Exodus Cancels Albuquerque Ex-Gay Conference; Midland, TX, Conference Dropped from Web Site

Jim Burroway

May 4th, 2012

Exodus International took the unprecedented step of canceling a “Love Won Out” conference scheduled for Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 12. The “Love Won Out” conference (which I attended in Phoenix in 2007) is a traveling roadshow conducted four to six times a year in different cities across North America, and serves as a kind of day-long infomercial for the ex-gay movement.

In an email to those pre-registered for the conference, Exodus events director David Fountain called the cancellation “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make.” He added, “Unfortunately, due to the low number of registrations we simply were unable to justify the substantial cost of bringing the LWO Conference to the Albuquerque area.”

Exodus had also scheduled a Love Won Out conference for Midland, Texas in November 2012, but that conference no longer shows up on Exodus’s web site either.

In its heyday, LWO was a joint project of Exodus and Focus on the Family with additional participation from the National Association of Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH) During the early years, it was not unusual for LWO conferences to attract an audience of 2,000 or more. But when I attended LWO in 2007, the conference drew over a thousand people, already down some from its heyday, but still substantial enough to be counted as a success. But since then, we’ve had reports of lower attendance figures. Memphis drew only about 600 attendees in 2008, and another one in Orlando that year drew 500. Figures in the 400-600 range now appear to be the new normal. In 2009, Focus On the Family announced its withdrawal from LWO and it became the sole property of Exodus in 2010.

Last February, Exodus brought LWO to Atlanta where, as has become typical, they drew “over 500” according to Exodus. Metro Atlanta has a population of more than five million deep in the Bible belt, and is a convenient day’s drive from a dozen other cities in six states. Albuquerque,on the other hand has a metro population of 900,000, and is located in a rather sparsely populated state that is not quite the haven for Evangelical Christian activism as Atlanta. It’s hard to see how Albuquerque (or Midland) could draw a large crowd given their much smaller populations and very long distances from other population centers.

Last fall, there were reports that Exodus was undergoing a rebranding exercise in an effort to stave off bankruptcy. The first evidence for that exercise came in January when Exodus president Alan Chambers appeared on a surprise panel of a meeting of the Gay Christian Network and said that “99.9% of them (ex-gays) have not experienced a change in their orientation.” I wanted to attend another LWO to see how that change in direction was reflected in their conference, and with Albuquerque being a very short flight from Tucson, where I live, I had already purchased airline tickets to go. It looks like those tickets will have to go somewhere else — and they won’t be for Midland either.

The only LWO conference scheduled this year is in September near Harrisburg, PA, not far from Philadelphia. If that holds, it would be only the second LWO conference scheduled for this year. While that conference could concievably draw from a much larger population base (Philly, Baltimore/Washington, New Jersey, etc.), I would not be surprised to see that conference canceled as well. And if it is canceled, that could spell the end of “Love Won Out” altogether.


May 4th, 2012

I had absolutely no idea that these conferences drew that many participants. I thought they pulled in upwards of one hundred people. I have to say I’m a bit shocked by those numbers and distressed that they can still pull in 400 to 600!

Who actually attends these conferences? Are they mostly unhappy gay people or mostly non-gay church people and family members who go to learn how to change gay people in their “ministries” or families?

Jim Burroway

May 4th, 2012

The vast majority of those at the Phoenix conference I attended in 2007 were families and friends of gay people. There were actually very few gay or ex-gays there themselves. I believe that was probably representative of most conferences.


May 4th, 2012

Thank you Jim. That makes me feel a little bit better. I think.

Priya Lynn

May 4th, 2012

Looks like love is winning out and hate is dying out. : )


May 4th, 2012

“It looks like those tickets will have to go somewhere else — and they won’t be for Midland either.”


Bose in St Peter MN

May 4th, 2012

Good for Exodus, for saving LGBT folks some money, as well… Every LWO conference is attended by observers and journalists who don’t have to make the trip now.

Presenters have traditionally opened the day acknowledging that fact, as well as reminding attendees that they reserve the option to remove any person at any time.

The thing that surprised and unsettled me when I attended LWO in suburban DC a few years back was the presence of armed off-duty cops in uniform at the check-in table and strolling the aisles of the church sanctuary during breaks.

Of all the things I thought I might see that day, loaded guns in holy space were not on the list.

Timothy Kincaid

May 4th, 2012

This is fascinating in what it says.

As Jim noted LWO is not designed as a service or event for ex-gays; there is a sister conference called the Exodus Freedom Conference which is for the ex-gays themselves.

LWO is designed to provide families, pastors, youth directors and other non-gay evangelical Christians with facts and positions and theology and “instruction” to equip them to minister to the struggler. And so changes in LWO’s popularity speak to an interesting phenomenon, one that is very hard to otherwise gauge.

While it’s certainly not conclusive proof, a reduction in the demand for LWO, suggests a few things:

1) the population of evangelical ministers (and youth ministers, etc.) that believe that they would benefit from a seminar in ex-gay ministry is finite. And those who wish for such services may have already attended and don’t see a need for a refresher course.

2) the position that ex-gay ministries has held in the evangelical world as the christian response to same-sex attraction may be losing traction. This may no longer be the go-to answer.

And those are not mutually exclusive possibilities. But if either are true, pull out the confetti; it’s time for a party.

Sometimes outsiders think that such ministries are hucksters coming in to prey on vulnerable and gullible victims. Not so. Other than a few televangelists, evangelical christianity is self perpetuating and the preachers preach it because they believe it.

And – this is key – if they are no longer preaching it, it’s because they no longer have confidence in it. (Please don’t think that Christians change their message for PR purposes – other than a few fringe characters and the political activist posing as believers, they proudly say what they believe. If they are ashamed to say something, it isn’t because you won’t like it; rather, it’s because they don’t like it.)

Evangelical Christianity will have a response to homosexuality (and the rest of human sexuality). It used to be classifying gay people as perverts, willful sinners. Then they really began to know people who were gay who were not willful anything and then came the “struggler” and “healing” concept.

This may foretell the end of stuggler and healing.

It’s hard to guess what step is next in the process to (eventual obvious) acceptance. I suspect that it will be that God in his infinite wisdom chose to make some people gay (and will probably include some stereotypes about how gay people are creative and good church organists). I’m guessing that some portion of evangelical christianity will go the “and should stay celibate” route and others will go with “and should not have sex outside the covenant of marriage, which we now will not only allow but will insist upon.”

But in any case, I see this as an indication of change. Exodus was right. Change is possible. They just got confused about who would be doing the changing.


May 4th, 2012

My heart bleeds…


May 4th, 2012

. Generally I am not evangelical about my atheism. However in the case of Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas, it is necessary because of the damage their organization and conferences have done to so many. So, if they are reading, I’d love them to know that change is possible: the Road to Damascus is a two-way street. I encourage them to take a look at the Richard Dawkins website, where there is a growing number of evangelical preachers who are coming to terms with the cruel fact that there is no god, yet have to carry on preaching, because it is the only life and job they know. I have to say this because Alan has been so sure that he has had a personal link to a mind of god that is preoccupied with human sleeping arrangements, while being totally uninterested in, say, helping stop tsunamis and hurricanes and earthquakes. . Darwin has been proven right; reason always wins out in the end.

So come on Alan, snap out of this nonsense and the stories you were brought up to believe. enjoy the one and only life you’ll ever have to the full. The most likely explanation is that you were hearing the voice of your conscience. That’s all.


May 4th, 2012

Thank goodness. Keep that stuff as far away from my city as possible.
Albuquerque already has an ex-gay quack organization convincing a few too many parents they did an awful job of raising their gay children. No need for more fuel to the fire.

Gregory Peterson

May 4th, 2012

I read elsewhere that the conference was to be held at extreme right Pastor Steve Smothermon’s Legacy Church. Legacy Church’s legacy is one of anti-gay activism, including co-sponsoring with a couple of Catholic groups, Scott Lively, for an anti-legal pregnancy termination rally. I wonder what Smothermon’s response to the cancellation might be.

Smothermon has lobbied hard against full citizen equality in Santa Fe. He was on the Police Oversight Commission, and has carefully cultivated a very close relationship with the sheriffs department which has had held some events in his church.

Smothermon regards conservative Christians as God’s privileged nobility. http://www.tonycooke.org/free_resources/articles_others/at-your-core.html This reads like a white privilege apologetic to me, though I’m sure that he’s not a “white” supremacist. He is, however, obviously a believer in a religious, self proclaimed privileged nobility. (Come to think of it…wasn’t that a Christian Reconstructionist conceit?)

“A noble birth is not to be taken lightly. It places an individual above the common man and carries a distinction of honesty and integrity.”

If memory serves, Legacy’s academy uses the low intellectual integrity curriculum of A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press.


May 5th, 2012

Adrian – “IF” Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas are reading?

Why, my goodness, I should think so. Every known anti-gay in the universe comes flocking to read BTB, so please DO come share your anti-theism here instead of just writing them directly.

Speaking of delusional.

Passive agression is best shared where it can do the most effective job of communicating some point. Perhaps I should have put “effective” in upper case, but it’s early and I don’t want to start shouting before I’ve had my coffee.

Now, please go mind the bridge. Some goats are approaching.


May 6th, 2012

Reed: Well, we know that some crazed fanatics like Labarbera and others do in fact monitor sites like this. (i do in fact adress opponents directly; you should be less presumptuous). The perfectly reasonable invitation, which I make above, to walk away from imagined miracles & nonsense, and to start thinking for oneself, doesn’t just apply to evolution deniers, holocaust deniers etc., of course. It applies to everyone, including you.

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


Another Temporary Hiatus

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1971: Minnesota Couple Stake Claim To First American Same-Sex Marriage

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1954: "Perverts Vanish" From Miami

Born On This Day, 1907: Evelyn Hooker

Born On This Day, 1925: Fr. John J. McNeill

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.