Thanks, Alan Chambers, and My Own Confession
Back in my Regent College Days, I led a social justice group called Micah 6:8. At one point I was having conversations with homosexual Christian men who were speakers or graduates of Regent. I had decided to host a debate about homosexuality in a climate where this topic would be “hot” to say the least.
Then I changed my mind. I asked a woman from an inner healing group called Living Waters whether she or someone she knew would like to speak about their experience with being transformed from having a homosexual orientation to having a heterosexual one. She was married to the leader of the group, who was formerly homosexual.
She was quite angry at me for asking and asked rhetorically, “Would you have a debate to discuss adultery?” Shamed, I muttered some ineffective response and got off the phone.
Yet, my intuition said, “This is right. Do it.”
That didn’t make sense to me because my mind still said homosexuality was an orientation which could not be morally lived out. The Living Waters leader was right, wasn’t she?
As I was in the habit of doing back then, I listened to my left brain instead of that still, small voice. Call it intuition, or the Holy Spirit, I still remember that feeling. And I betrayed it.
So, like Alan Chambers from the now defunct Exodus International, I wanted to chime in and say, I’m sorry. I screwed up.
But I’m glad that there are forums to say that. I’m happy that Chambers has provided an enormous opportunity for discussion in the Christian community for discussion about how to love people. And how to bring healing to people who have are deeply wounded by well-meaning yet wrong-headed believers, like I was. I’d like to post a part of Chambers’ apology here, because it is so powerful.
As I have heard people comment, that doesn’t make up for the damage. But without it, as a start, can there really be complete healing?
Here’s an excerpt from Chamber’s website:
Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.
And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.
Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.
Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.
Wow and Amen.
How has Alan Chamber’s confession influenced you to re-think this issue?