There has been a lot of discussion lately over the attendance of Exodus President Alan Chambers at a recent Gay Christian Network conference (GCN). Chambers participated in a panel discussion with former Love In Action director John Smid, Courage UK founder Jeremy Marks, and Wendy Gritter, Executive Director of New Direction ministry in Canada (a former Exodus affiliate, now gay affirming). This was Friday evening, January 6, 2012.
Controversy exists over a number of issues. Among other things, GCN serves as a refuge of sorts for gay Christians who had bad experiences with ex-gay ministries or who have simply reconciled their faith and their sexuality and seek a place to fellowship with others in similar circumstances. This is a simplistic and incomplete description but more detail will come with subsequent posts.
The purpose of this post is to provide a copy of the email which was sent out to conference attendees on December 29, 2011. You may have heard this discussed as you read over accounts of the event. It has been claimed by some that this email was sufficient to warn those attendees who might be traumatized, hurt or made uncomfortable by the presence of any of those mentioned above and therefore give them a chance to avoid the conference. The email was sent after registration was over and travel arrangements had been completed.
We provide this for those wishing to evaluate the facts surrounding this incident to judge for yourselves if this email constitutes sufficient warning. Since we have not seen it posted in any other convenient locations, we are doing so at XGW. Please feel free to discussion your opinions. Keep in mind that it was certain long before this email went out that at least some if not all of the panelists would be in attendance. Also, we were told that no one contacted GCN as a result of this email.
The entire email is available in PDF format here.. Or you may read the germane section below:
AN IMPORTANT NOTE
The vast majority of the attendees of the GCN conference are typically in agreement with GCN’s mission, purpose, and values. However, GCN’s conference has always had an open-door policy, so you may encounter people at the conference whose beliefs, values, and views differ markedly from your own and/or from GCN’s.
Because Orlando is also home to the world’s largest “ex-gay” organization, there may be people affiliated with the ex-gay movement who decide to register and attend part or all of the conference this year.
Our policy remains unchanged: Anyone is welcome to attend the conference, even if they don’t agree with GCN’s mission, but we do ask them to respect the conference’s purpose and behave accordingly. As always, we reserve the right to remove anyone whose behavior, in the sole discretion of GCN’s conference team, is distracting from or working against the stated purpose of the event.
What should you do if you encounter someone whose views are different from GCN’s? Whether that person is a concerned Christian parent, a curious non-Christian, or a member of the ex-gay movement, we encourage you to welcome them with generosity and compassion. The GCN conference is a life-changing experience for many, and it just might change that person’s perspective.
However, in the unlikely event that you encounter someone who is making you uncomfortable or engaging in inappropriate behavior (seeking sexual contacts, advocating a message contrary to GCN’s, etc.), please notify a member of the conference team immediately.
We are also aware that some members of our community have strong emotional reactions to the topic of ex-gay ministry, due to their own painful experiences. If you are concerned about the possibility of encountering someone who might trigger something painful for you, please contact our office in advance of the conference, and we will work with you to address your specific needs and ensure that you are able to attend the conference safely and happily.
In all of our interactions at this year’s conference, let us continually strive to embody our theme, “Ambassadors of Reconciliation,” seeking out ways to build bridges and change lives without compromising our faith or our integrity, as we share Christ’s light and love for all.