As grovels go, this is spectacular: the head of the American “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International has announced that it’s now an ex-ministry, the day after posting a remarkable apology on its website.
“Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person,” Alan Chambers wrote.
“Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.
Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatised parents. I am sorry that there were times 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 that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.”
Exodus International will no longer be trying to ‘cure’ homosexuality – the penitence from its president is heartening
I think this deserves credit as a genuine example of repentance and public admission of shameful behaviour. It is not up to me to forgive him but I find it rather heartening.
The other interesting thing is that he hasn’t actually changed his mind about what the Bible says about gay sex. He still thinks it’s condemned. But he will no longer condemn it himself: “I cannot apologise 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. I cannot apologise for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.”
Something like this must be what ought to be meant by the hideous cant phrase about hating the sin, but loving the sinner.
Perhaps one of the great divides in Christianity is between people who think that sin is the important thing, and those who believe that sinners are. You can read Jesus either way. But the churches who think that Jesus was more concerned with sinners – with us in our dealings with the unavoidable cruelties and inadequacies of all human life – than with our sins are the only ones that stand a chance of survival in times when “living in sin” no longer describes a sexual relationship.