Updated: November 2, 2011 6:52PM
Willow Creek Community Church has severed its formal ties to Exodus International, the largest ministry in the country that deals with issues of homosexuality in the church.
“To say this is a disappointment is an understatement,” said Alan Chambers, president of the Orlando-based interdenominational association of about 255 organizations.
Chambers blames the split on pressure being put on the South Barrington megachurch, and other churches, by gay rights organizations, specifically Soulforce, an organization that is “devoted to changing the hearts and minds of religious leaders who engage in anti-homosexual campaigns,” according to its website.
The decision to part ways was made a couple years ago but only became public recently, Chambers said.
“Willow Creek and other organizations are afraid of the backlash,” Chambers said Tuesday. “I think it is too bad when someone has to hide what they believe in.”
Neither Willow Creek or Soulforce officials could be reached for comment.
Chambers denies his organization simply wants to turn gays straight.
His group’s website states its counseling has resulted in “hundreds of men and women (experiencing) a great degree of personal transformation — attaining abstinence from homosexual behaviors, lessening of homosexual temptations, strengthening their sense of masculine or feminine identity, correcting distorted styles of relating with members of the same and opposite gender.”
Chambers said Willow Creek officials say they remain supportive of Exodus but do not want to be formally affiliated. Willow Creek, Chambers said, has been closely affiliated with Exodus for decades.
Willow Creek boasts nearly 24,000 people attending weekly services, and it has several satellite locations in the suburbs.