Last weekend saw the latest Love Won Out conference, the ex-gay roadshow which was once sponsored by Focus on the Family (with Exodus as partners) but is now completely run by Exodus International. The latest locale was Sugarland, Texas (outside Houston) — firmly in the Bible Belt and where one might expect more than the usual number of sympathetic participants.
According to he Houston Chronicle, however, that doesn’t seem to have been the case. They report 450 in attendance, for what we believe is the lowest figure yet — certainly in recent years. That’s less than half the numbers reported in it’s heyday of just a few years ago. Remember also that most attendees are repeat visitors, part of a small core who use the conferences to visit socially. Even in such a venue, however, some ministries maintain rather strict requirements. Living Hope Ministries, an Exodus affiliate in Arlington, Texas, (and old stomping ground of former Exodus VP Randy Thomas) requires their attendees to mark out the last names on their name tags lest they be tempted to contact each other by means not sanctioned by the group.
There would seem little doubt that Exodus is in decline. Recent months and years have seen their pleas for funds become more dire, their staff and benefits cut, significant ministry partners disassociate, and now their main recruiting tool attract fewer attendees. Some time ago they began combining the figures for their member groups with their stagnant church affiliates, perhaps to give the impression that they have grown (or at least not shrunk). Their church affiliate network, which then VP Randy Thomas predicted would have 10,000 members by 2010 never got past about 100.
Exodus still has a presence and can do damage to those who mistake them for a safe harbor. And they continue to export their untruths to countries less equipped to provide an informed opposition. Unfortunately, we have already witnessed what kind of fire can start from those sparks.