Exodus International shuts its doors: Alan Chambers to promote “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities”

Back in February I declared V-LGBT Day, saying that “the battle for marriage equality is over.” There had been a lot of significant pro-equity activity, including a huge number of corporations and influential organizations coming down publicly against the Defense of Marriage Act and several prominent GOP defections from the homophobia camp.

The last couple of days have seen two more dominoes fall – one big one and the other positively massive. First, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday became the third GOP senator to endorse marriage equality.

“I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government,” Murkowski wrote in an op-ed explaining her decision. “When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.”

And this morning, an absolute bombshell dropped, as Exodus International, the world’s largest pray-away-the-gay organization, closed its doors with an apology from its director.

In a letter “to members of the LGBTQ community,” Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International, a group that has long backed “change therapy” for gays and lesbians, issued an apology Wednesday, stating, “I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced.”


“Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry,” the organization said in a statement.]

The public statement comes in advance of a Thursday airing of the television broadcast “God & Gays” on Our America with Lisa Ling on OWN, in which Ling talks with Chambers about these issues.

In his apology, Chambers wrote, “I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”

Later, he added:

I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.

He even goes so far as to acknowledge his own “same-sex attractions.”

Chambers announces that he’s launching a new organization, and the language he employs is significant.

For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” [emphasis added]

“Welcoming” is the term that specifically describes gay-affirming churches, and its use here signals one of the most earth-shaking reversals of course in the history of our modern culture wars. Read the entire statement here.

As I said in February, “flat-earthers in the more socially conservative parts of the country will fight on as long as anybody pays them any attention.” But make no mistake: what Chambers has done today is the moral equivalent of Robert E. Lee defecting to the Yankees.

This is heartening news for a lot of people, straight and gay. America gets so many things wrong so consistently that it’s easy to throw up your hands and despair. But while our elected leaders can be counted on for an outrage or two a week, the truth is that our nation is home to a lot of courageous, enlightened people who soldier on in service to their vision for a better, more humane society.

So congratulations, everyone. June 20, 2013 is a win in our ongoing battle for justice. Many thanks, especially, to those who have made marriage a priority, even when doing so wasn’t necessarily the expedient path (and here I’m thinking of people like my friend Mario Nicolais, GOP candidate for the Colorado state senate, who has made marriage equality a lynchpin of his campaign). Kudos to Lisa Ling, without whose compassionate campaign for justice we might not be celebrating today at all. We beat the hell out of what’s become of journalism here at S&R, and it’s a pleasure to be able to say something nice about a journalist moving the dial in the right direction.

Finally, to Alan Chambers: you’ve done immeasurable damage throughout your career, and none of us can or should forget that. But today you’ve done the right thing, and I applaud you. I wish you all the best as you set about working to promote social justice and equality and I encourage my fellow progressives to offer you all the support they can.

We’ll be watching with keen interest.


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