At the first of this year, Alan Chambers told me and others that he was going to be participating in the GCN (Gay Christian Network) panel discussion, and I encouraged him to do so. At the time, I believed it was a very brave and unconventional way to reach a hard-to-reach group. Late that night, the audio recording was released. I was frankly upset by what I heard as I sat and listened for the first time. Many off color comments were made in an attempt to bring levity to what I know was a very tense situation for Alan. Would I have said things differently? I believe so, but I was not there and certainly do not have the level of intense scrutiny that Alan has. This caused me to experience a range of emotions for some time.
That was over eight months ago. Then, in June, I published Alan’s keynote address at the Exodus national conference in which he explained his position. I also took the time to read Alan’s pastor’s book “Pure Grace” to attempt to understand where Alan and his pastor were coming from, as this has become the subject of a very heated theological debate. I also took time to transcribe and publish an abridged version of his remarks to the GCN.
Alan has been accused of heresy, of leading others to damnation through making light of sin, and has been demanded to resign by a group of men and women both in and out of Exodus. Since this time, a group of about 15 ministries, including well known individuals and ministry leaders have rebuked Alan and started a new organization called Restoring Hope. Some of the men and women on this list are my friends across the country, which makes this especially painful and difficult. Also, there are many men and women that are a part of our Hope For Wholeness curriculum that are a part of this group.
I wanted to take the time to calm my emotions and really study where Alan was coming from and what Alan had actually said. I have had several communications with Alan and really feel that I have heard his heart. I have also studied the scriptures for myself.
I believe that this all comes down to approach and not actually a theological debate. Alan sees things from a very different vantage point than I do. For one, he runs a national and international organization that deals with a subject that has completely flip-flopped socially within the last ten years. It wasn’t long ago that homosexuality was not considered acceptable. Today, we live in not just a homosexual-accepting culture, but a pro-gay culture that often looks at the desires of the homosexual over the rights and opinions of the church or the culture at large. The church that remains against homosexuality is portrayed as out of touch and antiquated.
One night a number of years ago, a retired pastor called my home. We had 3 billboards up that promoted our message of ‘freedom from homosexuality’ and we were getting a lot of press coverage. Letters to the editor were being posted daily in our local newspaper referencing me and Hope for Wholeness. I finally responded with my own letter to the editor by saying, “nowhere in scripture can a homosexual go to find direction on how to live in right standing before God…” The retired pastor challenged me that I failed to say that scripture condemned the homosexual. He said, “I’ve found that when I tell people that homosexuality is an abomination that they would say, “Pastor, what must I do to be saved?” I asked the pastor how many years he had been retired, and told him that this approach no longer works in the culture in which we find ourselves.
I believe that Alan Chambers desires to reach this gay identified world with a more friendly and less confrontational approach that would draw them in rather than repel them. Alan, being an international communicator, does not speak only to those that agree with what he’s saying, he’s speaking to those that are against him, and he’s trying to reach them.
I have a very different vantage point: I’m in the Bible belt. However, even in the Bible belt, our culture has become more pro-gay than ever before. Certainly we still have our brand of bullies that tell gay jokes and pick on effeminate boys and less effeminate girls, but this too is changing as the media promotes a gay affirming culture.
Alan does not condone homosexuality nor does he promote a cheap grace as accused. He states, “if you want to know my opinion on the subject, look how I live my life.” Alan, a former homosexual, on the GCN panel admitted that he continues to struggle and has spoken and written more on this over the years. I know Alan, and he deeply loves his wife and children and is committed to them and to promoting the gospel of Christ.
Alan chooses to not question the salvation of those who tell him that they are Christians and that they love and believe in Jesus. He does believe that, as in Matthew 7:21, many on that day will say that they did all these things in Jesus’ name, and He will say “Away from Me, for I never knew you.”
Alan, a non-denominational evangelical, believes that believers cannot lose their salvation, but walk in the grace of God covering their sin and refining them into maturity and that their salvation and sanctification are provided for them through the work of the Cross, as a free gift and not of works.
After much prayer, study, reading and listening, I report that I give my full support to Alan. He does not speak perfectly and often speaks in ways that are much different than I would. However, I do not argue with his theology and especially not with his honesty or his desire to reach out to a gay-identified or pro-gay culture in a way that may reach them with the gospel. Alan, and all of us that are choosing to remain with Exodus, are ever attempting to refine our message to a hurting, confused and condoning world.
I pray for calm and reconciliation between all parties as we attempt to reach a hurting world with a message of freedom through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.