RECORD: Fall 2013

Exodus shuts down after nearly forty years of failure at trying to change sexual orientation.  Nearly four decades of claimed success were wishful thinking and deceit. Exodus president Alan Chambers says: “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”  He apologizes for the damage done by “ex-gay” promise of change and by derogatory rhetoric against same-sex oriented people. “More than anything”, he said, “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. … 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.” He adds: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters.  Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom.  God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”
     He told Jeff Chu at The Atlantic: “What I renounce [is] 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.”
     Eminent church historian Martin Marty observed: “Quite remarkable is his avoidance of the pop-penitence so often practiced today.  Not content with ‘if we offended or hurt anyone’, or ‘we made a mistake’, [Chambers] apologized for the pain, hurt, and all that went with the Exodus approach.”
     Exodus board’s Tony Moore did do some spin: “We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change.”  Ralph Blair: “Previous generations of Christians were looking for change that Exodus repeatedly promised but never delivered.  That’s why ‘a new generation of Christians is looking for change’ – change to what’s honest, what works.  Folks are looking for a change from faulty conclusions on Bible verses and false claims of “cure” to a better-informed exegesis and to achievable goals, to integration of an un-chosen same-sex orientation with a chosen Christian faith and a loving same-sex marriage.”

Exodus announces a new ministry with no “ex-gay” component.  Chambers explains: “Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities.”  The new ministry is meant to align with Jesus’ message in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. [This ministry will be] something brand-new that won’t have anything to do with the issue of ex-gay.”
     Other ex-“ex-gay” leaders – besides all their clients who failed to change through “ex-gay” programs – had already dropped out of the “ex-gay” movement because their own same-sex orientation never changed.  These former leaders now include John Paulk, John Smid, Jeremy Marks, Ann Phillips, Peterson Toscano, Anthony Venn-Brown, Alex Haiken, Roger Grindstaff, Michael Bussee, Gary Cooper, Jim Kasper, Rick Notch, Ed Hurst, Jeff Ford, Greg Reid, Guy Charles, John Evans and many more.

Anne Paulk is not pleased with Exodus’ admission of failure and apology.  She and husband, John, who’s apologized for the harm he caused through his years of “ex-gay” advocacy, are divorcing after 21 years of an “ex-gay” marriage.  But she’s now in a new “ex-gay” group endorsed by the Religious Right’s Janet Parshall, talk show host Georgene Rice, “reparative” therapist Joseph Nicolosi, seminary professor Robert Gagnon and Matt Barber and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.
     Recently, Bethany Monk, on Focus on the Family’s online “CitizenLink” interview, asked Paulk about her newest “ex-gay” effort.  Monk referred to the closing down of Exodus and criticized the national media’s spin.  She said it “left out” testimonies of those who [contrary to Exodus’ own apology and admission of failure] “found hope and transformation out of homosexuality.” But, Monk left out mention of Paulk’s divorce.

Seminary professor Robert Gagnon says the new “ex-gay” effort is not concerned with reparative therapy’s failures.  He claims: “People will even, without therapeutic intervention, go through shifts.  For us then to say, well, the therapy can’t assist that process in any way when we know it’s going to happen anyway for many people, at least in a limited way, seems to me to be a little bit absurd.”  But, the bottom line in clinical research evidence is clear: sexual orientation does not change.  This is the consensus of both the secular research and as well as research done by evangelical clinicians in evangelical universities and published in evangelical journals!
     Christopher Rosik, head of the reparative therapists’ network, NARTH, insists that his therapy “can be applicable for some”, but, he admits, “maybe not every man or woman”.  This is the weakest NARTH promise since its founding in 1992.  Among recipients of an annual NARTH award are two clinicians (Robert L. Spitzer and Warren Throckmorton) who’ve since backed away from the “reparative” movement’s claims and one clinician (George Rekers) who was caught traveling internationally with a rent boy.

The “black church still has a long way to go”, says Jet and Ebony journalist Michael Arceneaux.  While psychiatric professionals are “doing a variation of the Holy Ghost stomp” in response to the closing of Exodus, most Black churches are still listening to “self-described ‘ex-gay’ Donnie McClurkin [who] despicably described gay youth as ‘broken and feminine’ while ironically pursing his lips and wailing his wrists to say that Jesus ‘cured’ him of homosexuality and that others are being fooled because God ‘didn’t create this perversion’.”

“Gay Really is The New Black.”  This is the headline of a New York Daily News essay by John McWhorter, linguist and social commentator. Writing from his own black and moderately conservative viewpoint: “As a consequence of its painful heritage, black America has a special responsibility: to be further ahead of the curve than whites on accepting gay people as full citizens. The Bible cannot be used as an excuse to hold us back. We should remember that racists once also appealed to the Bible to justify segregation, slavery and all manners of hatred.”

Mixed-orientation marriage is the heartbreaking topic of a Rachel Held Evans blog.  She shares testimonies of Christians who were pushed into such marriages by their naive intentions and the ignorance and indifference of antigay preachers.
     An interviewed husband who’s gay and remains married to his heterosexual wife says that he and she were reared in a charismatic evangelical church with “ex-gay” beliefs.  So, they were urged to marry.  He has not engaged in sex outside the marriage, but says: “I would strongly discourage anyone from getting into this kind of marriage, if they aren’t already in one. There are so many contributing factors for how folks end up here and, in my experience, it’s usually because the gay spouse believes their homosexuality to be wrong and something they are either ashamed of and hide altogether or something they believe will change or go away. There is no reason at all, that I can think of, for a healthy whole gay person to enter into a marriage with someone of the opposite sex.”
     A heterosexual woman says of her former husband: “He was—and is—a sweet, kind, and generous man who is beloved by many.  But none of that was enough. Because no matter how much we wanted to make it work, the very core of his heart could never belong to me. He could not love me the way I needed and deserved to be loved by a husband. And I could not give him what his heart, soul, and body cried out for.  I was—and remain—angry at religious leaders who tell same-sex-attracted people that they can, and should, ‘choose’ heterosexuality and marry an opposite-sex partner.”

Gay people can legally marry people of the opposite sex!  Ergo, laws against same-sex marriage don’t discriminate against gays!  This is the argument of William Lane Craig.  In Religion Dispatches, Eric C. Miller, Penn State University rhetoric specialist, responds to the Talbot seminary apologist. “Craig trades in straw men and red herrings, preferring split hairs to plain sense. He misdirects and confounds, grasping at hypotheticals when real people hang in the balance. And for all his twists and turns, he has nothing at all to say to the millions of men and women who simply want to be with those they love, to start families of their own, and to participate in a conservative institution that they value every bit as much as he.”

The U. S. Supreme Court rules that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Signed into law by President Clinton, DOMA barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Kennedy stated: “No legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. … By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
     Dissenting, Justice Scalia accused Kennedy of accusing DOMA supporters’ of aiming only to “disparage and to injure” same-sex couples.  Yet Kennedy noted that harm was also an “effect” of DOMA.  To that, Ralph Blair notes: “Whatever good intentions DOMA supporters may have had, good intentions don’t overcome unintended harm, as when, in Graham Greene’s illustration, ‘a blind leper who has lost his bell [goes] wandering through the world, intending no harm’.”
     On the Prop 8 appeal, the Court said private parties do not have “standing” to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring same-sex couples from state-sanctioned marriage.  The ruling allows resumption of same-sex marriage in California, the most populous of the now 13 states where same-sex marriage is legal.  This decision, on a technicality, was also 5-4 and written by the Chief Justice.  Justice Kennedy wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Thomas, Sotomayor, and Alito.

Rob Schenck of the Evangelical Church Alliance was the first to address the national media outside the Supreme Court building following the rulings. Granting that, on DOMA, “there are a myriad of perspectives among evangelicals”, he said the rulings “do not change [what he called] the biblical or timeless nature of true marriage as between a man and a woman. But just as importantly, for Christians of traditional faith, like the evangelicals for whom I speak, today’s decisions are an invitation to look at the reality of same-sex couples and families differently – through the lens of God’s love and to seek to minister, with grace and mercy, to all people.”

Maggie Gallagher calls it Kennedy’s “fatwa”.  She claims it “dismissed our whole marriage tradition out of hand”, but she overlooks traditions across time and cultures, including the Bible’s, within what she dubs “our whole marriage tradition”.

Rich Lowry of National Review condemned the Court’s decisions for concluding that DOMA inflicted “injury and indignity” on gay people – as if heterosexual couples would not experience “injury and indignity” if barred from legal marriage.

Mike Huckabee’s first thought after the DOMA decision: “Jesus wept” from John 11:35.  The Southern Baptist preacher/politician second thought was tweeted: “I urge you to make an immediate donation of $3 or more today to Huck PAC!”

The Coalition of African-American Pastors issued a press release stating: “We are devastated!” while black conservative Star Parker blogged that the decision “is a deliberate and conscious assault on religion and all traditional values.”

Urvashi Vaid maligned LGBT assimilation. This queer activist accuses the current LGBT movement of having been “co-opted by the very institutions [she claims] it once sought to transform.”  Ignoring demonstrable wisdom of stable monogamous marriage for both heterosexual and same-sex couples, she complains that, “the nuclear family [and] the monogamous couple-form are our new normal.”  She rejects “mainstream integration, such as admission into traditional institutions like marriage, or grants of formal legal rights within the current form of capitalism [that, she claims] will yield only ‘conditional equality,’ a simulation of freedom contingent upon ‘good behavior.’”

Many pastors were not as quick to condemn the DOMA ruling as were Rightwing lobbyists.  This was an observation by Alex Murashko of The Christian Post.  He wrote that, “public reaction from pastors . . . was sparse and came slowly [in contrast to] the rapid-fire response by the general conservative population.”  Murashko noted the example of Ed Stetzer, lead pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee and widely respected consultant on church planting.  Stetzer questioned the approach of, “shout[ing] about our opinion and speak[ing] out against those who differ.”  He went on to say that, “without specific reference to gay marriage, [we] need to run to people—showing the love of Jesus to all kinds of people.”  Stetzer is associated with both Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Southern Baptist Seminary.

Most conservative pastors say American society should not accept homosexuality.  No surprise there!  But, 5 percent of conservative pastors say we should accept homosexuality and 5 percent aren’t sure. Among white evangelicals, 30 percent say we should accept homosexuality and 9 percent are undecided – the rest think we shouldn’t.  In the general public, 57 percent say we should accept, 36, say we shouldn’t and 7 percent don’t know.  These are 2013 findings of The Center for the Study of American Culture and Faith and Pew Research.

“Homosexuality and same-sex marriage is not a central concern of the Gospel itself.”  This is the bold assessment of moral theologian and Aquinas scholar Thomas Bushlack of Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas.  And, he observes, “it is becoming increasingly apparent to most (though not all) Christians” that this is so.  “The biblical references in Leviticus and Romans are ambiguous at best, and a natural law argument that can cut both ways has not created consensus on this issue.”

The Jesuit Post: “Among many of our friends – gay and straight … there was a sense of celebration” over the DOMA decision.  But, added the editors, “in all honesty, we felt ourselves – an uncomfortable silence among voices that often speak about matters involving religion and public life.  In fact, we find ourselves in a very profound tension.”  They concluded: “There is something to be learned in that uncomfortable silence; there is something to be learned from the fact that denunciations are less credible – by far—than images of rejoicing and gladness.”   

 “Help! My Son is Gay” is the title of a recent article in Today’s Christian Woman.  The subtitle: “How one woman discovered prayer and compassion are more important than deciding what’s right or wrong for her son.”  Her 22-year-old son, Jordan, had revealed his homosexuality and she was in shock.  She took him to see their evangelical church counselor who was “very firm in her belief that the bible says homosexuality is a choice.”  The mom recalls: “As I listened to them dialogue about that, I started to see that ‘choice’ is probably not the best word to use when talking with those struggling with homosexuality. Like Jordan said, ‘Why would I ever choose something like this? Why would I choose to be socially ostracized and marginalized?’” She advises other parents: “Pour most of your energy into your own journey with Jesus, not on trying to ‘fix’ your children.”  And she concludes the article by saying: “The Lord is continually showing me that I need to focus on [Him] and whether I am walking as I should, far more than trying to ‘change’ my son.”

“Honey, we’re praying for you.”  Salon columnist Aaron Hartzler says his mother adds this line to every email she sends to him.  He grew up in a house headed by his father, a Fundamentalist Baptist preacher.  His parents have never accepted their now 39-year-old son’s homosexuality – or that of his younger brother. He says her saying they’re praying for him is “an italicized baseball bat, a silent plea for God to change” him. He clarifies: “It’s not that I’ve stopped loving Mom and Dad — I haven’t. It’s just that I’ve accepted the fact that they may be as powerless as I am to change. Turns out unconditional love is a two-way street.”  His story is told in his, Rapture Practice, a Young Adult book from Little, Brown.  The New York Times calls it “often effervescent and moving, evocative and tender.”

Does Jesus Really Love Me? – a book by Jeff Chu.  The subtitle: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America.  Chu grew up in a conservative Baptist home where his mother cried a lot after he told her he was gay. He’s traveled across the country, doing interviews across theological and political spectra, e.g., Ted Haggard, Fred Phelps and a gay man who’s chosen celibacy. Included among his interviewees are EC keynoters such as Justin Lee and Jenny Morgan.
     As a serious Christian, Chu expresses disappointed that, so often, in a church aimed for LGBT folk, “faith does not seem to be its unifying element—sexuality does.” Reviewing the book for the conservative journal, First Things, Wesley Hill, writes: “I highly recommend it. Besides being well written and engaging (I could hardly put it down), it’s also very illuminating.”  Hill says it’s “balanced” and “fair-minded”. Frank Bruni of The New York Times says: “Jeff’s own story makes me hopeful. It’s one of grace.”

Matt Moore, 23, a struggling “ex-gay” blogger, admits he’d put his profile on the gay contact app, Grindr.  He confessed this after a gay activist’s blog alert went viral. Moore confesses it was “a major disobedience on my part”.  Unlike other heterosexuals who so casually pushed him into unrealistic “ex-gay” dead-ends, fellow evangelical Christian blogger John Shore wrote him a compassionately realistic letter. Said Shore: “It’s perfectly okay that you’re gay. You get to be gay, and be married, and know a life with a loving partner, just like the life I cherish with my wife. I don’t get to enjoy more of life than you do simply because I was born straight. God did not create a special order of humans that he punishes for loving and being loved. … You don’t get to be the exception to the rule of needing and deserving full love, Matt. You couldn’t be that exception if you tried. You have tried at that, and failed. And you are destined to fail at that over and over again, until the day you realize that the only one endeavoring to prevent you from being all that God made you to be is you.”

Genesis 2:18 is “the most important verse in all of Scripture for the gay marriage debate.”  This is the assertion of William Stacy Johnson, Princeton Seminary systematic theologian and author of A Time to Embrace: Same-Sex Relationships in Religion, Law and Politics, published by Eerdmans.  The Hebrew of this Bible verse is rendered by Knox Seminary Old Testament professor Bruce Waltke: “It’s bad” for man to be alone!

Gay men and lesbians (18 to 29 years old) are twice as likely to be religiously unaffiliated as their non-gay peers, according to Pew Research.  Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, says that these unaffiliated young adults experience “a lack of understanding and love from religious groups – Christians in particular – and, as a result, they often walk away from their childhood faith and may even become very hostile to religion”.  Lee says: “Our fellow LGBTs reject us for our faith in Christ, even as our fellow Christians often condemn us for being LGBT”.

Fuller Theological Seminary’s OneTable is “a place for LGBTQ students to feel supported in their lives at Fuller.”  FTS student Nick Palacios, OneTable’s president, explains it’s “a safe space for all who desire to be a part of the conversation surrounding faith, sexual orientation, and gender identity. … Matthew 22 and Deuteronomy 6 both tell us to seek God first and Love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the heart of OneTable. With as much effort as we put into securing our own needs, desires, and comforts, we ought to seek the welfare and thriving of not only our friends and family, but the stranger on the corner, the jerk at the office, the gay who hates the conservative Christian, and the conservative Christian who hates the gay.”

Christian colleges’ students and alums have more LGBT safe spaces.  Support and dialogue continue to open up, on or off campuses and via the Internet, whether officially or not. Included are folks connected with Abilene Christian, Azusa-Pacific, Baylor, Biola, Bob Jones, Calvin, Cedarville, Corban, Eastern, George Fox, Gordon, Grove City, Goshen, Harding, Hope, Malone, Messiah, North Park, Northwestern, Oklahoma Baptist, Oral Roberts, Ozark Christian, Pepperdine, Samford, Westmont, Wheaton and Valley Forge Christian.        

OnGodsCampus.org is a project of attorney Paul Southwick. He’s interviewing LGBT students and alums from evangelical institutions of higher education.  Video clips of interviews with a Biola/Rosemead grad and a George Fox undergrad are on the website.

Evangelical college students with gay or lesbian friends or relatives are “significantly less negative” on gay rights than are those without such contacts.  They are also “significantly less negative” if they haven’t been home-schooled.  These are findings of a study of 319 undergraduates at an evangelical university in California and published in the Journal of LGBT Youth in 2012.
     Two of the 2012 study’s authors, Joshua R. Wolff and Heather L. Himes, published “Purposeful Exclusion of Sexual Minority Youth in Christian Higher Education: The Implications of Discrimination” in Christian Higher Education in 2010.  They urged the “fostering a campus climate of grace” by eliminating discriminatory admissions and disciplinary policies, providing protective policies, safe social support networks and safe and adequate health care.

Gay Pride parades “feed into the rotten stereotypes of bigots. I wish I could say that no bigots are going to use pictures of a few men in thongs in San Francisco to write off millions of gay, lesbian and transgender people, but I can’t.”  So says Cord Jefferson, straight and pro-gay writer for several liberal publications: “They could march down the center of America’s great cities in all the clothes they regularly wear, exposing themselves for what they truly are: normal human beings.”  That’s a good description of the first gay parades, and as one who marched in them, Ralph Blair says: “Pride parades should now be held in the middle of February.”

Russia has passed sweeping antigay legislation that bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, stigmatizes gay people and bans giving children any information about homosexuality.  Concerned over the West’s “corrupting influences” on Russian youth, President Vladimir Putin, with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, signed the measure into law in June.

“We will chop off their heads!”  Zimbabwe’s dictatorial president was telling crowds in July that this is what he’ll do with homosexuals. Mugabe added, with a reference to President Obama: “Imagine this son born out of an African father … says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that!”

Muslim countries are viciously antigay and execute homosexuals while Western society is increasingly gay affirming and is legalizing same-sex marriage.  With reference to recent Pew research contrasting these radically different cultural responses, lead author Juliana Horowitz says: “I can’t think of any question we have asked where we have this sort of global polarization.”

Pakistan leads the world in Google searches for gay pornography.  The volume of internet searches for “gay sex pics” and similar terms exceeds that of any other country.  Gay Pakistanis are brutalized and murdered in this Islamic state where same-sex acts are illegal and homosexuals are punished with long prison sentences.

AND FINALLY:

“Does God read the Denver Post?  Do you think he picks up a copy of the Denver Post?  He gets it.  God gets the Denver Post.”  These questions were asked and answered by Fundamentalist home-school advocate Kevin Swanson in explaining that this summer’s forest fires in Colorado were God’s punishment for homosexuality.  Swanson: “When you have a state where the House leadership is performing a homosexual act on the front page of the Denver Post, God sends punishment!”  The House speaker had been pictured kissing his gay partner after passage of Colorado’s civil union bill.  Swanson added: God “hates it when men are not manly! [God] gave them facial hair for a reason!”

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