Exodus pulls support from anti-gay "Day of Truth"

A national Christian organization will stop sponsoring an annual event that encourages school students to "counter the promotion of homosexual behavior" because the event has become too divisive and confrontational, the group’s president told CNN on Wednesday.

"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," said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the group that sponsored the event this year.

Called the Day of Truth, the annual April event has been pushed by influential conservative Christian groups as a way to counter to the annual Day of Silence, an event promoted by gay rights advocates to highlight threats against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Read the news on CNN

Soulforce and Beyond Ex-Gay Welcome Change at Exodus

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 6, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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In a March 4, 2008, interview with Ex-Gay Watch, Alan Chambers — President of Exodus International — confirmed that the world’s largest network of ex-gay ministries has refocused its priorities and will move away from political lobbying.

In spring 2007, Exodus hired a Director of Political Affairs, and Exodus representatives were vocal opponents of the Matthew Shepherd Act. However, Chambers indicated this week that the Political Affairs position no longer exists: "In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike –but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization."

Chambers’ comments suggest that the change in priorities happened directly on the heels of the Ex-gay Survivor Conference in late June 2007 and the Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative in July 2007. Both projects utilized multiple formats, from press conferences to private conversations, to reach out to Exodus leadership with the stories of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who believe that attempts to change their sexual orientation did more harm than good.

Christine Bakke, co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, was among a small group of ex-gay survivors who met with Exodus leaders over dinner during the Ex-gay Survivor Conference; she welcomed Chambers’ comments: "I feel deep satisfaction that Exodus leaders heard us when we met over dinner and through our more public statements, and I hope that they continue to listen to those of us who invested so much of our lives in the ex-gay experience and found another way," said Bakke.

Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director, also hailed the impact of survivor testimony. "Survivors of ex-gay programs have demonstrated remarkable courage by sharing their experiences in countless small acts of nonviolent witness. This decision from Exodus, and the acknowledgment that ex-gay survivors’ voices are being heard, is also courageous."

But Lutes added that there is still more work to be done. "We will continue to share the human stories of harm caused by ex-gay ministries and to find new ways to share the message that our sexual orientations and gender identities are gifts from God that can be lived with dignity and grace."

Bakke also gestured to the work ahead. "I welcome the news that Exodus has moved its focus from politics to people. Now, by listening to the people who have been negatively affected by their ministry and messages in the past, Exodus can deepen the discussion to consider their pastoral care needs and necessary next steps."

The Ex-gay Survivor Conference and the Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative were expressions of a growing ex-gay survivor community that includes writers, artists, researchers, and clergy. For more information about these events, and to learn about upcoming projects, visit www.soulforce.org and www.beyondexgay.com.

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Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Beyond Ex-Gay is an on-line community and resource for those of us who have survived ex-gay experiences. For more information go to www.beyondexgay.com.

 

 

Former Exodus Leaders Issue Emotional Apology; Statements Highlight the Dangers of Attempting to Change Sexual Orientation

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 28, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Los Angeles, CA) — Yesterday three former leaders from Exodus International — the powerful coalition of "ex-gay" ministries — presented an unprecedented public apology for spreading the message that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are sinful and that sexual orientation can change.

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates," said the joint apology, which was signed by Michael Bussee, Darlene Bogle, and Jeremy Marks.

The apology was presented at a press conference organized by Soulforce and BeyondExGay.com. The event was emotionally charged, especially when the former leaders presented the apology to a group of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who once sought to change their orientation through ex-gay programs but who now believe that those attempts did more harm than good.

Each of the assembled former leaders represents an aspect of the history and expansion of Exodus’s ministries. Bussee helped found the ex-gay movement and Exodus in the mid-1970s. Within a few years, however, he began to doubt the movement’s message and tactics:

"Many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing. Why weren’t they ‘changing’? The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse…. The message always seemed to be: ‘You’re not enough. You’re not trying hard enough. You don’t have enough faith.’"

Bogle, former director of Paraklete, an Exodus referral ministry for women, displayed visible emotion as she read from her personal statement of apology.

"I apologize to those individuals and families who believed my message that change was necessary to be acceptable to God. In recent years I have seen the resulting damage from rejection, shame, and conditional love," said Bogle.

Perhaps the most prominent former Exodus leader to participate in the apology was Marks, the President of Exodus International Europe until 2000. Marks described his growing awareness that ex-gay ministries were not delivering promised changes in orientation and issued a call to his former colleagues:

"I now want to try and encourage all those so-called ‘ex-gay’ Christians who lead Exodus ministries — who, in their hearts, know very well that what I am saying is true — to change their minds, as I had to — to simply trust in God once again for their credibility and support, even though that may mean risking all," said Marks, who has transformed his London-based program, Courage UK, into a gay-affirming ministry.

Marks, Bogle, and Bussee are gathered in Southern California for The Ex-gay Survivor Conference, which will take place at the University of California on June 29-July 1. This conference, which will focus on the experiences of ex-gay survivors, is the result of a year of planning and collaboration between Soulforce, the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine, and beyondexgay.com. It is timed to provide an alternative voice to the annual Exodus conference, which is also happening in Irvine this week.

For more information about the conference, visit www.soulforce.org.


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Damaged by Ex-gay Programs, Survivors Invite Exodus Leadership to Hear the Rest of the Story

Open Letter Addressed to Alan Chambers, Other Ex-gay Leaders

International Conference of Ex-gay Survivors to Coincide with Exodus Meeting

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 25, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

(Irvine, CA) — As Exodus International, the world’s largest network of "ex-gay" ministries, prepares to hold its annual conference this week in Irvine, California, two former participants in Exodus programs have issued an open letter to the organization’s leaders. The letter, which was penned by Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke, invites Exodus leaders to attend a dinner with "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who feel that attempts to change their sexual orientation caused emotional and spiritual damage.

"Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries," the letter explains. "Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover."

Toscano and Bakke are the founders of beyondexgay.com, a new web resource for ex-gay survivors. They will be in Irvine for The Ex-gay Survivor Conference, which will take place on the University of California’s Irvine campus June 29-July 1. This conference, which will draw participants from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom, is the result of a year of planning and collaboration between Soulforce, the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine, and beyondexgay.com.

According to Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes, "Our conference features the voices of men and women who, in spite of enormous pressures, have come to accept themselves as they are. Their stories present a hopeful alternative to the Exodus message, but we will not initiate or endorse any direct protest of the Exodus Conference."

Although no high ranking Exodus leaders have yet responded to the invitation to share a meal with ex-gay survivors, on Thursday, June 21, Exodus issued a press release indicating that the organization welcomes the possibility of dialogue between the two conferences.

"We feel encouraged that Exodus has responded to our invitation for dialogue," says Toscano. "We look forward to sharing challenges we faced in our lives as a result of our time in Exodus ministries."

Full text of letter:

Dear Exodus Leaders,

It is no coincidence that we scheduled the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference at the same time and in the same city as Exodus’ Freedom Conference. Although we do not wish to interrupt your gathering, we do long for the opportunity to connect with you. Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries. We turned to you for help and received some good from our time under your care. Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover.

We understand that this was not your intent. From knowing quite a few of you personally, we know that you have a heart to help people and to serve God. You meant to bless us.

Too often once we leave your programs, you never hear about our lives and what happens to us. Most ministries do not have aftercare programs or any formal means to follow-up on participants. Some stories you do not get to hear. If you do, our stories can be simplified by the press or infused with anger or hurt. In hopes of giving you the opportunity to hear about our experiences and the harm that we felt came to us as a result of our pursuit of an ex-gay life, we would like to invite you to join us for a private dinner on Friday, June 29, 2007.

The purpose of the dinner is to give you an opportunity to hear our stories. We do not wish to bash you, attack you or shame you. We simply desire to share our stories with you. No members of the press will be allowed into the dinner and it will not be recorded or filmed. We are hoping for a small gathering with a few ex-gay leaders and some ex-gay survivors. At the dinner a few of us will tell you our stories.

If you are interested in attending this dinner, please RSVP to bxg@beyondexgay.com.

Sincerely,

Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke
Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of www.BeyondExGay.com

Registration for The Ex-gay Survivor Conference is available online at www.soulforce.org. The conference registration fee is $40, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.