Chambers Speaks on Grace and the Pulse Shooting at Washington National Cathedral
"Most importantly, Leslie and I are here to promote the amazing grace—Kairos—Charis of a really good Father. Along the road we’ve traveled we encountered a pure gospel—some really good news. That gospel illumined the narrative of a Good Father who gave his only Son to be radically excluded, marginalized, cast aside, tortured, and murdered so that all of humanity could finally be radically included once and for all—included in a Kingdom that would never end."
- ALAN CHAMBERS JUNE 12, 2016
Alan Chambers spoke at the Washington National Cathedral this week as part of its Pride Week. He shared his heavy heart following the Pulse shooting and spoke about God's lavish grace, the LGBTQ+ community and the role of the church to pursue to love and to welcome all people.
Good Morning. It is both surreal and a tremendous honor to be standing in the Canterbury Pulpit as the guest preacher for 2016 Pride Weekend. For those of you who know me and my story, you, too, know this is truly momentous. Special thanks to Bishop Budde, Ruth Frey, my friend, Kevin Eckstrom, and all of the Cathedral staff for this rare gift. Thank you, members of the Cathedral for allowing me to share with you this morning. Thank you to the LGBTQ+ community for welcoming Leslie and me both to this weekend and to the community. We do not take your friendship lightly this morning. It is with a heavy heart that I stand before you as my wife and I are from the Orlando area, my home town where I grew up and were woken this morning to reports of a tragic shooting that occurred last night at an LGBT club near our home. At this point, 53 are presumed dead and there are many more who have been injured. We're waiting to hear from friends, like many of you might be as well, who might have been there last night. The Facebook posts that say "we're safe" have been a reassuring comfort this morning ans as I speak this morning, it is those who are on my mind.
Many have speculated about the reasons Leslie and I have for being here this weekend. Some say it is to advance our own agenda—that we are seeking to remain relevant. Others say we are preaching the same old message but in a nicer way. Others say it is because we are now promoting a new agenda—the gay agenda.
I must confess being here is difficult for us because of the push and pull we feel from all sides and from the diverse chosen communities of people we call family. We live with a nearly constant inward and outward tension that is, at times, crushing. But, today we joyfully stand with one of our chosen tribes—people we hold dear—people who in the push and pull have embraced us as we are.
The truth is we do have an agenda. Because we believe through faith in Christ, we, whose sins are many, have the forgiveness of sin and the forgiveness of the guilt and shame of our sin, because we believe we are justified by faith in Christ and not through works of the flesh, because we believe we have been crucified with Christ and have new life though we remain this suit of flesh, because we believe Christ’s life and death served a purpose, it is not nullified, our agenda is to follow his commands and to love. To love God and to love people.
Admittedly, that agenda appears passive to people who want clear answers or position statements or who want me to wear certain labels. To demonstrate love in certain arenas also feels aggressive to those who believewe have succumbed to an errant theology; a sloppy grace, unreflective of Christ. But, this is our choice. Our life. It is true—we have fallen prey to grace and it has wrecked us. It is messy, sloppy, and troublesome, but we have found it is the key to unlocking the prison of legalistic religion.
True, we are here to support and celebrate an atmosphere where people are free to live outside of the dark, frightening, and lonely closets in which they’ve been imprisoned whether for short or long periods of time. True, we celebrate and honor the families who finally have been given the legal right to be recognized as such
As was the case in the first Pride weekend in June 1970 on the streets of midtown Manhattan, we are here to celebrate a growing atmosphere of honesty, transparency, and pride. An antonym for the word pride is shame. We’ve had enough of shame.
Leslie and I are also here to celebrate our story—that of our family of 4. Our 10 and 11 year olds, Molly and Isaac are at our home church today in the greater Orlando area. We are here to celebrate the minority of others, like us, who don’t fit the narrative of many gay families. We are here to make amends to people who’ve been hurt by sexual orientation change efforts like our friends Q, Michael, Chris, and others. We are here to honor our friends like Jill, Amy, Don, and others who, because of their faith convictions, have chosen to remain celibate. We are here to reunite with dear friends like Julie who in embracing her sexuality has found the embrace of the God.
We stand here NOT as people plugged into the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil --- pointing to one story as good and another as evil. We stand here NOT as people whose moral pendulum has swung from one side to another, but rather as people who are joyfully and irrevocably plugged into the Tree of Life seeing people as God sees them: redeemed, holy, blameless, righteous, and beautiful. Our pendulum has fallen off its axis never to swing again. And our hearts have expanded to include a community of people we once felt in opposition to and estranged from.
Most importantly, Leslie and I are here to promote the amazing grace—Kairos—Charis of a really good Father. Along the road we’ve traveled we encountered a pure gospel—some really good news. That gospel illumined the narrative of a Good Father who gave his only Son to be radically excluded, marginalized, cast aside, tortured, and murdered so that all of humanity could finally be radically included once and for all—included in a Kingdom that would never end. The only Kingdom that ever has or ever will matter. Allowing all of us to be adopted into the family of a King who will reign forever and who willingly bestows on his children every good and perfect gift.
Sadly, many who found ourselves as recipients of this amazing deal—this amazing adoption—twisted the Gospel and made it exclusionary. We mixed the law, often referred to as THE TRUTH, that Jesus fulfilled through his death, burial, and resurrection with the grace that came through his ultimate and unparalleled sacrifice. We demanded that grace without the truth of the Law is sloppy, hyper, slippery, greasy, CHEAP grace.
But, cheap grace, like cheap super-glue is the kind that does not withstand the elements. It falters under pressure. It fails. God’s grace—his infinite unconditional and unmerited love---never fails, never falters, never stops working or holding no matter what comes its way. It is all-inclusive and, because it cost him everything, it is the antithesis of cheap. God’s grace is lavish. Priceless. Free to all.
The TRUTH is, God is full of GRACE.
I once led the largest organization in the world dedicated to proclaiming freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ. I did so with the best of intentions. My goal was to educate churches and make them safe places for LGBTQ+ people, but ultimately, unfortunately, to help those churches save and convert LGBTQ+ people—to help them change. My stated objective was to put Exodus International out of business because the Church was doing its job.
Three years ago this week, ironically, I stood on a stage at our 38th Annual Exodus Conference and announced Exodus was shutting down. That night, I amended the statement I’d lived by all 12 years of my presidency to this, “Exodus must go out of business so the Church can do its job.” My beliefs about the church’s job had been altered, too.
Today, I believe the job of the Church is to continue the work and ministry of Jesus. To love and serve others, to be radically inclusive even at the expense of comfort and understanding. The job of Christians and Christian leaders isn’t to usurp the roles of God, Savior, and Holy Spirit. It isn’t to condemn—Jesus was the ONLY perfect human being who ever lived on planet Earth. The apostle John states that he didn’t come to condemn but to save. So, then, why do we condemn? Why do we judge? Why do we exclude?
I wonder if we – and by we, I mean those of us who called ourselves “conservative Evangelicals” - allowed fear to rule us. Fear of the unknown, fear of that which is different. Do I dare say – fear that God’s angry judgment would rain down on us like it did in the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah?
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is to not fear. I don’t know that I’m brave, but I am convinced that I am a child of a really good God. I am convinced that his perfect love, demonstrated in the life of Jesus— who is the Tree of Life—casts out fear. I have set my heart to plug into Him and into Life. To trust Him. To fear NOT. Without fear, I have a lot more time and energy to love God and to love people.
In the last few verses of the book of Acts 28:30-31 Luke writes something astoundingly prophetic to his friend Theophilus:
30 And he (Paul) stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.
This is our mandate in the Church – Welcoming all, preaching the Kingdom of God and the life found in Jesus with all openness. Unhindered.
So let it be. Amen. Thank You!