Pace-setting mega-church Willow Creek, led by Bill Hybels, has publicly and fully disaffiliated themselves from any partnership or support for Exodus International, the leading “ex gay” ministry in the world.
Christianity Today reports on the development here. Apparently, this has been in the works for a long time but now it is official and public.
Exodus International’s missional emphasis has been around advocating for and practicing reparative therapy. The primary goal of reparative therapy is change of orientation; when orientation change is not possible, the focus becomes more on behaviors.
As Willow Creek has made clear, this decision comes not as a move to isolate the LGBT community — both within the church and within the community — but rather to more effectively engage them.
I don’t think this necessarily represents a theological shift by Willow Creek, but rather a rejection of the one-size-fits-all answer that Exodus International offers. Additionally, I think this brings Willow in line with the vast majority who view reparative therapy (not to be confused with SORT therapy or other models) as ineffective and possibly harmful.
I don’t know where this will lead, but if anyone was asking me for advice (no one is) I would argue that the goal for churches should be to help people integrate their sexuality with the rest of their lives, including their spirituality and religious conviction. Integration comes from the root integer and means “whole”. The goal should be to help people be “whole”. A first critical step to wholeness is openness and honesty — which means that people need to be “out” within their church community in order to seek wholeness.
I have argued before that I think that both Side A and Side B are valid answers for LGBT Christians. My conviction is that each individual needs to come to their own conclusion in the context of their relationship with Jesus… but no matter which answer, integration of faith and sexuality is critical. (It is also critical for heterosexuals too, by the way.)
So what are your thoughts on either Willow Creeks decision or the idea of integration? Let me know…