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|Alan Chambers, Former President|
Exodus International was a non-profit, interdenominational ex-gay Christian umbrella organization connecting organizations that sought to help people who wished to limit their homosexual desires. It was founded in 1976 and ceased activities in June 2013. While Exodus International no longer operates, many of its member ministries continue to do so, either forming new networks or operating independently.
Exodus International asserted that reorientation of same-sex attraction is possible, but warned its members not to go to counselors who claim they could help eliminate all attractions to the same gender. It did not conduct clinical treatment but held the position that, "reparative therapy - a holistic, counseling approach to addressing unwanted same-sex attraction - can be a beneficial tool." Techniques could "include abstinence, 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."
At its peak Exodus included over 250 local ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries in 17 other countries. Although Exodus was formally an interdenominational Christian entity, it was most closely associated with Protestant and evangelical denominations. The Exodus Global Alliance was formed out of Exodus International in 1995 and continues to operate in support of Exodus networks outside of the United States.
- 1 History
- 2 Criticism of conversion therapy
- 3 Love Won Out conferences
- 4 Studies of Exodus participants
- 5 Controversy
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
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In 1973, Frank Worthen (1929–2017) began a ministry called Love in Action, which ministered to homosexuals. A conference of various ministries to homosexuals was held in 1976 in the United States during which the ministries (including Love in Action) formed a coalition that called itself Exodus International North America. The conference became an annual event when it convened for the second time in 1977.
The conference continued until 1979, when many officials of Exodus North America left the organization due to internal divisions. In 1980, the Exodus North America Conference revived with new leadership and a renewed sense of purpose. Between 1981 and 1984, the views of Frank Worthen began to influence people outside of the United States through interviews and a book written by Kent Philpott called The Third Sex? Exodus International attracted the attention of Johan van de Sluis, who attended the 1981 conference and subsequently created Exodus Europe in coalition with Exodus North America. Exodus Europe held their first conference in 1982 in the Netherlands. Conferences were held annually, each year in a new country. Ministries to homosexuals also arose in Australia and New Zealand under Peter Lane; Brazil under Esly Carvalho; and Europe under Johan van de Sluis. Alan Medinger became the Director for Exodus North America. Medinger founded a ministry for homosexuals and pornography addicts called Regeneration. His position as Director of Exodus North America was filled in 1985 by Bob Davies.
In 1990, Worthen traveled throughout the Philippines, and sent Sy Rogers of Exodus North America to Singapore. During his stay in Singapore, Rogers traveled extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand and South America building vision for a worldwide ministry.
In 1994, Exodus Latin America was created under Esly Carvalho. In 1995 it was decided that the Exodus groups should converge under a single name, Exodus International. The Exodus leaders held a Summit in San Diego, California and formed the Exodus International Advisory Council which merged the various Exodus ministries to create a stronger, more focused Exodus International ministry. Ministries to those with homosexual inclinations were represented from many countries.
Exodus South Pacific (Australia, New Zealand) was represented by Peter Lane. Exodus Europe was represented by Johan Van de Sluis and Jeremy Marks. Exodus Latin America was represented by Esly Carvalho and Affonso Zuin. Exodus North America was represented by Frank Worthen, Pat Lawrence, and Bob Davies. Exodus World-Wide was represented by Sy Rogers. Asian ministries to homosexuals were represented by Samuel Lee and Rene Gomez.
The founding Exodus Advisory Council included Frank Worthen, Sy Rogers, Bob Davies and Pat Lawrence as representatives of Exodus North America (Lawrence was selected as the International Coordinator), Peter Lane as a representative of Exodus South Pacific, Jeremy Marks as a representative of Exodus Europe, and Esly Carvalho as a representative of Exodus Latin America.
Between 1996 and 1999, ministries expanded throughout the South Pacific. In 1997 the Exodus Advisory Council became the Exodus International Board and restructured itself to include two representatives from each region. Exodus South Pacific changed their name to Exodus Asia Pacific and established ministries in Singapore and the Philippines, where Worthen and Rogers had previously ministered. The first conference was held in Brisbane, Australia in 1999.
In 2002 Exodus Brazil was created apart from Exodus Latin America. Exodus Brazil was headed by Willy Torresin de Oliveria. A homosexual man himself, he had attended a conference as a translator in 1989 without even knowing the nature of the group. 2002 also saw Oscar Galindo as the new director for Exodus Latin America. Under the leadership of Peter Lane, Exodus International saw growth in Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia in 2003.
From 2003 to 2007 Exodus International was a (founding) member of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality.
In 2004, Exodus International renamed themselves Exodus Global Alliance. The first Leadership Summit was held in 2005 and later that year an International Conference was held to discuss ex-gay ministries growing in Africa, Asia, China, Europe, India and Latin America.
2007 saw the formation of the Exodus Youth Network.
On May 28, 2013, Exodus International withdrew from the Exodus Global Alliance. On June 19, following a vote of the seven member Board of Directors at the organization's annual meeting in Irvine, California, the board of directors announced the impending closure of Exodus International.
Exodus International President Alan Chambers said that the board made the move "after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization's place in a changing culture." Alan Chambers repudiated one part of the organization's mission in a nearly hour-long talk at Exodus International's 38th annual meeting:
I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.
Chambers stated that his next ministry would be different: "Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities".
Board member Tony Moore issued a statement that clarified that the decision is "not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people," further explaining that "a new generation of Christians is looking for change—and they want it to be heard." The organization's local affiliates may continue to operate independently under a name other than Exodus.
Chambers appeared on Lisa Ling's Our America show, broadcast on the Oprah Winfrey Network, in a June 20, 2013 episode entitled "God and Gays." Ling stated in a media interview prior to the airing of the episode, "I think Alan was sincere in his apology. I think things are happening so quickly and he's going through a transition. Where they leave the organization has yet to be determined."
The decision of the three member Board of Directors resulted in the closure of "Exodus International" as an umbrella organization, but had no direct impact on the member ministries which continue to operate. Many have joined together to form two new networks, including Restored Hope Network; while others continue to operate independently.
Additionally, some former member ministries publicly expressed disagreement with the Board of Directors, Alan Chambers, and his apologies.
A close affiliate to Exodus International was the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), who issued a statement saying:
As we understand it, Exodus was a public relations voice and referral clearing house for hundreds of individual, primarily evangelical ministries who serve church members who are experiencing unwanted homosexual feelings. These hundreds of individual evangelical Protestant ministries along with the outreach ministries in the Catholic, Jewish and Latter-day Saint faith communities still exist and we imagine that they will always exist as long as we have individuals who find homosexual sex incongruent with their personal or religious values. We also understand that most of the local Exodus affiliated ministries had started to reorganize into a new organization that began about a year ago, Restored Hope Network.
Criticism of conversion therapy
In January 2012 then-president of Exodus International Alan Chambers, during his address to a Gay Christian Network conference, stated, "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," and apologized for the previous Exodus slogan "Change Is Possible". On October 6, 2010, it was reported by CNN and Ex-Gay Watch that Exodus International would not support the 2011 annual Day of Truth (a counter protest to the LGBT community's Day of Silence) originated by the Alliance Defense Fund, as the organization had done in 2010. President Alan Chambers was quoted as saying "All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they'd like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not." While he believed that "any sexual activity outside a heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according to the Bible", he was attempting to disassociate the group from "reparative therapy" and also step back from contentious political engagement. Speaking to the New York Times in July 2012, Chambers talked about how he believed gay people can have gay sex and still go to heaven. "But we've been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don't ask of anyone else [with other sins]."
In a shift in the organization's previous positions, Chambers stated in June 2012 that conversion therapy is potentially harmful to those participating and it does not work:
I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included, for someone to put out a shingle and say, "I can cure homosexuality"—that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.
Love Won Out conferences
Focus on the Family sold the Love Won Out conferences to Exodus International in 2009. The conferences also went by the name True Story. The conferences were to reach out to persons with homosexual desires.[verification needed] Love Won Out maintained that "[t]he sin of homosexual behavior, like all sins, can be forgiven and healed by the grace revealed in the life and death of Christ. All sexual sin affects the human personality like no other sin, for sexual issues run deep into our character, and change is slow and uphill - but is possible nonetheless."
Studies of Exodus participants
Jones and Yarhouse
Professors Stanton Jones of the evangelical Christian Wheaton College and Mark Yarhouse teamed as authors to answer the questions "Can persons who participate in focused religious ministries experience a change in their sexual orientation?" and "Is it harmful for anyone to participate in such programs?" amongst various persons 'seeking change' while involved with Exodus ministries over a three-year period of time. They published their results in "Ex-Gays?": A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change In Sexual Orientation". They found, from a sample of 73 participants (98 before dropouts):
- 15% "Success: Conversion": subjects who reported that they felt their change to be successful, and who reported substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and substantial conversion to heterosexual attraction and functioning;
- 23% "Success: Chastity": These were subjects who reported that they felt their change to be successful and who reported homosexual attraction to be present only incidentally or in a way that does not seem to bring about distress, allowing them to live happily without overt sexual activity;
- 29% "Continuing": These persons may have experienced modest decreases in homosexual attraction but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process;
- 15% "Non-Response": These persons had experienced no significant sexual orientation change. These subjects had not given up on the change process but may be confused or conflicted about which direction to turn next;
- 4% "Failure: Confused": These persons had experienced no significant sexual orientation change and had given up on the change process but without yet embracing gay identity; and
- 8% "Failure: Gay Identity": These persons had clearly given up on the change process and embraced gay identity.
They found within their sample group "no evidence that the type of attempt to change sexual orientation studied here is harmful."
Yarhouse and Jones' study has been challenged by Coleman and Drescher who argue that a preponderance of evidence demonstrates that homosexuality is not changeable. Drescher argues that "the sum of all the literature does not indicate that [reparative therapeutic techniques] are effective".
Schaeffer et al.
Schaeffer et al. surveyed 140 members of Exodus, also from an evangelical perspective. According to the study, after a year, 29% said they had changed their orientation, and another 65% said they were in the process of changing. Participants were considered behaviorally successful if they had abstained from any type of physical homosexual contact in the past year. Success was associated with strong religious motivation and positive mental health. Change was positively associated with religious motivation and emotional well-being. This study was published in the Journal of Psychology & Theology, which aims to marry conventional psychology with evangelical Christian orthodoxy.
Research by Ponticelli on 15 ex-lesbian women found that Exodus helped them change their lesbian identities through a combination of a new and compelling schema concerning sexuality, reinterpretation of one's past according to that schema, and social support.
Most of Exodus' leadership have successfully avoided controversy regarding their sexual identity for decades. Christianity Today reported in 2007 that scandals had become less frequent. However, there have been incidents of note amongst the founders and a leader of the organization.
Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper
Michael Bussee, one of the founders of Exodus and Gary Cooper, a leader within the ministry of Exodus, left the group to be with each other in 1979. In time, they divorced their wives and participated in a commitment ceremony in 1982, exchanging rings and vows. Bussee and Cooper lived together until Cooper's death from AIDS-related illness in 1991. Their story is one of the foci of the documentary One Nation Under God (1993), directed by Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznik.
In the documentary, Bussee and Cooper present themselves as "two of the original co-founders of Exodus." In an article regarding the history of Exodus International, Dr. Warren Throckmorton questioned whether Cooper should be considered a founder. However, Exodus International president Alan Chambers counts both Bussee and Cooper as "founders" in a September 2006 newsletter article.
As acknowledged by Exodus International in 2006, Michael Bussee "has been a longtime critic of Exodus and its leadership." In June 2007, Bussee issued an apology for his involvement in promoting orientation change through Exodus. Also apologizing were Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency. The apology stated in part "Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families." In April 2010, Bussee stated, "I never saw one of our members or other Exodus leaders or other Exodus members become heterosexual, so deep down I knew that it wasn’t true."
John Paulk was removed from his position as Chairman of Exodus International by a Board of Directors vote on October 3, 2000, following confirmation of his "engaging in behavior which has negatively impacted the credibility of Exodus."
Paulk, a self-described former "drag queen and homosexual prostitute", became active in Focus on the Family, was manager of Focus on the Family's Homosexuality and Gender Division, and was the elected Chairman of the board of Exodus International North America in August 1995 for a first three-year term. Paulk was re-elected for a second three-year term in 1998.
On September 19, 2000 while on a speaking tour, Paulk was identified drinking and flirting at Mr. P's, a Washington, D.C. gay bar, giving his name as "John Clint", one he had used in his days as a hustler in Ohio. A patron recognized him and contacted Wayne Besen, an employee of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay political action organization. When Besen arrived at the bar forty minutes later and confronted "John Clint", he denied that he was in fact John Paulk. Paulk's picture was taken as he left the bar. When confronted by Besen about the incident and the photographs, Paulk admitted being in the bar, but stated that he did not know it was a gay bar and had simply stopped in for a moment to use the restroom. However, eyewitnesses reported that Paulk stayed for more than an hour, flirted with other men, and when questioned about his sexuality, said he was gay.
An Exodus press release soon followed:
John's actions represent a serious lapse in sound judgment. His decision to enter a gay establishment for any reason opens him up to all kinds of speculation by both other Exodus leaders and also the gay community.
In 2013, Paulk renounced his former cause, stating that his sexual orientation had never truly changed, and "I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people."
Billboard parody controversy
On March 2, 2006, Liberty Counsel, a law firm acting on behalf of Exodus International, sent cease-and-desist letters to Justin Watt, who blogs at Justinsomnia, and Mike Airhart, who blogs at Ex-Gay Watch. The letters "insist[ed]" that Watt and Airhart "immediately cease use" of an edited photograph on their respective blogs "or in any other form" which parodied an Exodus billboard. The original billboard image, obtained from Exodus's website, consisted of the message "Gay? Unhappy? www.exodus.to" while the parody image, created by Watt in September 2005, showed the same sign, substantially cropped, with the text altered to read "Straight? Unhappy? www.gay.com."
The following excerpt from Watt's cease-and-desist letter details Exodus's rationale for the request. The letter mentions Wikipedia because Watt had cited the Wikipedia entry on fair use in posting his parody.
You appear to believe that the stolen image is exempt from federal intellectual property laws as a 'parody' due to 'fair use.' Unfortunately, the intricacies of federal law cannot adequately be covered on 'Wikipedia' due to the variety of facts addressed by courts in numerous cases. Your use of the image is indeed a violation of copyright law and is not covered by 'fair use.'
In response, Watt contacted the ACLU, who took his defense and responded to the cease-and-desist letter in partnership with the law firm of Fenwick & West LLP. According to reports in The New York Times and USA Today, Exodus decided against pursuing further legal action once the Exodus logo was removed from the parody.
Exodus International released an iPhone app, which they stated was "designed to be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students, and ministry leaders." Exodus stated the app received "a 4+ rating from Apple (applications in this category contain no objectionable material) ..." The app promoted the idea that homosexuality can be cured. On March 24, 2011, a statement was released from Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr stating: "We removed the Exodus International app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."
In the app, Exodus quoted research by scientist Gary Remafedi. Remafedi, however, stated that Exodus had manipulated and misused his research, and wrote to Apple founder Steve Jobs and interim CEO Tim Cook informing them of this.
Petitions to both remove and keep the app were set up on Change.org. On March 24, 2011, The Register reported that while the petition to remove the app had received over 150,000 signatures, the counter petition to keep the app had only received 8 signatures.
In 2009, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, attended a conference in Uganda that promoted what critics describe as "shocking abuses of basic human rights". Schmierer was not traveling in his capacity as an Exodus International spokesmen. Close to a year later, Chambers expressed regret for the organization's involvement, and spoke out against the nation's "Kill the Gays" bill.
- National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality
- Restored Hope Network
- Joel 2:25 International
- Courage International
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On February 11, 2017 Frank Worthen passed from this life into the next.
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