Exodus International, the North American umbrella network of ex-gay ministries, announced tonight that it is shutting down and relaunching as a new ministry. Its remaining member ministries — those that have not already joined the hardline ex-gay rebel group, Restored Hope Network (RHN) — will continue to operate, but not under the Exodus International umbrella.
“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.
Exodus is believed to have suffered financial difficulties since it purchased its $1 million headquarters building, just before the Florida real estate market crashed in 2008. That building was purchased through the Worthen Legacy Group, a shell organization that is named after Exodus co-founder (and now RHN supporter) Frank Worthen.
Exodus lost additional support in 2009 following its involvement in a Uganda conference which precipitated that country’s kill-the-gays legislation; Exodus later repudiated its involvement, but the leaders of what is now RHN have not repudiated their own involvement. The final blow to Exodus may have occurred when Exodus president Alan Chambers appeared at a Gay Christian Network conference in 2012 and admitted that 99 percent or more of “ex-gays” have not changed their sexual orientation. Upon that honest statement, several key member ministries rebelled and left Exodus to form RHN.
The announcement of the Exodus shutdown continues:
“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
Chambers continued: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”
For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”
The shutdown and reorganization of Exodus accomplishes several objectives:
- It insulates the current leadership from more than a decade of bad news involving scandals at Exodus member ministries.
- It likely frees Exodus leadership from serious real estate and financial obligations.
- It insulates now-severed Exodus ministries from new complaints of psychological warfare that are being aired by the ministries’ former patients, in a TV program that will air at 10 p.m. June 20 on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
- It frees member ministries to go their own way, to join the new organization, or to join hardline antigay activists at RHN, an ex-gay network that refuses to hear reports of abuse by its member ministers, supports antigay laws, and contends that anyone can change one’s sexual orientation through widely discredited antigay therapies.
Chambers underwent a personal transformation over the past year, and this week offered an apology for member ministers’ past abuses — an apology that by most accounts seems sincere.
Closing the organization so soon after the apology may give moderate Exodus leaders a chance to start over, free from the baggage of impenitent and allegedly abusive members — or it may allow those unapologetic members to escape ongoing confrontation with the consequences of their alleged abuse.
The closure of Exodus forces remaining ex-gay activists to make clear choices: Do they follow the new ministry’s model of reluctant grace and self-denial; do they affiliate with RHN’s political and religious extremism; or do they seek out the religious and personal freedom that — critics say — both Exodus and RHN have denied to them?