One of the key Christian groups behind an annual counter event to the "Day of Silence" has pulled its support for the effort over the “adversarial” tone it came to take on.
After four years of supporting the “Day of Truth” initiative and one year spearheading the effort, Exodus International announced Wednesday that it was “returning the event” to the group that launched it – the Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund.
“Even though we have reached a fair number of students, we believe that due to the timing of the event, Day of Truth was always perceived in an adversarial manner, and became more about policy than people,” reported Exodus International President Alan Chambers.
And that, he said, “is in conflict with the mission we have chosen to embrace as an organization.”
Describing itself as “the largest information and referral ministry in the world addressing homosexual issues,” Exodus International promotes the message of “Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”
Since 1976, Exodus has grown to include over 230 local ministries in the United States and Canada – each of which provides support for individuals who want to recover from homosexuality, as well as provide support for their family and friends.
While the ministry views homosexual expression as outside of God’s will and sinful, it emphasizes the importance of conveying the message with “grace and truth.”
“We want to continue to promote dialogue and to equip Christian kids to reach out with compassion, grace and truth,” said Chambers, who left homosexuality more than 17 years ago. “We don’t need to practice this once a year, but rather every day.”
Since its inception, the Day of Truth has seen participation rise to nearly 20,000 students, with over 6,000 high-school students taking this year’s challenge to Get the Conversation Started.
The initiative, according to ADF, was established in 2005 to "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective."
Students who participate in the Day of Truth do so in a variety of ways, including wearing shirts with the Day of Truth logo, handing out Christian literature to other students, holding events that support the biblical perspective of homsexuality, and initiating media coverage to gain exposure for the movement.
The annual event purposely comes at the heels of the annual “Day of Silence” – a day when students vow silence to recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment against gays and lesbians.
ADF, a legal group that "defend[s] the right to hear and speak the Truth," said a positive aspect of "Day of Truth" is that it does not include techniques that disrupt class or other school activities, which the organization suggests the Day of Silence does.
“I believe that silence is a poor substitute for healthy and respectful cross-divide dialogue”, added Chambers in an interview Wednesday with Dan Gilgoff of CNN’s Belief Blog.
”When I was a student struggling silently with same-sex attraction and contemplating my options I was desperate for a compassionate voice and real answers. Silence may draw attention to the issue, but it doesn’t offer help or support,” he added.
Still, while Chambers continues to believe that honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality is necessary, he said he no longer thinks the “Day of Truth” is, especially amid rising concern nationwide over bullying in schools and its sometimes deadly consequences.
"All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they'd like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not," said Chambers.
Notably, however, Chambers said he, along with leaders of Exodus Youth, a division of Exodus International, made the decision in late April that 2010 would mark the end of its short leadership of Day of Truth. Exodus said it officially notified ADF last week of the change though the legal group has yet to publicly comment on the new development.
The most recent “Day of Truth” was held earlier this year on Apr. 16. Presently, a date has not yet been set for 2011.
The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN), meanwhile, plans to hold the 2011 "Day of Silence" next year on Apr. 15, a Friday.
The "Day of Silence" has been held every year since 1996, when GLSEN in collaboration with the United States Student Association organized the first event at the University of Virginia. It has since spread out to schools across the nation.