Love Won Out

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Love Won Out, later known as True Story,[1][2] was an ex-gay ministry launched by Focus on the Family in 1998. It was founded by John Paulk. Its website's stated purpose was "to exhort and equip Christian churches to respond in a Christ-like way to the issue of homosexuality."[3] The mission statement read, "To provide a Christ-centered, comprehensive conference which will enlighten, empower and equip families, church and youth leaders, educators, counselors, policy-makers, and the gay community on the truth about homosexuality and its impact on culture, family, and youth."[4] Love Won Out was sold to a former affiliate Exodus International as a downsizing measure of Focus on the Family.[5] In 2012, Exodus International also presented the conferences under the name True Story. On June 19, 2013, Exodus International President Alan Chambers announced the board of directors had voted unanimously to disband and close.[6] Alan Chambers offered an apology to the gay community and reversed his stance on the past teachings of Exodus International's ministry.


Love Won Out's stated objective was to help men and women "who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions", believing that "same-sex attractions can be overcome",[7] and asserting that "there are no conclusive studies supporting any specific biological or genetic cause for homosexuality".[8] It was the opinion of Love Won Out that "the foundation of society for the family is marriage of a man and a woman for life ... Scripture is very clear in its condemnation of homosexual conduct, for such sin is a deviation from God's creation and design."[4] The psychologist James Dobson adds that God loves the homosexual as much as any other person.[4]: 7 

Love Won Out believed that the Bible regards homosexual conduct as sin.[4]: 7  James Dobson stated "The 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 in our character, and change is slow and uphill - but is possible nonetheless."[4]: 7 

Love Won Out said that "The media and others have misrepresented male homosexuality as a pre-determined, biological condition",[4] and that "Contrary to the popular myth that homosexuality is genetic, same-sex attraction is a preventable and treatable condition".[4] The conferences focus on what it terms "the family dynamics that can lead to the development of same-sex desires",[4] stressing that homosexuality is abnormal, claiming, "The goal of gay activists is to 'overhaul' America with the message that homosexuality is normal and healthy."[4]

The conference addressed "the Pro-Gay Agenda in Your School", offering reference material and sample letters to educators and parents to have parental notification prior to class discussion of any issues surrounding sexuality.[4]: 22–24  Homosexuality being mentioned in schools non discrimination policy's, homosexual student clubs, programs to stop homophobia hate or bias, Pro-homosexual literature in school libraries, openly gay teachers, AIDS sex ed programs, outside gay friendly groups, recognition of gay pride month, exhibits or films on families headed by homosexuals, silencing students and parents who voiced concerns, and diversity workshops were discussed as determining the level of "Homosexual Promotion" in your school.[4]: 23 

Love Won Out wanted to help people who want to understand factors that lead to homosexuality and assist those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions. They taught that the root cause of homosexuality is a gender-identity problem.[4]: 12  According to their belief, homosexuality in males is caused by a "dominant mother with a quiet, withdrawn, non expressive and/or hostile father, and an introverted, artistic, imaginative son."[4] They also believe that this is accompanied by poor communication between the mother and the father, and the son having a closer relationship with the mother and an antagonistic relationship with the father.[4]: 12–13 

Love Won Out concurred with one position of the American Psychiatric Association when it states "some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime," though the APA also states, "All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder."[9]

Homosexuality and politics[edit]

Love Won Out claimed that the goal of the "gay agenda" is "Normalization through desensitization, Undermining parental moral authority, and equating homosexuality to heterosexuality."[4]: 19 

James Dobson states in the forward of the conference guide:

There is no evidence that homosexuals as a class are discriminated against in the present society. They are not like African-Americans, Hispanics, or other historically disadvantaged groups, for their identity is based on changeable behavior ...[4]: 7 

Love Won Out stated that "marriage will continue to be 'redefined'" and that Same-Sex Marriage may mean for our society: "possible threats to freedom of speech and religious liberty."[4]: 37  The conference made a point to "effectively argue for the benefits of traditional marriage to their friends, co-workers and legislators,"[4] and says that gay marriage is not in the best interest of families and children.[4] The organization stated that same-sex marriage places adult desires above the best interest of our children, "same-sex marriage intentionally creates motherless or fatherless families."[4]: 37 


Love Won Out held conferences multiple times a year throughout the United States;[10] as of October 2008, 52 conferences had been held.[11] The conferences said they "exist to help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome."[4] Conferences have counseling sessions, seminars on homosexuality and advice for families with gay or lesbian relatives. There were also group lectures, where participants hear "powerful stories of ex-gay men and women."[12] In addition, conferences challenged Christian churches to reach out to the gay community.[13]

Affiliation with NARTH[edit]

Love Won Out collaborated with NARTH. On November 4, 2006,[14] Joseph Nicolosi represented NARTH at the Love Won Out Conference speaking on "Prevention of Male Homosexuality" and on "The Condition of Male Homosexuality".[12] Nicolosi, who died in 2017, was the president and principal research investigator for NARTH, and clinical director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, Calif., where he worked with persons suffering undesired same-sex attraction.[4]: 9 

Sale to Exodus International[edit]

Exodus International bought the Love Won Out conference in 2009.[15][16] Gary Schneeberger, Focus on the Family's vice president of media and public relations issued a statement stating "... the conferences rarely have recouped the financial investment made in them ... Our financial challenges (at Focus on the Family) have led us to recognize a strategic opportunity that makes sense ..."[15]

Exodus-affiliated groups had worked with homosexual persons, seeking to achieve "freedom from homosexuality" which Exodus believed included abstinence, lessening of same-sex attraction, and change of inappropriate gender roles. In June 2013, CEO Alan Chambers announced that the board of Exodus International voted unanimously to disband and close.[6] "The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization's place in a changing culture."[6]


Renunciation by founder[edit]

John Paulk, the founder of LWO, formally renounced[17] the organization in April 2013, saying (in part):

Today, I do not consider myself "ex-gay" and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.

Today, I see LGBT people for who they are — beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.

Apology to gay community[edit]

Alan Chambers, the CEO of Exodus International and parent company of the Love Won Out Conference, which had held recent conferences under the name True Story, formally apologized to the gay community in June 2013 for the damage done by reparative therapy, and ended the 37-year-old Exodus International ministry.

Please know that I am deeply sorry. 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. I am sorry that there were times I didn't stand up to people publicly "on my side" who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.[18]

Truth Wins Out[edit]

Truth Wins Out, an organization formed by Wayne Besen, is a leading critic of ex-gay ministries and of the Love Won Out conferences. Truth Wins Out often held protests and demonstrations outside the Love Won Out conferences to shed light on what they called "anti gay religious extremism."[19][20][21]

Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, who has been tracking and opposing "ex-gay" therapies for more than a decade, issued a statement Thursday morning[when?]:

"The closing of Exodus is an earthquake that is shaking the very foundations of the 'ex-gay' industry. We feel vindicated with our efforts to expose these groups and reveal their great destruction. Although new groups are vying to fill the vacuum, the passing of Exodus casts a huge shadow of doubt on their work and cuts right to the heart of their credibility," Besen said.[22][23]

Love Welcomes All conferences[edit]

On February 22, 2003, Jeff Lutes, MS, LPC and Paul Dodd, Dmin, LPC in Austin, Texas launched the first Love Welcomes All conference. The name came from a Soulforce direct action that took place in Kansas City, Missouri in June 2002. The conference brought together concerned citizens, mental health professionals and clergy to stand against what they called "misinformation and damage caused by Dobson's conference."[24]

Soul Force released a statement on June 21, 2013, and a letter to Alan Chambers regarding the closure of Exodus International:

We welcome the closure of Exodus International and we recognize the potential personal and collective sacrifice this ending represents. At the same time, those of us who are called by Jesus Christ are accountable for the harm we bring into the world. Our purpose is to bring down the barriers between people in the Body of Christ, not create barriers. Ephesians 2:14. It is time for Exodus to take the next step in restorative justice and to practice the ministry of the Sermon on the Mount. We have some practical recommendations to share with you that will help the LGBT community worldwide as well as the Body of Christ in reconciling the past. We have included those in this letter. We invited people around the world to send us their suggestions and then consolidated those for your review.[25]

Love Came Out[edit]

In October 2008, a "Love Came Out" conference was organized to coincide with a Love Won Out conference in Colorado Springs, featuring "gay speakers who participated in so-called reparative programs and now question such faith-based attempts to change one's sexual orientation."[11][need quotation to verify] James Dobson responded "Regardless of what the media might say, Focus on the Family has no interest in promoting hatred toward homosexuals or anyone else. We also don't wish to deprive them of their basic constitutional rights. The Constitution applies to all of us."[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Homepage". Exodus Freedom. Archived from the original on July 1, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "Love Won Out in GA". Exodus International. February 22, 2012. Archived from the original on May 28, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  3. ^ "Love Won Out". Love Won Out. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v : 36–37 Focus on the Family's Love Won Out Conference Guide Copyrighted 2005-2006
  5. ^ Archived LWO Main Page Transition Message FoF to Exodus International, archived from the original on December 12, 2009, retrieved 2 November 2009
  6. ^ a b c "Exodus International - Reaching the World in Grace & Truth". Exodus International. Archived from the original on 2013-06-22.
  7. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Love Won Out. Archived from the original on 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  8. ^ "Are People Really "Born Gay"?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2008. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  9. ^ American Psychiatric Association (May 2000). "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues". Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  10. ^ Burack, Cynthia (2004-09-18). "A Report From "Love Won Out: Addressing, Understanding, and Preventing Homosexuality"" (PDF). National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.
  11. ^ a b Barna, Mark (2008-10-25). "A Battle of Beliefs at 2 Events Today; Polar Views About Faith in Regard to Homosexuality". The Gazette. ProQuest 268298259. (Registration required)
  12. ^ a b "Conference Agenda". Archived from the original on September 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  13. ^ Johnson, Alex (2005-06-23). "'Healed' by God: Evangelical group sponsors conference on nature of gays". NBC News. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  14. ^ "November 4, 2006 Conference". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006.
  15. ^ a b "Exodus to take over Focus' 'Love Won Out'". Archived from the original on 2009-08-16. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
  16. ^ Archive File Love Won Out on new Exodus International redirect, archived from the original on July 22, 2012, retrieved 24 July 2012
  17. ^ Brydum, Sunnivie (2013-04-24). "John Paulk Formally Renounces, Apologizes for Harmful 'Ex-Gay' Movement". Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  18. ^ "Exodus International - Reaching the World in Grace & Truth". Exodus International. Archived from the original on 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  19. ^ "Mission Statement - Truth Wins Out".
  20. ^ "Love Won Out? The Selling of False Hope to Vulnerable People - Truth Wins Out".
  21. ^ "United For Truth To Protest Focus On The Family's 'Ex-Gay' Conference In Atlanta Suburb - Truth Wins Out".
  22. ^ "Truth Wins Out Applauds Alan Chambers' Decision To Shut Down Exodus International - Truth Wins Out".
  23. ^ "Group That Had Aimed To "Change" Gays To Shut Down, Leader Also Offered Apology". BuzzFeed.
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-03-03. Retrieved 2013-07-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Letter to the President of Exodus International" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 21, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  26. ^ Kwon, Lillian (2008-03-19). "Gays Still Looking for Love from Christians". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 2013-01-02. Retrieved 2018-05-26.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)

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