‘Ex-gay’ apology long overdue

Exodus International’s closing comes too late for some.

By Joe Phelps

The announcement that Exodus International is ending its 37-year “ministry” focused on “curing” homosexuals is welcome news indeed.

I am impressed and grateful for the apology issued by Alan Chambers, the leader of the organization. It seems sincere and must be accepted.

The apology recognizes that offering it does not eliminate the scars and premature graves that despoil the landscape like so many pockmarks. May healing abound.

The apology comes too late for Donetta.

Donetta visited my former congregation, Church of the Savior in Austin, Texas, as a friend of several members who were lesbians.

As one who loved God and wanted to be faithful in all aspects of her life Donetta struggled with her sexuality for a long time. She was incredulous to discover a Baptist church that welcomed her without conditions as a child of God.

She began to flourish, to smile, to sing the songs of faith again. She was an excellent trim carpenter and offered her gifts to the church whenever needed.

Then she was approached by an Exodus International recruiter who insisted she attend one of their meetings. Donetta agreed to go, and was told, again, that to give in to her same-sex desires was to defy God and to condemn herself to hell.

So Donetta tore herself away from our church, her friends, and for several months redoubled her efforts to repress her true self -- until it got to be too much.

Almost 20 years have passed, but the pit in my stomach returns as I remember the phone call, the drive to her house, standing on the driveway as the emergency workers removed her body from the car in her garage, the hose from the exhaust pipe still hanging inside the car window.

The bumper sticker on her car read, “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.”

Before her funeral service began in our church I was approached by the Exodus International representative. She looked sad. I anticipated grief, remorse and perhaps a belated apology. Instead, she shook her head and said, “Some people just aren’t strong enough.”

“Get out of this church building right now,” I demanded through gritted teeth, trying to keep my voice down. She did. It’s the one time I can recall ordering someone out of a church building. It wasn’t the most mature response, but it was the best I could do in the moment.

So I’m grateful for the apology from Exodus International; grateful indeed that the hurting and shaming that they perpetuated will cease.

If only Exodus International were the last group preaching this message.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.