- by Jane Brazell -
What a wild ride the last 24 hours have been. Actually, it started about two weeks ago for me. I’m a member of an online group for survivors of ex-gay therapy. We’ve been getting ready for the Lisa Ling Our America special that aired tonight, June 20, 2013. We knew some of the people invited to be a part of the show; we’ve walked together through recovery. We were excited and anxious about the show – not scared of how the producers would handle it, but scared of our own emotional reactions and the response from viewers. And then, last night happened.
At about 10 pm last night my Twitter feed and Facebook Timeline blew up. “Exodus is shutting down.” At the Exodus website I read their official statement. The words were too perfect, so measured. I sat stunned. Exodus would be no more, sure, but the board was going to start something new, with the same philosophy that being LGBTQ is incompatible with a Biblical understanding, sex outside of marriage is not acceptable, and marriage is between a man and a woman. Exodus shared that this ministry would start conversations with churches about how to be in ministry with the marginalized and spiritual refugees; they would teach churches how to be welcoming. I tweeted, “Welcoming and affirming are two different things.”
Exodus and Alan Chambers were not saying that they now recognized my sacred worth; they were not willing to explore the idea that their theology might be revised. My reply, through social media, spoke my anger and frustration, “I will not apologize for my very existence causing you to question your theology. If your theology is too small to have room for all the beauty in creation I don’t want anything to do with your God or your faith.” It had been 17 years since I’d walked away from a fundamentalist Pentecostal faith and church; losing my friends and community, and the emotions of that night sprang forward and were as raw as ever.
I walked away because the dissonance in my head and heart was so loud I could not hear or feel anything else. I was severely depressed. During the last service I attended in that church one of the pastors, who knew of my struggles with sexuality, asked what I wanted. I looked him in the eye and said, “I want my mind back.” Stunned, he looked at me, opened his mouth, shut it again, and walked away. He had no answer for me. Later, I told a friend, and the worship leader, that I wanted to die. She promised to pray for me and got in her car. All she could see was that I was going to live a life of sin. I was alone, frightened, and sad.
The announcement from Exodus triggered those emotions. The feeling that I would never be affirmed in a church, that I would never be fully accepted as a minister of the Gospel, flooded my mind. I connected with the online group and found that many of us were feeling the same thing. It was good to be among those who understood; we stayed up until 3 AM with one another. We finally went to sleep, knowing the rest of the world would get the news later that morning.
Morning came and with it heartache. I saw post after post on my social media and articles galore in the press about Exodus’ announcement. There was praise and accolades for Alan Chambers. People were reading the same statements I had, and they were not troubled by any of it. There was no concern about a new organization with the same core belief. It was new wine in old wineskins. I wanted new wine and new wineskins. I wanted real transformation. Those who did not survive Exodus, or one of the other ex-gay groups in existence, didn’t understand why I was not elated. When I tried to explain that I was hesitant because it was not clear that the new organization would have the same beliefs toward LGBTQ I was told that I wanted too much; I needed to be happy that Exodus was shutting down and Alan Chambers said he was sorry. I was told that I should be concerned with how devastating this was for him and how brave he had been.
In his June 19, 2013 speech, made at the Exodus Freedom Conference, Alan Chambers spoke of friends he’s lost because he said that a cure didn’t exist that would make someone straight. He said that others were “disqualifying me from my rightful place as a son.” Those of us who walked away from Exodus suffered the same. We lost friends, family, and community; we were told that we would not inherit the Kingdom of God – that we were no longer a child of God. That’s what I wanted to hear from him. I wanted to hear that he sees LGBTQ people as holy, that our relationships are holy, that we are in fact beloved children of God and that nothing will separate us from that love. I wanted to hear that he recognizes the courage it took for us to come out and live wholly before God and the world. I didn’t hear that; Alan Chambers' ministry did not affirm me.
Tonight our group of survivors continues to minister to one another – continues to affirm one another. We hung out online with one another as the Lisa Ling show aired on the East coast, and now, as I finish this, are supporting one another through the airing on the West coast. We’ve added new members today; people who are glad to find us. People who are wounded and angry; people who need somewhere to belong and someone to affirm them. We will minister with and to one another and then get back to it.
What is it? “It” is making sure that whatever Exodus becomes doesn’t continue harming people; “it” is working to shut down the other organizations that continue ex-gay abuse. We will welcome new members and support them as they journey to themselves – some leaving behind church, faith, and God. It’s a heavy price to pay for harm done in Jesus’ name.
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