Apologies are hard to come by. Just think about the many apologies you deserve from people and groups that you have not received and likely will never get.
In thinking about the significance of the Exodus International apology, I was reminded of James Baldwin's famous statement that "love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
Exodus International is a group that, for nearly four decades, had been a leader in "ex-gay" circles and aggressively promoted efforts, programs, and resources devoted to "helping" non-heterosexual Christians become straight.
However, as news outlets reported today, they have since begun the process of shutting down, and, in doing so, they issued an apology -- not to the church but to the LGBT communities this organization vilified in the name of Christ for far too long.
Clearly, the beliefs and projects they once vigorously promoted have caused irreparable damage to many throughout this nation. An apology won't change that.
However, an apology does take courage. And for those of us who do identify as Christian and also happen to not be heterosexual, the Exodus International apology is very moving and marks an important step on the road toward equality, equity, and universal freedom.
His apology suggests that there is an increasing understanding, even in "ex-gay" circles, that no Christian denomination, religiously affiliated organization, or self-identifying member of the faith has a divine right to push their interpretation of their faith on others (particularly those who share the same faith).
His apology moves me as it reminds me of troubles I've had in Christian churches across the country. Prior to joining any congregation, I have always insisted on meeting personally with the church pastor. In committing to detailed, difficult dialogue on divisive issues such as gay rights, I've often been told by many ordained Christian pastors that those denominations that accept non-heterosexuals openly into the body of Christ are "not the real Christians"; according to these pastors, they are "confusing the will of God with the work of the devil" and so on.
This is why the Chambers and Exodus International apology is very important. While it's just one example, the voluntary apology sheds new light and offers new hope that key members and groups of and within the Christian faith -- in all its diversity -- can possibly coexist, without one group or individual suggesting their interpretation of what is the right Christian thing to do is the only way.
Invoking strong themes of contestation, in the open apology to members of the LGBT communities, Alan Chambers, the current leader of Exodus International, tells of a deep, conflicted, personal, and organizational moral journey that resulted in the open apology letter.
In the letter, Chambers says, "[O]ur ministry has been public and therefore any acknowledgement of wrong must also be public."
His apology, he insists, is not only on behalf on Exodus International and himself but on behalf of church.
Strikingly, he writes:
"But if the Church is a body, with many members being connected to the whole, then I believe that what one of us does right we all do right, and what one of us does wrong we all do wrong. We have done wrong, and I stand with many others who now recognize the need to offer apologies and make things right. I believe this apology -- however imperfect -- is what God the Father would have me do.
Admitting to causing bountiful hurt, damage, and trauma -- this is a real apology. LGBT communities should welcome the apology. Despite the many wrongs committed, a public, full admission of those wrongs is so courageous and so rare -- and it is the right thing to do.
Stopping short of supporting homosexual sexual behavior or marriage equality, though, Chambers does cite the need to be a productive citizen in our "pluralistic culture."
While there will continue to be disagreements I and others hold with Chambers regarding some of his beliefs, the fact that he now recognizes that everyone and every Christian has a right to interpret those beliefs as they see fit in this pluralistic nation is worthy of grace.