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.