In its June 13, 2002, press release, the ex-gay network Exodus International reflected on recent meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention:
Prayer & Action for the Catholic Bishops in Dallas and for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in St. Louis is needed now as both groups are receiving persecution from the homosexual community.
You wouldn’t know it from the press release, but the SBC was being pressured by devout Catholics and Protestants, as well as Jews and other people of faith. Several were heterosexual, others were celibate, and one in particular had been “married” to his gay partner for almost 30 years.
A pro-homosexual group actually disrupted a meeting with 50 people being arrested: 12 going into the meeting hall hurling insults and slander with 38 more outside.
According to media reports, the faith-based protest group Soulforce had sought a civil discussion with Southern Baptist leaders. In return the SBC told the Soulforce group that its members were going to hell — no need to talk.
The indoor protesters were dressed in their Sunday best. When they walked up toward the stage and shouted, “Stop killing us!” and “Meet with us!”, they were arrested and escorted where the SBC leadership believes tolerant religious folks belong — outside Christian territory. Outside, 38 other religious protesters peacefully blocked one entrance and were jailed.
In its press release, Exodus repeatedly asks readers to pray for antigay Christians and for Exodus itself. It does not seek prayers for homosexual people nor for tolerant Christians, Jews, Muslims or anyone else. Exodus concludes:
Encourage Catholic and Baptist Leadership: Send emails; write letters or take whatever action would bless these leaders. The first motivation is to bless and encourage them as they face and deal with these tenuous issues. Pray for them to have boldness while offering hope for those with unwanted homosexuality. Challenge these beloved leaders to remain bold and provide finances and resources for their denomination to provide a safe place of hope and healing for the homosexual struggler that attend their churches. Offer to pray for the Catholic Church and the SBC and help them in any way needed.
Unfortunately for Exodus, Catholic officials — Bishop Wilton Gregory, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Joaquin Navarro-Valls and others — have sought the eviction of ex-gay (celibate same-sex-attracted) men from the priesthood, saying men with such attractions are unfit for the priesthood because they have sacrificed a life of sin (homosexual sex) instead of a life of virtue (heterosexual marriage). The Vatican plans to screen U.S. seminaries, where by most accounts 30 percent of students pursuing vows of chastity are same-sex-attracted.
What Exodus thought it was praying for becomes unclear. Was it praying for the church to prosecute pedophiles, or to evict exgays as well as gays from the priesthood?
In any event, since the Dallas meeting, these same antigay church officials have resumed defending pedophile priests in their dioceses, saying they owe the peds a debt of gratitude for their years of unpaid service and devotion. Here’s a published history of the bishops’ close involvement with pedophiles.
Meanwhile, the Catholic witchhunt against gays and exgays reinforces an uncomfortable silence about sexual issues that has always dogged Catholic seminaries. The enforced silence about sexuality has even made life very uncomfortable for heterosexual seminarians.
It seems to me that a true pro-exgay agenda would
- challenge bishops who associate both gays and exgays with pedophilia,
- pray for people beyond one’s own conservative faith circle, and
- stop church efforts to silence and terminate same-sex-attracted priests who obey their vows.
Instead, Exodus was betrayed June 13 by its own little bit of narcissism — its refusal to engage people, faiths and facts beyond its own milieu.
The board of Exodus is dominated by Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God. Lacking Catholic or mainstream Protestant representation, Exodus is at risk for misstatements and pejorative assumptions about other denominations and faiths.
In an age where accountability matters, Exodus still needs an accountant.