Transformation is Still Possible: The Closure of Exodus International

Karen Booth

Booth

By Karen Booth and Thomas A. Lambrecht

In mid-June, dramatic headlines announced that the president of Exodus International North America was issuing an apology to gay people and closing its doors. For those who have been supportive of the ministry of Exodus International, a 37-year-old umbrella organization for Christian ministry with individuals and families impacted by unwanted same-sex attraction, this headline was disappointing and misleading.

As ministries working for the renewal of the The United Methodist Church, Transforming Congregations and Good News are saddened by the announcement that Exodus will cease operations. This decision was made by Exodus President Alan Chambers and his Board of Directors without input from, or regard for, the hundreds of local organizations belonging to the Exodus network. Along with many of them, we believe that this decision is a misguided rejection of everything Exodus has stood for over the last four decades — the power and promise of Jesus Christ to transform our lives and foster holiness of heart and life in the area of human sexuality.

For those of us who are invested in a ministry of sexual sanctification and wholeness, the imagery of closed doors gives off the mistaken impression that the Church no longer believes that transformation from unwanted same-sex attraction is possible. That is most definitely not the case. Transforming Congregations and many other ministries who are or were under the Exodus umbrella still believe that sexual wholeness and holiness is available for those who seek freedom in Christ. We are grateful for the courageous testimonies of those who witness to God’s transformation of their desires, enabling them to faithfully live out his revealed will. That is why alternatives to Exodus have recently formed, including the Restored Hope Network.

For many years, Transforming Congregations was an Exodus affiliate member and even merged with Exodus at one point. Within the last several years, however, there has been a dramatic shift in the theological and ministerial perspective at Exodus. Where once a large board of directors was reflective of the hundreds of local ministries around the nation, Exodus President Alan Chambers reduced the board to a half-dozen colleagues and altered the message of the ministry. During this process, Transforming Congregations separated itself from Exodus.

Tom Lambrecht

Lambrecht

We believe there are some things that the Church and Christians do need to apologize for. As United Methodists, we believe that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” Any form of hatred or contempt expressed toward persons for any reason, including their sexual attractions or behavior, is contrary to God’s command to love our neighbor. This includes calling people names, telling jokes at their expense, bullying, shaming them, or directing any type of violence against them. There are those who testify to horror stories of mean-spirited manipulation or incompetent therapy. We grieve to hear these accusations. Such actions are wrong and indefensible and contrary to the Gospel.

At the same time, Alan Chambers and his Board do not speak for the majority of Christians engaged in ministry to the sexually broken when they claim that transformation is unlikely. We serve a God who is in the transformation business. God wants to continually transform us through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), which leads to a transforming of our attitudes and our actions. This is true no less in the realm of human sexuality than it is in any other area of our lives (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

In agreement with The United Methodist Church, we believe that God created us male and female (Genesis 1 and 2, Matthew 19:3-9) to enjoy the good gift of sexual union only within the boundaries of a lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Maintaining lives based on this sexual ethic not only pleases God, it also offers the greatest opportunity for human flourishing and forms the foundation upon which a stable and prosperous society is built.

Almost all people experience desires and attractions — whether focused on the same or the opposite sex —  that are contrary to God’s will for our sexuality.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to act in obedience to God’s will in spite of our sinful desires. And over time, God can bring healing, wholeness, and restoration to this area of our lives. This is not accomplished by simply “praying away the gay,” but is usually a more strenuous and lengthy process involving various counseling approaches and spiritual disciplines to foster emotional and spiritual growth and healing. By the grace of God, some experience a dramatic lessening or eliminating of sinful desires, while others receive the grace to persevere in godly choices despite the presence of temptation.

Our sex-saturated society needs to hear the corrective message of God’s true purpose and meaning for our sexuality. And people caught up in sexual brokenness need to know that in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness, healing, restoration, and transformation.

Transforming Congregations and Good News will continue to offer this message and equip local churches to minister to those seeking to overcome sexual brokenness in their own lives or in a family member. We will always do so in a loving and compassionate way. For us, there is no other way. At the same time, we cannot compromise what God has revealed in Scripture to be his perfect will for sex and marriage simply because it is unpopular or unheeded. By the grace of God and the support of God’s people, we will continue to be a voice for Scriptural holiness and to encourage a ministry of love, grace, compassion, truth, and purity. To do any less would be unfaithful to the Gospel.

The Rev. Karen Booth is an ordained elder in the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference and the director of Transforming Congregations. The Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht is an ordained elder in the Wisconsin Annual Conference and the Vice President and General Manager of Good News.

Since 1967, Good News has been the leading voice for Scriptural Christianity, renewal, and reform within The United Methodist Church. Transforming Congregations, founded in 1988, has empowered and advocated for ministry to all those affected by sexual brokenness. Transforming Congregations is now a division of the ministry of Good News.

Comments

  1. Debra S. Long says:

    Beautifully written, and well timed! I applaud and support your ministry, and am deeply thankful for your efforts within Good News and within the United Methodist Church. I was married to a United Methodist Pastor for 23 years, and that marriage, sadly, did not survive. The untimely end of the marriage brought about my leaving the denomination as well, but through the years I have kept vigil, and have prayed for the renewal and reformation of this once mighty denomination. I appreciate so deeply your faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and your loving ministry among the people now wounded and broken by sexual sin. In this age of political pressures and unprecedented compromising of Biblical truth, you continue to fight the good fight, and bring the message of love, grace, compassion, truth, and purity. My prayers are with you…I will continue to watch as God brings about His glorious purposes through your faithful ministry.

  2. mike barker says:

    Nice article.

    I personally noted the Richmond Times – Dispatch in Virginia covering the Chambers / Exodus story in front-page, top-of-the-fold fashion. I cannot imagine this paper giving any coverage whatsoever to transformation success stories, much less make them a front page news item.

    Whatever Chambers said and did regarding the closing Exodus, the news article told the story in a fashion casting a most negative light on repair therapy.

    Booth and Lambrecht only mention the “misleading” news coverage. I hope they present us with another article detailing the misrepresentation of the Chambers / Exodus decision.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    I hope someday you Protestants come to recognize that chaste celibacy is also a legitimate avenue of change for the the SSA individual. Christ did: “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” Matthew 19:12. Chase celibacy has worked for me, thanks be to God and the Catholic Courage apostolate.

  4. Thanks so much for a compassionate voice of reason on this issue. I have been troubled by the departure of Exodus, but know God will raise up other voices to take their place.

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