There is a lot of talk these days about Exodus International’s drastic changes. Some former Exodus leaders have relinquished their membership in our organization and have formed a new one around a set of beliefs and ideals that ironically represent a real drastic change in approach and belief – namely that homosexuality is a “more egregious sin” than any other. That unbiblical myth is something that we, at Exodus, have long tried to dispel and correct.
In truth, Exodus International remains much the same at the core of who we have always been and focused on the same goals that were set up when I became the president of Exodus in 2001. In many respects we have returned to the simple roots of gospel-focused, relational discipleship that led to the organization’s founding in 1976. We are a community for people with same-sex attractions, or those that love them, that offers refuge, discipleship and encouragement to move into the authentic and transparent community known as the local church.
With that in mind, why did you choose to be associated with Exodus? For most of us, it is because we have same-sex attractions or love someone who does and we perceived that Exodus was the safest biblical community in which to share our common struggles and seek Christ for His guidance in dealing with them. Twenty-one-years ago I chose to seek safe haven through a local Exodus ministry where they encouraged me to surrender my struggles to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. For 2 years I stayed closely connected to that ministry and also got involved in a local church that was very comfortable discipling people choosing to surrender their sexuality to Christ.
For 5 years I battled daily, through victory and defeat, to give God ultimate control of my mind, will, emotions and actions. There were many days that I wondered if I could make it another moment. I am so thankful that the local Exodus ministry and Discovery Church were there to love, guide and support me. I am most thankful for God’s amazing grace.
What I knew about Exodus during those early years of my journey was that they were, as a part of the Body of Christ, standing in the gap for the local church as they served local church members like me. I also knew that local Exodus ministries were trying, most of the time unsuccessfully, to partner with local congregations in their communities. I remember one attempt by the local ministry I attended to access meeting space on an off night was met with the response, “We don’t want those people on our campus where they might come in contact with children.”
A lot has changed for Exodus and the Church in the last 20 years. Eleven years ago I was hired to lead this ministry. During the hiring process I was asked what success would look like for me as the leader of Exodus. I quickly answered, “Success looks like Exodus going out of business because the Church is doing its job.” I also added that it might mean Exodus may look drastically different in 10 years if we were still in operation. During that meeting I shared a lot of vision, passion and hope that those goals would be met. That hiring committee consisted of Alan Medinger, Bob Davies, Anita Worthen, Anne Paulk and Bob Ragan. They voted unanimously to recommend me to the Board of Directors to be hired.
Every day since I was hired in October 2001 I have endeavored to fulfill the mandate of equipping the Church. For years that mandate has been embraced by so many within Exodus and, at times, fought against. That has been the impetus for some ministry leaders that have chosen to leave Exodus. They do not believe that reaching the Church should be our goal since “Exodus folks are the only ones who can help people with SSA.” I wholeheartedly disagree. The church that saved my life had no formal ministry and the people that made the biggest impact in my life never experienced SSA.
I am grateful that leaders in the local ministry I attended made it clear that my time there was going to be short lived and then used that short time to equip me for life outside of that safe haven into the community of Christ known as the local church. Exodus helped me; the Church healed me. I love Exodus. I am the Church.
So, back to my question. Why did you decide to connect with Exodus? If it was because you desire to pursue Christ above all else, to serve Him above all else, even amidst the suffering that might come due to surrendering something as dear to you as your sexual identity (and the life that came with it) or because Exodus provided some hope and comfort for you as you came to grips with the SSA of a loved one, then I want you to know that Exodus remains the same ministry with the same offer of support.
As the president of Exodus International I remain undeterred in my desire to serve the Body of Christ, the Church, as we seek to equip them to serve various types of people impacted by SSA: the men and women who, like me, want not only to surrender their lives and lifestyles but to seek deeper maturity in Christ; the loved ones of those struggling who need refuge and support as they heal from their own wounds and seek to support their family members on their journeys; the loved ones of those who are gay and lesbian that are in need of support as they struggle to maintain relationship in the midst of disagreement; the gay and lesbian people who have no desire to choose surrender but deserve the Body of Christ’s love, service and dialogue rather than ignorance and/or being ignored.
If you came to Exodus for that kind of support then we remain a ministry fully capable of serving you. The local members, counselors and churches in our network are committed to the men, women and families looking for support, discipleship and community. Our office remains committed to providing conferences, consultation and resources that give hope and encourage believers towards maturity in Christ.
Some have mistakenly mischaracterized and misquoted me. Being a man that believes in and teaches about the miracle of God’s grace in Christ is a much-needed gift to the Body of Christ and to a world in need of Jesus. For far too long we, in the Church, have encouraged submission to Christ through fear-based, law-motivated manipulation. Our desire at Exodus today is to encourage people to pursue holiness in every area of their life, including their sexuality, out of a motivation based on their personal relationship with a good, faithful and loving God who died so that we could be all that He created us to be in Him.
I hope that you will stay connected with Exodus as we continue to mobilize the Body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. In many ways that will look like simply showing up in ways we’ve failed to show up in the past. But, it should always look like Christ and produce life. Remember, Jesus was a friend to sinners not a stranger.
Thank you for being a friend of Exodus. Please let me know how Exodus, the staff or our members can serve you. For 36 years that is what we’ve been here to do and for as long as the Lord allows us to remain that is what we will keep doing.
All for the Kingdom.