An open letter was published in Friday's Washington Post to Exodus International's Alan Chambers from the Rev. Jay A. Wiesner, cofounder of The Naming Project. It's a beautiful letter that gets to the point: "I wonder how you plan on making amends."
We have never met, but we were on the same Our America With Lisa Ling episode called “Pray the Gay Away?”. You spoke about the ability to change your sexual orientation. I spoke about my own experience (and the experience of many others) that it seems to be impossible to change your sexual orientation and that God loves all people no matter whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, or heterosexual. I have thought about you and prayed for you ever since I saw the episode.
I have just read your letter of apology and the news of the “shutting down” of Exodus International. First of all, I want to thank you for your apology. Admitting that you have done wrong is always difficult. Admitting you have done wrong publicly is much more daunting than simply admitting it privately. Your organization has caused a great deal of turmoil, heartache and pain for the past three decades. I do not envy you the task that you have taken on.
I have already read comments from a number of people who don’t trust your apology and who have been so hurt by Exodus in the past that your words seem incredibly hollow. I hope and pray that is not the case. After your eloquent apology to the damage that Exodus International has done, I wonder how you plan on making amends? I have a couple of ideas.
I have just looked at the Exodus International Web site and I wonder what it would look like if in your list of resources you might include organizations like “The Trevor Project”, “Trinity Place Shelter”, and the program I co-founded ten years ago, “The Naming Project”, just to name a few. These organizations work hard at healing just a fraction of the damage that has been done to LGBT youth; damage that quite tragically has been done much of the time in the name of Jesus Christ. You could also offer a link to the Gay Christian Network, an online organization that gives LGBT Christians a place to listen and share their joys, struggles, and lives.
To take this one step further: what would it look like to offer financial resources to some of these organizations? A financial gift offered from Exodus International to help these organizations continue their work helping LGBT people would speak volumes and really help people understand how sorry you are. As you close down the Exodus business, I assume that there would be some money left over for donations to be made.
In your apology, you said that you were sorry that you “didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on [your] side’” who were calling others names. Putting “on my side” in quotation marks in your apology was interesting to me. We have all learned how to be on particular “sides” in life and for many years, the media has worked hard to make these sides as pronounced as possible to give people a sense of drama and tension. But we do not have to live that way if we don’t want to.
Alan, to make this apology real, it is time to put it into action and that means taking the very risky step of explaining to “your side” why “my side” is loved by God just as much as you are, just as we are. After a while, we might even stop thinking about sides. Galatians 3.28, where all are one in Christ might become a little more of a reality. A simple re-branding of your organization will not make your apology believable. You want your apology to be real, right? For the lives of so many people out there, I pray that you do.
Your Brother in Christ,
The Rev. Jay A. Wiesner
Co-Founder of The Naming Project