Last month, we reported that Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago evangelical megachurch, had cut ties with ex-gay organization Exodus International. Today, Christianity Today reported the story with reaction from Exodus President Alan Chambers.
Predictably, Chambers makes the break all about Exodus, revealing an attitude we’ve seen before:
The choice to end our partnership is definitely something that shines a light on a disappointing trend within parts of the Christian community, which is that there are Christians who believe like one another who aren’t willing to stand with one another, simply because they’re afraid of the backlash people will direct their way if they are seen with somebody who might not be politically correct. … I really do think decisions like this, ultimately, highlight a reticence in the church to stand up for biblical truth, and they’re coming at a time when we’re going to have to stand up for what we believe.
As far as Exodus is concerned, if you reject the organization, its message and its methods, you’ve rejected God’s truth. Chambers added:
Biblical truth is unpopular, and when you’re supporting unpopular truth, you are unpopular too; which means, some days, getting upwards of 10,000 phone calls and emails, and it can be overwhelming.
(We found the 10,000-a-day claim as risible as Truth Wins Out did, by the way.)
Willow Creek’s response indicates it may be indeed be pursuing a softer approach to the issue of homosexuality:
Willow Creek has a whole host of ministries for people dealing with these issues, and we would never intend for them to feel sidelined. All we’ve changed is how we’ve gone about inviting them into the church, which is the primary issue here.
CT notes that the church’s founder and senior pastor, Bill Hybels, met with pro-gay Christian activist group Soulforce a few years ago.
Mark Yarhouse, however, a conservative Christian social scientist whose revealing research into ex-gay marriages we reported on earlier this week, also chimed in on news of the split. CT writes:
Mark Yarhouse, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University, agrees that the primary issue in the split is not abandonment of the gay community but simply a shift in tone toward gays.
“Churches are realizing that while there is a small contingent of the gay community responding to language like ‘freedom from homosexuality’ or ‘freedom is possible,’ the vast majority strongly disagree. They’re angry and they believe it’s impossible to change, and to hear this is so offensive that they will have nothing to do with Christians. So I think churches, in response to that vast majority who say, ‘We’re not interested,’ have decided to look at other approaches in an attempt to connect with the gay community on at least some level. That doesn’t mean that churches disagree with the language of ‘freedom from homosexuality’ doctrinally; they’ve just found that it doesn’t work on a social level.”