The evangelical wing of the internet is buzzing today about an apology last night by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, and his announcement that the organization is being disbanded and will be replaced by another entity with a different mission. In his apology, Chambers described the organization as having become the legalistic older brother to the prodigal. He apologized for the “hurt” caused by the organization and said
For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.
The organization has been in transition for some time. In 2011 Willow Creek, a long-time supporter of Exodus International, split with the organization. According to Christianity Today, The new goal of the new ministry is to “reduce fear.” To that end they have begun a new website, currently under construction. CT quotes Mark Yarhouse, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University:
Churches are realizing that while there is a small contingent of the gay community responding to language like ‘freedom from homosexuality’ or ‘freedom is possible,’ the vast majority strongly disagree. They’re angry and they believe it’s impossible to change, and to hear this is so offensive that they will have nothing to do with Christians. So I think churches, in response to that vast majority who say, ‘We’re not interested,’ have decided to look at other approaches in an attempt to connect with the gay community on at least some level. That doesn’t mean that churches disagree with the language of ‘freedom from homosexuality’ doctrinally; they’ve just found that it doesn’t work on a social level.
In an interview with Jeff Chu, in The Atlantic, today, Chambers says:
What parts of Exodus’s teaching do you renounce?
What I renounce: the whole gay-to-straight process. That the goal is changing your sexual orientation, which we realized isn’t something that happens. That that’s what makes you acceptable to God. And that gay people couldn’t ever be acceptable to God.
Have you changed your theological position on homosexuality?
My belief about sexual expression remains the same. But that really matters little to anyone except for me. It only serves to govern my own life. This isn’t something I’m going to make an issue or a barrier of in my relationship with anyone else.
I know I’m one of many people who has had others say to them: You can’t be gay and a Christian! “Gay Christian” is an oxymoron!
When anyone has a relationship with Jesus Christ, they are Christian. They are Christ followers. They are believers. They are sons and daughters, joint heirs, irrespective of any other situation or reality, sexual or otherwise. Who is anyone to say that another person can’t know Christ? That’s not a biblical message.
“Gay Christian” is an oxymoron. What Chambers wants is to be accepted by the homosexual community. He’s tired of being considered a “hater.” According to Chambers, what he believes about sexual morality is private and all that really matters is that the homosexual community knows that he loves and accepts them unconditionally. Christianity is essentially a private matter, a subjective experience, and a personal relationship with Jesus that has no significant consequences for sexual morality.
Chambers is right about one thing: closing Exodus International. He calls it a church. It’s not and never has been. At most it’s been a private society of Christians seeking to address a particular issue. The good news is that Jesus already took care of that. He established an organization before his crucifixion that was intended to minister to homosexuals, murderers, and criminals of all sorts. He called it is ekklesia or his “church” and he promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
Almost as soon as the Israelites were led out of Egypt, on dry ground, they began to look back longingly to the leeks and onions. They grumbled against Moses and the Lord. We’re all tempted to go back to Egypt. That’s why free acceptance with God and deliverance from sin and its consequences (judgment) is by God’s free, undeserved favor, through faith in Christ, who entrusted to his church the announcement of that good news.
He also entrusted to his church the announcement of the bad news, that apart from the righteousness of Christ credited to sinners and received through faith alone all sinners, heterosexual and homosexual, will stand before God naked and condemned.
Those who’ve fled to Christ for salvation, for grace, for help will find it. They should find it administered in congregations of Christians bearing the marks of the Christian and the marks of the church (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). As a consequence of fleeing to Christ, sinful believers now reckoned righteous, in Christ, are called to “take up your cross.” No sinner may say, “Well, God put me in Egypt. He must want me there.” That’s just not true. He doesn’t want you there and he doesn’t want you to go back to Egypt. Christ, the very same person who was crucified, died, was buried, and was raised on the third day for our justification, calls us to take up a life of dying to sin, including sexual sin and living to Christ. We cannot do this alone and we should not attempt it alone. That’s why Jesus founded a church.
Were Exodus International a church then Alan Chambers would not be able to close it. The church cannot be “closed” or radically re-purposed because the board of directors changes its mind. The church belongs to Jesus. He has revealed its mandate: to preach the law and the gospel, to suffer, to die, to be made alive again and to press on through the wilderness of this life, as it were, with the knowledge that, by virtue of our union with Christ, we are already seated in the most holy place (see the book of Hebrews), with Christ in the heavenlies. Those are objective truths that our subjective experience of sin, failure, and frustration cannot change.
I’m sorry that Chambers is sorry for offering deliverance to sexual captives. That’s nothing about which to be sorry. All we sinners need deliverance and though sexual sin is unique in some regards, it is not a special category in that regard.
There’s no need to go back to Egypt or to affirm Egypt or to seek the approval of the Egyptians. The Romans didn’t approve of the early Christians. They thought it was foolish to follow a crucified man. There was plenty of homosexual immorality in the 1st century. That’s why Paul was so pointed about it. That’s why he called it sin. He wasn’t a prude or closed-minded. He knew what sin was and he knew what grace was and he told the truth about both. He says, “such were some of you.” That’s the bad news. The good news for believers, however, including those such as Chambers who struggle with the same-sex attraction, is that, in Christ, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Believers are not approved by God because we’re being sanctified. We’re approved by God freely for the sake of Christ’s righteousness credited to those who believe. We, all of us, however, are to seek continual sanctification, including our sex appetites, by the Spirit, in Christ, because we’ve been delivered out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.