By Becky Garrison
Despite recent efforts to mainstream its image, Exodus International, a network of ministries formed over 30 years ago to “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality,” appears to be on the decline. As reported by Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism, attendance at Exodus International’s latest Love Won Out conference, drew at most 400 people, a far cry from the 1,000 in attendance during its heyday when Focus on the Family organized these quarterly ex-gay symposiums. This drop in attendance follows a meeting convened by Exodus International President Alan Chambers on November 16, 2011 to explore how to keep the organization from social and economic oblivion.
In a recent interview with the Gay Christian Network, Chambers distanced Exodus from its previously held assertion that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation.
The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.
As Truth Wins Out notes,
Perhaps such reticence comes from the high profile defections of once prominent ex-gay leaders. For instance, John Paulk, the organization’s former chairman, was photographed in a gay bar in 2000, only three years after he appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Two of Exodus’ married founders, Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, fell in love with each other in 1978, left the organization and held a commitment ceremony.
However, the material offered for sale at this year’s Love Won Out conference, such as the Hope for Wholeness DVD and workbook and Out of Egypt: One Woman’s Journey Out of Lesbianism, continue to advance the notion that “homosexuals” can change their sexual orientation.
Prior to this event, Truth Wins Out and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) held a press conference and a seminar to expose the dangers of ex-gay therapy, a practice that is also known as sexual reorientation, conversion or reparative therapy. As stated in a press release issued by the SPLC, “Despite its claims of literally ‘converting’ people from gay to straight, the practice has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.”
Other evangelical organizations and individuals such as megachurch Willow Creek and Red Letter Christians founder Tony Campolo now distance themselves from ex-gay therapies. While they may not advocate changing “homosexuals,” they remain committed to upholding “traditional marriage,” which they define to be between a man and a woman.