Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Better, but still that celibacy thing

Exodus International has been for more than 35 years the leading organization in trying to help people overcome homosexuality. Jim Burroway has noticed over the last few months that the message Alan Chambers, head of Exodus, has been putting out has changed. So Burroway went to the latest Exodus conference to compare the current message with what was said at the conference back in 2007. Here are some of the differences.

Exodus no longer pushes Reparative Therapy. This is the theory that boys become gay because the relationship with their fathers isn't what it should be. A man can become straight by healing the harm of that damaged relationship. This theory is strongly pushed by the National Organization for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the relationship between NARTH and Exodus is now strained.

Exodus, which is an Evangelical Christian organization, has shifted focus to supporting a gay person in their daily walk and away from trying to make a gay person straight. Chambers said, “I think we’ve made a golden idol out of change.” This shift is seen as a relief to those in the program -- they no longer have to show ongoing improvement towards becoming straight. But that also means they are stuck being gay, something their church doesn't wan them to be.

The focus has shifted from getting gay men into straight marriage to helping gay men be celibate. The Evangelical ideal is marriage, so celibacy is a hard sell. For us on the outside looking in and delighting in gay relationships and marriages, celibacy is a hard sell for us too.

Exodus has withdrawn from the culture wars. Most of the talks avoided political issues.

Exodus is now talking about engaging the gay community directly. This included how to tone down the anti-gay rhetoric the Evangelical church is known for and which is driving the younger generations away.

That last change leaves Burroway scratching his head. What does Exodus think they can supply that gays don't already have? There are already gay-affirming churches. Exodus and Evangelicals were not (and still aren't) on board for the anti-bullying campaign or offering comprehensive help for AIDS sufferers. Because of that the gay community has already created its own secular ministries. Besides, there is still that celibacy thing.

There is a shift from an expert/student relationship to one of honesty and transparency. Chambers can now admit he still has same-sex attractions.

But while Exodus is becoming less anti-gay, it is not becoming pro-gay.

Exodus is apparently an umbrella organization with actual services supplied by local organizations and churches. With these changes in Exodus many of these churches are withdrawing. And many of those have come together to form a competitor to Exodus called Restored Hope Network. The players appear to be the same ones who were involved in the start of Exodus more than 35 years ago. Which prompted a commenter to ask, "Isn’t there anyone who became ex-gay after the early 1990s?" There are no new faces among the leadership.

Burrroway reminds us this is not about money. Exodus and NARTH are not swimming in cash. They are True Believers. They won't disappear as the money dries up. And they can still make trouble for us.

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