Recent events involving youth leader Dawson McAllister, Clear Channel Communications and Exodus International have been spotlighted in numerous blogs and publications over the past few days. While Exodus is no stranger to controversy, we are usually reluctant to make public statements critical of other organizations or leaders, particularly those for whom we have high personal regard. But the very public nature of this situation leaves us no choice but to clarify our feelings and position on the matter.
On Sunday April 11, a 22 year old gay blogger named Greg Kimball called into McAllister’s syndicated radio talk show Dawson McAllister Live, posing as a 16 year old seeking advice about his homosexuality. The show’s representative referred him to Exodus, which was listed on McAllister’s website as a partner. (Other partners on the site include Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ.) Kimball, apparently outraged that a youth-oriented radio show would refer people to Exodus, went public with his discovery, resulting in a number of communications to Clear Channel demanding they take action.
Clear Channel subsequently informed Dawson that he
would need to remove Exodus’ name from his referral list. Citing its
non-discriminatory policy, the
company defended what many would view as censorship, stating that because
of their commitment to diversity, they expect that “listeners who call (Dawson
McAllister Live) be treated in a manner consistent with our corporate
commitments to diversity.” Left with a choice between losing favor with Clear
Channel by maintaining a relationship with Exodus, or maintaining media
visibility by severing our ties, he chose the latter. On Thursday April 15 he
informed us personally that, while he loves and supports Exodus, our name was
now deleted from his partner’s list, and he will no longer refer to us. That
decision has been well publicized, requiring a response.
Our esteem for Dawson is not in question here. His achievements are remarkable – <<over 1 million copies of his books and manuals sold; a 15 year broadcasting career; a radio show boasting over 140 stations – and I’ve made no secret of his impact on me. In 1991 we met in Lakeland, Florida. I was 19 at the time, and it was through his personal referral that I found Exodus International. Dawson McAllister was the catalyst for my journey, which eventually led me to direct the organization he’s now unwilling to officially associate with. (Could the irony be any more bitter?)
But respect notwithstanding, it’s troubling to see any Christian-led organization allow itself to be guided by the demands of pro-gay advocates. While Exodus is the group being marginalized in this case, it's the freedom to express a traditional viewpoint of sexuality that's really at stake, raising the obvious question: Who's Next? Should all on-air ministries who teach that homosexuality falls short of God’s will expect a knock on the door, demanding they either water it down or close shop? And if that knock comes, is the truth about human sexuality really a negotiable item? Is the definition of marriage and family so small a matter to Christian leaders that they’ll avoid inconvenient truth (or inconvenient relationships) to keep their audience? If so, we wonder what other Biblical truths are up for negotiation when on-air visibility is at stake.
We appreciate the need one group may have to distance itself from another. We’ve made that painful decision ourselves, when we’ve realized that differences in belief or approach were so great that we had no choice but to severe ties with those we could longer in good faith support. So if an associate no longer shares our position on homosexuality, we respect his need to break ties with us. Likewise, if someone shares our viewpoint but objects to the way we implement it, we hope they’ll discuss their concerns with us so we can consider them and, if no agreement can be reached, we wish them the best as they move on.
But according to both Dawson and his CEO (who also spoke with me by phone) this severance had nothing to do with disagreement. The CEO, in fact, assured me they still love Exodus and believe in what we are doing, which bothers me all the more. When organizational relations end due to irreconcilable differences of belief or practice, that makes sense. But when someone publicly dumps you then privately whispers “We still believe in what you’re doing”, isn’t some kind of double-mindedness at play? Both of them also stressed to me their desire to stay on Clear Channel, which is understandable. But at what cost? When a Christian leader is forced to choose between truth and market numbers, should market numbers really be the deciding factor?
Yes, according to Dawson’s CEO, who told
me that only 1% of their callers over the past 15 months had phoned in with
this issue. "Should we forsake the 99 percent
for the 1 percent?" he asked. Had he remembered the parable of the lost
sheep, in which a good shepherd left the 99 for the 1, he might have answered
his own question.
And there’s the rub. If Dawson McAllister was a secular, non-Christian leader, his priorities would make sense. But if he serves the One who warned “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you”, and follows in the steps of the Apostle who said, “If I seek the favor of men, I should not be a servant of Jesus Christ”, then his response to pressure from gay activists and Clear Channel is distressing. We earnestly hope it will be the exception, not the rule, when similar pressure is exerted on other visible leaders.
As for us, we’ll continue our commitment to Biblically based truth regarding homosexuality, and to that 1% that is, to us, precious. And on a personal note, I’ll admit that yes, I am sad, yet I am determined. I'm not giving up or in. You can count on me, 1%. I'm for you, and both I and my colleagues at Exodus will continue to tell you the truth about God's never-ending grace and mercy.
To Contact Clear Channel:
Lisa Dollinger, Communications Director, Clear Channel: [email protected]
Ms. Dollinger's Executive Assistant: [email protected]; 210-832-334
When you call or write (OR BOTH), do not simply accept referrals to Premiere Radio--register your concern BOTH places.Click here to register your concerns with Dawson, as well.