Willow Creek Community Church is no longer an affiliate of Exodus International, ending a relationship that spanned across several decades.
Willow Creek spokespersons say they just wanted to rethink the South Barrington megachurch's affiliations, but Christianity Today reports that Exodus President Alan Chambers believes the church split from his organization to avoid public criticism.
"The choice to end our partnership is definitely something that shines a light on a disappointing trend within parts of the Christian community," Chambers told the publication, "which is that there are Christians who believe like one another who aren't willing to stand with one another, simply because they're afraid of the backlash people will direct their way if they are seen with somebody who might not be politically correct."
Exodus International is the world's largest ministry specifically addressing the issue of homosexuality. The organization holds that “Christ offers a healing alternative to those with homosexual tendencies.”
Chambers also said that he sympathizes with organizations that have to deal with political, social, and financial backlash, but says that is just a part of carrying an unpopular Christian message.
"Biblical truth is unpopular, and when you're supporting unpopular truth, you are unpopular too,” he said.
Reports of the church's separation from the organization are coming out about two years after the decision was actually made back in 2009. Word of the change surfaced just last month, but prior to that, Willow Creek and Exodus partnered together to reach those in the Chicago-area beginning in the late 1980s.
Exodus previously provided “equipping events” to the church, preparing leaders to minister to those dealing with “unwanted same-sex attractions.” The organization also referred people to Willow Creek's “A Safe Place” and “Someone I Love” ministries.
Susan DeLay, a spokesperson for the church, emailed The Christian Post about the split, saying, “There really isn't a story.”
She also sent a statement from Scott Vaudrey, the church's director of pastoral care and leader of its elder response team, who said, "It is true that Willow Creek discontinued its formal relationship with Exodus. In making this move, we were not making a social or political statement. We were simply in a season of reviewing and clarifying some of our affiliations with outside organizations."
Don Zimmerman, pastor of First Baptist Church of Downers Grove, Ill., an Exodus affiliate, spoke to The Christian Post on Saturday about his experience with the organization.
"I appreciate ... their strong doctrinal stand on all the issues. And I just appreciate their openness in striving to meet needs of all kinds,” he said. "It's given us good materials to use for those who are interested in how to come out of [homosexuality], how to help those who are involved in it."
Christianity Today reports that Exodus has experienced a number of problems lately, including the repeal of the organization's tax-exempt status in New Zealand and a petition passed by the New Democratic Party of Canada which proposes that their nation does the same to all ex-gay organizations in their country.
Chambers told Christianity Today that these problems could happen for a number of reasons, but highlights the church's responsibility to take a stand regardless.
"I really do think decisions like this, ultimately, highlight a reticence in the church to stand up for biblical truth,” he said, “and they're coming at a time when we're going to have to stand up for what we believe. I think there's a way to stand up. We have to find that way."