What is Exodus International?
Exodus International was a non-profit, interdenominational ex-gay Christian organization that sought to help people who wished to limit their homosexual desires. It was founded in 1976, but ceased activities in June 2013, issuing a statement which repudiated its aims and apologized for the harm their pursuit has caused to LGBT people.
Exodus International formerly 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, counselling 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."
Founded in 1976, Exodus was an umbrella organization which grew to include over 120 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 2004.
In 1973, Frank Worthen 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 and Debbie Hirsch. 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.
In 2006, Exodus began ministries in Caribbean countries such as Barbados and Jamaica as well as Latin American nations such as Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela.
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 unanimous vote at the organization's annual meeting in Irvine, California, the board of directors announced the impending closure of Exodus International. The board explained that the move came "after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization's place in a changing culture." President Alan Chambers repudiated 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."
Criticism of conversion therapy
In January 2012 then- president of Exodus International Alan Chambers, during his address to a Gay Christian Network conference, stated that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality 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. 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 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 "no evidence that the type of attempt to change sexual orientation studied here is harmful."
- Stanton 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."
In 2009, the American Psychological Association stated that professional therapists should not tell their clients that they can change their sexual orientation through reparative therapy.
Schaeffer et al.
Schaeffer et al. surveyed 140 members of Exodus. 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.
"Exodus International" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.