About a year or so before Exodus closed, the Restored Hope Network (RHN) formed out of a theologically and culturally driven split within the Exodus Member Ministries network. Then when Exodus closed, another network of ministries formed. They are the Hope for Wholeness Network (HWN). Since the formation of those two groups, every once in a while someone will ask me to comment on what they are saying or doing.
Before I start, I want to emphasize that this post isn’t written to discourage any individual’s journey or process. I am only writing this for when I do get these kinds of questions I can point people to this post. So, for those interested, here we go…
Hope For Wholeness Network (HWN)
HWN initially consisted of ministries that didn’t want to jump on the RHN bandwagon. I think, not sure, but today some HWN ministries belong to both networks. There were many reasons why the initial ministries didn’t join RHN, and many stuck it out with Exodus till the end. I was told directly by a few HWN leaders that they did not appreciate RHN pressuring them to leave Exodus, to publicly denounce Alan Chambers (then President of Exodus), and join their network.
Today, while I do not recommend anyone to any ex-gay conversion group or counselor, there are still leaders within the HWN that I miss joking around with and enjoying their friendship.
In the process of supporting the Exodus board’s unanimous decision to close Exodus, I had already come to the conclusion ex-gay conversion groups shouldn’t exist for many reasons. Today, those ideas (to be explained further in a separate post later) have solidified and expanded.
Restored Hope Network (RHN)
I want to reiterate that the following is my general opinion about the organization, and not about particular individuals.
In 2012, a few RHN leaders told me they broke away in part to “restore” the original vision of Exodus. I do not believe their idealized version ever existed. Instead, I believe RHN has taken the worst of Exodus’ faults and made those the pillars on which they have built their network:
- Political Activism: Adapting ex-gay testimony to conform to religious right political goals – especially marriage and increasingly limiting LGBT equality in the name of “religious freedom.”
- Complaining about science/culture – Click-baiting/media-driven negative attention seeking to increase RHN’s visibility.
- Self-promotion/Self-Preservation – RHN’s messaging often has a “You do need Jesus… and I know Him better than you do about this issue, so you need our specific help…” approach to ministry.
- Assumed Authority/Leadership – Some core RHN leaders assume authority and expertise to tell others what behaviors and beliefs should be evident in a “true” Christian and their understanding of homosexuality. They say pretty much everything not in line with their conclusions is not a real expression of faith and/or evidence of continued “brokenness.” RHN’s authority is assumed in many cases because they can present a personal story well, not necessarily because of any verifiable training with proven and consistent results.
Obviously, I am not a big RHN fan. I am sure they don’t care what I think. But, I do care about how I believe RHN contributes to the stigmatization and religious bullying of LGBT people of faith and in our broader communities/country. They do so by claiming that God’s gay children are false, dark, confused and broken instead of true beneficiaries of the grace and promise of Christ’s atonement. The do so by not recognizing and affirming that we are equal and true born-again siblings in Christ.
Once my blinders came off, I realized that any organization based in religious idealism conceptualized by cultural bias and trends turns faith into an intellectual product to promote, and for some, a false sense of self-importance. In other cases, it also becomes a financial interest to preserve.
Also, consider, Exodus International formed as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 1976. I very much doubt that God was at a loss for what to do with His gay children for the 1,976 years since Christ’s birth and before Exodus. I don’t think He sat there with a pen and notepad with a bunch of crumpled up plans littering the golden streets of heaven. He knows us. He’s with us. He’s for us.
Talking with and seeking the opinions of others with various views is great, go for it! However, I do not believe ex-gay ministry networks are necessary. Jesus our Good Shepherd, is truly enough to lead people through their journey and process regardless of where we are at or where we think we should go. We don’t need a reparative therapy or ex-gay conversion group infused application of the gospel. We are ill-served by a spoon-fed “we have the answers for you” type of faith. We only need Jesus and can trust in Him for our ability to think, pray, and reason for ourselves.
He is not limited to our ideas and resources. He will lead us to the answers we need.
Regardless of what you believe about ex-gay ministry networks, or this issue as a whole, I genuinely wish you nothing but peace, joy, love, and many blessings.
P.S. If you want to plop an Ask-It Basket question into my inbox, contact me here.