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Shock Announcement: Famed Same-Sex Christian Ministry Will Shut Down -- and Its Leader Apologizes for Hurting Gays
Thom Watson, right, and Jeff Tabaco show the rings which they exchanged during their 2009 wedding ceremony at their home in Daly City, Calif., Monday, June 10, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8. Credit: AP

Shock Announcement: Famed Same-Sex Christian Ministry Will Shut Down -- and Its Leader Apologizes for Hurting Gays

"For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical."

Exodus International, a Christian ministry that tackles issues pertaining to same-sex attraction, has riled the gay community for decades. And 37 years after the organization first emerged, its president, Alan Chambers, is announcing that it will soon be shutting down. The development, a shock to supporters and detractors, alike, comes with a public mea culpa worth reading.

Just one day after the leader issued an "apology to the people who have been hurt by Exodus International," the shocking decision to shutter went viral. The organization's fate was sealed, according to a news release, after the board of directors prayed and considered Exodus' role in a changing culture -- one that is becoming more accepting of gay lifestyles.

Also, reflection on the group's activities contributed to the decision.

Alan Chambers (Photo Credit: Exodus International)

"Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” Chambers explained in the press release. "For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical."

Taking a wildly different tone from past efforts and activities, Chambers noted that, regardless of sexuality, everyone is considered "prodigal sons and daughters." He characterized his group as mistakenly pushing its views and will on others, while making judgments about who is worthy of heaven.

Rather than a divisive nature, Chambers claims it is important for everyone to be welcoming -- something Exodus has not been successful at in the past.

Of course, the group isn't dismissing all of its work. But its president argues that the good that was done was often overshadowed by the pain and hurt inflicted upon gays and lesbians.

"We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard," added Tony Moore, who serves on the board.

The closure of Exodus International isn't the end for Chambers' activism. In fact, the press release claims that a new ministry will be created -- one that is intended to "reduce fear" and to create welcoming communities (the URL is reducefear.org, but a website is not yet available).

It's unclear exactly what this new organization will do -- or how far it will deviate from the current message. To recap the group's beliefs on homosexuality and same-sex attraction, consider the "about us" page that is still live and active on the Exodus website:

We believe that same-sex attractions are multi-causal meaning that there are multiple factors that lend to the development of this struggle. Many researchers, Christian and secular alike, have tried to boil the issue down to simple choice or genetics. We believe that both fail to convey the complexity of this issue and only serve to invalidate the people who are same-sex attracted.

While we have never met anyone who “chose” to feel same-sex attracted, people do have to eventually make a decision to either act on those feelings or not to act on them.  Since 1976, Exodus has served as an organization helping men and women surrender their sexual struggles to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  We do not believe that same-sex attractions are sinful in and of themselves but rather one type of struggle and temptation among the millions that impact each and every human being.

We do believe that any sexual expression outside of a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman falls outside of God’s creative intent for human sexual expression and is sinful.  Homosexuality is no greater or less a sin than any other and is not the determining factor for a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In a blog post on Wednesday, entitled, "I Am Sorry," Chambers explained the long road he and his wife, Leslie, have gone on to reach this most recent decision and perspective on the treatment of homosexuals. In the commentary, the Exodus leader apologized for hurting gays and lesbians and he described the challenges he anticipates ahead, as he continues to disagree with the vocal majorities on both sides of the debate.

Photo Credit: Exodus International

"My desire is to completely align with Christ, his Good News for all and his offer of peace amidst the storms of life. My wife Leslie and my beliefs center around grace, the finished work of Christ on the cross and his offer of eternal relationship to any and all that believe," Chambers wrote. "Our beliefs do not center on 'sin' because 'sin' isn’t at the center of our faith. Our journey hasn’t been about denying the power of Christ to do anything – obviously he is God and can do anything."

In his apology, Chambers also divulges and discusses his own same-sex attraction and the internal battle that he has struggled with. He makes it clear that it was never his intention -- or his organization's -- to hurt anyone. Despite noting that his and the organization's efforts were meant to be good and to reap positivity, he said that this does little to diminish the pain that others have felt as a result of some of the group's actions.

"I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated," Chambers continued.

The heart of his apology -- one that is multifaceted and quite controversial -- can be found here:

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

Tonight, Chambers will appear on Lisa Ling's "Our America," where he will be confronted by gays and lesbians who believe that they were harmed by the organization. Watch a preview for the contentious exchange, below:

While some may take this all to mean that Chambers and his new group will be advocates for gay marriage, based on the apology, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Despite admitting hurting others, the Exodus leader said that he cannot apologize for his views on sex as it is portrayed in the Bible, nor can he dismiss his opinions on marriage. That said, he has no intention of fighting against gays' and lesbians' fight for the right to marry one another.

"You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours," he continued. "I hope the changes in my own life, as well as [Exodus International's closing], will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship."

Despite not knowing many details about Chambers' new organization, the Christian leader pledges that the effort will focus on peace and togetherness.

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