The Closing of Exodus International: Open Forum

Through the weekend, I am going to post reaction to the closing of Exodus International in this space. Consider it an open forum to discuss the closing, the new ministry, positive and negative reactions, etc. Feel free to post links to articles on the topic.
I am going to start things off with a video of Anderson Cooper discussing Exodus with Lisa Ling.

I was unable to watch the Lisa Ling special on OWN last night but those who did can weigh in. For those who didn’t see it, OWN has several clips available.
More coverage:
The Daily Beast provides some analysis, quoting me in the process.
This Religion News Service article is being cited often.
New York Times
UPDATE: NARTH issued a statement about Exodus.
This line is highly questionable: ?The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a multi-disciplinary professional and scientific organization that is not affiliated with religious ministries in any way.”
NARTH’s lifeblood has always been religious advocates (most of their membership) and religious clinicians. They aren’t the arm of a church but they have clearly marched in step with the conservative wings of several groups (Jewish, LDS, Christian) over the years. Given how many people know what NARTH is about, it is astounding to me that they continue to make that claim.
 

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.