Exodus International Battles On Despite Losing Prominent Partners

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When California became the first state to ban reparative therapy for minors this fall, the public scrutiny of the treatment drew attention to Exodus International, the nation's largest ex-gay ministry. But Exodus had already stopped promoting the practice, saying it was largely ineffective.

Exodus's shift on reparative therapy has been only one of several therapeutic and theological controversies that divided the ministry this year. Top leaders and dozens of affiliate ministries have defected from the 37-year-old umbrella ministry as it has attempted to reshape its mission and public image.

Board member John Warren, a 53-year-old Florida banker who publicly defended Exodus president Alan Chambers in the face of this summer's criticism, reversed course and parted ways with the Orlando, Florida, ministry in September. Warren said he became uncomfortable with the "ambiguous messaging" on sexual identity and salvation that Chambers was disseminating in both secular and Christian contexts.

Warren described Chambers's series of talk show appearances, such as September interviews with the Oprah Winfrey Network's Lisa Ling and Salem Communications' Janet Mefferd, as "death by a thousand cuts" for him.

"That messaging didn't say to me that we [Exodus] clearly believe in the gospel, and I couldn't support that," he said. "I needed to resign."

Warren wasn't alone. Days before, executive vice president Jeff Buchanan resigned after four years of service. They joined a steady stream of affiliates.

The largest of Exodus's 250-plus affiliate ministries, Kansas City, Missouri-based Desert Stream Ministries (DSM), left in April after three decades of partnership. DSM leader Andrew Comiskey said Exodus was once a support venue for a plurality of approaches toward same-sex attraction, but now is nothing more than the "mouthpiece of a particular man."

In response, Comiskey and Exodus cofounder Frank Worthen (among others) established an alternative organization called the Restored Hope Network (RHN), which gathered for its first conference in September.

"We want this to be about ministry again at a very basic level," said Comiskey. "Not about sound bites, press conferences, and drama TV."

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Weston Gentry
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