Exodus International President Alan Chambers has published his reflections on what he said to a conference of gay Christians last month.
Speaking to the Gay Christian Network in January, Chambers enthusiastically greeted GCN leader Justin Lee as his “brother in Christ”:
I honestly trust [Justin Lee], and I honestly like him, and I honestly believe that he loves Jesus and that we are brothers in Christ and that we will spend eternity together … and because of that, the thing that brought me here first and foremost is: We’re Christians, all of us. We may have diverging viewpoints … but the thing that brings us together, the thing that causes us to even want to have this dialogue, or need to have this dialogue, is the fact that we all love Jesus. We all serve him. We serve the very same God and believe very different things.
Now Alan Chambers wants his constituents to know he wasn’t endorsing the faith of gay Christians. While he told Lee he viewed him as someone who loved Jesus and served him, he is now at pains to assure Exodus’s conservative evangelical Christian supporters he still regards gay Christians as sinful people who have turned their backs on Jesus:
As an adoptive father, my children are irrevocably mine. They may disown me, stop talking to me and sin against me, but that does not change the fact that they are mine and always will be. I believe the same is true of God with His adopted children.
Thus, I believe that people who sin (all of us) can be Christian if they have accepted that free gift of salvation. If someone ever knew Christ, they still do.
In other words, he doesn’t really believe gay Christians love Jesus and serve him, an impression he unmistakably intended to create at GCN. He believes they may have once been saved, and therefore, because of a theological loophole, they may still go to heaven. But essentially they’re wayward children who have disowned God, stopped talking to God and are sinning against God. He said one thing at the conference and another thing today.
As I pointed out immediately following the controversial GCN panel appearance, Chambers has a habit of doublespeak on this issue of gay Christians, as he did last year when he told the Oprah network he expected to see gays in heaven. It was obvious to me that he would have to do the same backpedalling after the GCN conference; it was only a matter of time.
He goes on to downplay his remarks that “99.9 percent of the people I know have not changed their sexual orientation.” He meant that “complete orientation change occurs very rarely” [emphasis mine].
I or one of my co-contributors will unpack more of these statements next week. For now, I’ll offer one more observation about what Alan Chambers did and didn’t say at the GCN conference, which some bloggers lauded as a sign of progress for Exodus. Chambers failed to take responsibility for Exodus International’s actions.
Asked about the message “Change is possible,” he claimed Exodus had always meant something more nuanced than America heard (it was a misunderstanding after all); asked about the dubious practices of Exodus member ministries, he protested he was unaware of any problems; confronted with the story of a gay teen coerced into treatment by an Exodus ministry, his first instinct was to question the integrity of the report. Pressed for an apology for his organization’s past promises of sexual orientation change, he said he was sorry Exodus had been “ambiguous.” His tired excuses were that “we serve a messy God,” and that Exodus hasn’t always been great at communication.
Things will start to change when people who wield such power over the lives of others accept full responsibility for the harm they cause and take concrete steps to undo the damage. Alan Chambers and Exodus International have yet to come close.