative therapy. However, it appears that there is some assumption on the part of Dr. Nicolosi that clients might use a similar technique with straight porn.

As I noted above, this all seems to be based on the idea that same-sex attractions derive from a trauma (hence the EMDR) and that the attractions are akin to fear responses in people who have other kinds of trauma. Repeated exposure does tend to help some clients with phobias and various anxiety reactions. However, here Nicolosi seems to think sexual attraction can be reduced in a similar manner. The idea is, shall we say, creative, and I will let my gentle readers have a go at their opinion on that theory.

I will note that I can understand why Exodus might have a problem with this approach and I wonder how the new Restored Hope group will react to it.

 

Charisma recycles 2004 article, gets lots of attention, then goes away. Alan, at the beach, knows nothing about it

Charisma Magazine generated an internet thunderstorm today by updating and reprinting a 2004 article by Alan Chambers titled, Do We Want a Gay America? Charisma put it on the front page of their webpage with no notice that it was a reprint.

RightWingWatch (who has the article in full) picked up on it and then various gay blogs followed. I started seeing emails and tweets about two hours ago. Then ExGayWatch and BoxTurtleBulletin reported that the article was a reprint. BTB editor Jim Burroway just tweeted that a woman at Charisma told him they were looking into it.

Meanwhile, Alan Chambers tweeted that he was at the beach and didn’t know anything about it, saying

Breaking: No idea why @charismamag pulled out an 8 year old piece I wrote that doesn’t reflect my current views.

Charisma has blocked access to the article.

All of that in a matter of hours. I would say Charisma has got some explaining to do.

UPDATE: Alan just sent this note along:

I am on the beach, literally, with my family enjoying the dog days of summer.  I have no idea why Charisma decided to reach so deep, edit and republish an 8 year old article that I am embarrassed that I ever wrote.  Our PR team has asked them to remove the article and not to repost it.  When I am back in town I will contact them, as well.

New York Times on the Changes at Exodus

Friday night at the evangelical fights.

After the NPR segment comes this New York Times article which covers much the same ground.

It cannot be any clearer; Alan Chambers is leading Exodus from the wilderness of reparative therapy to the promised land of Grace and soul liberty.

What a ride.

Conservatives in the church and elsewhere should welcome this. There is no necessary conservative attachment to reparative therapy. In fact, given the psychoanalytic roots of the model, it has surprised me that conservative Christians have bought into it for as long they have.

 

NPR Segment on Changes at Exodus International

A segment on changes at Exodus is coming up on NPR sometime between 4:30 and 4:45pm. It should repeat again between 6:30-6:45pm.

I have a few lines but I am not sure who else is in on it.

Listen, learn and comment.

The audio will be posted at 7pm, but the transcript is here.

Rob Gagnon has emerged as a vocal opponent of Exodus. I am baffled by his approach, which seems to make grace conditional on one’s behavior or attitude.

I intend to write more about this next week. Gagnon says he thinks reparative therapy sometimes works. I suppose for some it can work to give them a way to think about their lives but the burden of proof is on NARTH and others who support the group to demonstrate some kind of categorical change. Nothing has come from NARTH that approaches good research strategies and as a result, NARTH is currently on the defensive. They have been fighting a defensive battle with no real offense. After awhile, if you have nothing to offer, people will look elsewhere.

Exodus issues additional statement regarding criminalization and Dennis Jernigan in Jamaica

Been traveling so this is just now going up:

Exodus International Releases New Policy Statement On the Criminalization of Homosexuality

Ministry responds to Christian Music Artist and Exodus Board Member, Dennis Jernigan’s Remarks in Kingston, Jamaica

Orlando, Fla—Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with homosexuality, released a new policy statement on the criminalization of homosexuality. While the ministry has long held this perspective, they felt compelled to release a written statement in light of Exodus Board Vice Chairman, Dennis Jernigan’s, comments to the media in Kingston, Jamaica. Exodus board member, Don Schmierer, experienced a similar collision with the media on a trip to Uganda in 2009.

“Dennis Jernigan recently traveled to Jamaica to share his testimony and lead worship at a number of venues,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “While there he was thrust into a media firestorm and asked to comment on President Obama’s threat to issue sanctions against Jamaica for their laws concerning the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Dennis shared his belief that President Obama is deceived about homosexual behavior and the biblical morality of it. Dennis assured me he is not for the criminalization of homosexuality, and he will release his own statement on this matter. However, Jernigan offered this immediate response ”:

“I believe my heart and intent were misconstrued and therefore, may have harmed Exodus’ mission of ministering to those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). To that end, as of this moment, I step down as Vice Chairman of Exodus.”

Here is an excerpt of the Exodus policy statement, also supported by its Board of Directors.

We will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship. Finally, we stand with the LGBT community both in spirit, and when necessary, legally and physically, when violence rears it’s head in Uganda, Jamaica or anywhere else in the world.

Chambers is working with the Exodus International Board and staff to craft strong statements, policies and procedures that will ensure their position on life-impacting issues such as this one.

“It is our resolution that unfortunate incidents like this do not happen again in the future,” said Chambers. “As president of Exodus International I take full responsibility for any board member, staff member or ministry affiliate’s ignorance of global issues, especially as they travel. I will make it a priority to keep all who are professionally affiliated with Exodus apprised of the nations where legislative initiatives or laws clearly violate our policy opposing criminalization of homosexuality. We will also craft a policy for our ministry that prohibits our involvement with groups and nations that violate our policies.”

Exodus International issues statement on reparative therapy

This seems to be a change…

The California House recently passed a bill outlawing reparative therapy for youth under the age of 18. The Senate is set to vote in coming days. With the media abuzz, we have had numerous calls from news reporters across the country, asking for our opinion and position. Many others have simply mischaracterized Exodus International as a reparative therapy organization. One such instance was a newscast on an ABC affiliate  in San Francisco. The reporter stated that our “members now live heterosexual lives—many with spouses and kids—because of reparative therapy”. We have written this statement to clarify our ministry objective which highlights the mission of Exodus International.

Exodus International supports an individual’s right to self-determine as they address their personal struggles related to faith, sexuality and sexual expression.  As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal. Our ministry’s objective is to equip the Church to become the primary place where people of faith seek support, refuge and discipleship as they make the decision to live according to Christian principles.

We believe in a “gospel-centric” view, meaning that all people, regardless of individual life struggles, can experience freedom over the power of sin through a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment to scripture, and by being a part of a vibrant, transparent and relational community of believers found in the local church.  Exodus is partnered with more than 260 churches and support-based ministries who serve individuals and families experiencing a conflict between their faith and sexuality. (emphasis in the original).

Note the phrase not in bold: “ As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” As I read it, that means Exodus (as a national group) no longer subscribes to reparative therapy. I wonder how some of the local ministries are handling this. I know the one closest to this area is on board, but I am curious if other groups are.

Exodus International speaks out against FRC’s award winner

Being all into American history lately, I have missed some things. Like the Family Research Council giving an award to a guy who loves to hear himself vilify those he claims to love. Well, actually I don’t know if he has claimed to love gays or not.

Exodus, sounding a prophetic tone, released this statement about the matter today:

Exodus International, the world’s largest Christian ministry helping individuals and families struggling with same sex attraction, denounced the Family Research Council’s choice of pastor Ron Baity to receive its highest pro-family honor, the 2012 Watchman Award.

Baity is on record saying, “gays act worse than maggots,” will make society “more filthy,” and God had an “urban renewal plan for Sodom and Gomorrah.” Baity also compares gay and lesbian people to murderers and says gay marriage is America’s “death warrant.” Baity is founding pastor of Winston-Salem’s Berean Baptist Church and head of the pro-marriage organization, Return America.

“It’s time conservative Christians who claim biblical principles such as loving their enemies and neighbors, and considering the welfare of others first, to speak swiftly and strongly against this type of action,” says Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.

“For too long we’ve stayed silent and allowed our brothers and sisters to tip that hat toward angry and abusive rhetoric. It’s a terrible witness for Christ, and clear hypocrisy to a watching world.”

Exodus joins the Southern Baptist Convention in distancing itself from Baity along with pastors Sean Harris and Charles Worley from North Carolina. Chambers went to Tony Perkins first and expressed concern about this decision. Having received no response, Exodus felt compelled to release a statement.

When I do stuff like this, I get nasty emails, doubts about my Christianity and threats. I wonder what will happen with Exodus.  In any case, I think they are right in their assessment of the situation.

Schism at Exodus International?

Apparently, Exodus President Alan Chambers’ recent comments about change of sexual orientation have not been well received by some Exodus ministry leaders. Earlier today, Andy Comiskey posted a link on his website which called for changes at Exodus in light of his disagreements with the Exodus President.

The controversy relates to Mr. Chambers recent statements that “99.9% [of people who have tried] have not experienced a change in their orientation.” Comiskey also expressed concern over the teaching about grace from Board Chair, Clark Whitten. Comiskey writes:

Whitten insists that grace alone, simply received, covers and overcomes one’s sin and renders any human effort worldly, a work of the flesh. Like many Christian authors, he overstates his case, using Scripture selectively. He is convinced that the biggest problem facing Christians is legalism, heavy-handed religion that would be overcome simply by resting in what God has done for us. He also appears to believe that this is the Truth which will usher in a new reformation. Like many in his neo-Baptist, evangelical tradition, he believes in ‘once saved, always saved’, thus Alan’s belief in the possibility of heaven for practicing gays who are ‘saved’.

In light of these concerns, Comiskey recommends more reparative therapy:

We at DSM are only indebted to the good of reparative therapy and its underpinnings in developmental psychology. How else would we understand how we become disintegrated in our gender identities, as well as gain objective markers en route to wholeness?

Continue reading “Schism at Exodus International?”