A Pair of Ex-Gay Leaders Make About Face

While many are understandably celebrating the stunning reversal of John Smid, former head of the ex-gay ministry “Love in Action” (and, to a lesser degree the softening of Alan Chambers of Exodus International), the truth is, very little is likely to change unless they put their weight behind the existing movements for equality.

Smid, who showed up on Hardball recently, admits that homosexuality ”cannot be repented of! People are, or they are not, homosexual… One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable.”

Although Chambers’ change of heart isn’t quite as compelling as Smid’s he was able to admit that he was wrong in his criticism and that he gives his “full support for what is the heart of their campaign—encouraging LGBT teens to choose life.” By which he means that, “Regardless of where someone falls on the debate over sexuality, I hope we can all agree to move the issue of bullying and suicide, especially where kids are concerned, to a non-polarized, non-politicized and non-divisive issue.”

What would make these sympathetic overtures really ring true, however, would be to see Smid and Chambers put their weight behind the movement to fully include LGBT people in the church—something they’re unlikely to do anytime soon. For example, a group of more than 900 clergy and laypeople in the Methodist church in New York and Connecticut are vowing to bless the unions (and marry in states where they can) of gay and lesbian people.

The Methodists have lagged behind other mainline churches like the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church USA in their recognition of gay and lesbian people as ministers and leaders in the church. And as the Christian Century points out, their efforts probably won’t result in any movement from the denomination at their General Conference next May because “delegates generally opposed to a change are growing higher in ratio…”

Which is precisely why it’s so important to voice support for this kind of movement and why it would go a long way toward putting legs on Smid’s assertion that he wants to open the church’s table to gays and lesbians. It might also open the way to some real dialogue between Smid and Chambers’ camp and those who support full inclusion for LGBT people.