Whether you identify as gay or consider SSA a sin-struggle, the closure of Exodus International represents a new day. For some, the future looks bright and liberating. For others, the path ahead is frightening and uncertain. Many linger somewhere in-between feeling a range of emotions.
For many of you who experience SSA as a sin-struggle, the mere existence of Exodus provided comfort as you have pursued what can often be a difficult path. Just knowing Exodus was out there provided you a sort of intangible comfort that could be relied upon. A security blanket if you will.
When our securities are suddenly removed, emotions can become raw. Fear and anxiety can grow into a hopelessness about what is happening in our world – or what might happen to our life. I feel compassion for those experiencing this kind of reaction. I have heard from many of you since Exodus’ announcement. I understand your pain.
At the same time, I want to challenge you. The existence of Exodus became a crutch to lean on. In the many moments when you felt isolated and misunderstood, even a distant comfort seemed better than none at all. What is most needed, then, is nourishing comfort originating from more tangible sources – like family, friends and church fellowship. This kind of support is organic and sustainable for you over the long term. It is real support. To learn more about sustainable support, contact us.
One who has been active in an Exodus-affiliated group may protest: “But Bill, I did not receive comfort from a distance. I regularly met with real people who offered real care.” My response is this: your group can still exist. There is a growing reconstitution of former Exodus groups currently underway. Whether a national reconstitution occurs or not, you can still have your local group.
And yet I want to challenge you further. Finding support only in such a group is isolating. If you are not careful, you may end up establishing a false identity based upon what you are NOT. This kind of attachment to sub-identity is often rooted in an attempt to cope with or overcome isolation, fear of judgment and the pain of being misunderstood by the majority.
As nourishing as an SSA group can be, you also need support for who you ARE and this comes from finding integrated fellowship within the wider church body. Thankfully, today’s church offers increasing opportunities for such care. My advice is two fold: if you find your SSA group meaningful, keep attending! But you need more than that – you need to know that you are known and accepted and loved by your family, your friends and your church.
Now, let us consider the needs of those of you who identify as LGBT+. For years, Exodus represented a sort of religious boogie man who seemed to track you down, harass you and make you feel bad about yourself. You perceived Exodus as an organization that made you feel judged and unworthy of God’s love. Some of you even claim Exodus made you feel self-hatred — even suicidal.
Just like those who experience SSA as a sin struggle, you can attempt to find identity in subculture or attach to partial identities that reduce your whole person to sexuality or gender. Some find identity in specific forms of sexual activity or affiliation. You, too, risk finding comfort within groups that shield you from the majority world – or the religious world. This is not always bad – it is just not complete.
My encouragement to you is this: with Exodus now out of your path, pursue faith not as a mission to prove your worth but rather as a response to God’s invitation. Discover the God who wants your whole life; who does not reduce your identity but sees you as a whole person, and invites you to come to Him with your whole being. Dive deep into the Bible and begin to develop conversations with God (prayers) that are surrendering rather than self-protecting.
You can stand naked before God. He knows all about you. There is no reason to hide from or deny Him because others have used “him” as a spiritual hammer over your head. Religious people may not be reliably trustworthy, but God is. He can take you as you are. Only do not demand or limit God to only comfort you around sexual orientation or gender identity. He wants everything – all of you.
If you are gay and feel curious about God, I invite you as well contact us.
Exodus is no longer a crutch nor a hammer. Let us come to Jesus with everything in us and all that we are. And may we, the wider church, learn to authentically offer unconditional love and welcome to all who seek peace with God. This does not erode orthodoxy — it fulfills and preserves it.
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