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Exodus Co-Founder: We Didn’t Know There Was An Alternative For Gay Christians

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 20th, 2010

One of the most common reasons people go ex-gay is because they don’t believe a meaningful community exists in the gay world and fear losing their current church community.  In today’s video I ask Michael how he viewed “the gay community” while he was still at Exodus.

Don’t miss the part where Michael talks about how Exodus viewed the Metropolitan Community Church.  I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when he surprised me with that during filming.

(transcript after the jump)

I’m Michael Bussee, I’m one of the original co-founders of Exodus International. I left the program in 1979 and have since reconciled my spirituality and my sexuality and now I’m a vocal critic of reparative therapy programs and of Exodus International.

[music begins]

[title: “We Didn’t Know There Was An Alternative For Gay Christians”]

[voice of interviewer:] If you didn’t know that there was a gay community when you were at Exodus how did you sort of paint what life would be like for people if they left the program? Because that’s a big portion of the ex-gay movement now is vilifying “the homosexual lifestyle” which embodies all these horrible things.

Right, right, exactly.

The only picture we had of the gay community was our own personal experience of being closeted and compulsive so leaving Exodus meant retuning to that.  We didn’t know that there was an alternative.  We didn’t know that there we people who had integrated their spirituality and sexuality.

I didn’t know of any gay community.  I knew of gay activists and they all seemed to just be angry, unhappy, anti-Christian people so I didn’t really sense there was any kind of gay community that I could go to.  Of course this was pretty early on too, the gay movement was still in it’s infancy then. Stonewall was 1969, the American Psychiatric Association didn’t remove it from it’s list of disorders until 74, Exodus was formed in 76.  So there was beginnings of a gay community and gay support out there.  The Metropolitan Community Church for example and maybe some other places but not a whole lot of options.

And we taught that Metropolitan Community Church was just “of the devil” so you definitely didn’t go there because they kiss each other during the service and they have sex with each other after, and they don’t really believe the Bible and they don’t really believe Jesus, so that wasn’t really an option either.

I’m really glad that today there’s a lot more options for people who are struggling with these issues and places for people to land. There’s an ex-gay survivor network  that’s growing.  And there’s gay Christian organizations online, facebook groups and discussion groups.  There’s a wealth of resources now there weren’t then.

[closing credits]

Comments

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Zach
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

I appreciate what Mr. Bussee is doing now but wonder if he has ever allowed himself to REALLY consider how many gay suicides, including kids, that he is directly responsible for?

I’m not so much blaming him for the years that he himself was in total delusion and hating himself. What I find hard to forgive was all of those YEARS that he remained silent AFTER he left Exodus and was living in a gay relationship with one of his anti-gay co-conspirators. All those years that his work and lies were being used to destroy gay people and their families, and he knew it and he knew that he himself was living the life that his organization was still claiming was sick, sinful and dangerous, but yet didn’t speak up.

That is what I can’t forgive.

Ben in Oakland
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

Zach- he’s making an effort to atone for it now. And I have to give him credit for it. I can’t think of a single anti-gay bigot who, after being caught out, realized the damage they did andh ave done anything to atone for it.

Will we ever see Anita bryant admit that she was a total bitch and dead wrong? Will Phyllis schlafley ever admit that when she is demonizing gay people, she is demonizing her own son? When confronted with the question, she said “I love my kids”.

and on and on.

Timothy Kincaid
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

Zach,

I wonder what “not being silent” would have looked like?

There was no lecture circuit looking for former Exodus leaders. There was no internet on which to tell one’s story. There were very few gay or gay supportive churches to speak to. There was no gay-owned or gay-focused media.

And as for those who were still in Exodus, Michael had no way to reach them. All communication had been cut off when he left.

And it wasn’t a secret. If you had ever even heard of Exodus, one of the first things we “knew” out there in the community was, “oh, that is so bogus. Some of the founders left to be a couple.” I’d heard the rumor-story long before I ever knew Michael’s name.

So he went on with his life. And once technology made it possible to tell his story, he began telling his story.

I’m not sure what there is to “not forgive.”

nikko
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

Still, he should be out there condemning all ex-gay organizations and exposing the lies he started-and the irreparable damage he has done. Not good enough.

justsearching
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

He may have helped start it, but it (or something similar) would have started and continued without him. Do you think the fact that he was a founder would have let him dismantle the program or something akin to that? If that’s the case, you know little about (some) Christian organizations. If someone has a personal failing or a misgiving about the direction of the organization, he or she can be vilified and tossed under the bus without a second thought. Michael Busse would have just become one of those Christians who “didn’t try hard enough” or “didn’t have enough faith” or…etc.

Here’s Chambers on Busse’s apology ( http://www.alanchambers.org/just_think/2007/06/i-forigive-you.html )

“You left very shortly after you came and truth be told, I have now been a part of Exodus far longer than you. I, and so many others, are the ones who have chosen to remain faithful to the mission of this ministry… You chose something different than me and so many others. Like Darlene, I don’t think your apology was for people like me, but I do think both of you owe one to those you hurt when you left this ministry.”

Let’s direct our anger where anger is both merited and productive. And getting angry at someone who is trying to right the wrongs of his past is hardly productive, even if you feel that it is merited.

Ray
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

“I appreciate what Mr. Bussee is doing now but wonder if he has ever allowed himself to REALLY consider how many gay suicides, including kids, that he is directly responsible for?”

NONE! I’m about the same age as Mike and I went through the same experience **except** I created my **own** “Exodus” because there simply was NO place to turn to. There was no NARTH, no Exodus, and for me not even an MCC. What I did in the absence of those organizations was to imbed myself in the most stridently anti-gay environment I could find in order to have reinforcement to change. Or as I thought possible then – to be cured. I know NO gay people and I was a Pentacostal who thought the Pentacostal weren’t harsh **enough** to sway me. So I searched for and found the one chuch that had an actual position and on-going teaching about homosexuality – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – and joined them ONLY because the ACTIVELY rejected gays and lesbians. I went further. I got married, became a parent.

You think Exodus is bad?????

Ha! They’re a bunch of amateurs!!! Angelic by comparison to the Mormons. There is NO emotional winter COLDER than being a Mormon 24 hours a day and being gay. If I learned one thing about the Mormon, the simply isn’t a church in this country – and I dare say, the world – that can beat the Mormons at ANYTHING, including:

1. Directing gays and lesbians away from their natural inclinations
2. Shunning gays and lesbians out of the church with a coldness you will NEVER, EVER Recover from.

So PLEASE! Escape from those tormenting circumstances is predicated upon being fortunate that you can bear emotional blackmail for a long period without killing yourself. Michael and everyone else who enters there are trying to find SOMEONE like themselves when they know NO ONE like themselves. And as is of the case, you LEAVE that environment STILL have NOWHERE and NO ONE to turn to. That’s when the idea of suicide hits you. Every bridge abutment looks promising. Believe me.

I’m still scared from the 30 years I worked every day to pray away the gay. I did it myself and I think that reaching the point where suicide was the last door to open was what forced me to take the only alternative that was possible – find and embrace the gay community no matter WHAT religious people said about them.

When I did that, I knew ABSOLUTELY that I had been lied to and lied about my entire life. I’m not religious any more and those lies about “what gay is” that I learned in the confines of a religion that holds themselves up as the arbiter of honesty – that religion is the reason I’m not religious any more. They are the reason I am no longer a believer.

I really loved the spirit of being a Christian and when I was shunned, it was like having my arms and legs severed from my body. I still think religion can be a good thing, but there is no way in hell or heaven I would ever go back to it. I just don’t trust them and with all of the hateful stuff coming from religious communities (actually worse than it ever was when I was a Christian), I’d rather be shot between the eyes than darken the door of a church again. Nonetheless, I know that a religious experience can be valuable and comforting to individuals and I don’t discourage anyone from seeking their comfort, even if it’s through religion. Just don’t ask me to go with you.

Mark F.
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

Well, the Metropolitan Community Church isn’t specifically Christian, as far as I can tell. They are like the Unitarians.

Timothy Kincaid
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

Mark,

From Wikipedia:

MCC bases its theology on the historic creeds of the Christian Church such as Apostles’ and Nicene creed. Every church is required to celebrate the Eucharist at least once a week, and to practice open communion, meaning that recipients need not be a member of the MCC or any other church to receive the Eucharist. Beyond that MCC allows its member churches independence in doctrine, worship, and practice. Worship styles vary widely from church to church. Communion can be presided over by either a member of the clergy or by a designated lay person; in some congregations the pastor or clergy rarely preside.

Even allowing for independence in doctrine, I still think this qualifies as Christian.

Dan
May 20th, 2010 | LINK

I participated in MCC for many years and, yes, it is a Christian denomination. My local MCC was even charismatic. We said or sang the Lord’s Prayer every week, listened to a reading from the Old Testament, another from the New Testament, and finally one from the Gospels. We sang traditional hymns such as Amazing Grace, the Old Rugged Cross, and Blessed Assurance. The sermon consisted of biblical exegesis.

On the other hand, we avoided sexist language in the service and rejected sexist and homophobic theology, especially the belief that homosexuality was wrong. We embraced a social gospel and committed ourselves to fighting for social justice. Women participated at all levels of church leadership, as did people of all races and ethnicities. In practice, the main difference between us and the church down the street – besides our diversity – was that most participants were LGBT people, their children, families, and friends.

Bruce
May 21st, 2010 | LINK

I participated in MCC for many years and, yes, it is a Christian denomination. My local MCC was even charismatic. We said or sang the Lord’s Prayer every week, listened to a reading from the Old Testament, another from the New Testament, and finally one from the Gospels. We sang traditional hymns such as Amazing Grace, the Old Rugged Cross, and Blessed Assurance. The sermon consisted of biblical exegesis.

On the other hand, we avoided sexist language in the service and rejected sexist and homophobic theology, especially the belief that homosexuality was wrong. We embraced a social gospel and committed ourselves to fighting for social justice. Women participated at all levels of church leadership, as did people of all races and ethnicities. In practice, the main difference between us and the church down the street – besides our diversity – was that most participants were LGBT people, their children, families, and friends.

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