Cover Story

2011 Daniel of the Year

"2011 Daniel of the Year" Continued...

Issue: "2011 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 17, 2011

Inside a sparse conference room at Exodus headquarters that morning, Chambers wasn't discussing the festival or contemplating social order. Instead, his nine staff members were reading perforated cards with handwritten prayer requests sent to the ministry. (The cards come from a newsletter Exodus sends to its mailing list.)

On one card, a set of parents asked for prayer for their daughter to overcome homosexuality. Another offered the same request for a son. A third card came from a man asking for prayer as he and his wife raise their newborn child. "I've struggled with my sexuality all my life," he wrote. "Pray that I'll set a good example of holiness and sexual purity for my daughter."

Chambers prayed for the new father and asked that God would help people understand: "When we're pursuing You, You can't help but change us. ... When we become more like You, everything changes."

The marks of change in Chambers' life decorate his office: Framed photos of his wife of 13 years, Leslie, hang near pictures of Isaac and Molly, the couple's adopted son and daughter (both 6 years old). A pink, handmade card from Molly reads: "I love my daddy." A red card from Isaac includes a drawing and says: "Me and daddy ice skating."

Chambers takes homemade cards from his children and wife when he travels for work and displays them on the dresser in his hotel room. But he doesn't offer the cards or pictures as proof that he's not gay anymore. "My wife isn't my diploma," he says. Instead, he says he pursued marriage and children after his homosexual desires changed.

Gay websites sometimes mock Chambers' marriage as a sham. But during a long lunch at a nearby restaurant, the pair seemed like a happy, loving couple, and Chambers said: "My wife is every bit the object of my desire." A homemade card from Leslie on a coffee table in his office returns the affection: "To my lovely, faithful, handsome, wise, strong, helpful, fun, tough, well-dressed, loving husband. We love you, we miss you, pray for you, kiss you, count on you, and can't wait for you to come home."

Chambers knows this doesn't happen for everyone. He regularly tells audiences that marriage isn't the goal for those seeking to leave homosexuality, and he warns that finding an opposite-sex partner won't "fix" a gay person. Many who leave a homosexual life may decide never to marry.

So what is the goal? What does change mean? Gay activists regularly accuse Chambers of promoting a "cure" for homosexuality. Chambers offers an emphatic response: "What's our mission? It's not to fix people. It's to point them to Jesus. He's the one who changes people's hearts and lives." Indeed, Chambers often repeats what he wrote in his 2009 book Leaving Homosexuality: "The opposite of homosexuality isn't heterosexuality. It's holiness."

That's a crucial tenet in the message that Chambers promotes in writings, conferences, speaking engagements, and media interviews. He emphasizes the Christian teaching that homosexuality is like any other temptation that the Bible calls people to resist. He says he didn't choose his homosexual temptation, though he did choose to indulge it: "I chose to look at gay pornography, to go to gay bars, and to have sexual relations with other men." Eventually, he stopped indulging, but only because he pursued inward change through Christ and holiness in every part of his life-not just his sexuality.

If that sounds like lofty Christian language, the reality has been gritty, and the battle hard-fought. When Chambers first visited an Exodus chapter in 1991, he had already been praying for years that his attraction to men would go away. He remembers telling the counselor: "I want to be done with this in six months." Six months later, he says, "I was in a gay bar."

Eventually, his sister-in-law invited him to begin attending church again. He met people who "didn't look at me cross-eyed because of what I struggled with. They didn't think that my stuff was any different than their stuff. They were just committed to helping me like somebody helped them."

Friends in the church met with Chambers regularly, prayed with him, and even retrieved him from a gay bar on an Easter Sunday evening when they saw his car in the parking lot. When change didn't happen overnight, they didn't give up. Over time, Chambers' same-sex attractions diminished and he stopped indulging temptation. He still relies on the members of his local congregation near his home to encourage him and pray for him.

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