Willow Creek splits from Exodus International

ORLANDO — Willow Creek Community Church has ended a decades-long partnership with Exodus International.  Exodus International is the world's largest ministry to address homosexuality in the church. Willow Creek's decision to split with Exodus is one of a number of recent public separations from Christian organizations that stand against same-sex relationships.

Though the church made the decision in 2009, it was made public in June. 

Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, said he believes the separation occurred because Willow Creek gave in to pressure from gay activists. In recent years, Soulforce targeted Willow Creek. Soulforce's mission is to encourage Christian organizations to religious acceptance of homosexuality.

Chambers said, "Willow Creek is a strong church" but he is nonetheless "deeply saddened to see that Willow Creek isn't going to offer strong discipleship for people struggling with same-sex attractions."

Exodus and Willow Creek's relationship began in the late 1980s. Willow Creek was one of the first and largest churches to officially sign on with Exodus. The relationship began as an informal partnership, but became more formal when Willow Creek joined the Exodus Church Association.

Exodus helped Willow Creek leaders work with people experiencing same-sex attraction and would refer people to Willow Creek's ministries. Chambers spoke at Willow Creek and attended several conferences there as well. Chambers said that while the relationship had been positive, he believes Willow Creek eventually began to "rethink how they were being viewed."

Exodus has seen several other losses as well. New Direction, a Canadian ministry, chose to end its partnership with Exodus in 2009. Where Grace Abounds and Mastering Life Ministries split from Exodus in 2008. Both ministries focus on issues of sexuality. Mastering Life Ministries said their split was not over doctrinal disagreement though, and that its reason for leaving is a private matter. Exodus also lost its tax-exempt status in New Zealand.

Exodus is not the only organization over the past few years to see loss for taking a position that homosexuality is a violation of Christian teaching.  In Canada, the New Democratic Party petitioned the Canadian government to eliminate the charity status of all ex-gay organizations. A decision on the issue has not been made yet. TOMS Shoes chose to end its partnership with Focus on the Family in early July over Focus' stance on homosexuality.

"It's a disappointing trend within churches and Christian owned ministries," Chambers said. These ministries are "feeling the pressure to distance themselves from their Christian friends and are afraid to stand in the public market and say 'this is what we believe.' It's a marker of things to come," said Chambers.


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