Please excuse me while I do a little happy dance. You see, Exodus International is shutting down.
Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.
“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,” Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing (www.exodusinternational.org/apology) to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.
For those of you having trouble parsing “dealing with faith and homosexuality,” let me unpack it for you. Exodus International told gay people that they could stop being gay if they prayed hard enough, that God would turn them into the straight people they were meant to be. That’s what “dealing with faith and homosexuality” meant to them. Getting rid of the latter by doubling down on the former.
It didn’t work, as they now seem to be acknowledging. In fact, it seems they’re really, really sorry about that whole “telling people God wants them to be straight and will make them that way if they try hard enough” thing. (I am trying to get an excerpt of the apology statement linked above, but at the time of this writing their servers seem to be a wee bit overwhelmed.)
Now, it is deeply tempting to use this opportunity to discuss the bottomless depths of disdain I have for this organization, to express the unmitigated contempt I have for it and its mission. But I will refrain. I will take them at their word when they say they’re sorry, and will try to meet them in a spirit of grace and charity.
Because it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter how much I have despised the work they have done. It doesn’t matter what their intentions were as they went about it. None of it matters, not anymore.
What matters is that they are gone. What matters is that one of the “ministries” that social conservatives have gestured toward when they told gay and lesbian people that they could pray their natures away is shutting its doors. What matters is that one of the loudest voices proclaiming a poisonous narrative about how God’s love works has lost too much of its audience to keep talking.
In the end, it doesn’t matter why they did what they did. All that matters is they won’t be able to do it any more. “Goodbye” is the best thing they’ve ever said, and I’m so happy to have been here to hear it.
[Update: Andrew Sullivan offers some gracious and charitable thoughts.]