Exodus International Lives Up To Its Name

Exodus Ministries, an organisation whose entire life blood was previously claiming to be able to cure homosexuality has had something of a Damascene epiphany. Firstly Alan Chalmers apologised for the pain and hurt his organisation had caused to LGBT people.

So I wonder to myself daily given the opposition of some to equal marriage in this country, and brouhaha around the definition of marriage, whether the world will truly ever be at peace with homosexuality? That would be one of my dreams.

This week that dream took a step closer to becoming reality when Alan M Chalmers the founder of Exodus Ministries announced the closure of this organisation.

Exodus Ministries, an organisation whose entire life blood was previously claiming to be able to cure homosexuality has had something of a Damascene epiphany. Firstly Chalmers apologised for the pain and hurt his organisation had caused to LGBT people. Secondly in an even more startling revelation the organisation closed, with a pledge to re-evaluate its ministry "for a new generation."

In a statement he gave Alan Chalmers also spoke of a desire to be a friend to the gay community as he has always longed to be. Not shying away from his own failures he continued. He spoke of being imprisoned in a world view that is neither honouring to human beings nor Biblical.

What we see here is a very remarkable shift. It is a shift away from hating the sin and the alleged sinner to are born heterosexual embracing homosexuality is something that is natural and that we are born with, in just the same way as heterosexual people are born heterosexual.

There is no instruction manual teaching you how to be gay, no quick fix 'Go Gay in Ten Days or Your Money Back" advert. Nor does being gay involve being locked in a darkened room listening to Tegan and Sarah or the whole of Julie Andrews back catalogue, sorry to disappoint! What being gay does involve is extreme honesty with your being. Accepting you are different and therefore somehow set apart for the majority takes real courage. It takes some people longer than others to accept the situation but I have no doubt that the closure of Exodus International will make a significant contribution to that effort.

Chalmers to me is very brave to talk as candidly and openly as he has about his own failures. If he can, it may have a domino effect. It may encourage others who take a hard line Conservative view of Christianity to re-evaluate their own thinking, as well as the morality of their beliefs as analysed against their conscience.

To talk of being imprisoned strikes me as something similar to what the Jesus of the Bible would have experienced.

To then re-evaluate it and tear up your own raison d'être in favour of starting over is extremely brave. It is recognition that the world is not a static organism but something constantly in flux and changing. I think Alan Chalmers is right to recognise this. To ensure that the church remains relevant to all those who believe in it including gay Christians, it is imperative that the church above all else is inclusive.

Of course Chalmers must remain steadfast throughout all this. There will be those particularly in the evangelical wing of the Church who will denounce him as a heretic and denounce in turn the closure of Exodus Ministries.

Globally Robert Mugabe has only just come out this week promising to make life hell for homosexuals if re-elected. People in some nations die because they are gay. Some suffer extreme torture because they are gay.

Chalmers was right to point to his own battle with his sexuality. Characterising his homosexuality he used the often trotted out phrase "same-sex attraction." All too often this is seen in some sections of the church as a struggle, a battle. Above all though it is seen as something wrong which is wrong in itself. This is why the landmark decision of Alan M Chalmers today is so important.

It sets an example now and in the future of what the attitude of the Church towards LGBT people should be. It should be an open welcoming and inclusive space, free of condemnation and stigma. Homosexuality is not a sin but a natural part of us the same as our legs and our eyes.

All of this reminds me too well of my own struggle with the church. Before I left Oxford I came out as gay to one of the most fundamentalist evangelical churches in the country. They denounced me and told me I was making a big mistake. I had always had something of a love affair with evangelical churches.

Essentially my point is you are safe in an evangelical space unless you are different in some way such as sexuality. For me, those religious establishments which do not accept LGBT people as a natural part of their congregations are making a massive mistake.

We go to the doctors for a cold. Our sexuality though is not something that is treatable. It may be something that causes stigma discomfort and unrest in some echelons of society but frankly I say to that echelon that is your problem not mine!

That is why I am encouraged by the recent news about Exodus International. It offers a beacon of hope that such rhetoric claiming to cure homosexuality can be a temporal problem and not set into tablets of stone for a lifetime.

I hope it can be a thing of the past rather than a millstone for the future. I applaud Alan M Chalmers courage and thank him for his decision. There is so much of a mixed message coming from the church at the moment even with equal marriage legislation being passed in many countries. In the formation of his new ministry I hope Alan is able to create a space of non-condemnation for gay Christians. I hope it is also a judgement free space for something which is part of the natural fabric of our society in 2013. Thank you, Alan.


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