Exodus International—a Christian ministry that aimed to help people struggling with homosexuality—announced Wednesday it would close after nearly 40 years of operation.
A statement on the group’s website said board members believed the organization had grown too judgmental. The leaders plan to launch a new organization under a new name.
“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Exodus President Alan Chambers. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
The announcement came less than a day after Chambers issued an apology to the homosexual community. In his statement Chambers apologized for promoting counseling methods that included reparative therapy that “stigmatized parents.” (Reparative therapists focus on relationships between homosexual patients and their parents when examining causes for homosexuality. Not all Christian therapists use this method.)
Chambers also apologized for concealing his own ongoing struggles with same-sex attraction in the past. Chambers sought help from Exodus more than 20 years ago and left an active homosexual lifestyle. Several years later he married a woman and adopted two children. (The family lives in Florida.) He has since emphasized that marriage doesn’t “cure” homosexuality and that many homosexuals continue to struggle with the temptation their whole lives, much like other sins.
In the statement, Chambers seemed to re-assert his belief that homosexuality is unbiblical: “I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in Scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.”
But Chambers also seemed to affirm parts of a homosexual lifestyle that many conservative Christians would find distressing, including his belief that gay couples could be “every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know.” He also added, “I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.”
In the group’s announcement that Exodus would close, Chambers said the members of the board would launch a new organization that would “come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” It wasn’t immediately clear what the new organization would do. (WORLD requested an interview with Chambers on Thursday morning.)
WORLD named Chambers its Daniel of the Year in 2011 for his nearly two decades of work at Exodus that drew fierce criticism from the homosexual community. Chambers told WORLD that homosexuality was sinful, but repenting from the sin was possible through the grace of Christ. He emphasized involvement in a local church as a key component of Christian living.
Less than a year later, Exodus announced it would no longer endorse reparative therapy. The move drew some criticism, but many critics were more alarmed with statements Chambers had made in the previous months, including when he told a gathering of the Gay Christian Network, “We’re Christians, all of us.” (See “Alan astray?” from the Aug. 11, 2012, issue of WORLD Magazine.)
When asked if a person living a gay lifestyle would escape hell as long as he has accepted Christ as his Savior, Chambers replied in part, “…while behavior matters, those things don’t interrupt someone’s relationship with Christ.”
Those comments led Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, to call for Chambers’ resignation. Gagnon, who has written about homosexuality and spoken at Exodus events, said it’s unbiblical to assure people living in lifelong, unrepentant sin that they will go to heaven.
“Alan’s approach of providing assurances of salvation to those actively engaged in sexually immoral intercourse is a very different approach than Jesus’ and Paul’s warnings that immoral sexual behavior, among other offenses, can get one excluded from the kingdom of God and thrown into hell,” Gagnon wrote in a 35-page paper last July.
The danger from a biblical perspective: If a person is unrepentant, it could be sign that he was never saved at all. In that case, Gagnon said, “The actual result is to leave such persons deceived by giving them a message of ‘peace and security’ when instead danger hangs over them.”