Family News in Focus reported Wednesday on Exodus International’s church network initiative. Exodus hopes to grow its network, launched in 2006, from its current membership of 70 churches to 10,000 by 2010. The network offers training and resources to churches seeking to provide a conservative evangelical approach to “reach[ing] out to those struggling with their sexual identity.”

According to Exodus’ website, churches must meet the following requirements to join the network:

1. The Church must express agreement with Exodus’ doctrinal and policy statements.
2. The Church must designate a contact person for this area of ministry, and that contact person and anyone else in the leadership of this ministry must be free from immoral sexual behavior for a minimum of three years.
3. The Church must have a governing body in place.
4. Exodus strongly recommends that a representative of the Church attend the annual Exodus conference at least once every three years.
5. Payment of an optional $50.00 annual membership fee.

Whether the $50 fee is truly optional or an actual requirement is not clarified.

Exodus’ material refers repeatedly to helping churches minister to those who “struggle with unwanted homosexuality,” and promises to “exhort the church at-large to stand confidently and boldly on the truth of scripture with regard to homosexuality.” From there it becomes clear that there is no room within Exodus-approved churches for those who do not regard their same-sex attractions as “unwanted” – quite possibly even for some of those committed to lifelong celibacy.

When asked how Exodus plans to reach its goal of adding 9,930 churches to its network over the next two years, Exodus VP Randy Thomas had no comment. Exodus President Alan Chambers is on an extended vacation and currently unavailable for interviews.

Given the increasingly negative image that evangelicals have among younger Americans (both Christian and non-), it comes as little surprise that conservative leaders would seek new ways of keeping their members inside the fold on this issue. Should the Exodus church network reach its membership goal, it could become a formidable force in both the theological and political arenas.

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