Ex-Gay Leader Andrew Comiskey Fires First Volley in Exodus Civil War
Andrew Comiskey, founder and current leader of Desert Stream Ministries (Living Waters), has posted what appears to be the first public criticism of Exodus President Alan Chambers recent rebranding efforts. In a letter to unspecified recipients, Comiskey describes the importance of reparatve therapy to what Exodus does, and the prevalence of the Living Waters brand of therapy in the Exodus network. He describes their “concern over Exodus distancing itself from reparative therapy.” There was some indication of this in a discussion between Comiskey and Joseph Nicolosi that we reported on recently.
We at DSM are only indebted to the good of reparative therapy and its underpinnings in developmental psychology. How else would we understand how we become disintegrated in our gender identities, as well as gain objective markers en route to wholeness?
We cannot afford to distance ourselves from the whole healing community, which must involve solid reparative therapists. They can do what we cannot in our ministries, and vice-versa. We need them!
Comiskey goes on to question Chamber’s theological underpinnings, claiming that he has put too much emphasis on his Baptist tradition of “once saved, always saved” in supposedly claiming that gays can be Christians. He refers to comments Chambers made at the Gay Christian Network conference in January. And there is great concern for positions held in a book by Chamber’s pastor.
That brings us to the suspicion cast upon a book Pure Grace, written by Clark Whitten, who is the chairperson of the Exodus Board and pastor to Alan Chambers (Exodus president.) Some Exodus members are concerned that such ‘pure grace’ will actually contaminate the offering of Exodus by making the narrow way broad and inclusive of practicing gay Christians. (Alan recently addressed such a group and referenced their common destination of heaven.)
Whitten insists that grace alone, simply received, covers and overcomes one’s sin and renders any human effort worldly, a work of the flesh. Like many Christian authors, he overstates his case, using Scripture selectively. He is convinced that the biggest problem facing Christians is legalism, heavy-handed religion that would be overcome simply by resting in what God has done for us. He also appears to believe that this is the Truth which will usher in a new reformation. Like many in his neo-Baptist, evangelical tradition, he believes in ‘once saved, always saved’, thus Alan’s belief inthe possibility of heaven for practicing gays who are ‘saved’.
Comiskey goes on to describe a world that is less open to his brand of ex-gay therapy, even churches deny them an audience. He considers this a bad thing, and a sign that the tables have turned and that heavy handed legalism is no longer the problem. He then ends with four recommendations for Chambers and Exodus. These read very much like a shot across the bow of the ship Exodus, a warning to Chambers to fly right or get out.
- That a distinction be made between Alan’s calling and job description, and the needs of the member ministries. Alan is not equipped to handle all that he is currently trying to do. We perceive him as neither a theologian nor a healer but as an inspirer and evangelist, a bridge-builder in need of refinement. He is being chastened for making unfortunate comments. God bless him; haven’t we all? We trust that those he trusts will help him to stay low and clarify the way forward for his renewed season of service.
- In order for DSM to remain a member ministry, we need to see a higher caliber of commitment to theological and clinical excellence from Exodus. Consider the courage of those with SSA who are seeking genuine integration. They deserve the best! The stakes are high—we are all experiencing the fall-out from a few misplaced, well-intentioned words. We must all do our part, and could draw upon expert friends of Exodus, e.g. Nicolosi and Gagnon, and Exodus elders like the Worthens and Joe Dallas.
- The process of distinguishing Alan’s role and that of the member ministries must be done slowly and carefully, with Alan playing a reduced role (at best) in the process. We would suggest team leadership here, and sensitive protocol between these newly distinguished expressions of Exodus.
- Pray more and facebook less. We could all repent of a little wounded self-importance. Those overcoming same-sex attraction are inclined to narcissism and its wounds. We all need to get low and give this work back to Jesus. We at DSM hesitate to follow any one person’s lead. Jesus will make such things clear as we wait together.
To us this reads as the first public shot in the coming insurrection at Exodus. Regardless of whether Chambers is sincere in his recent positions, many Exodus member ministries are hard line “change is possible” and reparative therapy proponents. This rebranding of their organization into something other than that must be rubbing them the wrong way. The only question has been whether they would split off from Exodus and form a new group, or try to oust Chambers and his board. If this letter is any indication, the latter seems to be their decision, at least for now.
Read the full letter here.
I hear from those who are still in the DSM, Exodus circles that Comiskey is now catholic (which is apparently a new development?) and is taking DSM the way of other conservative Catholic ministries.
Perhaps a prematurely fired First Volley considering the fact that the link is still dead, perhaps out of concern over biting the hand that feeds them?
Reparative therapy is a dead end and I think that increasingly even people is “ex-gay” groups are coming to recognize this or at least realize that it does more harm to their image then good. I wonder if we could see a split with Reparative therapy groups falling under NARTH and the others falling under exodus?
Alan Chambers has complained that Exodus is a “big ship” that is very hard to steer. Now, it seems that breaking Exodus’ alliance with NARTH — coupled with Chambers’ admission that “99.9% don’t change their sexual orientation” may be the iceberg that finally dooms the boat.
@Pomo That would really put things into perspective. Although Exodus claims to be a “big ship,” it’s still a mostly evangelical organization. I think they’ve always had a difficult time holding on to devout Roman Catholic members. This also puts Comiskey’s dig on Chambers’s Baptist theology into context.
Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that. I sent a message to Comiskey after the link went dead and asked the reason or if the text was changing. No reply has been received as of yet.
That was predictable. There’s only so long Chambers can keep up this schtick of trying to be all things to all people (aka, fudging, deceiving, manipulating, etc).
I thought one of the more interesting parts of the letter is where Comiskey is attacking Alan’s pastor’s theology. This is definitely cutting Alan off at the knees. Behind the curtain in the shadows is J. Nicolosi.
I have made this point before and I will make it again, Nicolosi cannot let his cash cow turn away from him. How does he get most of his business? And it IS a business, referrals, that is how. If Exodus no longer refers people to Nicolosi he cannot sustain his business, and it IS a business.
I recently listened to the hour radio talk show that Nicolosi gave on Catholic Radio. He says he has 137 clients (I don’t call them patients because being gay is not a disease, and does not need to be cured) 137 clients for 7 therapists. That works out to about 20 clients per therapist.
IF the therapist meets, or counsels over Skype, 20 clients per week in one hour sessions, and each client comes back every single week, then the therapists are only working part time, they have a 20 hour workweek. And that is 20 hours per week IF every single client has the money to pay for a session every single week. If they meet with clients every two weeks, they are all working considerably less than 20 hours per week.
Do the math, Nicolosi is loosing business and he is behind this effort to oust Alan Chambers. It is not hard to figure this out, just do the math. I am a small business owner, if I produce a product that nobody buys, I am out of business. I am going to fight back against anybody who smears me and my product leading to a decline in sales. It is just like Watergate, follow the money. Everybody is only working part time in Nicolosi’s office, he gave us his numbers just last week on Catholic Radio. It wasn’t until I listened to the whole show that I picked up on the fact that his client base is spread around 7 “therapists”, I thought Nicolosi was treating all 137 clients himself and bringing in over $40,000 a month. Take that $40,000 back out overhead and salaries for 7 “therapists” plus support staff, yeah Nicolosi is fighting for his existence.
If Cominskey has turned Catholic it is no wonder Nicolosi is going there for support.
Well the theology point is interesting because it exposes why these groups don’t want to acknowledge the possibility of a gay Christian. If people can be gay and a Christian then many of their clients would not continue working with them as most of them have been raised to believe that they have to fight against their sexual orientation to be saved. So Comiskey is basically complaining that Chamber’s theology is bad for business.
It appears the information about Comiskey’s conversion to Catholicism is true. That adds all sorts of doctrinal baggage to this schism. No doubt there are those who split away from DSM for that reason as well.
Oh Boy! There’s some shakin’ in the woods! Andy Comisky has been relatively absent from Exodus, other than a periodic speaking role at a national conference, for many years. I am a little surprised that he feels such a need to become the protector of the “Reparative Therapy” model! Andy’s ministry has been for the most part a “healing prayer” model with some teaching components.
It feels like a church that is splitting between contemporary music and traditional music and all of a sudden members who have been in moth balls come back for the vote to keep it old school. They haven’t attended in years but don’t want any changes to take place so they ruin it for those who are alive, and moving forward.
I found the letter on DSM’s site at http://www.desertstream.org/Publisher/File.aspx?ID=1000036076. (It was in the “Free Resources” section of the site linked to from the main page.)
I find it VERY telling that Andy seems to indicate a mutual allegience with DSM and those he calls “expert friends of Exodus”: Nicolosi, Gagnon, Dallas and the Worthens.
It sounds to me like he ASSUMES they agree with him –and his critique of Alan’s leadership. Along with NARTH and Gagnon, Commiskey seems to be indicating three major parts of Exodus throughout the years… now united in opposition to Alan’s Chambers leadership:
Commiskey’s “Desert Stream””, Joe Dallas’ “Genesis” and Frank Worthens’ “Love In Action” have historically been huge players within Exodus — a major chunk of its history, message and methods. Can you imagine Exodus without them?
Try to name three other Exodus affiliates who are more known to the church, the public and the press. It can’t be done. What’s left of Exodus if they DO leave? And who would be left standing on Alan’s side if they did? Are they just trying to pressure Alan OUT –so one of their programs can step in?
I don’t think I’m overstating to say “Exodus is in SERIOUS trouble”. They KNOW there is no “science” to support them. They have admitted that people don’t change their sexual orientation from gay to straight. What’s left?
Take away junk science and promises of orientation change and what kind of “Exodus” remains? Would it even BE “Exodus”? Who would be attracted to such an organization?
Either Exodus will “rebrand” in the direction that Alan Chambers claims he wants to “steer the boat” — or there WILL be mutiny.
Well Michael, if they cut Alan free then he will be free to speak his mind then won’t he? I wonder if this concerns them at all?
Hah! Catholic Comiskey + Catholic Nicolosi
The attacks on not just Alan but Alan’s Pastors orthodoxy…. hmmmmmmmm
I wonder if Alan will cave? Kowtow? Genuflect to Rome? What do you think the odds are?
Thanks DM, I’ve updated our links.
Hmmm. Catholic teaching, post-Catechism, has been that homosexual orientation is NOT subject to change. It’s just a cross to bear (via mandatory celibacy, of course): “offer it up”, and you might become a saint (just don’t try to become a priest!)
And, conversion or no, what could be more “Protestant” than this? “Like many Christian authors, he overstates his case, using Scripture selectively.” [FWIW, I always know that when someone accuses *me* of “using Scripture selectively” or says “you’re misinterpreting Scripture”, that’s EXACTLY the time to check-out of a futile waste-of-my-time. Only “Uh-huh”, “Nyuh-uh!” can result. :-X]
I’m trying not to have too much Schadenfreude for A Chambers. Still this is a CLASSIC “Get Popcorn!” situation. Anti-Gay/Still-Totally-Gay INFIGHTING. If it diverts ’em from wrecking any more vulnerable LGBT lives, it’s all good. ;-/
First, here is my understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Chastity and homosexuality
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
So then, it would seem that Andy’s ministry will radically change, right?
– Reparative Therapy holds that there is a cause that can be ‘repaired’. Homosexuality in the Catholic Catechism holds that the “psychological genesis remains largely unexplained”. Therefore, there is (within the Catechism) normally an unexplained cause, and reparative therapy would address only a very small audience by happenstance. There is no universal cause for homosexuality within the Catechism.
– I believe Andy’s DSM holds to full reversal (change from homosexual to heterosexual) being strongly possible, though incremental. The Catechism holds that homosexuality is “for most of them a trial” – that is, a condition to be endured, not changed. Therefore, the catechism calls the homosexual to “chastity” and not to “change”. Further, the Catechism calls the homosexual to “self-mastery” that will teach them “inner freedom” – not ‘teach them heterosexuality’, but “inner freedom”. I believe the writers of the Catechism carefully selected their words.
If the leader of the DSM holds to the Catholic faith, and to its Catechism, and then believes the DSM will stay outside of the influence of his Catholic faith and its Catechism, then he has very limited influence upon his organization, and is only a figure-head.
My sense was that Andy had great influence on DSM. He was and is not just a figure-head. Therefore, Andy may have set the stage for his own organization’s division.
Not a division over Andy’s conversion; but a division over the Catechism.
I mean no ill will towards our brother-in-the-faith, that is, towards Andy. I want to show him great mercy, so that Jesus measures to me great mercy [Matt 7:1-2]. I feel strongly called towards the authority of scripture; he feels strongly called towards a church that supports high morality. But, the scripture asks “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” [Amos 3:3]. I offer that a leader cannot agree to the Catechism, while his organization agrees to Reparative therapy, and “walk together” for any great distance.
Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn
I went to the Courage Conference in 2011. The event had many exgay therapists. The keynote speaker Father Groeschel shocked the audience by talking about our spiritual connectedness to Buddhists and how he felt that one day there may be female Priests, Cardinals, and even a female Pope….this is all on DVD if you don’t believe me.