Alan Chamber’s Opening Address
On June 19, 2013, the first evening of the 38th annual Exodus Freedom Conference, President Alan Chambers announced to attendees that Exodus International was shutting down. He did not make this announcement until the end of a one hour speech.
Eighteen months ago, leaders with the North American region of Exodus International met to discuss the future of the organization which Alan Chambers described as an organization “entrenched in rules” and “behavior, sin management, and shutting out God.”
According to Alan Chambers the organization considered four options as to how to proceed: stay the same; rebrand; modify; or shut down. He referred to rebranding as putting “lipstick on the pig to make it look different.” Even though the group chose to “modify” the organization, it didn’t seem to work.
So when the Board of Director recently reevaluated their chosen path of “modification” Alan Chambers said that they realized that “God doesn’t want us to modify Exodus anymore.” The attendees seemed to be stunned at this announcement. There was no audible reaction from the crowd.
Apology to Gays and Lesbians
Prior to making a public announcement of Exodus International shutting down, Alan Chambers reached out to Lisa Ling of the television broadcast Our America in search of a public forum in which to issue a public apology to gay and lesbian individuals who had been “harmed” by Exodus International.
According to Alan Chambers, Lisa Ling asked if he would be willing to speak directly to some of the individuals who had been harmed by the program. He agreed but reportedly asked not to be involved in choosing the individuals who participated in the discussion.
At least two of the participants Dr. Jallen Rex and Gail Dickert, were from the organization Beyond Ex-Gay. Having personally heard stories of Beyond Ex-Gay members with Exodus International, it was very difficult to watch the video of individuals sitting in the room with Alan Chambers and his wife as he read his apology to them. The pain was palpable.
Reactions from others regarding Alan Chamber’s apology have been mixed. For some individuals the apology triggers old wounds and for others, anger. Some feel the apology was sincere.
What’s Next for Alan Chambers?
So what’s next for Alan Chambers and Exodus International? In his speech to the conference attendees he stated that “local affiliated ministries which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.”
He also told the participants that “this is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” The new website reducefear.org is still under construction.
Support for Gay and Lesbians
Alan Chambers told the conference participants that Exodus International would never abandon them but seemed to struggle with offering any specific support at this time. As he stumbled he told them that he hoped they already had some type of support system in place.
So I began thinking of organizations that already exist that help to “reduce fear” and are “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” Soulforce is one of these organizations. Their mission is to work nonviolently to end the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ people. Soulforce Executive Director Dr. Cindi Love wrote a letter to Alan Chambers after the announcement inviting the organization to go beyond the apology and be a change agent in very specific ways. A copy of her letter is available here.
Another organization that is a “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming community” is Beyond Ex-Gay. They are in the process of visioning for their future and are soliciting ideas. Both organizations are available to help those in need and would appreciate the gift of your time, ideas, and monetary support. Check them out. They are worth it.