What Happened to Exodus International?

By Peter Hubbard

On June 19, 2013, Alan Chambers announced the end of Exodus International. He used his keynote address at the annual conference to explain why the 37-year-old ministry was folding. He explained that the church has been driven by fear, and Christians have been acting like prosecutors.

So he apologized to all those who had been hurt, and he intends to start a new ministry called Reduce Fear.

I was out of the country and away from phone service and email when all of this transpired, so the actual announcement caught me by surprise. Yet the direction of Exodus has been shifting for several years.

  • March 2011 – Alan announced that a person can persist in the gay lifestyle and still be a Christian.
  • June 2012 – Alan denounced reparative therapy. (This is not all bad.)
  • March 2013 – Alan separated from evangelicalism.
  • June 2013 – Alan announced the end of Exodus.

During this time, many Exodus affiliates have pulled away from the ministry due to its theological shift. Some have formed The Restored Hope Network.

So what happened to Exodus? I’ve hesitated to write anything because of my love for Alan. He is a dear brother in Christ, and he has ministered to my church, my family, and to me. I do not question the sincerity of his motives; I believe he loves Jesus and wants to help people. And I continue to share my concerns with him directly as I have done over the past few months.

In my fallible opinion, Alan is over-compensating. He has rightly identified the failure of the church. We have often been like the elder brother – critical and self-righteous toward homosexuals. Alan is calling us to repent, and even in his keynote address he repeated this appeal (e.g. “We in the church have been motivated by fear.”). But Alan refuses to call the “younger brother” to repentance. He said in the same address, “We’re not going to tell people how they should live.” But what does that mean? Alan has always taught that we don’t tell people how to live, but we do tell them how God transforms them by His grace and enables them to live. Apparently this message has changed. Alan is calling us to “be the father” and welcome the younger brother back into the home. He emphasized in his address that “It doesn’t matter how a person lives as long as they are in the community – ‘just come home.’” I have asked Alan, “Would the father allow his son to remain in his home if the son insisted on spending his money on prostitutes and refused to repent?”

John the Baptist and Jesus both began their ministry with a call to repentance (Mark 1:4, 15). Is it possible for us to preach the gospel of Jesus without calling people to repentance? The Apostle Paul described men who claimed to believe in Jesus yet continued to live immorally as those who “profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16). In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul stated that the sexually immoral, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality and greedy “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Let’s be clear – no one goes to hell for being a homosexual! God condemns us for only one thing - not believing in His Son (John 3:18). We are saved by grace through faith; “it is a gift of God, not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Alan and I would agree on this. But Paul goes on, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Paul spends a lot of time imploring the Ephesians to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do… for you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral… has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 3:5-6).

We are saved by grace alone, but the grace that saves is never alone. I fear that Alan has been led astray by “empty words.” (See Robert Gagnon’s critique of Alan Chambers’ pastor, “Why Exodus, Chambers Are on a Collision Course with Jesus”.) Alan’s pastor, mentor, and former Chairman of Exodus’ Board preaches a saving grace that is a powerless grace and does not necessarily result in life change.

In light of these shifts in Exodus, I am beginning to see the ministry’s closing as a gift to the church. It’s time for pastors to stop depending on Exodus to help people who are battling homosexuality. God has called the church to be a haven for SSA strugglers. The Father is calling the elder brother (the self-righteous) and the younger brother (the self-indulgent) both to repent and come home. Yes, we will struggle, and yes, we will fail. But we will struggle and fail and experience God’s training, transforming grace together (Titus 2:11-12).