Move too fast and you might pull a muscle. Move too slow and you might become a Polaroid. For individuals and organizations alike, adjusting one’s posture is routinely necessary. Yet we must measure our movements thoughtfully if we hope to avoid injury or death.
Polaroid as a technology was once closer to digital application than the traditional 35 mm market. They failed to recognize their competitive edge and resisted change. Canon and Nikon saw the inevitable future, embraced change and successfully moved into the digital age. Polaroid closed shop.
Similarly, Exodus once owned decades of experience in caring for LGBT+/SSA persons. They had an international platform and were flush with cash. They were positioned to shepherd the church well. Instead, the organization remained mired in culture war. They moved too slow and ultimately missed altogether a major generational shift that was underway.
Now, they have undergone the ultimate posture shift: they have shut down. This dramatic and desperate move is smothered in misperception. Many LGBT+ friends suggest it represents “a huge win for gay theology.” Others are more personal: they expect Alan Chambers and his wife to soon announce their divorce. Exhibit A: John Paulk. Exhibit B: Ray Boltz.
The problem with slow change is that it ultimately forces a desperate correction that strips the gears of organizational vision and will. We saw this affect in the recent Asiana crash in San Francisco. Too slow. Too slow. Speed up. Too late. Vision must be guided. Shifts must occur gradually. Otherwise, damage is done.
Lead Them Home has experienced such risks first hand. We began a posture shift in the church a decade ago: one designed to enhance inclusion while not abandoning orthodoxy. Along the way, we learned some hard lessons. The most important one was that our words and actions “mean” something to others.
Kindness, for example, against the backdrop of decades of culture war was often perceived as a shift in theological belief. The idea that radical love could be felt across “the belief gap” had not been experienced by many LGBT+ folks. To fail to explain that “actually our beliefs remain orthodox” sometimes led to an emotional backlash as individuals later felt misled. Thus, we learned early on to love well but also to communicate clearly what our words and actions mean – or do not mean.
This discipline of measuring our movements carefully and responding honestly to others’ perceptions has resulted in a sustainable model for ministry in a very complex area of the church’s connection to culture. We have never out grown this model – it is this intense commitment to honesty that continues to allow Lead Them Home to build trust and credibility with the LGBT+ Community.
Exodus’ posture shift will continue to be smothered in misperception. I have commented on positive aspects in prior posts, because it is important to move forward – not look back. However, make no mistake: the closure of Exodus is a failure of vision. Incremental movements in posture over the past decade could have prevented Exodus from losing its key advantages and ultimately its existence.
Importantly, the former Exodus leaders who plan to re-emerge will have to manage the same tension they just abandoned and it begins with this lesson: our actions and words “mean” something to others. I encourage them to be as starkly honest about their beliefs as they are passionate about their new mission. This posture will best serve the church – and the LGBT+ Community.
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