To any individuals with past connection to the organization formerly known as New Direction Ministries,
In 2012 I met with two gentlemen who had been recipients of New Direction’s services. One was from the early years well before I took my role in 2002. The other had connected in the early 2000’s. I had never met either of them before, but I am grateful they took the time to meet with me at Starbucks.
Both indicated that their experience had been negative. And they both wanted to know if the organization had really taken a new direction or if some of the kinder sounding language on the website was just a gentler way of presenting the same old paradigm. These are really legitimate questions. And I understood the skepticism that I encountered.
One of the first things they asked was whether or not the organization continued to promote ex-gay theology. When I asked them to clarify for me what they meant by that, they raised some key points:
Do we think being gay is a choice?
No, we do not. We don’t know exactly what causes different people to experience consistent attraction to their own gender. It seems to be a complex combination of different factors for different people. But we certainly recognize that for many people who identify as gay, they have sensed something intrinsically unique about themselves for as long as they can remember. As they grew and developed they realized that this uniqueness could be described as being gay. One way to describe this could be a constitutional same-sex orientation where there is little to no fluidity. A person doesn’t choose to experience this they just do.
As deconstruction of binaries around sexuality and gender continues and people identify with more fluid concepts there is even more complexity to consider. Regardless of the degree to which people make choices in pursuing romantic or sexual relationships, we do not subscribe to a “heteronormative only” paradigm.
Do we believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with being gay? Do we think being gay is a sin?
No, we do not. We do not believe that experiencing same-sex attraction is sinful. As I’ve listened to many stories of ex-gay survivors over the years, one common theme I hear is the deep damage that resulted from feeling unworthiness, shame, and self-loathing. The truth is, each human being, no matter their sexual or gender identity, is created in the image of God, has inherent worth and dignity, and is unconditionally loved by God. We acknowledge that Christians disagree with one another about whether a same-sex sexual relationship is sinful or not. Where we encounter such disagreement we seek to promote dialogue and an environment that honours the autonomy of the individual. In our generous space communities people’s convictions and commitments are honoured. It is clear that there is space for those in same-sex relationships and their gifts and contributions are fully embraced.
Do we believe that a person must try to be heterosexual to be a faithful Christian?
No, we do not. Our status as reconciled children of God is completely God’s gift to us through our faith in Jesus Christ. This gift of salvation transforms our lives such that we want to live out our grateful response. In light of this, Christians seek to become more like Christ. We see this manifested in the fruits of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control.
Research has shown that radical change in sexual orientation is extremely rare. We encourage people to accept their reality regarding their sexual identity and to focus on drawing near to God in the confidence of his love for them. We acknowledge that gay Christians have different beliefs and make different choices about whether or not to enter a same-sex relationship. Our focus is to encourage people to prayerful reflection, discerning engagement with Scripture, and joyful participation in a community of faith. While the majority of our community members would affirm same-sex relationships, we cultivate a place of honour for those who feel personally convicted to live celibate lives.
In Canada, where New Direction is located, marriage equality has been the rule of the land since 2005. We support equal civil rights for LGBTQ+ people along with any others who find themselves on the margins.
We do not have a theological statement on marriage on our website. In our community beloved members are both in committed same-sex marriages and committed to celibate lives. And we are not focused on promoting a particular position. Our focus is to nurture environments within faith communities where all people can explore and grow in faith in Jesus Christ. We work to encourage churches and Christian organizations to be places of radical hospitality where our differences do not fracture us but allow us to grow in the opportunity to extend humble grace to one another as we all seek to follow and live for Christ.
I want to acknowledge and express great sorrow that people were profoundly hurt by ex-gay paradigms. The harmful ramifications are immense. This causes me deep grief and motivates me to be very clear that this ministry does not promote or in any way support ex-gay efforts. We lament that despite the closure of Exodus International in 2013, there are still ministries that perpetuate ex-gay messages. Our organization is proud to be part of the movement within the Christian community that fully affirms our LGBTQ+ siblings.
We care about the people who have connected with this ministry, past and present, and would value the opportunity to hear your story, and invite your input and suggestions as we continue to shape this ministry to be a place that promotes generous space and hospitality in the Christian community.
If you would like to have a conversation about your experience with the organization when it was known as New Direction, please don’t hesitate to contact me personally here.