Is Exodus International set to rebrand?

Article at Exgaywatch this morning:

Exclusive: Secret Conference Held to ‘Save Exodus International’ from Ruin

The crux of the article is this:

Exodus President Alan Chambers called a meeting together this past November 16. The subject was quite simply how to keep Exodus International from social and financial oblivion. In attendance were Exodus leadership, prominent religious leaders (such as Gabe Lyons) and lay people. The latter were mostly those who once counted themselves in the ex-gay camp but now are either in the process of changing their views or are fully gay affirming.

Go read the details at the link above.

Gabe Lyons is the co-author of unChristian, a book which documented the widespread perception that evangelicals are known for their anti-gay attitudes.

This is worth watching.

Alan Chambers on It Gets Better: Life Comes First

In a blog post today on the Exodus International site, Exodus President Alan Chambers walked back from earlier criticism of the “It Gets Better” campaign a bit. Chambers writes:

A few months ago I went on record criticizing the “It Gets Better” campaign that has gone viral with an anti-bullying message for LGBT teens.  My criticism was over the use of “Woody,” the fictional star from the box office smash Toy Story trilogy.  I reacted because I hate when iconic children’s heroes are used to further what I perceive to be adult causes.  With further reflection and thought, though, I have to admit that I was wrong to question their marketing strategy without expressing my full support for what is the heart of their campaign – encouraging LGBT teens to choose life.
I know I am going to get a barrage of emails, calls and letters about this from those who think that I am caving to pressure.  Truth be told I am pressured daily by both pro-gay and pro-Church groups (and everyone in between).  I don’t listen to all of the “advice” or “criticism” that is offered, but I do review most it.  And, I pray about it. It keeps me up at night as I weigh the impact my opinions and words have on others globally. I don’t want to ever be guilty of towing a “party” line, whether that party is political, social or religious, just because that’s what’s expected or because it garners a donation.  I want to live out my biblical beliefs in a way that draws people to Christ.  When it comes to kids killing themselves, I can’t justify criticizing a campaign that, at its deepest core, is most about saving the lives of LGBT kids.  I care MORE about a kid choosing life than whether or not he or she embraces a gay identity. Life comes first.  Living out our biblical convictions means fighting for the lives of young people at all cost.  Can any of us actually say we’d rather our teens, neighbors, friends or complete strangers kill themselves than be gay?  I certainly can’t.  Regardless of where someone falls on the debate over sexuality, I hope we can all agree to move the issue of bullying and suicide, especially where kids are concerned, to a non-polarized, non-politicized and non-divisive issue.

I appreciate Alan’s statement here. I think this needs to be made known to folks in the Anoka-Hennepin School District who are resisting bullying prevention programs.
Alan goes on to describe his experience as a child who was bullied. He has an experiential perspective that many social conservatives ignore. A middle school kid who is being harassed with anti-gay slurs and threatened with violence because of a perceived orientation doesn’t care about your religious beliefs. He just wants help to make it stop. In Anoka-Hennepin, for instance, the Parents Action League puts ideology before kids, in my opinion. Alan’s statement is something that I hope they see.
UPDATE: The Christian Post just published an article about Chamber’s statement prominently on their front page.

Al Mohler and Exodus: Agree or disagree?

As noted last week, Southern Baptist Seminary’s President Rev. Albert Mohler recently told a reporter that evangelicals have “lied about the nature of homosexuality” and reinforced his sentiments at the recent Southern Baptist Convention conference. I think it is going to take awhile for Rev. Al Mohler’s words about evangelicals and homosexuality to sink in – even for those who say they agree with him.
In this Baptist Press article, Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, came to Rev. Mohler’s defense against critics who say Mohler is going soft on gays, saying

“I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, and I am eternally grateful for what I learned there — the truth that I learned and the biblical foundation that I have,” Chambers said. “But there was no way that I was ever going to tell anybody in my church growing up that I struggled with these things. I am very thankful to say that that has changed [in that church]…. But we’ve still all got to do better.”

Alan correctly identifies his church as a problem. Although he doesn’t say exactly why, he is clear that he could not be open about his situation in his church. Apparently, they would not have handled it in a loving, accepting way. Chambers then says, we need to do better. I agree and I think one great example of that is a recent post – of all places – on the Exodus blog.
In a June 21 post, Matthew Walker says:

I felt like killing myself as a teen not because of the church, but because of a very real spiritual enemy that was trying to destroy me anyway that he could.  His whispers and lies twisted the Bible into a condemnation of me, not of the sin that was overtaking me.

Sounds to me like this man attended a church like Alan’s. However, Walker seems to think that his church was just fine, even though he was bothered enough to consider suicide. Reading this article, I am confused. Is Walker’s narrative an illustration of the church getting it right, or is this the kind of church that kept Alan silent and struggling?
Walker’s entire article, to me, seems like an illustration of just the kind of approach that Mohler critiques. Mohler wants evangelicals to be honest about homosexuality. Instead Walker stereotypes gays as miserable, and in denial about why they are gay.

I was honest with myself about how homosexuality developed in my life.  Many gay men and women use the act of “coming out” as a great dismissal of the developmental history that shaped their gay identity.  Genetics becomes the great enabler that keeps many bound to a life of destruction.

According to Walker’s narrative, gays have been crafted by some kind of knowable “developmental history” which they repress via coming out. Genetic research is not scientific inquiry but a devious means of keeping gays in denial.
In 2007, Rev. Mohler wrote that evangelicals should be prepared to acknowledge that biological factors may operate in forming same-sex attraction. By taking seriously biological factors, is Mohler facing facts honestly as he calls evangelicals to do? Or is he improperly enabling gays as described by Exodus’ Mr. Walker?
I am glad that Rev. Mohler voiced his views about evangelicals and honesty when it comes to sexual orientation. I have been raising these issues for several years now, but it takes someone of Mohler’s stature to keep the conversation going. Despite Mohler’s influential position, his views are not universally accepted in SBC circles. Furthermore, it appears to me that even those who generally agree with Mohler need to work out, practically speaking, what that agreement means.

Policy statement: Exodus International opposes criminalization of homosexuality

Today, Exodus International issued a policy statement regarding the criminalization of homosexuality.

Criminalization of Homosexuality

Exodus International opposes the criminalization of homosexual behavior as conducted by consensual adults in private. We strongly oppose the imprisonment, mistreatment, or death of homosexual men and women on the basis of their perceived or known sexual orientation. These actions breed cultural violence and institutionalized shame, neither of which reflect God’s redemptive heart.

In the blog post, Alan Chambers also expressed regret for the delayed response to information he received about the Ugandan ex-gay conference as well as the potential fall out.

That said, and without a wordy explanation or excuse, this public post is way overdue and I sincerely hope it clears up any speculation about how I really feel about gay and lesbian people, Ugandan or otherwise, the criminalization of homosexuality, Exodus’s connection to the now infamous Ugandan conference where Exodus board member, Don Schmierer spoke, and most importantly the grace of God.

First things first, I was personally lax in investigating thoroughly the pre-conference intelligence that was coming in from Timothy Kincaid, David Roberts and Warren Throckmorton, to name a few.  My initial belief was that their major concern was over Caleb Lee Brundidge’s association with Richard Cohen.  Again, no excuses, I was negligent in digging deeper and heeding their warnings.  While I did share my concerns with Don Schmierer prior to the event, he was on the ground in Uganda and I saw this as an issue that didn’t warrant him canceling his appearance there—after all, in my mind, Don was simply sharing his normal talk on parenting.  I do realize that his mere presence there, even as a private citizen, did give the appearance that Exodus was endorsing the conference and eventually the horrific political position that was fueled by that event.

I appreciate this acknowledgement. Alan is correct that some of the initial concern related to the involvement of Brundidge but as he says here, it was much deeper. The events in Uganda, played out over the last 16 months, have required U.S. Christians to rethink their stance toward homosexuals. As Alan’s remarks indicate, it is now necessary to articulate one’s position on criminalization. The Uganda situation unearthed a division among social conservatives about the law and homosexuality. Just yesterday, one of the voices of the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, again said that he favors a return to laws penalizing homosexual conduct.  The Ugandan initiative has touched many American evangelicals in a way that few issues have, forcing many ministries and leaders to choose sides. While I personally had little doubt that the policy of Exodus was to oppose criminalization, today’s announcement makes that clear. I applaud them.

Christianity Today on evangelical divide over reparative therapy

Christianity Today has an article out online today which covers familiar ground to readers here.

Written by Bobby Ross, the article notes the divisions over reparative therapy which have been accentuated by the recent APA report on sexual orientation and therapy.

No surprise here: Evangelical leaders who advocate gay reparative therapy took umbrage at a highly publicized American Psychological Association (APA) resolution that criticized such efforts.

By a 125-4 vote, the 150,000-member association’s governing council adopted a task force report in August claiming a lack of evidence that efforts to change one’s sexual orientation work.

One aspect of the 138-page resolution, however, drew praise from some Christian psychologists—and exposed a divide in the evangelical therapy community.

As we discuss here often, modest change in orientation has been reported but, in my opinion, the change paradigm for therapy and ministry is old school.

Warren Throckmorton, a counselor who believes that the Bible prohibits homosexuality, commended the task force for “clarifying the value of helping clients sort out their beliefs and work out an identity and life that fit within the clients’ beliefs.”

A one-time proponent of sexual reorientation efforts, Throckmorton said he spoke up until 2004 at conventions of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). But the Grove City College psychology professor has come to believe that changing a person’s sexual orientation is at best difficult.

Rather than focusing on reparative therapy, he has embraced “sexual identity therapy,” which focuses on helping a person live in a way that is consistent with his or her beliefs.

My issues with reparative therapy involve the lack of research support for the basic perspectives on the formation of same-sex attraction as well as the paucity of robust demonstrated outcomes.

“The reparative side sees the objective as healing the trauma [of family dysfunction] and thus curing the homosexuality,” said Throckmorton, former president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. “The sexual identity side doesn’t see the efficacy of that approach and doesn’t think change is necessary in order to help people live in congruence with their faith.”

Ross then addresses the Jones and Yarhouse study and notes Mark Yarhouse’s views on change and therapy paradigms.

Yarhouse says more Christian psychologists are providing sexual identity therapy rather than reparative therapy. He recommends “a range of options” to help believers make sense of their sexual and religious identities.

“I don’t want to discourage people from making that attempt [to change orientation],” he said. “But for most of those people, success will not be a categorical shift from gay to straight. The gains will likely be modest, more along a continuum.”

As co-author of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, Mark offers a balanced view of the landscape. Most of the people who consider Exodus a success have a story of congruence with their faith than tell a story of some degree of change in their sexual arousal patterns.

Alan Chambers weighs in with more of the reparative therapy side of the divide.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said it is wrong to assert that sexual orientation cannot change as a result of therapy.

“That flies in the face of the testimonies of tens of thousands of people just like me,” said Chambers, a married father of two who credits God and counseling for helping him leave a homosexual lifestyle. “That’s not to say that you can flip a switch and go from gay to straight.”

Finally, NARTH’s David Pruden worries that the APA report will keep people from trying to change.

David Pruden, vice president of operations for NARTH, said the APA’s resolution likely will not affect how Christian psychologists counsel. He voiced concern, though, about its impact on potential clients.

“[This] could discourage individuals from even seeking assistance or entertaining the thought that growth or change is possible,” he said.

Well, if the proper information is disclosed to people, I doubt they will not seek assistance. However, if therapists practice in accord with the SIT Framework and recent APA guidance, they will not experience over promising or be directed to developmental theories which may not fit their lives.

Are we nearing a consensus?

Dan Gilgoff, blogger at US News and World Report, is fascinated by the stance taken by Alan Chambers in his new book, Leaving Homosexuality.

What striking is that Chambers is not promoting so-called conversion therapy, which some religious conservatives claim can convert gays and lesbians to a straight sexual orientation. Rather, he acknowledges that, for gays and lesbians, homosexual attraction never goes away. But he suggests that homosexuals can resist those urges through Christianity (this from a Citizenlink interview):

CHAMBERS: The key thought here is the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness. There are people who are conflicted with their sexuality, involved with homosexuality, and there is a way out for those who want it. But it doesn’t say that they’re going into heterosexuality, because that’s not the point. The point is that people can leave whatever it is that God calls less than His best and move into something that is His best, becoming more like He is.

CitizenLink: Now, I’ve heard it, and you’ve heard it: Gay activists are going to read that and say, again, “Alan Chambers is living a lie. He’s suppressing who he really is.” You make a great point in the book that is very applicable to anyone who struggles with any temptation—and that is, self-denial isn’t a bad thing. How do you respond to those who say you’re just living a lie?

CHAMBERS: For so long I’ve heard gay activists say to me, “You’re just in denial. You’re not grasping the reality of the situation. You’re just denying who you really are.” The truth is, I am in denial, but it is self-denial. I’m not in denial of who I used to be. I’m not in denial of the temptations that I could still experience. I am denying the power that sin has over me.

This led Dan to interview Joe Solmonese, at the Human Rights Campaign about what seemed to Dan like a new approach. Solmonese said:

“It marks a pretty significant shift in the dangerous idea that the Exodus crowd was putting forward: that it was possible to change and to no longer be gay. They were attempting to do that by shaming people, getting them to deny who they were. Anybody who goes through that process realizes that it’s simply not possible to change who you are. So it marks an important shift that there is an acknowledgment that you can’t stop being gay.

“And I’m going to respect people’s religious views, and if someone says, ‘I acknowledge that I am gay and will always be gay, but am going to live within context of Scripture as I view it and not act on that,’ I think that’s sad—it is denying my view, which is that we are all God’s children and are formed in his image—but at the very least it’s a shift in thinking. It’s not something I agree with but something that I’m willing to respect if somebody else decides to live with it.

“Everybody is entitled to live their lives in the way they see fit. So if [Chambers] is moving to a place that says, ‘This is who we are and who we’re born to be, and it’s not possible to change us,’ then I guess one has to see that as a step in the right direction.”

Dan concludes by wondering if we are nearing some kind of common ground:

But I wonder if Chambers’s and Solmonese’s remarks reflect some common ground emerging between religious conservatives and the LGBT community around homosexuality—one that rejects conservatives’ former support for conversion therapy but also rejects the idea among some gay advocates that conservative religious homosexuals must cast off their faith and embrace their sexual orientation.

Just a note on Alan’s book (which I need to get and read), and a potential retreat from conversion therapy. Despite a more congruence-sounding framework regarding what change means, the reparative narrative is still a prominent aspect of the book (see pages 34-36 74-76 – you can search inside at Amazon.com). Many straight men have very similar histories but that is a post for another time. The point is that one oft unspoken bump in the common-ground road is the reparative view that homosexuality derives from trauma — whether it be with parents, peers, or some kind of abuse. As I have discussed here, this is a problem, not just for those on the gay side of the fence, but for evangelical parents of gay children.

Update: Here is a screen capture of the beginning of the Psychological Development section. Alan acknowledges that he is not a psychologist but then proceeds to offer the reparative narrative.

LeavingHo

Alan Chambers speaks out on Uganda

I am working on another post now and so my comments about this one are limited for now. However, I think it noteworthy and very positive that Alan Chambers, President at Exodus International today posted an apology to gays in Uganda.
Writing on his blog, Alan begins:

A recent hullabaloo over a conference in Uganda has had me thinking and praying about some things for more than a month. The conference centered on a conservative, presumably Christian, response to gay issues in that country. In Uganda, homosexual behavior is punishable by imprisonment and there is talk of stiffening the penalties. Several American gay activists and even some conservative Christians have raised a ruckus about the event and rightfully so. Uganda’s policies are truly reprehensible. Publicly exposing or arresting gay-identified men and women for homosexual behavior or forcing them to undergo therapy is a true violation of free will and a compassionless transgression.

and then he ends with this apology:

Confession is good for the soul, they say. There’s a reason for that. So, to my fellow Christians in Uganda, California and elsewhere around the world, my suggestion as you engage in social dialogue over this issue is this: pray, confess your own sins and remember where you were before God found you. And to the gay community: it is my great hope that we as a Christian church will give you no more reasons to justifiably doubt God’s love for you. I am sorry for the times when I have contributed to that.blockquote>
Chambers comments come at a very precarious time for Uganda’s gay community. Box Turtle Bulletin reported yesterday that a gossip paper in Uganda did an expose where names of supposed gays are exposed. The expose comes amidst regular calls for toughening laws against homosexuality and freedom to speak in favor of homosexuality. I am hopeful that the Ugandan press will also report the statement from Alan.
For more on the conference Alan refers to above, go to this post…

Blog in the news: Sacramento Bee article on ex-gay programs

Yours truly is quoted in this article by Ed Fletcher on a Sacramento area Exodus ministry. Alan Chambers is also quoted as is Greg Herek. Chambers reflects on his experience:

Chambers said he grew up in the church, but as an adolescent discovered he was attracted to men. As a young adult he had relations with men. He said he found a church that would accept him and led him to the Exodus ministry.
He said for him temptation still exists, but he no longer wants to act on those feelings, has been happily and faithfully married for 11 years, and has two children.
“That is success for me. Not heterosexuality, so to speak,” Chambers said, “but a life that is congruent with my faith.”

Of course, the last sentence is music to my sexual-identity-therapy ears – at least coming from one (Mr. Chambers) who embraces Evangelical Christianity. I should take care to say that sexual identity therapy recognizes that the value direction of sexual identity work comes from the client. For Alan, given his core commitment to Christianity, this was the option that fit him best.
Others of course, do not find the same outcome.

Jacques Whitfield, a Sacramento attorney, said he tried for years to squelch his homosexual feelings and attended meetings with the group at Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks. Finally, he decided he couldn’t change.
“I was in the program because I wanted to do what is right. I wanted to preserve my family,” said Whitfield, who is the new board chairman of the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. “And if this was a choice, I could choose not to be gay.”
Whitfield was married for 11 years and spent much of that time trying, with the help of the church, to resist his attraction to men.
“The people who run the program are well-meaning,” he said. “They love God and they want to do the right thing.”
“I don’t believe that sexual orientation is a choice,” Whitfield said. “I think you can abstain, but that doesn’t make you straight.”

The Mr. Fletcher brings in the professors.

Psychologists disagree that you can change sexual orientation.
“It’s maybe among the most controversial subjects you could bring up,” said Dr. Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
While some studies suggest people have happily changed, others chronicle harmful psychological effects of trying to change sexual orientation.
Throckmorton, who blogs about sexual identity at wthrockmorton. com, said he allows clients to set their own course. Throckmorton said research that relies on self-reported data isn’t conclusive.
Some people will report changing their sexual orientation through some form of counseling or therapy, but that doesn’t mean it actually worked or that trying it is worth the effort, said Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.
“Being gay is a perfectly normal sexual orientation,” Herek said.

Reading the comments section of this article, I am re-instructed in the role of observer bias. Several commenters take Mr. Fletcher to task for being too hard on religion, and then in the same thread, several others say he is too easy on archaic religious views.

Christian Post article on the Ugandan homosexuality conference

Michelle Vu, reporter for the Christian Post, penned an article regarding the Ugandan anti-gay conference.
Exodus International is quoted in this article, I think for the first time since the controversy began:

In response, Exodus International said it applauds its board member Don Schmierer, who attended the Uganda conference, for his effort to convey an “alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality,” according to a statement by Exodus International president Alan Chambers to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Exodus says neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy. Rather, the ministry says it “unequivocally denounces” the positions the government of Uganda has towards homosexuality.

The full statement is here:

Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, responded to reports about an Exodus board member’s participation at a conference in Uganda on homosexuality:
“Unfortunately, Uganda as a country has demonstrated severe hostility towards homosexuals supporting criminalization of homosexual behavior and proposing compulsory therapy – positions that Exodus International unequivocally denounces. It is our sincere desire to offer an alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality not just here in America, but around the world. We applaud our board member’s attempt to convey these truths to a country in need.”
###

There is nothing in this statement that changes my view of this conference. It was ill-advised for several reasons, some of which were described in this Christian Post article. Another issue, largely undiscussed, is the collaboration of Exodus with Richard Cohen’s associate, Caleb Brundidge. Mr. Brundidge believes he can raise people from the dead by God’s power but he can’t heal gays without beating pillows with a tennis raquet and getting in touch with the inner child. Is this the kind of compulsory therapy Ugandan gays might have in their future?
On this subject, I highly recommend thoughtful posts by Wendy Gritter at Bridging the Gap and Karen Keen on her Pursue God blog
Also, Scott Lively provides a quote regarding his views on the Ugandan conference here…

Exodus International turns full focus on ministry, away from public policy

I welcome this announcement – Exodus President Alan Chambers disclosed on ExgayWatch this evening that Exodus let their Director of Government Affairs go in August, 2007 and is going to concentrate on ministry.  His personal blog contains additional personal reflections on a recent thread at XGW authored by Wendy Gritter, Director of New Direction ministry.  Early in February, I was pleased to highlight Wendy’s keynote address at the Exodus Leadership Conference where she called for a change of focus at Exodus.

I believe additional shifts called for by Mrs. Gritter would be helpful, including steps to make resources more scientifically accurate. For now, I wholeheartedly commend the leadership of Exodus for these moves.