Interview: Alan Chambers on Closing Exodus Int'l and Starting a New Ministry

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By Jeff Schapiro , Christian Post Reporter
June 21, 2013|5:56 pm

CP: In your written apology that you posted online you said that you can't apologize for your belief in biblical sexual boundaries, but you did say that you will "exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them." So can you please describe what those biblical sexual boundaries are, and also how your approach to those who disagree with you has changed?

Chambers: My beliefs about sex and sexuality and sexual expression are that God created, His original created intent was sexual expression between one man and one woman for one lifetime in the bonds of marriage, and that is the truth I live by. That is the truth of my story. So I can't apologize for that. I realize that's not everyone's belief, and in fact it feels more and more like the majority of the world, that isn't their belief. So those things won't change, and I can't apologize for that.

But I do believe so many of us who hold to those scriptural beliefs ... have wielded them as a sword so often. We've been involved in a culture war that really, literally, has claimed untold lives, and we've got to be more careful. God didn't bring us to planet Earth to wage a war. When he sent Jesus, Jesus didn't come to condemn the world. And so I think we have to really step back and realize we have waged war. We have wielded swords. We have not brought the Gospel of peace. And so often – in fact, most often – the church is known for what we're against, the political things that we are signing on to or signing up to be against. And it's time that the world knows what we're for.

We've been in charge for much of history, as the church, in charge of all sorts of things. We've been the power brokers at the table, and today we're not. And if we want to have any hope of being a part of any discussion or any conversation, we must realize that we are to serve our culture. We are to bring peace. We are to promote and live the good news of the Gospel. Then, and only then, will we have the credibility that we need to have to compel other people to Jesus Christ.

CP: I would like to clarify one other thing that's in the apology letter as well. You said, "I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage, but I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek." I was wondering, does that mean that you're not opposed to allowing gay marriage? I don't want to put words into your mouth, so what would you say you meant by that?

Chambers: I would say exactly what I said. For five years, Exodus and I and all of our leadership have been far removed from policy and politics. It was a distraction for us. It was something that caused great division with the majority of people who are a part of Exodus, and certainly within communities of people that we're trying to build bridges with and be in relationship with. So when it comes to the issues of politics and legislation related to gay marriage and things like that, we're out of that conversation. I don't have a desire to fight people on that.

What I believe about marriage is how I live my life. I believe that it's time for us to live our faith – if you want to know what I believe, watch me live my life. Live our faith and share our lives. And so that's really what I meant by that. I have gay loved ones, I have gay friends, and they're a part of my life. And the people who are part of their life are people who are important to me as well. And so it's a difficult road to walk. Everybody wants you to declare a position, and I'm not willing to do that.

CP: Tell me a little bit about the new ministry that's going to be starting. What is it called and what is the goal of the ministry?

Chambers: Really ... it's just in the dreaming and infancy stage of all of that. We don't have a name. We do have a website that we just quickly put up that is called ReduceFear.org. It's not going to be the name of the organization, but it is one part of a mission statement that we have come up with about what we want to do.

We believe that the majority of people, especially people within the church, react out of fear. The majority of our opinions and positions and discussions and debates and arguments are based out of fear, and what we want to do is reduce that fear. We want to help people come to the table and bring people to the table to have intelligent, thoughtful discussions that will focus on building common good.

We don't have to build bridges with people outside the church with different opinions, there are plenty of people inside the church with different opinions. We have different political affiliations, we have different beliefs about social issues and all sorts of things, and I think it's time for us to lay down the weapons, to end the war, and to promote peace at all costs, and to be people who are willing, more than anything, to sit down with their neighbor and have a conversation. We want to host conversations like that. We want to write extensively about that. We want to help churches be places that people who agree with their theology or their scriptural beliefs feel welcome to come, but we also want people who don't agree with them to feel welcome to come as well. And I believe that that's possible. I believe that's the role of the church.

And so we're going to give everything to do that. My wife and I have given everything to do that. We ended an organization that pays our bills, frankly, and we have no means beyond the bank account that is left at Exodus to say that we're going to have a paycheck. But we're going to give our lives to this, and risk everything in order to see the church become a place that we were called to be, to be a place of peace and to compel other people toward the good news of the Gospel.

CP: The press release said that the board had voted both to shut down Exodus and to establish this new, separate ministry. Does that mean that the board is going to stay the same? And are a lot of the employees going to stay the same as well?

Chambers: Three years ago at this very time we had over 20 employees. Today we have nine employees. But as of July 5, we will have three. And those three people right now are willing to be volunteers. And so our board of directors and leaders, many, many leaders who have stood with us for many years, and some who have just joined over the course of the last year due to the things we've been saying and doing, have decided to join and be a part of this new work that we're doing. So at this point, our board will stay the same as a group of people who are helping to advise and work toward the building of this new organization. I do expect that there will be many new faces who join the organization and who join our board as well. So it's definitely in the moving stage right now.

CP: Is there anything else that you would like to share about the closing of the ministry or about the new ministry that we haven't discussed?

Chambers: Just that it's been enormously difficult to make this decision. For me, and for so many other people, Exodus has been a dear friend. As a 19-year-old college student, Exodus saved my life. And my wife and I have given our lives and I spent my entire adult life a part of this ministry. And we've given our resources, we've given our house, we've given adoption money. We've given everything to do good and to help people, and so I don't ever want that discounted. We're saying goodbye to a dear friend, and though in 37 years there have been people who have been hurt -- and we're deeply sorry for that -- there have been people who have been helped, and I don't ever want that to be negated.

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