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