Exodus International Closes its Doors– A Reflection by Rev. Dr. Cindi Love

HuffPost Religion

By Dr. Rev. Cindi Love

After almost 40 years, Exodus International has closed its doors.  It was the oldest Christian services group of its type and the market leader in reparative/ex-gay/sexual orientation change therapy.

Throughout its tenure, Exodus claimed that its professionals and programs could heal people of homosexuality and they were very successful in enrolling eager clients.

Unfortunately, they misled their customers.  Last year Exodus CEO Alan Chambers reported that 99.9 percent of people who engaged in reparative therapy did not change their orientation.

Earlier this week, Chambers issued a public apology for trying to fix people who weren’t broken. He enlisted Lisa Ling of Our America in broadcasting a meeting Thursday, June 20th in which he could formally apologize to those who felt deceived and defrauded by Exodus’ practices and to announce that the organization will cease to be an “ex gay” organization.

On June 19, the Exodus Board of Directors officially announced that they were shutting down the organization.  Simultaneously they announced the launch of a new ministry with the goal of reducing fear (reducefear.org) and working alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.

Unfortunately, human lives can’t be “recalled” to the factory for in-warranty repair like cars.  While Chambers and Exodus have taken the first and very critical steps in restorative justice, it is not clear how they can make reparations.

I trust that Chambers is truly remorseful about the damaged lives and lost lives as a result of Exodus interventions.

I also trust that Chambers was motivated by the relentless pressure by whistleblowers like Michael Busse, one of the founders of Exodus.  Busse has repeatedly confronted Chambers and most recently said that Exodus should just shut down.

I am proud to be amongst a crowd of witnesses who have relentlessly and non-violently resisted the work of Exodus International: Soulforce and its former Executive Director Dr. Jeff Lutes & the Equality Riders, Peter Toscano & Christine Bakke, Wayne Beson at Truth Wins Out and the Right Wing Watch.

I began my work to close Exodus in 2003 when I appeared on the Joni Lamb Show (Daystar Network), a large funder of ex-gay ministries.  I was scheduled with Ann Paulk so she could counter my position that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as we know it today.  Ann has left Exodus and joined Joe Dallas at his new organization, Restoring Hope Network.

Dallas left Exodus International when it was apparent that Chambers was softening the harsh rhetoric of sin and condemnation about gays.  Dallas is the former president of Exodus (1991-1993).  He rejects Chamber’s “new age” views and warns that the gays and lesbians will “bring the judgment of God” on America and bring society “one more step down the ladder towards a much lower standard of human behavior” and leave people in a “dismal” state.

Watching this fruit-basket turn over amongst the fundamentalists, I must confess to some cynicism mixed in with my celebration.

I trust that Chambers is a very savvy market analyst.  He read the tea leaves.  His product/service didn’t work.  America is tired of gay bashing and bullying and tired of the religious right vs. religious left battles in the public square.  Maybe Chambers was worried about the challenges coming for the charitable status of groups like Exodus Global Alliance in Canada and the fact that New Zealand denied Exodus Global Alliance (a former affiliate of Exodus International) this status when their value was weighed against any harm that might arise from their activities.

So, Chambers needed a new, fresh, reframed approach or find another job.  Either way, he will land on his feet.  He’s a smart guy.  He planned all of the announcements this week during the biggest conversation about gay marriage in our history.  He scrubbed the Exodus web site of blatantly anti-gay rhetoric. He published public policy statements that denounced the criminalization of homosexuality and bullying, holding and touch therapy and exorcisms intended to heal people of homosexuality.

He invited people who had been harmed to speak at the final conference of Exodus.

Good work.  A good start.  And, not nearly enough.  I hope that Chambers will find it in his heart to confront any ministry in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are targeted for ” “fixing” “inclusion” or “affirmation” or “reconciliation.”

 

God already included us, affirmed us and reconciled us. And we don’t need fixing.