The Demise of Exodus International

Aug 31st, 2013 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

Recent polls now show that a majority of major Christian denominations, including Catholics, support legalized same-sex marriage.  This is a tectonic shift:  In 2004, 36% of Catholics and 34% of mainline Protestants supported legalizing gay marriage; today 57% and 55% of mainline Protestants do so.  Among evangelical Protestants, the shift has been less dramatic?11% in 2004 to 24% today.  Molly Bull in The Atlantic writes that ?[This shift] is the fruit of an aggressive campaign by a determined gay-rights movement that realized, particularly in the wake of the 2004 elections, that you cannot win politically in America if you are arguing against religious faith.?  Until recently, religion was on one side, while gay rights was on the other.  Central to this strategy was the effort to redefine the issue.  Where it had always been an issue centered on what used to be called ?family values,? the various leaders of the LGBT community shifted the emphasis to compassion, tolerance and humility.  This was the way President Obama defended his shift on gay marriage about a year ago, so it has been an effective strategy.  Even evangelical leaders such as Jim Daly, the new leader of Focus on the Family, and Russell Moore, the new head of the Southern Baptist Convention, are stressing forgiveness, while they lower the intensity of their talking points on gay marriage.


This shift is part of the context for a momentous development earlier this summer?the demise of Exodus International.  On 19 June 2013, the leader of Exodus, Alan Chambers, announced that after 40 years of operation, Exodus International was shutting down all of its operations.  The public reason for this decision focused on Exodus being too judgmental and, according to Chambers, ?I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights you seek.?  Chambers also issued an online apology to homosexuals, especially that Exodus has promoted reparative therapy??a method that focuses on relationships between homosexuals and their parents when examining causes for homosexuality.?  He likewise apologized for concealing his own ongoing struggle with same-sex attraction.  Exodus helped him 20 years ago; he later married and he and his wife adopted two children.  Marriage, he contends, does not ?cure? homosexuality or eliminate same-sex attractions.  Chambers still retains the belief that homosexuality is sin, but is not convinced that children are in any way harmed by living with same-sex parents.


Dorothy and Christopher Greco, who were former leaders of Exodus International, have written a most helpful perspective on the demise of Exodus International.  They identify several important reasons for its collapse.

1. There was a failure of leadership development and supervision at Exodus.  Christopher helped found an Exodus ministry in the mid-1980s but resigned after two years because ?I hadn?t yet experienced the relational wholeness that I both longed for and promised to others.  A co-leader simultaneously initiated a sexual relationship with one who had come to us for help.  It was textbook bad leadership.?  The promotion of immature, earnest leaders, who were not held accountable for failing to practice what they preached, was destructive for Exodus.

2. Exodus chose to focus exclusively on homosexuality and thereby lacked meaningful engagement with the ?diverse Body of Christ.?  Greco writes:  ?This mono-focus may have reinforced the message that their brokenness was somehow more egregious because participants failed to hear how similar their struggles were to other non-same sex attraction members (SSA) of the church.  Furthermore, excessive moral pressure was placed on those with SSA to attain measurable outcomes of healing (i.e., marriage), none of which were expected of non-SSA Christians.  Actual sexual sobriety is not a priority in most Christian churches, and yet they demand it of any member of the LGBT community almost as soon as they shake hands with the greeters.?

3. There is arguably a double standard in many evangelical churches when it comes to sexuality.  Many almost ?wink? at heterosexual promiscuity and even pornography, but come down hard on LGBT members, who are struggling.

4. The Greco?s also argue that Exodus perpetuated a ?faulty theology of suffering.?  In so many areas of our struggle, we ask God to take away our suffering?with disease, with temptation, with obesity, with alcohol, etc.  When it seems that God has not answered, what are our options then?  They write quite perceptively that, ?To be transformed into the image of Christ, we must suffer as Christ did; a suffering too great for any individual to bear alone.  The suffering of the woman with unshakeable lesbian longings who decides to live a chaste life is no less intense or noble than that of the single, middle age, heterosexual woman who longs for a husband and children.  Nor is it any less real for those of us who have prayed repeatedly for God to take away cancer or some other pernicious disease, even as we watch our bodies betray us.?


What the Bible declares then is true:  Transformation is difficult and suffering is often a dimension of that, for this is how God refines, hones and sharpens His children.  Listen to Chambers at the conference where the death of Exodus was announced:  ?We?re not going to control people anymore. . .We?re not going to tell them how they should live.  We?re not going to be responsible for what they?re doing . . .[We] are not the Holy Spirit. . .We are called to proclaim. . . the riches of his grace and mercy. . . I don?t care what you?re doing?as long as they?re inside the community.?  One certainly understands what he is trying to say, but is not Alan Chambers actually declaring that the power of God to transform is not so great, not so powerful, and not so adequate?  I believe that the Greco?s are absolutely correct:  The evangelical church has a ?faulty theology of suffering.?  After all did not James declare, ?Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials??  James argues that this is how God transforms us, how He shapes and molds us.  That is true for every person who has made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, including those who are struggling with SSA.


Rosaria Butterfield, who has publically shared her journey from a lesbian professor of queer theory to a Christian, homeschooling her children and the wife of a pastor, says that parachurch ministries come and go, but the local church must seize the opportunity to reach out to those in need, including SSA, LGBT human beings.  She writes:  ?I hope the church can now be more intentionally ready.  We appeal to a great God who in His sovereignty knows better than we do what we need and where we are.?  No one could say it better!


See Molly Bull, ?The Quiet Gay-Rights Revolution in America?s Churches? in (15 August 2013); Jamie Dean, ?Leaving Exodus? in World (13 July 2013); Andree Seu Peterson in World (27 July 2013); and Dorothy and Christopher Greco ?Our Eulogy to Exodus International? in (25 June 2013).  PRINT PDF

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2 Comments to “The Demise of Exodus International”

  1. Charlene Ellis says:

    Kinda sad and overwhelming isn’t it. I wish we were not all guilty of categorizing sin, but we are. And yes, some sin seems so despicable and does such great damage to society. I think perhaps the saddest of all is that the Church does not know what to do with sin. We categorize them into sorta bad, tolerable, intolerable and mete out justice based on this mentality. If just one person who knows who they are in Christ, knows that they have been forgiven their own personal sin and are grateful and humble because of their redemption, would just meet with that one needy person in their own church situation, we could change the church and the world. It would not eliminate our needs but the sufficiency of Christ would meet their needs where they are at one day at a time. And love always wins…James says that, mercy triumphs over justice. How grateful I am for my two mentors years ago. I thought I was just a “little sinner” but when I saw the depth of my sin in light of the holiness of Christ…well, the problem was, the world situation and “nice” people enticed me and it terrified me. I repented and never looked back. because I was free in Christ and what He did for me. 🙂 And yes, it is a spiritual battle for the rest of our lives, but it was won for me at the cross.

    Thanks for your weekly articles.

  2. Kai says:

    Pastor Bill I have listened to your temtosiny and I never realized how similar your “story” is to Brandon’s. He is still with Terry and in Washington, but as I listened to your temtosiny I was reminded of a passage I read from a book that Jenetzen Franklin wrote that stated when one of his children was going through a rebellious time people would ask him what is wrong with your child and that God told him to respond “he is working on his temtosiny”. I have adapted this thinking and now today with your encouraging temtosiny I have also realized what you have been trying to tell me over the past 5 years…..let God do the work. As a mom you want things to happen in your timeframe….but as a Christian you have to allow God to do the work in His timeframe. Tears streamed down my eyes as I listened to your words. Your drawing of the spirit in your life and the wispers you continued to follow really encouraged me! I know God is able, if I will just move out of the way! I will NEVER forget the day that I called you for the first time, the awesome timing that God has that you were available to talk to me and listen. I could tell by your reactions as I poured my heart out to you that you had a heart of compassion. You were hearing me from a mother’s perspective and yet feeling everything from someone who had walked the path Brandon was walking. Your listening and advising was enough to get me through the next seconds, minutes, days, weeks and now years of my life. At that moment and still today I feel that you saved my life. I wanted to die the moment that Brandon told me that he was homosexual and still begged God to die for months after that. The pain was so great I was sure I could NOT make it through. Each time the journey has gotten too bad to take another step, the same thing comes to my mind, call pastor Bill he will listen, pray and give you Godly advice. You will never know the tremendous impact that you have had on my life, well at least it won’t be missed in heaven!