Exodus Head: Gay Christians Can Go to Heaven; Jesus Didn't Say 'I'll Make You Straight'
In an interview with Lisa Ling, Exodus International President Alan Chambers reiterated his beliefs that gay Christians can go to heaven. Chambers also commented on the need for churches to change their approach to homosexuals.
"Do I think there are people living a gay Christian life who are going to be in heaven with me?" he posed on a Tuesday episode of "Our America With Lisa Ling." "I do; if they have a relationship with God."
Chambers has made similar comments in previous interviews over the past year. He told The Christian Post in July that while he can't know for certain who will or will not enter heaven, what he does know is that those – including people living the homosexual lifestyle – who have a relationship with Christ are "eternally secure."
(Read Lisa Ling Asks: Is It Possible to Be Both Gay and Christian?)
Chambers, who is married to his wife and has two children, does not condone homosexuality. He believes it is a sin. But he isn't keen on churches treating the issue of homosexuality differently from other sin issues.
"Jesus didn't say 'come to me and I'll make you straight.' He said 'come to me,'" the Exodus head said in an extended interview with Ling. "We need to do a better job in the church of supporting people who might not fit with our religious worldview as Christians."
"I think in the church that we have opted out of relationship (with gay and lesbian neighbors) and we have opted in to picket signs and criticisms on this issue in ways that we haven't done with other issues and I think it's time for that to stop," he said.
The question he poses is how should Christians love their gay and lesbian neighbors "in a way that's not going to hurt them, that's not going to offend them?"
"I'm not saying it's all about walking on egg shells because I have gay and lesbian friends and we talk about really deep issues. They offend me and I offend them but that comes in the context of relationship."
Chambers has been leading Exodus International since 2001. The ministry, which helps those struggling with same-sex attraction, recently distanced itself from reparative therapy – a type of counseling that aims to change a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight.
Part of the reason Exodus stopped supporting reparative therapy was because it would set people up for "unrealistic expectations" such as promising to diminish or even eliminate same-sex attraction.
"The vast majority of people that I've met would say that there is some level of struggle or temptation or attraction that's resident there whether it's a little or a lot. And I don't know whether someone can say that therapy changes that," Chambers told Ling.
Chambers, who was a former practicing homosexual, was also disturbed by some of the techniques employed in reparative therapy such as the use of heterosexual pornography.
Married for nearly 15 years to Leslie, Chambers, a Christian, still struggles with same-sex attraction but he told Ling that he neither identifies as gay nor feels "stuck" in his marriage.
"For over 15 years since I've been in relationship with Leslie, my attraction has been towards her, my devotion has been towards her," he explained. "I chose this marriage. She is the object of my desire. She is the object of my affection. I wouldn't choose anything or anyone else but her.
"So am I heterosexual? I don't know. I'm not gay."
He added, "I have Leslie attractions. I have opposite sex attractions towards my wife."
When asked by Ling what he would do if his son came out to him as gay, Chambers said he would still love him.
"What if he (son) does? You take a deep breath and you continue the relationship," he answered. "I don't know what my kids are going to choose when they're old enough to choose. At the end of the day, they're my kids and I love them and there's nothing more important than my relationship with them."
Chambers said he considers it a tragedy that many parents in the church have been fearful to tell others that they have a gay or lesbian child.
"We want to help those parents have a relationship with their gay [or] lesbian kid that's not focused around or centered around where they disagree but the things that they do agree on and that is being in a relationship with one another as parents and kids," he stated.
Chambers' recent comments on gay Christians in heaven and renunciation of reparative therapy have stirred controversy among some evangelicals. Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, even called for him to step down as president.
A dozen ministries (out of some 270) have left Exodus International over the last two months but the board has stood by Chambers.
John Warren, treasurer of the Exodus International Board of Directors, defended Chambers as a minister of the Gospel who holds a biblical view of sin and repentance and who has committed his life to serving the Lord.
READ: COUNTERPOINT - A GAY MAN AND AN EX-GAY MAN DISCUSS HOMOSEXUALITY