Exodus International, umbrella organization for the ex-gay ministries embedded in fundamentalist and evangelical Christian culture, went out of business --- by changing its name --- this week. Its strategically remorseful president, Alan Chambers, closed Exodus down, sort of, in a series of carefully orchestrated media events that, when all was said and done, didn't do much.
The reactions have been interesting to watch. Some in progressive evangelical circles --- mostly heterosexual --- have been overjoyed, interpreting the move as a step toward reconciliation. Those involved in Exodus's some 270 national and international affiliates have focused on controlling whatever "damage" a kinder, gentler Chambers may have done to their cause and carrying the work forward without changing course.
As a rule, LGBT people have viewed the whole business with skepticism.
Chambers encouraged the latter by announcing formation of a new organization, "Reduced Fear," that while acknowledging sexual orientation as God-given maintains the old boy created LGBT people to suffer. Gay folks, therefore, should avoid same-sex relationships and practice celibacy if a suitable spouse of the opposite sex cannot be found. Reduced Fear, apparently, will facilitate those routes to glory, but be nicer to gay folks who choose not to follow them.
It's useful to remember that Chambers himself is gay, something he now acknowledges readily by phrasing it as a "struggle against same-sex attraction." He is married (to a woman) and they have two adopted children.
Exodus International always has had difficulties keeping its top officials on the straight and narrow. One of its founders, Michael Bussee, left the organization during 1979 to form a committed relationship with one of its ministry leaders, Gary Cooper, who died of AIDS-related complications during 1991.
More recently, chairman John Paulk was removed by the organization's board during 2000 after he was discovered patronizing a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Paulk has since renounced his former cause. His former wife has formed an ex-gay ministry of her own.
Chambers seems to have started publicly down the path that led to this week's announcements by acknowledging last year that "99.9 percent" of the people served by the Exodus ministries failed to transition from gay to straight, as promised. His logical destination now --- as the Exodus mission transitions from cure to control ---would be similar to those of Bussee and Paulk, but we'll have to wait and see on that.
Exodus International may be gone, but fundamentalist culture and much of evangelical culture, too, populated by many wonderful and in other ways caring people, remain dangerous places for those who differ. These guys, blinded by their own sin, torture their LGBT children emotionally, occasionally cast them out, often kill them spiritually and in some cases kill them --- indirectly by suicide or other routes --- physically, too.