"We are committed Christians, but we're still gay.” (Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe)

Recently, three former leaders of Exodus International issued a public mea culpa for the harm they had done to members of the gay and lesbian community:

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates."

Exodus International is a Christian-based ministry that over the past three decades has helped many people caught in the grip of homosexuality. The organization emphasizes that while sexual reorientation is difficult, and by no means guaranteed, it is possible through the grace of God. However, difficulties with defining and measuring “success” have made the ministry a target of gay-affirming groups.

One of the ex-leaders is Michael Bussee, who left the organization in 1979 after falling in love with a male volunteer. Commenting on the trio’s apology, Bussee added, “God's love and forgiveness does indeed change people. It changed me. It just didn't make me straight.”

Noteworthy is the fact that all three signatories describe themselves as “ex-gay survivors” and ”committed Christians.” If you sense a disconnect there, the Reverend Mel White would like to help you align the dots.

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White is a co-founder of the gay advocacy group Soulforce and author of What the Bible SaysAnd Doesn't SayAbout Homosexuality. “There are,” he writes, “millions of gay and lesbian persons who have accepted their sexual orientation as a gift from God and live productive and deeply spiritual lives.”

Homosexual orientation is “a gift from God?” Active gays lead a “deeply spiritual life?” What about all those Bible passages condemning homosexual behavior? Before you start thumbing through your Bible, note what White gives as the final word on this:

“The evidence from science and from the personal experience of gay and lesbian Christians demands that we at least consider whether the passages cited to condemn homosexual behavior should be reconsidered...”(Emphasis added).

From that epistemological peg, the reverend builds his case, starting with a list of Old Testament customs including slavery and polygamy and prohibitions against interracial marriage. Since those offensive practices have faded to black in the shadow of the Cross, so too must censures against homosexuality. After all, White insists, science and personal experience have informed us that “homosexual orientation is as natural as heterosexual orientation.” Back to that in a moment.

White then unpacks six scriptural passages to show how their homophobic teachings are either outmoded or misinterpreted. White’s exegesis of Romans 1 is a parade example.

In that well-known text, Paul reveals that God abandoned the wicked to “shameful lusts” culminating in “unnatural” same-sex relations. White expends some energy explaining that the people being referenced were not homosexuals, but rather heterosexual pagans who engaged in all sorts of sex, including same-sex acts, as a part of their fertility religion. Thus, this passage is not about the evils of homosexuality as it has been traditionally interpreted; it is about the consequences of ungodliness and behavior that is contrary to our nature.