Dissention Rises Within Exodus International

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2012

Last January, Exodus International president Alan Chambers appeared on  a surprise panel at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference in Orlando, and made the surprising admission that “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” At about that same time, it was noticed that Exodus International had removed several books on Reparative Therapy from their online bookstore.

[NOTE: Contrary to popular misconceptions, Reparative Therapy is not a generic term for sexual orientation change therapy. It is a term describing one particular form of therapy promoted by Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Reparative Therapy derives its name on Nicolosi’s theory of the so-called “reparative drive.” Please see this for a  more complete description.]

It quickly became apparent however that the rest of Exodus may not be fully behind Chambers’s overtures. Mike Goeke, an Exodus International board member and former vice-president, published an op-ed just two days later describing homosexuality as being different — and in its way, worse — than “any sin,” a position that is in marked contrast to Chambers’s discussion of homosexuality from a theological standpoint. Now Andrew Comiskey, who heads Desert Streams Ministries, opened the debate on the clinical front by issuing a letter expressing his “concern over Exodus distancing itself from reparative therapy” and calls for changes at Exodus over Chambers’s recent comments and actions.

The letter was posted briefly at Andrew Comiskey’s web site, but it was later removed. A copy has been uploaded at Ex-Gay Watch (PDF: 180KB/7 pages). In the letter, Comiskey takes issue with Alan Chambers’s statements indicating that Exodus would de-emphasize the possibility of sexual orientation change as part of its ministry. Saying that Desert Streams Ministry (DSM) employs “the most commonly employed ‘healing’ format in (Exodus International’s) network,” he adds:

Regarding sexual orientation change, we at DSM will continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with SSA who are earnestly seeking Him and who are willing to do the hard work of resolving their gender disintegration through Christ and His healing community. (We realize that not all will graduate into a state of readiness for marriage. However, that should not preclude anyone from seeking full sexual restoration.)

Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands. To question sexual orientation change on the basis of residual struggles is weak theology and psychology. Very few who have overcome destructive, life-dominating issues live without a trace of the problem. To then describe that ‘trace’ as a reason to tone down the idea of change makes no sense to us.

As for Exodus’s drawing back from promoting Reparative Therapy in particular:

We at DSM are only indebted to the good of reparative therapy and its underpinnings in developmental psychology. How else would we understand how we become disintegrated in our gender identities, as well as gain objective markers en route to wholeness?

We cannot afford to distance ourselves from the whole healing community, which must involve solid reparative therapists. They can do what we cannot in our ministries, and vice-versa. We need them! …We would like to know how Exodus plans on representing and integrating solid clinical insight on the Board and in its offerings.

Comiskey’s disagreement with Chambers is twofold. First is the disagreement over Reparative Therapy and the prospects for change in sexual orientation. The second disagreement however is theological, and Comiskey devotes several paragraphs over those theological points. Exodus International, like Chambers, has always been Evangelical in its underpinnings. And so has Comiskey, having come from the Vineyard movement which was the genesis of the dominant Christian-based ex-gay movement in the 1970s. But lately, Comiskey appears to be leaning much more toward Catholic theology, which would mean that if Chambers is making a departure from a clinical standpoint, Comiskey is making a similarly pronounced one from a theological point of view. Nevertheless, Comiskey charges that Chambers’s particular theological positions — some of which are perfectly at home in just about any Baptist setting, for example — places Exodus in danger of “cater(ing) to the culture.”

Comiskey closes with four “recommendations,” with the third recommendation just barely stopping short of calling for Chambers’s ejection from Exodus:

1 That a distinction be made between Alan’s calling and job description, and the needs of the member ministries. Alan is not equipped to handle all that he is currently trying to do. We perceive him as neither a theologian nor a healer but as an inspirer and evangelist, a bridge-builder in need of refinement. He is being chastened for making unfortunate comments. God bless him; haven’t we all? We trust that those he trusts will help him to stay low and clarify the way forward for his renewed season of service.

2. In order for DSM to remain a member ministry, we need to see a higher caliber of commitment to theological and clinical excellence from Exodus. Consider the courage of those with SSA who are seeking genuine integration. They deserve the best! The stakes are high—we are all experiencing the fall-out from a few misplaced, well-intentioned words. We must all do our part, and could draw upon expert friends of Exodus, e.g. Nicolosi and Gagnon, and Exodus elders like the Worthens and Joe Dallas.

3. The process of distinguishing Alan’s role and that of the member ministries must be done slowly and carefully, with Alan playing a reduced role (at best) in the process. We would suggest team leadership here, and sensitive protocol between these newly distinguished expressions of Exodus.

4. Pray more and facebook less. We could all repent of a little wounded self importance. Those overcoming same-sex attraction are inclined to narcissism and its wounds. We all need to get low and give this work back to Jesus. We at DSM hesitate to follow any one person’s lead. Jesus will make such things clear as we wait together.

Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts, who first reported on plans for a re-branding effort at Exodus International last November, saw Comiskey’s letter as “the first public shot in the coming insurrection at Exodus” among Exodus member ministries who are “hard line ‘change is possible’ and reparative therapy proponents.” Warren Throckmorton, similarly, wondered aloud whether the letter marks a “schism” at Exodus. Undoubtedly it sparked some interesting conversations behind the scenes, to say the least. Comiskey has since removed the letter from his web site. He has offered no explanation for its removal.


April 20th, 2012

If homosexuality is different than any sin, then logically, it must not be sin. Good news!

(Like those old orange juice commercials: ‘There’s nothing like it in the world’… and, to make matters worse, they actually stretched the word ‘it’ into two syllables to make it fit the music, meaning “There’s nothing else like it in the world” would not only have made more sense, but sounded better as well.)


April 20th, 2012

Makes me think of the old Communist party: public shaming; re-education; public retraction of heresies.


April 20th, 2012

“Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands. To question sexual orientation change on the basis of residual struggles is weak theology and psychology.”

(in the voice of SNL’s Church Lady)
Re-e-eally? Ain’t that spe-e-ecial?

The word “enemy” is used when something or someone is feared. Is the emotion fear not base and weak? Do these guys want Christians to embody what is base and weak? Is THAT NOT WHAT CHRIST TAUGHT AGAINST?

How dare they pass themsleves of as Christian. They’re behavior is as bad as burning the Q’ran.


April 20th, 2012

Stephen, excellent comment!


April 20th, 2012

The use of the term “enemy” to describe happy, well-adjusted gay people is very telling.

We’re witnessing the last intense and desperate gasps of a dying industry. It can’t die quickly enough or painfully enough for my taste.

Timothy Kincaid

April 20th, 2012

We must all do our part, and could draw upon expert friends of Exodus, e.g. Nicolosi and Gagnon, and Exodus elders like the Worthens and Joe Dallas.

Interesting selection.

The elders he mentions are True Believers in the change notion. (although after decades in the movement they surely must feel disappointed). But neither strikes me as particularly vicious.

They are nothing like the “friends” he mentions.

Nicolosi is the epitome of pig-headed self delusion. Despite a long history of former patients refuting his stories, he believes that he is doing good. He is convinced, notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary, that his methods work.

The real charmer here is Gagnon. If there is a personally less pleasant individual on the planet, I’ve not encountered them. And you know a few of the folk on my contacts list. Gagnon is arrogance in human form. This is a man who declared that his study reveals that the roman centurion in the bible who had concern for his beloved pais was actually a Jew concerned for his son while at the same time holding other verses to a stricter literalism than a Pentecostal store-front evangelist with an eight grade education. his declarations are to be never challenged and ive seen him devote dozens of pages to refute an offhand comment. He is a very strange, very angry man

Timothy Kincaid

April 20th, 2012

A minor defense: in churchspeak “the enemy” is Satan. He’s speaking here of spiritual battle and means that if you admit reorientation doesn’t work then Satan can use that to cause you Togo in directions God doesn’t want you to go.

To understand his theology , all you need to do us read this sentence:

“To question… is weak theology”


April 20th, 2012

So, apparently Comiskey is an expert on theology and is very confident that he is correct. Hmmmm…. He is now Catholic. He was also an expert when he was evangelical. Was he right then or is he right now?

Michael Bussee

April 20th, 2012

Recently, Alan Chambers has complained that Exodus is a “big ship” that is very hard to steer. His admission that “99.9% don’t change their sexual orientation” may be the iceberg that finally dooms the boat.


April 20th, 2012

Alan Chambers is in a far better position to tell if someone has changed or if someone is just resisting a ‘temptation’.

Mike Goeke doesn’t understand. A homosexual will never love someone of the opposite sex like a heterosexual can.


April 20th, 2012

@Zeke — We ARE the enemy. Our happy, well-adjusted, married lives are an affront to their evil and they feel they must wipe us out. These are not people of good will, and some (not I) would say that they’re not even Christians at all.


April 20th, 2012

Timothy, with all due respect, I LIVED in the deepest depths of the evangelical fundamentalist movement for 25 years as the son of a Southern Baptist pastor in rural Mississippi. I know exactly what they’re speaking of when they speak of “the enemy”. It’s more than the entity of Satan. It’s intended to cast those on the other side of ANY of their debates AS Satan, one in the same, the Evil Empire so to speak. This is what allows them to treat human beings with such disregard, such hate, such fear and such conviction. You aren’t a person, a mother/father, a son/daughter, a friend or neighbor but “THE enemy” not even “an enemy”. When confronted they may then attempt to claim that they were only speaking of Satan, but take it from a person who lived and worked on the inside for many years, it’s no more real than those who claim to “love” homosexuals and be TOTALLY against discrimination of any kind but yet fight gay rights at each and every turn. What they say among friends is very different than what they say in public.


April 20th, 2012

Timothy: While your minor defense is technically correct, I’d argue that an alarming number of Christians who use “spiritual warfare speak” — especially in the political arena — tend to blur the “Satan as enemy” vs. “people who see things differently as enemy” line. Alisa Harris discusses this in her book “Raised Right: How I Untangled my Faith from Politics” and talks about how she and her friends went from talking about how she found it comforting when she traded in the nebulous “spiritual enemies” for the “flesh and blood enemies” she fought against as she became more politically active.


April 20th, 2012

I’ll go with TampaZeke on this one. He would surely know.

Timothy Kincaid

April 20th, 2012


I’m not challenging your credentials. While Comiskey is not a rural Mississippi Southern Baptist (he’s a California charismatic), you are more than capable of translating churchspeak.

(a side note to StraightGrandmother: You may be unaware, but I was raised in the parsonage of a Pentecostal Church of God pastor. We believed that while the people at the Assembly of God were a bit too lienient and liberal, they were better than the downright worldly Southern Baptists. While Zeke “would surely know”, I think credentials hold up pretty well.)

And I don’t think we are saying different things. I’m not disagreeing with your interpretation – just with how others will read your interpretation.

You and I know that this is not a personal form of animus like racism in which someone might hate a person on sight due to their race. Rather it’s more like an opposition to socialism or to liberalism.

But that might not be clear to others.

The form of homophobia that hates homosexuals and would like to see them “wiped out” exists. That’s not what Comiskey is.

Rather, he’s the type that “loves you” (it’s how he would see it) and wants to talk you out of your sinful way. True he doesn’t see you as a friend or neighbor, but it isn’t exactly the same as the secular idea of enemy. He sees us more as a mission field, some person to be converted. If we don’t choose to convert, we might become willful sinners rejecting God and doing the will of our father Satan.

But he doesn’t see us as enemies in the sense that the secular use of that word generally conveys. He would never want us physically hurt or (so he would believe) mistreated or (again, what he would believe) to be denied “the same rights every other individual has including the right to marry someone of the opposite sex”.

I think that we have to be careful not to think in cartoon bubbles, or else we only end up denying ourselves the wisdom and perspective we need to win.

Timothy Kincaid

April 20th, 2012


Valid point. Hating ideas isn’t nearly as viscerally rewarding as hating people. Let it go and you reach the stage where you delight when someone is hurt. We’ve seen people celebrating in the streets in other countries because gay people were beaten to death.

But we need to be careful that we don’t also transfer our hatred for homophobia and intolerance and arrogance onto people. If we start hating people like Comiskey then we turn into monsters.

It starts when we begin to believe that those who disagree with us are monsters.

I’m sure you have seen that at BTB it’s one of our themes that we try very hard not to assign those who disagree a monster suit – though we do expose those who have already had one tailer made.


April 21st, 2012

Okay Timothy, you convinced me of your Fundamentalist knowledge. Thank God you survived.

Donny D.

April 21st, 2012

Timothy wrote,

I think that we have to be careful not to think in cartoon bubbles, or else we only end up denying ourselves the wisdom and perspective we need to win.

I agree very strong with this statement. Many TBGL people and many liberal and leftwing ones are so angry toward anti-gay people and the right that they aren’t able to think in anything but broadbrush terms. Some are so far gone that they will attack you if you attempt to critize their broadbrush thinking.

The anger from broadbrush thinking may give people the energy to be politically active, but the thinking itself can lead to false analyses of the situation, and useless or harmful activism.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.