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.

59 thoughts on “Michael Bussee speaks out about Exodus”

  1. whew! what an intense ping-pong match of semantics! i’m tired just reading it.

    Back in 1978 i went out to Melodyland and interviewed Michael Bussee regarding Exodus. i planned to write an article for a Milwaukee paper.

    At the time of the interview i was already a “saved” and born again Christian. i was also unappologetically gay.

    i guess something i want to interject after more than thirty years of intense study of comparative religions is that i have come to the conclusion that all religion is a mass delusion that leads to hatred and destruction. My suggestion is that rather allowing yourself to be continuously endrenched in beliefs that lead to both self-hatred and the prejudicial hatred of others you go beyond the narrow mythologic tales and study real life, devoid of these mythic delusions. It’s much more enriching than the narrow scope we often allow ourselves to be entrapped in.

  2. Wow! Just spent the last hour reading through this blog. Thanks Dr. T for hosting it. What memories it brings back. I was one of those 62 people who attended the original Exodus Conference at Melodyland Christian Center back in September of 1976. I remember the keynote speaker was Dr. Walter Martin and I enjoyed listening to him in person far more than on the radio! I met Greg, & Robbi there (hi Robbi, it’s been such a long time), quality people & excellent brother & sister in the Lord. There was a lot of energy and hustle & bustle to that gathering, & I add my small 2 cents that lots of effort had been put into the organizing & conducting of the conference. What I remember most, though, was sitting down with Mike for a brief conversation after lunch & asking him a personal question. The answer I got back was incredibly honest, more than anything else I had heard at the entire gathering, & still sticks with me 30 years later. Odd what small nuggets we hold onto. Thanks Mike.

  3. For anyone who still cares about such things, I railed on Alan Chambers and EXODUS Global Alliance for WEEKS to get them to be truthful about EXOUDS history. Alan kept stalling, saying that they were “going through re=writes”. The EXODUS Global Alliance “Our History” item USED to say “Frank Worthen organized the (1976) conference…”

    Now, after all that hassle and all the “re-writes” is says:

    “1976 Frank Worthen is one of the people who organize (sic) conference of ex-gay ministries in the USA.” They couldn’t even get the grammar correct.

    If they didn’t want to mention me or Gary, I had suggested to Alan Chambers that they might just say “EXODUS was formed as a loose-knit coalition of ministries in 1976.”

    That would have been both historically and grammatically correct. Why are they so BENT on trying to make it sound Like Frank Worthen started it?

  4. I just got a call from my ex-wife, Ann, a lovely Christian woman, a great Mom — and still in agreement with much of what EXODUS has to say. She has actually been a guest speaker for EXODUS on nmuerous occasions since Gary and I left.

    She said that she always thought of EXODUS as a “group project” — she remmided me of all work she (and others) put into organizing the first conference — even the menu! — pounds and pounds of home-made potato salad, sandwiches, coffee and blueberry cobbler.

    She agreed that Frank Worthen should not be considered THE “organizer” of the first EXODUS conference — repeating her memory that the staff at Melodyland Hotline Center (Gary Cooper included) worked hard on the project — and were the real “organizers” — not Frank Worthen.

    Frank certainly helped get all of the young “ministires” in touch with each other — otherwise, EXODUS would not have happened. I am not trrying to discredit Frank. We all looked up to him and admired his work with Love In Action.

    Ann has met Frank many times and states that even Frank does not think he should be called “the” founder or “the” organizer.

    IN all honesty, even She didn’t remember Gary doing much publically. I reminded her that this was because Gary was trying to keep “low-profile” because of his three kids.

    I also reminded her that Gary and I worked on details and organizational details of the conference itself, while she and her volunteers focussed on the food, registration and welcome.

    So, hopefully, folks will finally quit quabbling (me incluided) about who strated the whole thing. It HAPPENED. Many of us helped. That’s the truth.

  5. Well, they finally corrected it. It took weeks of wrangling, emails, phones calls to EXODUS and lots of posts on this blog, but EXODUS finally corrected it — kinda.

    The EXODUS Global Alliance webpage (under “About us” and “Our History”) says Frank Worthen was “one of the people who organize conference (sic) of ex-gay ministries…”

    No one but Frank Worthen is mentioned (no mention of me, Gary Cooper or any of the other original co-founders) — and they still use the term “ex-gay” — even though Alan Chambers says the term is “more negative than anything, should be done away with and never used again.”

    Close. Better. But still no cigar.

  6. Here is Alan’s promise that EXODUS will be truthful from now on about their history. Lame excuse, but at least he says he will correct it:

    From: Alan Chambers [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 1:26 PM
    To: Micheal Bussee
    Subject: RE: Hi friend

    “I am currently looking through the rewrites that Exodus Global Alliance has sent me regarding your objections. Know this is in process—they didn’t mean to lie, they just didn’t know what the truth was. As soon as I look over what they wrote they will change their site. Sit tight”

    OK, Alan. I am sitting.


  7. One more important point on the founding of EXODUS. Gary Cooper was NOT just a “volunteer” as some posts have claimed. They seem to want to minimize his role by claiming that he worked for nothing. It’s not true.

    Here are the FACTS:

    Gary was PAID staff as I was. We both BEGAN working at Melodyland Hotline Center in the mid 1970’s as volunteers, but worked our way up to paid staff.

    Each volunteer could join the staff if they came up with their own group of “prayer partners” who promised to make a small donation on our behalf each month. Then, the Hotline would supplement these “love offerings” with a VERY small stipend — about $200 if I remember. We also both worked part-time jobs to support ourselves in the ministry. It is not FAIR or ACCURATE to try to discredit Gary by dismissing him as a mere “volunteer”. You try raising a family of four on less than $1000 a month. WE did not have Focus on the Family to support us.

  8. I have contact both Alan Chambers of EXODUS International and Pat Lawrence of EXODUS Global Alliance about the inaccurate statements concerning the first EXODUS conference in 1976.

    The Alliance web page states that Frank Worthen organized the 1976 conference. This is NOT true. Warren agrees it was a group effort, not solely Frank’s baby. Many posts have branded Gary and me as liars for claiming we were even “two of the original co-founders”. (I NEVER said the ONLY founders….)

    Alan Chambers assured me he would speak to the Alliance about this and that Frank did not want all the credit (or as I seee it, blame) for starting EXODUS. So far, the mis-information remains and EXODUS does not seem inclined to tell the TRUTH about its history.

    Truth is, Jim Kaspar, Gary Cooper and I organized the first conference in Anaheim. Frank was very involved (by phone) giving us ideas on who else to invite, how to contact them, etc. But the actual conference (all the planning, mailings, set-up, audio/visual system, printing, registration, lodging, transportation, food etc.) were arranged by those of us at EXIT, NOT Frank Worthen. Frank and others from Love In Action were GUESTS, not organizers.

    Frank organized the 2nd conference in Oakland, not the first conference.

  9. Well said, Ed. That IS the essential difference. EXODUS believes it’s sin. I don’t. EXODUS believes it’s a disorder. I don’t.

    I am NOT a member of any “gay church”. Actually,I’m a Southern Baptist turned Presbyterian. I am not part of MCC. I came to this conclusion through a lot of study, thought, prayer, tears and careful reflection. I have spent 53 years of my life coming to this position — just as I am sure you have not taken your position lightly.

    Yes, I MAY be wrong — just as YOU may be wrong. Genuine born-again Christisns (like us) can (and do) disagree on this and still believe that Christ is Lord.

  10. (While I believe the following thoughts to be true and accurate, please remember that I am not an official Exodus spokesperson and that I know more of their old history than their current views. Recent dialogues with the Exodus director, though, prompt me to believe that these musings are accurate.)

    Because many–perhaps most–of the Exodus agencies have charismatic or fundamentalist roots, they share a belief that the behavior is sin. This is based on their interpretation of the Bible. While I suppose that many also believe that it’s a direct ticket to hell, individual theologies do differ on that issue and just how they present that message.

    To use an analogy: Say you got word on the Internet that there’s a city-wide curfew at 10PM. All violators will be arrested and jailed. Some would be motivated to hit the streets at 9:30PM warning everyone that they were at risk of going to jail. Others would likely go out shouting “Nyah, nyah, you’re all going to jail!” Still others would read the same words and think, “they can’t get away with that; that law is unfair.” Others would say “that isn’t really what they meant.” And there would be still others who think, despite what it says, ”I’m connected. I know the judge. He’ll let me slide.”

    To some extent, you’ll find each of these attitudes within Exodus. Some prevail more than others but it is unfair to assume that the entire organization holds to just the one view. And giving their interpretation of what they believe the laws to be isn’t the same thing as judging.

    By extension, the individual biblical interpretations determine their psychological viewpoint. If it’s sin, then at some level it is dysfunctional, it is a disorder. Lying is sin; lying is dysfunctional. The compulsion to lie would be regarded as a disorder.

    The refusal to recognize strongly held biblical beliefs in this discussion will always result in misunderstanding. These beliefs are at the heart of the things that Exodus says and does. A caring person within Exodus will always have a concern for the eternal welfare of someone who they perceive to be ‘in sin’; conversely, a person from the ‘pro-gay’ church, will always have a belief that the Exodus person is deluded and setting themselves up for failure. These are some pretty serious differences. The only common ground is that both have a genuine love and concern for the gay individual.

  11. Here’s the bottom line for me: EXODUS believes two things:

    (1) All homosexual behavior is sin and that folks who continue such behavior are going to Hell,

    (2) Homosexuality is some sort of psychological disorder or illness that can and should be treated.

    I strongly disagree with BOTH.

    Of course, people have a RIGHT to try to change their sexual orientation and to try to resist acting on their gay feelings. I have NEVER said otherwise.

    I just think it is terribly sad that they feel compelled to try.

  12. This has been one of the most thought-provoking discussions I’ve been involved with in a very long time. Mike’s comments caused me to revisit some lines of thought that I haven’t paid much attention to in recent times. Especially that third point…”we wanted those feelings to go away”.

    I’ve been mulling over the situational differences between attempting to leave the gay identity and attempting to leave drugs, prostitution and gangs. For purposes of this blog, let’s call them DPG.

    1) With DPG a person can get totally removed from the source of their temptation. There isn’t a bag of pot sitting on the pew beside you; there isn’t someone in the church offering you money for your body and there certainly isn’t anyone trying to provoke you into violent anti-societal behavior. But there may be people that you find attractive in both appearance and personality.You might work with them, pray with them, share your deepest struggles with them. (As a Bible school student, I roomed with them…saw them in their underwear. On one evangelism outreach, I even had to take group showers with them. The DPG don’t go through that type of temptation!)

    2)With DPG there’s a very clear and distinct line. Escapism, exchanging sex for money and violence are ALWAYS regarded as illegitimate. But with homosexuality, there’s a blur. On the one hand, you are supposed to begin forming caring and loving relationships and you have a God-given drive to connect, to attach and to bond. But, on the other, you’re simply not supposed to cross certain lines as you pursue these legitimate goals and drives.

    (I think we can note that more people probably fall back into alcohol abuse than into DPG, could this be because we have a mentality that there is “responsible drinking” so the barrier line isn’t as sharp or clear as with DPG?)

    3)If a church member continues to struggle with addiction in the DPG areas, they can be referred to professionals for assistance with recovery but with homosexuality the referrals are most often to parachurch ministries that are largely non-professional. They are assisted by a fellow struggler rather than by a true professional in psychology.

    4) With DPG, the church universally agrees that these behaviors are wrong but with homosexuality the church is divided. The mixed message from the church at large can undermine the resolve of one trying to leave homosexual identity behind.

    5) With DPG, psychology and society are in agreement that these lifestyles are dysfunctional but with homosexuality they actually debunk the notion of change. A former homosexual in the church is not immune to the sound of these voices and these voices also undercut the resolve.

    6) Not only do psychology and society debunk the notion of change, they do it agressively. The notion of trying to change homosexual orientation is scorned and made light of in media from advice columns to popular television sit-coms and movies. We might make fun of DPG issues but, at the bottom line, the joke is that those are ‘loser lifestyles’ not that the attempt to change is what makes you a loser.

    The latter three issues all are connected to the same question: Are these truly educated positions or are they misguided political correctness? Of course, I’m aware that homosexuality has been declassified…first from ‘mental illness’ to ‘socially unacceptable behavior’ and later to not being an issue at all. (Except if the homosexual is unhappy with their identity in which case they are ‘ego-dystonic’…so now it’s the ‘ex-gay’–forgive the use–who has the psychological ‘condition’.)

    What has long troubled me, though, is that I can’t recall seeing any earth-shattering revelations or studies to support the psychological community’s shift in position; I am more inclined to believe that they caved in response to intense lobbying.

    Finally, those of us who were in the ministries in those early days were in the most vulnerable of positions. As young and unschooled as we were, we were the ‘go to’ people…the ones who were supposed to have the answers. As our attempt to recover early Exodus has revealed, we were also in a high-stress, burn-out motivating situation. And, when WE had questions and issues, where could we turn? I’m actually surprised that even greater numbers didn’t ‘fall by the wayside’.

    Regardless of where my own sexual identity winds up, I will not be satisfied until I’m persuaded that the psychological community has given the prospect for change a much deeper examination. Many obstacles remain before that could ever happen and, in truth, I doubt that it will. But, I’m glad that people like Dr. Throckmorton and his colleagues have embraced that challenge.

  13. You have really challenged my thinking, Dr. T, — and I think I have had a bit of a revelation: We didn’t “found” EXODUS. We WISHED it. (By “we” I mean evryone who attended that first meeting in 1976.)

    You have to understand the context. It was not a mistake that EXODUS started at Melodyland. Meoldyland was one part tent revival meeting and one part broadway musical. (Ironic that the choir director now conduts the Gay Men’s Chorus of Orange County,)
    There were uge “healing” services, lavish musical bumbers and stunning testimonies. It was alive with the energy of the Jesus Movement and Neo-pentacostalism.

    Every day we heard of “ex” drug addicts and “ex” prostitutes and “ex” gang members.

    I mean no mockery. I have no doubt that many physical, emotional and spiritual healiings took place there.

    “We” (the ones who came to EXODUS 1) wanted that too. In fact, we wanted three things:

    (1) We wanted to know that God loved us,

    (2) We wanted to know that there were others like us,

    (3) We wanted those damn gay feelings to go away.

    We WISHED it would happen. That’s what “ex-gay” meant. As Joe Dallas of EXODUS explained it so well, we were “Christians with homoseuxal tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.”

    Pay attention to thos words “rather not have”.

    We got numbers 1 and 2. We know that Jesus loves us and we know we are not alone. But we are still Christians with homosexual tendencies, no matter what else we call ourselves.

  14. As Dr. Throckmorton has indicated, a few of us have been having e-mail dialogue outside the site. Nothing secretive; we were just trying to pull the facts together.

    Anyway, in one of those e-mails he suggested that Exodus adopt the phrase Sexual Identity Ministry (SIM) to replace “Ex-Gay Ministry”. I’ve thought that one over and it sounds workable to me.

    I even thought of a clever catch-phrase “SIM, just a step away from SIN.” (Ok, if you don’t know me, I am compulsive about word-plays and I also think a little bit of humor helps with a topic this weighty.)

    The phrase only applies to the ministry not to the individual. In the past, we might have said “he’s an ex-gay guy” where, with SIM, this wouldn’t translate. So, I puzzled over what terminology we’d use for the individual and came up with a real winner. How about ‘client’?

    I was always troubled by the fact that it seemed we took people out of one box (or label) only to put them in another. The shift to Sexual Identity Ministry might actually serve to eliminate the label problem too.

    Anyway, I’d like to know what the rest of you think about this? Pro or con. Alan Chambers has invited a few of us Exodus ‘old-timers’ to get in touch with him and having your input would help. For what it’s worth, I’ll also reiterate my belief that the ministries ought to steer clear of politics and I’ll attempt to explain my reasoning. (He has checked in on the site so he is already aware of the blog version!)

    Grace and Grantdale: Us Exodus ‘old-timers’ may be afflicted with tunnel-vision so I’m thinking your input might be the most enlightening.

    Peace. I’ve got to go feed my karaoke addiction.

  15. Ironic, isn’t it? After all these (30) years, here I go again, trying to “found”, “coordinate”, “establish” or “create” a “loose-knit coalition” of persons interested in the “ex-gay” issue — EXODUS ELDERS.

    Deja VU!!!

    Can’t help myself. I must have the “founding” gene or something.

    Thanks, Warren, for helping me to make contact with my old (sorry Robbi) EXODUS friends. If only for having the chance to say HI to them again, this has all been worth it.

  16. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  17. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  18. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  19. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  20. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  21. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  22. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  23. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  24. Robbi, Ed — sorry — the post above was from me. I accidentally pushed “anonymous”. (My eyesight is failinig me…)

  25. Wow!!! Hi Robbi. Hi Ed. How fun is this?

    Looks like we are having a EXODUS oldtimers reunion or something. Maybe the three of us (could we also get Frank, Ron, Jim, Greg?) could agree to become “EXODUS ELDERS” — and be available to answer questions about its early history — since there has been so much misinformation splashed across the internet.

    I will email you, Robbi. I am so relieved to hear that you are doing OK, Ed. You have been in my prayers for these past few years.

    In the midst of all thiss discussion, what readers may not know is that we were all FRIENDS and brothers and sisters in Christ FIRST — not just EXODUS leaders.

    It’s been a LONG time, huh?

  26. WOW, what a great representation of early Exodus. Ed, Robbi, Mike, thanks for all of this information. I love history and I want to make sure what we have is accurate.

    It was so ironic that Michael called me out of the blue last week as my staff and I were in that very moment going through boxes of old photos–there were so many of the three of you along with Ran, Greg and Frank. I wish you all were here to point out others who I do not recognize.

    We are actually framing 8 x 10’s we have of the first 3 conferences.

    I would be grateful if the three of you and anyone else from the early days would email me personally: [email protected].

    Very Best,

    Alan Chambers

  27. Well, I’m thinking that we may have finally beaten that dead horse!

    I agree with Mike’s version of the early days AND I also agree with Warren’s perception that Gary might not have been, in the truest sense, a founder. ‘Founder’ implies a sense of leadership and Gary’s role, while significant, was more ‘behind the scenes’. In truth, even though I was around since the second conference, the names I heard of as leaders were “Mike, Jim and Frank”. Robbi was emerging. Please remember, though, that these are the memories of a spectator. I had only learned of the second conference a week or two before it took place and I arrived as an unknown. My own profile didn’t start to emerge until AFTER the second conference and I NEVER served on the Board.

    I noticed Alan Chambers addition to the discussion. Welcome Aboard.

    I was struck by the notion that there were “so many (photos) of the three of you”. I can only conclude that the third person is either Ron Dennis (if shorter and bald) or Greg Reid; I cannot imagine that it was me since few of the leaders even knew my name until AFTER the second conference.

    In later years, jokes were made that I was ‘the non-board board person’, I was working with Robbi at OUTPOST during the time that she served as Exodus secretary and made my ‘contributions of wisdom’ through her. I think my name began to gain a higher profile because OUTPOST began to produce monthly ‘teaching inserts’ usually authored by Robbi or myself and these ‘inserts’ were often reproduced (with permission, of course) by the other ministries.

    Robbi and I were constantly trying to further define ‘the ex-gay reality’. Memorable early titles were “Reality of Temptation”, “Wayward Emotions”, “Progressive Reality” and the series commonly known as “Roots”. We recognized that ‘ex-gay’ confused some but we also found problems with all suggested replacements. We learned to live with this. We live in a society that demands ‘boxes’ and ‘labels’ and we had an unusual situation that we were addressing. Of all the handles discussed, ‘ex-gay’ seemed to be the least objectionable.

  28. Nice to have Robbi on board for a read and a write. Welcome! I got in contact with Robbi and have been chatting with her and Ed and others so I can get all sides of this. I never did say that Mike wasn’t a founder and my questions about Gary have to do with how would define the term. At this point, I am glad to have the folks who were on the scene talk about it. I am learning a lot.

  29. For the record, I was there at Anaheim. I provided the name EXODUS. I don’t recall ever meeting Gary personally, but have no problem believing he helped prep the conference. All of my founder-board-leadership contact was with Jim and Mike up til the point they left. EXIT stood for Ex-gay Intervention Team, and I think we all thought Mike and Jim very clever at thinking it up. Ex-gay was a peg to hang our hats, but us at OUTPOST eventually went on to use the phrase “from a homosexual (or gay) background) in the shimmy to avoid labeling. I incorporated EXODUS out of Minnesota in 1979, I think, and ran the org from my desk at OUTPOST until Greg Reid assumed the presidency of the board and asked for all the original paperwork. I think that was by the Johnstown conference, but I don’t remember any more.

    Mike, you there? Shoot me an email. — Robbi ([email protected])

  30. Didn’t I out my age when I said I attended the Exodus conference in 1977? LOL

    As I’ve been blogging here, I’ve also been in e-mail contact with two other Exodus old-timers. We were trying to figure out when the term ‘ex-gay’ first came into use and it literally had me digging through my storage closet. Naturally, I couldn’t find what I was looking for but did find some old CARBON COPIES! –from originals that had been typed on the old Selectric. What can I say?

    By the way, best we could come up with regarding the phrase ‘ex-gay’ is that Mike’s ministry, EXIT, was actually an anacronym (right word?) for Ex-Gay Intervention Team. It seems it probably originated there. I’m sure Mike will be checking in so he could confirm.

  31. I want to thank Ed Hurst — who unlike, Dr., T. WAS involved with EXODUS very early in its history and didn’t just “ask around” to confirm his own assumptions. Thanks, Ed, for clearing up that Dr. T. was DEAD WRONG when he boldly asserted that Gary and I were not “co-founders” of EXODUS and strongly implied that we were lying about our roles.

    It helps to hear EXODUS’ history told by someone who KNOWS. Thanks, Ed. I wish you well.

    Dr. T., on the other hand, seems to want to keep splitting hairs to prove some point — that there was no EXODUS until it was “organized”.

    It WAS “organized” at that first conference in 1976 — that’s why we say it was “founded” in 1976. Even Alan Chambers, EXODUS’s current President, agrees with this. It’s a FACT whether Dr. T. likes it or not.

    In terms of “organization”, here’s what happened: the Board was elected at the FIRST conference. Our basic objectives were identified. EXODUS was named, by a majority vote, at that first conference. A mailing list was established. EXODUS’s first office was chosen (the old EXIT office)and new phone lines were installed shortly thereafter.

    We set tentative times and dates for our first board meeting and second conference. We discussed and voted on other issues, including the term “ex-gay”.

    In short. we conducted EXODUS’s first “official business” before the confernce was ever adjourned. We FOUNDED it.

    EXODUS, as an organization, existed before the first delegates got home. By any reasonable person’s definition, it was “founded” in Anaheim in 1976. PERIOD.

    In addition to coordinating the first conference, I was also on the first board and attended the Board meeting and 2nd conference (in Oakland CA, so I am a “founder” either way.

    EXODUS wasn’t “organized” in a “formal sense” (as Dr. T. calls it) for some time — a process that took several YEARS. In truth, we didn’t really want it “organized”, per se. We deliberately designed EXODUS as “a loose-kint coalition of ministries” and hoped it would STAY that way. Alas, it didn’t.

    Ed Hurst can verify what I am saying, can’t you Ed?

    Dr. T. seems bound and determined to undermine what I am saying here, but he can’t change the FACTS.

  32. Thanks Ed — we do understand the difference between the “name it and claim it” side of religion and, well, frankly, what everyone else would see 🙂 But thanks anyway.

    Personally they could call themself “Napolean’s Aunt” for all we care, at one level.

    And a spiffy IBM Selectric???

    My. Didn’t you just out the age of yourself!

  33. Glad to see Ed’s comments too.

    (Should clarify for Ed though — I’m not sure Warren intends this blog to “be” as it is at times. Sometimes can almost hear the gritted teeth cracking from clear from across the Pacific! Warren must have an appaling dentist bill, and not just because he has children…)

    Was also very pleased to see you had also regarded “exgay” as an adjective rather than a noun. Michael Bussee said basically the same thing — it’s about what some people want to be, rather than what some people are.

    OK, at least on that assessment our judgement wasn’t too far off the mark. Or, at least it has other’s also of a like mind.

    Now… if we could only find a way to stop certain psychologists refering to “exgay” as a noun, even though they are at pains to claim that “gay” is not a noun 🙂

  34. Thanks for the warning, grantdale, about the site tone but I must confess to being a regular on a craigslist rants and raves page…so I’m pretty sure I can handle whatever this page has to offer:-)

    I’m sure that over the years, even I probably slipped into using “ex-gay” as a noun. It would be great to convince psychologists not to use it as a noun but, in all honesty, I feel that that’s a losing battle. This issue is so emotionally and politically charged that, in some environments, you have to pre-qualify, post-qualify and otherwise define your words that a simple sentence turns into a 3 page thesis.

    I recall once writing a masterful piece trying to explain to charismatic Christians that homosexuality was NOT demon possession. The following week as I was heading to my desk, a totally sincere person came up, complimented me on my writings and asked “So, do you think it’s ALWAYS a demon?” I was ready to toss my Selectric out the window!

    One other comment before I go, though. You cited Mike’s comments “it’s about what some people want to be rather than what they are”. If you can understand that these ex-gay individuals are coming from a “born-again Christian mindset”, then it’s a theological statement they are making. I agree that from a psychological standpoint, they are hardly different from who they were before they ‘got saved’ but, theologically, they see themselves as ‘a new creation’; they hold to the belief ‘and such were some of you’–past tense.

    We’re in an arena where gender-identity, religion, psychology and politics are all colliding. Each one is a hot-button issue in itself. Trouble is that I don’t see any way to stop the collisions. At the moment, the best I’m hoping for is interjecting some fresh perspective every once in awhile.

  35. It does seem clear that Mike, Jim and Gary organized the first conference but it wasn’t until the conference occurred that Exodus was organized. These guys could have planned a conference and then no formal structure evolved and then it would be just that a conference. What made Exodus was the initial group ministries that came together. If this did not happen there is no Exodus. The representatives of those ministries who came together on the first board agreed together to make an organization. Apparently all of them did but there had to be a group of people to actually organize the structure and plan for it to go.

  36. Ed: Great to have you stop in and hope you will feel free to be a regular reader.

    Appreciate your perspective. I am still catching up on some of the emails to see this issue in a broader light.

  37. The rhetoric sure flies fast and furious on this site. A friend tipped me off earlier today that I was mentioned a time or two so I had to come and see what all the fuss is about.

    Regarding the founders of Exodus, I always thought of it being Mike Bussee and Jim Kaspar. Although, from Mike’s comments, I see that Gary should have been included, too. These three men actually planned the gathering that evolved into Exodus. Frank Worthen’s name also comes up because his ministry, Love In Action, was already several years old by the time of that first gathering and he was a major player in the first gathering.

    So, Mike, Jim and Gary as EXIT were the planners and the hosts. Other key participants from established ministries such as Frank Worthen. Greg Reid and Ron Dennis were present and active when Exodus was formed. In retrospect, all six could be called “founders”. I believe that all of them had networked informally before the first gathering. All of them were involved in the discussions that led to the forming of “the looseknit coalition of ministries” that assumed the name Exodus.

    I, however, was not present. I attended the second gathering that was held in San Rafael as a representative from Christ for the Nations in Dallas, Texas. I don’t recall speaking out much at that gathering so I was surprised to see my name in Mike’s blogs as one of the ‘originals’. In 1978, I began co-directing Outpost Ministries with Robbi Kenney. It was then that I began to have a voice in the directions that Exodus was taking.

    I remember some discussions about a common, easily understood ‘handle’ that ministries could use. I supported the term “ex-gay” 1) because it was an adjective not a label. 2) because “ex” meant “out of” and little more. It could apply to the person who just ‘left the lifestyle’ yesterday and the one that was 5 or 10 years down the road and 3) because “ex” had a tie-in to EXodus. For these reasons, it still seems to me to be an appropriate handle.

    I also want to commend your site. I appreciate reading your comments and the blogs by Mike and grantdale. I didn’t know that a forum that allowed voices from all sides to be heard existed. I have always felt that we didn’t have all the answers about sexual identity and confusion…and that it was problematic that the only ones attempting to address the issue were ‘homespun ministers’ rather than professional psychologists. Please keep up the lively rants!

  38. By Wayne’s definition (which I think makes good sense logically), there would be three “founders” — the ones who conceived, planned, organized and presented the first EXODUS conference — and who manned the first EXODUS office for the year AFTER the conference. That would be me, Gary and Jim.

    There was no “formal” founding of the organization. per se. We deliberately wanted to remain “a loose-knit coalition of ministries” to give each member agency its own identity and autonomy.

    A Board was elected, but we only met once that year if I recall correctly. Jim, Gary and I were the only ones working the EXODUS office. It’s OK with me if you want to refer to members of that first Board as “co-founders”. The 62 delegates were just that — guests.

    To sum up, I NEVER claimed to be THE founder (as EXODUS cintinues to falsely claim Frank Worthen is). That title would rightly belong only to Jim, me and Gary.

  39. You have such a way with words Wayne.

    Now in Michael’s post I count three people who had an idea: Jim, Gary and Michael. So are there 2 or 3 founding idea men?

  40. What I find interesting is that Warren did not come up with any new and revealing information to add to the historical record. What he is doing is repackaging old news. His thesis is:

    1) Exodus had more than one founding board member.

    2) There were more than Bussee and Cooper present at the first conference.

    On the first count, this goes without saying. All legal entities have a board. This is not news.

    On the second count, of course there were other people at the first conference. That is why it is called a “confeence.”

    The truth is, Exodus was the brainchild of Michael and Gary. They are the ones that said, “we need to build a train.” They are the ones that organized the engineers to build the train. In the beginning they drove the train.

    Of course, other people helped them, but to question that they founded Exodus is patently absurd.

    Warren, when I grew up in East Texas, we had a saying for what you do: Shoveling 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.

    Now, please go do some real research and stop regurgitating and spinning old news.

  41. By the way, I never said we founded the “ex-gay” “movement”, just that we were “two of the orginal founders of EXODUS”. It is true that there were already a handful of “change ministries” (most notably, Love In Action) scattered across the country.

    But there was no “EXODUS” — no coaltion of these programs. WE (Jim, Gary and I) thought there should be. That is why Jim, Gary and I organized and convened that first EXODUS conference. No one else did it. It was named and (loosely) organiized at that conference You can’t re-write history, Dr. Throckmorton — even though you gave it the old college try.

    I did speak with Wayne Besen, and, after some thought, I agree with him that those of us who organized and convened the first confernce are “founders” in the sense that we started it.

    EXODUS itself says it began in 1976 at that Melodyland conference. It did not begin anywhere else. So we get the blame for “founding it”, I guess.

    What came AFTER is not my fault, thank God.

  42. Thank you, Dr. Throckmorton.

    I apologize.

    You do seem to be a man of honor after all. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest and for giving me space on your blog.

    Alan Chambers of EXODUS contacted me today and promised that the website will be changed. Thanks, Alan.

    As for me, I am still trying to reach the film-makers and Wayne Besen to clear up any confusion they may have about the formation of EXODUS.

    Finally, I am pleased to announce that Alan Chambers has asked me to join him for a joint press conference to officially RETIRE the misleading term “Ex-gay”.

    After 30 years, it’s about time.

  43. The point is: what are you going to do about it? If you have any integrity at all, you will take EXODUS to task as you did me.

  44. I just noticed that the EXODUS Global Alliance web page names Frank Worthen (who attended the first conference as a guest and who did NOT organize it) is named THE “founder” of EXODUS in 1976. No other person is mentioned.

    After raking me over the coals and accusing me (online) of distorting the truth, are you now prepared to be just as tough on EXODUS?

    I have serious doubts.

  45. Warren, if you enjoyed the last one you may bust something with this one.

    Took longer to find… but please enjoy the words of Alan Chambers AND Bob Davies. I was also tickled over the headline that had Anita founding a ministry with a man she wouldn’t even meet for another 15 years. Wow!

    Surely calling someone a “co-founder” pales into insignificance when you’ve got someone willing to call you “the father of all this” does it not?

    And why would Alan think this… probably because Frank told the story. One that hasn’t changed in 10 years. We know he’s that way about LIA/R too.

    Perhaps that’s also why Mike Haley tells it like it isn’t

    The Davies original is still on the current Exodus site too, now I’ve bothered looking. The ending comments by Black give as good a clue as about what has really been occuring over the years — now Bussee isn’t even a former EXIT counselor. No, these days he’s a former EXIT “counselor”. Deliberate minimization after a lecture about not doing that…

    I think most of us could forgive some blow-in reporter or their editor messing up “co-founders”, “one of the founders”, “a founder of” etc. Or some barely literate blogger skimming a few webpages and using “the founders”.

    But none of these people I’ve mentioned are blow-ins. They’ve all been involved for years. What they do have in common is a reliance on the history as told by one particular man.

    Any guesses who?

  46. Dr. Throckmorton:

    It seems to me that YOU and EXODUS have “taken pains” to discredit me and Gary. I am responding to the half-truths YOU have been spreading. Quit blaming others.

    Four men (among the original founders) DID continue to act on gay impulses. Gary is one. I am two. My co-worker at EXIT is three and Ed Hurst of Outpost Ministries is four.

    You say you “asked around” to try to get in touch with me and to clarify my role and Gary’s. Whom did you ask? Did you contact the film-makers? Evangelicals Concerned? Mel White? Did you search the internet?

    I Strongly doubt it. I don’t think you looked very hard at all. I think you repeated what my critics had told you and what you already WANTED to believe. Not very scholarly.

  47. Founder – a person who founds or establishes some institution (Princeton WordNet). Michael, I am happy to provide you with an opportunity to tell your side of things. However, the debate over Foundingness has arisen in a context where critics have taken pains to portray you and Gary as the sole founders. Take that away and I don’t think we would be talking about this. I think this is all fascinating because I love to understand things, and especially contextual matters.

    four men who were anything BUT “ex-gay” and who continued to act out their gay feelings. This statement is not consistent with my research and the statements of the other men involved. A lot can happen in 30 years.

  48. Dr. THrockmorton:

    I will review One Nation Under God today. If my memory serves me well, I believe that the caption says “co-founders of EXODUS”, not “THE founders” or “the ONLY founders”.

    For Alan Chambers to suggest that ALL 62 attendees of the first conference were “founders” is just plain silly! Most of the people at the first conference just warmed their seats. Most of them were never heard from again.

    In my mind, only a small hadful could rightly be called “founders” — among them a straight woman and four men who were anything BUT “ex-gay” and who continued to act out their gay feelings.

    EXODUS has been accusing me of deliberately mis-using words like “founders” — which you now acknowledge as incorrect.

    Meanwhile, for 30 years, EXODUS has stubbornly used the term “ex-gay” — defending it, re-defining it — and FINALLY the leader of EXODUS has said what I have been saying all along — that the term should be “done away with entirely and never used again”. It’s about time.

    I intend to make Alan Chambers’ rejection of the term “ex-gay” VERY public. You and EXODUS have a lot of explaining to do.

    Michael Bussee, MFT

  49. Did go looking for this for you. Took awhile to piece toegther who I remembered were making the comments and worked out where it therefore must sit. Whatever.

    And perhaps Alan Chambers needs read it too: given the fairly plain involvement of his predecessor — and Frank Worthen — in a deliberate attempt to minimise the founding roles of two men that Exodus later wished they’d never even heard of…


  50. Hold you horses!

    I did not create this confusion and am now doing my best to clear it up — starting with you and those who have tried so hard to discredit me.

    I am in the process, right now, of contacting Wayne Besen and the film-makers about making the corrections.

    Whether we were the ONLY co-founders or two of many (or how to define “founder”) is not nearly as important as the confusion created by the misleading term “ex-gay” which EXODUS has used for years — and which Gary and I were refuting in the first place.

    I just got off the phone with Alan Chambers of EXODUS. He was sorry if anyone associated with EXODUS had implied that Gary and I were not honest about our roles.

    Regarding the term “ex-gay”, he gave me permission to quote him:

    “We need to do away with the term entirely and make sure it’s never used again.”

    Wow. He sounds like ME.

    Michael Bussee MFT

  51. Well, you try to do the right thing and…

    1. I didn’t lie. I reported what people told me. I can only report what people tell me since as you pointed out, I wasn’t there. What you are saying isn’t in disagreement, it adds to the picture.

    2. Exodus didn’t tell me what to write. I interviewed everyone but you (I asked around, I had no idea where you were). In a sense, however, I had your interview from the One Nation Under God video. I am now clear on what you say and what the video implies. I wonder if you are going to ask the filmmakers to change that? While you are at it, ask Wayne Besen to correct the impression that you and Cooper were the sole founders.

  52. Thanks, Dr. Thorckmorton, for correcting yourself. I NEVER claimed that Gary Cooper and I were the ONLY “founders”. You reviewed the film and agree that I was “on target”.

    Now, do the DECENT (Christian) thing and apologize for either (1)lying about me or (2) simply repeating what EXODUS had told you — instead of checking the facts. While you are at it, please ask EXODUS to stop lying and do the same.

    Michael Bussee, MFT

    ONE of the original co-founders of EXODUS

  53. Good. At long last. I hope you email Exodus and tell them to stop referring to Frank Worthen as “the founder”.

    Or is that The Founder. Cannot remember 🙂

    But, more sematic silliness….

    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.

    OK, so it, “gay”, like all nouns are “socially constructed”. A fancy way of saying “this is what we call them”. We, now. Them, the people we are talking about.

    But it has also has a meaning with that public: homosexually attracted. When Joe/Joan Public says “Oh, he’s gay” we all know what that means. There have, of course, been any number of nouns to describe such people over the years.

    But what are we meant to make of the word “exgay” when it is also clear that it is being promoted without any reference to that common meaning?

    Is it therefore accurately descriptive, introducing a subtlty? Mere semantic silliness? Self delusion? Discomfort with having people know one is actually still homosexual?

    I’d almost be willing to say that while “gay” is a noun in common use, “exgay” is more of an adjective — as Bussee’s explanation makes even more clear.

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