seems that the subject of homosexuality is in the news. again.
alan chambers, president of exodus international, the world’s largest ex-gay ministry, has changed direction – significantly. having a reputation as being dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer, the organization is trying to distance themselves from the idea that gay people’s orientation can be permanently changed – and there’s now no more talk of ‘curing’ same-sex attraction.
‘i do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to any struggle, homosexuality included,’ said chambers at their annual conference this week.
it seems the american psychological association (AMA) agrees. the AMA warns ‘efforts to change sexual orientation have not been shown to be effective or safe,’ concluding that homosexuality is not a disorder, and that trying to ‘cure’ it can lead to ‘intimacy avoidance, sexual dysfunction, depression and suicidality.’
chambers’ experience seems to reflect these studies.
‘99.9% of [exodus participants] have not experienced a change in their orientation,‘ chambers said. around the same time chambers first made this statement, he began pulling all reparative therapy books from the online exodus bookstore.
in a letter defining exodus, alan writes ::
‘exodus international is repeatedly accused of seeking to make gay people straight through conversion therapy and prayer… exodus does not believe SSA [same sex attraction] is sinful. however, sexual expression resulting from SSA is. making such clear distinctions has been a failure of the church that is slowly being realized and changed.’
scot mcknight wrote earlier last week, some will no doubt say [those at exodus] have a long way to go while others will see the colossal shift as evidence of the organization caving in under alan’s leadership.
in a later interview with the Atlantic, chambers continued,
‘a person living a gay lifestyle won’t go to hell, as long as he or she accepts jesus christ as personal savior.’ chambers said. . ‘… while behavior matters, those things don’t interrupt someone’s relationship with christ.’
robert gagnon disagrees. strongly.
in a 34 page response to chambers, robert writes,
‘alan’s comments to those living a homosexual life are ultimately unloving and ungracious… the actual result is to leave such persons deceived by giving them a message of ‘peace and security’ when instead danger hangs over them.’
denny burk, professor at boyce college (the undergraduate arm of the southern baptist theological seminary) in his recent post highlights the larger argument at hand ::
‘it appears that this has less to do with chambers’ views on homosexuality than it does with his views on salvation. chambers still affirms a biblical sexual ethic. he simply argues that christians can ignore that ethic and still be considered christians.’
i posted the following response in burk’s comment section on that post ::
chambers has rightly said, ‘we’re guilty in the church of creating a hierarchy of sin, and that’s done tremendous damage.’
anything other than ‘free-grace’ seems to me to be oxymoronic. to claim that chambers is declaring ‘feel free to ignore the teachings of the bible – it doesn’t matter – we’re going to heaven anyway,’ is i think missing the heart behind his message. to argue vehemently against the concept that there are gay christians (even those that are participating in same-sex behavior) is a slippery slope.
are people who participate in gossip in danger of losing their salvation? what about people (gay or straight) that struggle with lust? if a parent habitually lies to their child and tells them every year that santa brought them christmas presents, are they in danger of the fires of hell? OR is salvation by grace through faith only available once i have become sinless? or are some sins LESS grace worthy than others? is that even grace?
the importance of the theological trajectory of this conversation cannot be understated – in both theory and practice. is there room for conversation?
in this case, i believe chambers is right. the church has been guilty of a high-handed hypocrisy, creating a hierarchy of sin. and that’s done a tremendous amount of damage on both sides of the conversation. there are many who don’t share my same biblical ethic; yet i think there’s room for further discussion without continuing to fight a culture war that is only causing harm.
i believe it’s time for the church to move on from that fight. just yesterday, msnbc ran a story stating nearly 70% of young evangelicals agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues — and many are leaving their churches because of it.
the church has an opportunity and responsibility to enter into fresh dialogue with humility and respect to those on both sides of the aisle, committed anew to becoming known not for what we stand against, but being defined by the uniquely divine grace and love of christ.
i am convinced this is possible while still maintaining personal convictions on biblical ethics and morality as traditionally defined if we are willing to be grace-giving and forgiving.
possible, but not easy.
what do you think?
POST UPDATE ::
• 7/6/2012 || npr.org ran an article on this story sadly yet appropriately titled, ‘Evangelicals Fight Over Therapy to ‘Cure’ Gays
• 7/6/2012 || the new york times also ran a story entitled, ‘Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ is Renounced
both are worth reading, and it’s all worth a great deal of reflection.