The president of the world's largest ministry to homosexuals and their families recently attempted to clarify controversial statements he made at a Gay Christian Network conference in Orlando, Fla., including one in which he described gays at the conference as "brothers and sisters in Christ."
"I believe that if a person has accepted the free gift of salvation, then the gift is irrevocable," Exodus International President Alan Chambers explained. "So, when someone says that they are a born again believer, I address them as a brother or sister in Christ."
Chambers published his comments on his ministry's website last Friday, weeks after returning from the annual GCN conference. GCN describes itself as "a nonprofit ministry serving Christians who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and those who care about them."
The Exodus head voluntarily participated in a forum at the event in January, where he was "grilled for about 3 hours" in front of a crowd of 450 people. Most of those people probably disagree with his view that homosexuality is outside of the will of God. Exodus encourages people to turn away from homosexuality through the power of Christ, while GCN embraces homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for the Christian person.
Although many people who attended reject the concept of ex-gay ministries, Chambers addressed those in attendance as Christian brothers and sisters.
"As an adoptive father, my children are irrevocably mine. They may disown me, stop talking to me and sin against me, but that does not change the fact that they are mine and always will be. I believe the same is true of God with His adopted children," said Chambers. "Thus, I believe that people who sin (all of us) can be Christian if they have accepted that free gift of salvation."
He also stated that there were probably non-Christians at the GCN conference, but noted that is probably true at most churches on any given Sunday as well.
Chambers, who about two decades ago decided to turn away from his own homosexuality, asserted his belief that "homosexuality has superseded religion as the most divisive issue discussed in our world today." With that said, he clarified in his blog post another statement he made at the event regarding "ex-gays."
He admitted to the crowd in Orlando that "99.9 percent of the people I know have not changed their sexual orientation." He said he knows of very few people who go from living a homosexual lifestyle to having no same-sex attraction at all.
"I believe that complete orientation change occurs very rarely," he wrote. "For us to have integrity, I think it is important to acknowledge this. But for a Christian wanting to live a life in alignment with Christ's teachings orientation is only one part of a larger picture."
Most people, he argued, deal with some form of same-sex temptation for the rest of their lives. And that includes himself. Compared to 20 years ago though, his temptations (related to same-sex attraction) today aren't the same. But he said, "I still have temptations and struggles."
Nevertheless, he deals with them just like he deals with the other temptations in his life.
"I choose to be faithful to my relationship with Christ and the truth that my Heavenly Father's creative intent for human sexual expression was for one man and one woman in the bonds of heterosexual marriage," he stated. "For me, anything else falls short and is to be resisted. Because I experience some level of SSA (same-sex attraction) I monitor what stimuli I receive. The same is true of my relationship with other things that have consumed me in the past from food to materialism.
"SSA isn't a greater struggle or more concerning to me than other things in my life. Again, they just are. I guess that is why I have no problem talking about them, admitting them and feeling really great about myself even though I have them. They do not define me."
Chambers noted that his wife, Leslie, isn't threatened by his same-sex attraction.
"She knows how I feel about my relationship with Christ first and how I feel about her followed by our kids and so on. She isn't a surrogate for sexual acting out. She is my treasure and the object of my deepest human longings."
Though he still struggles, he insisted that he has experienced change. "The change," he explained, "is primarily a matter of seeking to live out what I value most. It is centered on who I am in Christ and flows outward in a way that is specific to me and doesn't contradict what the Bible teaches. The same was true for me as a single, celibate Christian man."
Doug M., co-founder and executive director of Homosexuals Anonymous, told The Christian Post on Tuesday that the article from Chambers was a "valiant attempt at explaining a very complex situation," although many people won't agree.
"Everybody sees everything from his own perspective. The gay world will jump on him. The ex-gay world will say, 'Woah, you said a little bit too much,'" said Doug M.
Doug M., who asked that his last name not be used because of the anonymity that is practiced within his organization, is a former homosexual as well. He said people who don't think that God can change the orientation of a homosexual need to realize the principal behind Philippians 1:6, which says "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
That verse, he noted, explains that turning away from homosexuality is a process, but it can be done. His sexual attractions have radically shifted over the last 40 years but he agrees with the idea that many former homosexuals will never cease to have same-sex attractions every once in a while.
"This whole argument boils down to everybody's perception of: what is change? What does it mean to have a change in orientation? I can tell you this, orientation shifts when God steps in and when the proper understanding is made of it," he stressed. "Now, if you're being taught that it's impossible to shift out of this orientation then you don't try. And if you don't try, you'll never succeed."
Chambers' participation at the GCN conference was originally set as a closed-door conversation with a handful of interested GCNers. But conference organizers decided to open the conversation to anyone who wanted to hear it.
GCN had sent out an email in December, which has been posted to exgaywatch.com, warning conference attendees that the topic of ex-gay ministries might come up.
"We are also aware that some members of our community have strong emotional reactions to the topic of ex-gay ministry, due to their own painful experiences," the email said. "We will work with you to address your specific needs and ensure that you are able to attend the conference safely and happily."
GCN Executive Director Justin Lee explained that he tried to make every effort to make attendees – particularly those traumatized by ex-gay ministries – feel safe. Prior to the forum with Chambers, an "ex-gay survivors support group" was held. Debriefing sessions were also organized after the forum.
While noting that those who attended GCN "often hear gross misrepresentations about our ministry," Chambers acknowledged in his blog that "some have experienced real trauma in ministries (including Exodus), churches and counseling settings in the name of Christ and change."
"I do believe we owe it to them to specifically address their concerns, make amends where applicable and help them heal," he stated. "That will always include humility, but never a disregard for the biblical foundation that Exodus is built upon or a diminishment of the incredible things that happen daily in and through the ministries of Exodus."