Michael Bussee speaks out about Exodus

Recently Michael Bussee and I have been getting acquainted over emails. He recently read my article regarding the founding of Exodus and took exception to my reporting. As I indicated to Mr. Bussee, I interviewed all of the other formerly gay members of the original board and reported what they told me. Mr. Bussee concedes that he was not one of two co-founders of Exodus but that there were others. However, as noted below, he does consider Mr. Cooper a co-founder as defined by the general word, found. The emails are pretty lengthy so I will only reproduce parts of them that Mr. Bussee permitted me to post. I feel it is fair to provide him with an opportunity to air his perspective.

On Gary Cooper as Founder of Exodus
Michael Bussee: “I just looked up “found” in the American Heritage College Thesaurus, since your wrote in you original posting that Gary “could not be considered a founder in any reasonable sense of the word.” The thesaurus offers these equivalents: establish, institute, ORGANIZE, SETUP, and start. A founder is “one who founds, creates or starts up.” I did NOT use the word incorrectly or deceptively as you assert when I described Gary’s role. He helped do ALL of these things. It says nothing of being an “official” or member of any “board.” If he was, I would have said that. I suppose I could have said “organizer” or”coordinator” — but even THAT would have been attacked by those who deceptively use the term “ex-gay” to lure in new clients.”

My comment: I don’t see the term ex-gay as deceptive but not as descriptive as many would like it to be. The term gay is a socially constructed term that has no meaning about sexuality other than what the culture gives it. Given that gay is a socio-political label, then to say I once was gay and am not now, say more about your former identity than your inner life. Michael expands more on this below.

On the term ex-gay
“Ex-gay” was literally “voted in” at the first conference — and it caused dissention even then among the conference attendees. (Ask some of the other “founders” and they may remember the debate.) Some thought”ex-gay was misleading. I agree. They suggested “celibate homosexual Christians”. Some suggested “recovering Gay Christians). I forget some of the other more creative labels suggested.The majority of conference attendees SETTLED on “ex-gay” to represent the FAITH that one COULD (with God’s help) change over TIME. This was in keeping with the “name-it-and-claim-it” school of thought that was so prominent during the neo-Pentecostal movement of the time. It wasn’t what we WERE — it was what we WANTED to BECOME. Currently, I use the word gay as synonymous with “homosexual.” For others, it conjures up an image of a particular “lifestyle” (usually one of no personal restraint or moral value). Others use the term “gay” to denote belonging to a subculture. I suggest we do AWAY with the “ex-gay” term ENTIRELY since MOST in the general public would (rightly) assume that is means “no longer attracted to the same sex” — which even your side admits is NOT true for the vast majority who seek “help.”

My comment: Who knows if the vast majority lose their SSA or not? We really are talking about degrees here. Some do and some don’t. Until controlled follow-up research is published it is kind of an open question.

What Gary Cooper did for Exodus
He and I were TWO of the original co-founders. I have NEVER claimed that we were the ONLY ones. You are INCORRECT when you assert that Gary Cooper cannot be considered in any way to be a co-founder of EXODUS! Were you there? I WAS there — and I KNOW how hard Gary worked to create EXODUS. Did you come up with the idea of getting the various ministries together in the first place? Gary, another co-worker and I DID. Did YOU spend hours and HOURS (and many late nights) setting up the conference? Gary did. Did you help compile the extensive mailing list that resulted from that first conference? Gary did. Did you help devise the workshops and printed materials for that first conference? Gary did. Did you answer the phones, mail out articles and information packets during those first years of EXODUS when Melodyland was the EXODUS headquarters? Did you print and mail the newsletter? Gary did. Did you provide hours of phone and in-person counseling at EXODUS during those early years? Gary did. Did you go on many speaking engagements promoting EXODUS programs and services? Gary did.

My comment: By this account, Mr. Cooper did much to get Exodus going. I wanted to post this because I think some of the pain comes from the perception of a denial of Cooper’s investment in the early stages of ex-gay ministry. While I think it is misleading to call Mr. Cooper a co-founder in the formal, organizational sense, I apologize for creating any impression that he was not there or uninvolved. Apparently, Mr. Cooper preferred a more behind-the-scenes role which may be, according to Mr. Bussee, why few others knew his importance.

Who were the other founders?
Others served on the Board, ran their individual ministries and did their part in furthering EXODUS’s mission. The “original” group (we didn’t use the word “founders”) of 7 – 8 persons — including Frank Worthen, Robbi Kenney, Ed Hurst, Ron Dennis, Greg Reid, Jim Kaspar (I pray I have not forgotten someone) — all of us (I am sad to say) played important roles in EXODUS’s formation and growth.

My comment: Mr. Bussee has this to say about the movie and claims that they were the two co-founders of Exodus: “In spite of what any captions (which were added by the film-makers years AFTER Gary and I were interviewed) may seem to say, I NEVER said (and will NEVER claim) that we were the ONLY ones.” After reviewing the video, he is on target. He said that they were two of the original founders of Exodus. The captions made it appear that they were THE two founders.

Ok, so there were other founders. Everybody who was there now agrees. That may about all they would agree about but that much seems clear. Recently, Alan Chambers said in an Exodus newsletter that there were 62 founders in the sense that 62 people came together at the first conference which led to the current organization. What is clear is that this was more a movement in the beginning than an organization and as such it is misleading to say that any two people founded that movement.