More on Exodus youth standards

Recently Peterson Toscano wrote a series of posts describing his belief that Exodus International provides inadequate guidelines to protect the safety of youth involved in it’s programs.

In the first of three posts, Peterson stated:

On June 26, 2006 I initially left voice messages for Alan Chambers of Exodus International and another national ex-gay leader about inappropriate incidents that affected youth at an Exodus member ministry. I will not go into the details at this time, but I shared three specific situations that happened within the previous year. The shocking details of the third situation compelled me to contact Alan and this other national leader.

This post set bloggers to posting with headlines like: Former Ex-Gay Says Exodus Admits Mistreatment of Youth but Stalls on Safeguards and Exodus Without Guidelines.

However, some commenters on ExGayWatch and Peterson’s blog raised questions about why the “shocking incident” was not reported to the police. In Peterson’s second post, he said:

Although clearly inappropriate, the incidents that I related to Alan Chambers last July did not include criminal acts. The incidents revolved around interactions between adult and youth participants in an Exodus member ministry. Even though the incidents did not require contacting authorities at that time, the situations and the conditions that existed, (and as far as I know still exist), at the Exodus member ministry where these situations occurred, were such that minors were at risk for potential harm.

But then in his third post on the subject, he said:

Thank you to those of you who have shown concern for the youth in Exodus programs. From your comments and your questions, e-mails and calls, I see that many of you really care about these kids and wanted to make sure that if any child is at risk, that all necessary and possible steps have being taken. And they have, at least for the situations I alluded to in my last posts. Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken. When faced with an immediate problem, Exodus dealt with it. That has never been the issue.

Some of the uproar over these posts may be have inflamed somewhat by the original title of the ExgayWatch post, which used the word “abuse” in the place of “misconduct” as it is now. However, I think it might have been more clear for Peterson to specify what the incidents were up front. It still is somewhat confusing to me, in that in the second post above, he says “the incidents did not require contacting authorities at that time…” but then in the third post, he says, “at least for the situations I alluded to in my last posts. Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken.”

So from his accounts, readers are left in the dark about the nature of the incident(s).

I asked Alan Chambers about his view of the matter and he sent this email which he gave me permission to post:

As for the actual issue, Peterson called two other leaders and I (separately) during the Exodus conference [June 27-July 2, 2006]threatening to go to the media about an 18 year old former client of a member ministry who met a 40 year old client through that same ministry. At the time the 18 year old was 17. Once the young man turned 18, the two announced they were going to move in together.

The two leaders in question and I met and agreed that the authorities and parents needed to be called and that the leader of the group was the one to do it. The authorities and parents were called immediately and Peterson was informed that this wasn’t an issue between he and Exodus, but one for the authorities. I don’t understand why Peterson never even hinted at wanting to report it, even months later.

Prior to this, Exodus was in the process of revising its standards for member ministries to clearly state that no youth could ever be involved in adult groups or have any interaction if a ministry was to be a member of Exodus. Those standards are now being used during the annual renewal process. By February all ministries seeking renewal will be complete.

As for attempted sex between a minor and adult that never happened. In fact, I am told that the 18 year old and 40 year old didn’t actually end up together.

I also was sent the guidelines that are currently in place for Exodus member ministries which seems to address many concerns that have been raised. Some of the rhetoric over this issue could be interpreted as concern that Exodus had no standards in place; however they did have guidelines in place with revised guidelines coming in gradually. As member ministries renew membership, they must agree to these guidelines. The last of these updates will be complete by February of this year. So, it seems to me, that the upshot of this whole episode is that Exodus handled an unfortunate incident appropriately and that Exodus had guidelines in place to protect youth. Furthermore, they have an internal process that reviews them and updates them as necessary. Pretty much nothing has changed. I suspect any feedback from readers here will be taken seriously by Exodus leaders as the standards are revised in the future. Furthermore, where the guidelines are not followed, as far as I can tell, Alan and the Exodus board is committed to enforcing them. Anyone aware of discrepancies should provide that information to Exodus.