In a June 21 press release, ex-gay network Exodus International claimed that it “welcomes dialogue on homosexuality” when Exodus and a new network of former ex-gays hold rival conferences later this month in southern California.
Exodus president Alan Chambers said:
Dialogue on this issue only benefits the community and the culture at large. It is a topic worth discussing and I am happy to share my experience as a part of a much-needed exchange of thoughts on this issue.
But just a day later, in a June 22 statement for Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink partisan political newsletter, Exodus executive vice president Randy Thomas belittled the former ex-gays’ invitation to dialogue:
Thomas said the message of that counter-conference denies people hope.”We live in a great country where people can have freedom of assembly,” he said. Unfortunately, the organizers of the counter-conference will “try to project their experience onto all of us, when in fact thousands of people, myself included, have overcome homosexuality.”
Each year, Exodus’ annual conference features keynote speakers and lectures denouncing equality and tolerance for same-sex-attracted persons; generalizing from their own sexually and spiritually irresponsible pasts to the same-sex-attracted population as a whole; and demanding that Exodus’ discredited cookie-cutter approach to sexual struggle be forced upon youths in public schools.
The Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference, on the other hand, will feature no keynote speakers and will consist instead of workshops in which former ex-gays finally speak for themselves about their own personal and spiritual journeys.
As survivor’s conference co-organizer Peterson Toscano points out:
Our gathering next week is about people, not protest. It’s about pastoral care, not propaganda.
By Exodus’ own admission, ex-gay “therapies” either don’t work or cause further harm for more than 70 percent of participants. So if there are “thousands” of ex-gays who live celibate same-sex-attracted or bisexual lives while misidentifying themselves as former homosexuals, then by Exodus’ admission, there are tens of thousands of people, loved by God, whom Exodus member ministries shun.
Exodus’ misbehavior reminds me of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son told by Jesus of Nazareth.
In that parable, a wayward son demands his inheritance from his father, departs, and wastes the inheritance in a bout of reckless living. After coming to his senses, the son returns home seeking mercy from his father. Jesus praises the father for welcoming home the prodigal son with gifts and sacrifice, while warning against the arrogance and envy expressed by a brother who is well-behaved but ungracious and selfish.
The parable might be applied to Exodus’ treatment of former ex-gays in two different ways:
1. Former ex-gays are the father, waiting for politically wayward and reckless ex-gays to come to their senses and return home to a nonpartisan faith and honest lifestyle.
2. Ex-gays are the envious brother who obey the letter of the law while forgetting to offer grace, hospitality, and self-sacrifice when their prodigal brethren, the former ex-gays, return home in hope of reconciliation.
Exodus would be wise — albeit politically incorrect — to honor the message of Jesus by modeling the grateful and generous father or the repentant prodigal, and not the unrepentant brother.
It was inhospitable, and therefore un-Biblical, for Exodus senior leadership to reject the survivors’ dinner invitation in the especially snide and political manner demonstrated by Thomas and Focus on the Family. But it’s not too late for other Exodus-affiliated ministers to honor the Bible and return the hospitality that has been offered — if not by accepting the invitation, then at least by acknowledging the invitation and opening channels for possible future communication.
It’s About People — Not Protest