Claiming a new focus on ministry, Exodus president Alan Chambers confirms that they have left the political arena. Seeking to verify a rumor, XGW asked Chambers to respond for the record today. His answers may be particularly significant considering the recent discussions (both here and on Warren Throckmorton’s blog) with Wendy Gritter, leader of Exodus member ministry New Direction.
XGW: We’ve heard that changes have been made regarding Exodus’ direct involvement in politics. Can you confirm and explain what these are? What changes have been made, i.e. what were you doing and what are you doing now in this realm?
Chambers: It may sound nuanced but we weren’t really involved in “politics.” We never worked for the direct election or defeat of a candidate.
We did get involved in “policy issues” on a federal level with regard to hate crimes legislation and marriage. We considered getting more involved than that. In fact, as you know, we hired a Director of Government Affairs in March, 2007.
Since the first day we entered into policy discussions and activism it was a struggle for us. I felt strongly about the issues we were defending, but conflicted about the fact that we might be alienating people that simply wouldn’t call us for help because of the perception that we were becoming a partisan and political organization rather than a ministry for all.
In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.
I believe strongly in all of the initiatives that we were involved in, but believe we must focus on our two greatest contributions: 1) helping the Church balance grace and truth where homosexuality is concerned and 2) connecting people who seek our help with a community of believers that can love them as they journey towards Christ.
XGW: What prompted these changes?
Chambers: Conviction. The Lord’s leading. People.
XGW: Are these changes permanent or do you have plans for the future in this area?
Chambers: One area that we found to be incredibly beneficial was simply sharing our stories with lawmakers. If and when there are opportunities to do that we will.
As for lobbying, promoting policies, etc., I don’t see us being involved in the near or distant future. Will we ever feel the need to get involved? Maybe—as a ministry we care about religious freedom and we are always watching to see how changes in policy might negatively impact our freedom.
There isn’t anyone on staff that has policy in their job description and we don’t plan to spend money there. We believe using our resources on the Exodus Church Network and ministry outreach is more central to our mission.
XGW: For the record, when did you formally end Exodus’ political
Chambers: August, 2007. 2008, however, marked a complete refocus on ministry.
For at least the past couple of years, XGW has led the charge to persuade Exodus of the importance of just such a move. As with the comments from Gritter, many will be skeptical and perhaps with good reason. Only time will tell if this really does represent a major shift for Exodus, but for now it doesn’t seem like a bad thing.
There is also this post today on Chamber’s personal blog. About the thread mentioned above he writes:
There are a lot of challenging things written in the XGW thread (post and comments) on Wendy that I am thinking and praying about. What is said by gay activists is not lost on me. I do care how people are impacted by my words, actions and ministry. Ironically, I know the Lord uses every voice, suggestion, encouragement and criticism to shape me.
What do we make of all this? We will continue to have major ideological differences with ex-gay ministries, and they will most likely continue to exist, at least for the foreseeable future. Still, do we see this as good news, or an effort to put a new face on old wrongs? And if the latter, what would real change look like?