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Gagnon vs. Chambers

Okay. I tried linking to this controversy on Facebook and it isn’t working. So, I’m putting the links here.

On June 20, the Atlantic published an interview with Alan Chambers of Exodus international that signals a huge change in their philosophy of ministry to gays and lesbians. Their previous approach has been symbolized by the slogan
“Change is Possible”, and they have been closely linked (in the past) with Reparative Therapy attempts to change sexual orientation.

However, the article in the Atlantic proclaims:
At the world's largest ministry for homosexual Christians, there's no more talk of "curing" same-sex attraction.”

The article is here: Sexual Healing: Evangelicals Update Their Message to Gays.

In the article Alan Chambers responds to this question:

Can you clarify the goal of Exodus? You've said that you're not trying to make gay people straight.

With this response:

No, not at all. We're here to support people who are in conflict at the place where their attractions meet their faith. The majority of the people we serve are single and remain single. Forty percent are already married and are struggling with same-sex attractions in the context of that heterosexual relationship.Either way, by no means does being part of Exodus mean we don't still struggle or feel tempted. It's a very real part of the lives we lead. Our goal isn't to snap our fingers and pretend those struggles don't exist. But we have a conviction that same-sex sexual expression is incompatible with a healthy Christian sexual ethic. It's not that we don't have attractions. It's just that we have a priority higher than our sexual orientation.

All of this (please read the whole article) has called forth an angry response from Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.

He has written a lengthy rebuttal and posted it on his web site as a PDF. It is here: Time for a Change of Leadership at Exodus? Alan Chambers Assures "Gay Christians" That Unrepentant Homosexual Practice Is No Barrier to Salvation … among Other Gospel Distortions and Bad Moves.

As is quite typical for Dr. Gagnon, this rebuttal goes on for 35 pages. The original article was one page on my computer screen. I keep getting the impression, that Dr. Gagnon is not working to contribute to our understanding of a contentious issue in the church, he is seeking to pronounce
The Last Word on the subject — which will end all debate.

Here are some brief snippets of what Gagnon says in this 35 page essay:

In a recent interview in The Atlantic (June 20, 2012), Alan Chambers dealt a serious blow to the mission of Exodus, a mission that involves calling the lost to repentance and to true grace, true faith, and true hope. Alan made every effort to assure “gay Christians” that engaging regularly and unrepentantly in homosexual practice will not jeopardize their relationship to Jesus and God ….

Taken at face value, Alan’s statement assures self-professed Christians that they could turn to any unrepentant sinful lifestyle (note Alan’s oddly neutral expression: “very different lives”), no matter how egregious (incest, pedophilia, bestiality, serial murdering, rape, gross exploitation of the poor, virulent racism, or any combination thereof) and for any duration of time, and never have to be concerned about the security of their relationship with God. For Alan such behavior, apparently, cannot even raise doubts for others as to the genuineness of the offender’s faith.

Faith, in turn, is not mere intellectual assent to the truth. It is a holistic life reorientation in accord with the truth of the gospel; certainly an imperfect reorientation but a climatic realignment of life nonetheless. Paul contended that self-professed believers who engaged unrepentantly in certain sinful lifestyles of an egregious sort ran a high risk of being excluded from the kingdom of God—not because grace is not grace but because faith, true faith, manifests itself in a transformed life “for God” (Gal 2:19). Active homosexual behavior for Paul was one such sinful lifestyle, along with others, that showed a person to be living primarily out of the sinful impulse operating in the flesh rather than out of the Spirit’s power.

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