It is easy for me to look at Exodus in hindsight and analyze it, so this article is not a criticism, but offers answers for these common questions. My friends at Exodus, Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas, and other leaders across the country, became good friends over the years. I sorely miss the Exodus of old, as do many others. We cannot turn the clock back, but we can learn from these experiences.
I went to my first Exodus conference with my wife Julie, in 1998, in Seattle. A few months earlier, we had our first experience with Exodus at the Mid-Atlantic regional conference, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At each of these events there seemed to be a palpable focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry leaders I met over the years seemed focused on Jesus Christ. There were many discussions, teachings, articles, classes, and books on the understanding of same-sex sexual attractions. I don’t remember much of a focus on the alteration of attractions, nor do I recall a promise of change in attractions. My counselor, who was an affiliate of Exodus, never promised me a change in attractions. The focus was on becoming a man of God, becoming more confident, and maturing in my relationships.
However, as I got more involved, I saw the diversity of approaches and beliefs and, eventually, a changing focus in the national office. For example, in the summer of 2007, I served on an Exodus team that lobbied Capitol Hill against the Hate Crimes bill which later passed into legislation in 2009. The lobbying was done covertly, and we were only allowed to speak or write about the event after it took place. Many members of Exodus were upset to learn that Exodus had gotten involved and even more troubled to learn that Exodus had hired a lobbyist, who was let go shortly thereafter to appease those members.
This moving target became a repeated pattern. What was the focus? The focus on the Lord Jesus Christ seemed to move, and He was relegated to only a part of the picture. This was evidenced in the mission statement of Exodus which seemed to change about every six months. I no longer understood what Exodus did or what it stood for.
Since Alan’s appearance on the Gay Christian Network panel, January 2012, he seemed to be speaking more clearly on the focus and more clearly defining what Exodus meant by “change.” I personally wish that he had explained this better on the panel and that he had kept Exodus alive and pointed in that direction. In a recent interview, since the closing of Exodus, Alan spoke of the varying methods used by individual member ministries. Some were promising change in sexual attraction, and, for some counselors, this was their singular focus. He also said that Exodus had a history of being blamed for any type of work with homosexuals, regardless of their connection to Exodus.
Recently, I have seen interviews of former clients of “ex-gay” related (non-Exodus) counselors; I’ve seen a promotional video from an “ex-gay” related organization, and read articles, all showing that the pattern of focusing on and promising complete attraction change continues unabated by various organizations. A promotional video I watched recently shared truth about origins of homosexuality and some good practices, but never any hint of the reality that most strugglers will continue to experience ongoing same-sex-attractions. Ignored by many “ex-gay” organizations is the reality that most who have lived with same-sex sexual attractions will not experience a complete transformation to have 100% opposite-sex attractions. Their focus and language on “change” is often ambiguous, leading to false promises.
I’ve found disgusting reports and verified practices of counselors (to my knowledge, never associated with Exodus) that helped people try to change their sexual attractions, encouraging its male clients to undress in front of a mirror in their presence. Another organization’s fundraising letter recently went so far as to promise “the end of homosexuality.” Do they really believe that if people sent them enough money, our world might be completely rid of homosexuality?
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Even with Exodus’s great intentions, its focus seemed to stray. Jesus Christ can and will change our hearts and lives, if we will surrender to Him. This does NOT mean that our attractions will completely change, but our hearts, lives, relationships, and even our feelings can and do change if our goal is being sold out to Him and NOT on being “normal.”
Truth Ministry, and now the Hope for Wholeness Network’s slogan is “Freedom from Homosexuality through Jesus Christ.” Our mission statement is, “We exist so that those who struggle with homosexuality find freedom to live in sexual and relational wholeness according to God’s design (Genesis 1:27).” We will focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, maturing in Him, and our Creator’s intent for our lives. Our focus will NOT be set on changing attractions. We will be very clear on what “change” does and does not mean or imply. Our leaders will continue to speak on the origins of homosexuality, of environment and temperament, and how to grow in one’s confidence and personal relationships, while pointing to Jesus as our Healer and Redeemer. This is what sets us apart and makes us relevant. Scripture tells us, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
My church just had its annual Global Impact Conference, with missionaries from all over the world. It was very inspiring, and the focus being on Jesus was so encouraging! He must be our focus. Our lives are for Him, not for ourselves. This is what so many in our culture, the gay community, and sometimes even the church forget. When we allow our temptations and inclinations to rule our lives, then we are our own god. When we give God control of our lives He gives our lives back to us to live by His grace. It is only through Him and a healthy relationship with His church that we are able to be successful in life. John 15:15
Read all of this month’s Voice of Truth newsletter.