"Ex-gay" Christian group to LGBT people: We're sorry

"I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated," writes Exodus International president Alan Chambers

Published June 19, 2013 8:57PM (EDT)

Alan Chambers of Exodus International
Alan Chambers of Exodus International

Exodus International, one of the largest and most notorious "ex-gay" Christian ministries, issued a statement on Wednesday apologizing to members of the LGBT community for "years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole."

Exodus president Alan Chambers went on to apologize for the organization's long history of forcing gays and lesbians to undergo discredited "ex-gay conversion" therapies, explaining that, because of this history, "I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated":

I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced.  I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.

I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly "on my side" who called you names like sodomite -- or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.

Exodus' mission remains "Mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality," and, despite Chambers' apparent remorse over the organization's execution of that mission, he has not abandoned his "deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex."

Translation: Chambers still thinks being gay is a sin.

But it seems there is some intent on his part to get Exodus out of the political fight to deny gays and lesbians basic rights -- maybe: "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. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself."

He goes on to say, rather vaguely, that "moving forward," Exodus "will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing."

The question of what the future of Exodus looks like remains unclear, though Chambers may address more practical applications of the organization's new philosophy at its annual conference Wednesday evening, so stay tuned.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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