One of the most volatile topics that the Church can address in today's culture is the issue of homosexuality. No ministry knows this more than the ministry of Exodus International.
For over 35 years, Exodus has been a beacon of hope and freedom for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. However, the message on which this ministry was founded has become confused and seemingly compromised by various statements made in the past year by the President of Exodus International, Alan Chambers. Statements that reflect a theology of salvation that neglects the need for repentance and obedience to Christ and provides little hope for transformation. Such comments have prompted the recent resignations of several member ministries along with Exodus Board Member, John Warren; Executive Vice President, Jeff Buchanan; and Director of Communications, Angela Buchanan.
For those of us who have been directly affected by the issue of homosexuality or have family or friends who are gay, we understand the desire to respond with compassion and grace. The thought of a person secretly struggling with same-sex attractions and feeling that there is nowhere to turn is what compels so many ministry leaders within Exodus to proclaim a message of hope and freedom.
Historically, Exodus has been defined by men and women who have encountered God's incredible grace and Alan has been foremost in making the subject of God's grace the ministry's platform and rightfully so. But to stress the provision of God's free and unmerited grace without the scriptural imperatives that call for obedience, surrendering the will, and dying to self is a myopic representation of the doctrine of grace. The indwelling Holy Spirit also imparts God's grace in enabling us to grow in holiness, renounce ungodliness, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives (Titus 2:11). Emphasizing God's grace at the negligence of God's commands does not promote a magnified gospel but rather a mutated gospel.
For a leader to confidently assure someone of salvation who professes to be a believer yet defiantly lives under the dominion of unrepentant egregious sin does a disservice to the gospel and potentially places souls in peril. Of course, this does not mean that we pronounce judgment over someone's salvation and yes, believers obviously still sin. However, there is a big difference between those who resist and contend against sin and periodically succumb to temptation and those who desire to be defined by their sin. As leaders, we must embrace a pastoral responsibility that calls for an introspective assessment to determine if those in question have truly surrendered their lives to Christ. A gospel that claims salvation without transformation is dangerously close to easy-believism.
It should be said that for the believer who has been tempted and fallen by engaging in homosexual behavior, there can be an overwhelming condemnation and concern over their standing with Christ. For those of us who have experienced God's grace, we understand the compelling desire to relieve those who are in Christ of condemnation and assure them of God's secure and unchanging love and grace. Sometimes the intensity of the struggle with same-sex attraction may be seem like a journey of three steps forward and two steps back. However, the defining difference is that there is, in fact, a struggle with sin and not an ongoing surrender to it.
For individuals in the midst of this struggle, our desire is for them to hear a message of hope that proclaims the transforming power of Christ. Recent statements have seemingly minimized the possibility of change and have discouraged the hope of many beginning their journey out of homosexuality. While it's true that same-sex temptation may remain to varying degrees, we do not believe this diminishes God's transformational work. Most people will continue to be vulnerable to a previous weakness but this can serve as a reminder of their dependence upon God's enabling grace. In the midst of our trials and weaknesses, we should always believe that change is possible.
With the need of a clear and accurate presentation of God's grace, it is our hope that the Body of Christ will rise up and take its place in proclaiming a gospel of hope and healing for all individuals, including friends and family who have been affected by homosexuality. We believe that authentic transformation occurs in the context of a healthy church community where sound doctrine is taught and God's compassion and mercy are demonstrated. This can only occur when the Church is committed to helping people understand the depth of God's unmerited favor, the necessity to align our lives in obedience with the dictates of scripture, and the commitment to seek God's will above our own. To embrace these spiritual components is to walk in authenticity and responsibility. May Exodus and all Christian ministries direct individuals desperately looking for hope to the freeing and transformational walk of a responsible grace.
Jeff Buchanan is the former Executive Vice President of Exodus International. An ordained pastor who has spent more than a decade of ministering to men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions, Jeff and
his wife Angela have returned to local church ministry in Allentown, Pa.