Focus on the Family Hands Over 'Love Won Out'

Focus on the Family announced on Tuesday that it will be passing the reigns of its Love Won Out conferences on homosexuality to another ministry.

The move is a logical step, the Colorado Springs-based evangelical organization said, especially as it faces a "serious" budget shortfall.

"Everyone knows these are challenging times for organizations and individuals all across the globe," said Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family, in a statement. "It is not an inexpensive undertaking to put on a Love Won Out event; and contrary to what our detractors say, the conferences rarely have recouped the financial investment made in them. That is a cost we have always paid because of the positive impact the events have had."

Jim Daly, president and CEO of the family ministry, said income is down nearly $6 million from what they planned for this year.

Starting November, Love Won Out conferences will be led by Exodus International, one of the largest Christian organizations that deals with homosexual issues and promotes "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ." Exodus has always contributed to and been a part of the conferences.

Although financial realities played a role in the conference's transition, Schneeberger said the move also makes strategic sense.

"Exodus is really the one who should be running 'Love Won Out' anyway," he said, according to The Associated Press.

Launched in 1998, the Love Won Out conference has traveled to churches around the world, educating Christians on how to respond to the issue of homosexuality in a biblical way and offering hope to those struggling with same-sex desires. The conference has been met with dozens of protests by gay activists who claim the event sends a message of homophobia and hatred.

But James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and a preeminent evangelical, has stressed that Love Won Out conferences are not about hate or rejection.

"Regardless of what the media might say, Focus on the Family has no interest in promoting hatred toward homosexuals or anyone else," he last year as the ministry marked the 10th anniversary of Love Won Out. "We also don't wish to deprive them of their basic constitutional rights. The Constitution applies to all of us."

While the conservative family group opposes redefining marriage, Dobson said they are committed to loving homosexuals and reaching out to them.

Focus on the Family will continue to support Love Won Out financially and by providing speakers.

"After all, we're still in the truth and grace business," commented Melissa Fryrear, director of the ministry's gender issues department and a Love Won Out speaker and host for more than six years.

The transition comes as Exodus International is boosting efforts to educate and equip mainline and evangelical churches to respond to homosexuality compassionately and effectively. Last month, Exodus announced plans to merge with outreach ministries of the Presbyterian and Reformed faith communities and The United Methodist Church.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said the Love Won Out conference is "a natural fit" in their ongoing efforts.

"Love Won Out has been and will continue to be a powerful event dedicated to helping the global Christian church better understand and more effectively reflect biblical truth and Christ-like compassion to a hurting world," Chambers assured.

The final Love Won Out conference for 2009 is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Birmingham, Ala., and will be led by Focus on the Family before the transition.

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