Focus on the Family will shed its controversial Love Won Out program for transforming homosexuals into heterosexuals because of budget troubles, the conservative media ministry said Tuesday.
The Colorado Springs-based ministry made the announcement in The Washington Blade, the country's oldest gay and lesbian newspaper.
The Love Won Out conferences on "leaving homosexuality" will be handed over in November to a longtime ministry partner, Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus International.
"The economic challenges led us to this strategic decision," Focus vice president Gary Schneeberger said Wednesday. "Love Won Out is not an inexpensive event to stage, and rarely, in over 50 cities where it's been held, have we ever made back our investment, despite good attendance."
Focus on the Family, which held its first Love Won Out conference in 1998, will lead its last on Nov. 7 in Birmingham, Ala. A $6 million shortfall in the $138 million budget also caused Focus president Jim Daly to send out a fundraising letter to 800,000 donors.
"Right now we're facing a serious budget shortfall that threatens our ability to reach out to parents, families and married couples who count on our help," Daly wrote. "I want to assure you we're committed to good stewardship and living within our means, just as so many families are today."
Schneeberger said one staff position will be eliminated and further cost-cutting measures are under consideration.
Schneeberger said he didn't know how much money would be saved by turning over control of the conferences.
Gay-rights groups strongly denounce Love Won Out and similar programs as psychologically harmful.
Wayne Besen, a gay activist with the group Truth Won Out, said conference crowds are getting smaller and drawing less media attention.
"There is a shrinking market for their product," Besen said. "This is a very positive development, because it shows Focus on the Family wants to get out of the ex-gay business — though not completely. But if this were something they were really vested in, they would have kept it in-house."
Focus on the Family gender analyst Melissa Fryrear, a Love Won Out speaker and host, said the ministry still has a great commitment to the issue.
Fryrear said Focus on the Family will continue to support Love Won Out financially and by providing speakers and marketing support.
"Exodus is thrilled with this opportunity as the Love Won Out conference is a natural fit in our ongoing efforts to share the hope we've found," said Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.
The American Psychological Association last week issued a report discounting the effectiveness of therapies to change sexual orientation. However, Focus gender analyst Jeff Johnston said the report also affirmed the importance of faith for many people and their right to self-determination within their treatment.