Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International — an “ex-gay” ministries umbrella group — distanced himself from an opinion piece written by “ex-gay” pastor Phillip Lee of His Way Out Ministries in Bakersfield, Calif., that attacked the “gay lifestyle.”
The Bakersfield Californian published an editorial Sunday called “‘Gay lifestyle’ poses threat to people’s physical well-being” written by Lee saying, in part, “[t]here is, therefore, little to no evidence that homosexual practice can be anything other than a severe threat to the sanctity of life.”
“That said,” Lee wrote, “all efforts should and must continue to better understand and find a cure for AIDS and AIDS-related diseases. However, if the sexual behavior that is fundamental to most homosexual practice constitutes the primary means of transmitting such disease, then it only makes sense for society to do all it can to decrease such behavior, which ultimately protects the sanctity of life.”
Chambers responded to Lee’s commentary in an interview with the Washington Blade on Tuesday.
“Exodus is a large and diverse world-wide network,” Chambers said. “Like any church, or any political party, there are different groups or different individuals within any organization that have certain beliefs. I wouldn’t say that this is the majority of belief within Exodus, nor is it my opinion or the opinion of those that work with me here in Orlando.”
Jim Burroway, publisher of the Box Turtle Bulletin blog, which published a link to the op-ed on Monday, said this is not the normal rhetoric that is used by the Exodus parent organization.
“I don’t know what the beliefs are among Exodus’ top people,” Burroway told the Blade. “I do know that what was printed in that op-ed is very uncharacteristic of the kind of statements you would get from Exodus International.”
“As far as AIDS stigmatization is concerned, they have stayed away from that at the Exodus International level,” Burroway added. “Exodus supposedly says that they maintain certain standards that they expect their affiliates to follow. So I would question whether this op-ed conforms to these standards that they expect their affiliates to follow.”
Chambers claimed that he regularly urges Exodus supporters not to use the kind of language contained in Lee’s commentary.
“These are the types of things, when I go into the numerous churches that I go into all over the world every single year, I tell them ‘please don’t say things like this, anymore. This isn’t helpful,’ Chambers said. “This takes us back to a time of debate when that’s something that we need to move far beyond.
“I have sent him my thoughts via email. Its a hard thing when someone that you’re friends with, and you’re close to shares something publicly that you have to disagree with. But I had to do it. Its one of those things that I felt like was necessary for us to respond to.”
Chambers said that he made his feelings clear to Lee about the editorial in his email on Tuesday.
“Basically, this is not something that I agree with. This is not something that I would say. Not something that I feel like is helpful for us as we try to have conversations about very complex issues.”
Chambers, however, did not entirely rebuke the premise of Lee’s piece that same-sex sexual relationships are fundamentally detrimental to the health of gay men, as the editorial hypothesizes.
“The fact of the matter is I travel quite a bit,” Chambers said. “I go through hundreds of X-ray machines in the airports every year. That’s detrimental to my health. There’s so many things out there that are detrimental to our health, and I think picking on one issue over another, or one set of people over another… we’ve moved past that, hopefully in our culture, and I’d like to see us move further than we have.”
“Chambers is trying to soft-pedal his bigotry in order to be able to falsely claim that he’s not anti-gay,” Director of Communications and Development for ex-gay watchdog group ‘Truth Wins Out,’ John M. Becker told the Blade. “He’s willing to do anything to save Exodus and repair its terribly damaged public image, because his organization is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.”