Exodus International, the North American network of so-called “ex-gay” activists, is steadily building a network of affiliated churches even as the organization’s ex-gay membership declines.

But, despite a $50 annual membership fee, Exodus appears to offer these churches little besides false promises.

Exodus Church Network director Jeff Buchanan tells Ministry Today:

If we’re honest, the issue of homosexuality intimidates most church leaders. It makes us feel helpless. When someone pulls us aside and confides in us that he or she struggles with same-sex attractions, we diligently put on our “leader face” while we shrivel on the inside, feeling absolutely incompetent to address the situation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you believe God’s Word to be true, then you automatically have the needed tools for effective ministry, since all Scripture is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). Therefore, we are equipped as the church to minister to anyone who walks through our doors‚Äîhomosexual or not.

With the exception of the introductory, cherry-picked verse that is cited above, the remainder of Buchanan’s article fails to cite a single Bible verse that would provide church leaders with guidance in addressing someone who struggles with their sexual orientation. Buchanan fails to justify the central thesis of his article — the dubious notion that the Bible is all that one needs to become a counselor to a gay individual in distress.

Of the three vague tips offered by Buchanan — that a person needs 1) compassionate truth, 2) discipleship, and 3) community — none has a stated basis in “God’s Word,” nor are any explained with useful examples. Indeed, this trite list of needs is unworthy of serious ministerial discussion: Exodus is touting tips that appear to have been borrowed not from a Bible or a professional guide to pastoral care, but from fortune cookies or a second-rate horoscope.

Buchanan’s eight-paragraph article is devoid of either clinical or spiritual substance — information that a qualified and truly experienced church leader or professional counselor should have had no difficulty in providing. Like a Halloween face mask, the article offers no substantive answers on the surface, but it raises disquieting questions about what lies underneath:

Does no one at Exodus International’s headquarters study the Bible? What did Buchanan’s prior experience — “10 years in church ministry” — really consist of? And are none of Exodus’ career therapists willing to offer solid advice to Ministry Today readers, free of charge?

Apparently not. Pastors feeling let down by this flimsy article are invited to visit the exodus.to web site, where — sadly — they find a maze of vague pleasantries. If they (and their credit cards) find their way to Exodus’ pastoral resource list, they will discover — trick, or treat? — that Exodus offers little for free. Exodus pastoral resources consist mostly of referral links to for-profit ex-gay “therapists” and market-rate books. What pastors do receive for free is, frankly, hardly worth the purchase price: Embalmed antigay articles — dating from 1985 to 2000, with most written in the mid-1990s — that resurrect and repeat even older myths about the mental health and religious beliefs of same-sex-attracted people. Many ministers — having known gay people among their immediate families and friends in the past 20 years — will recognize Exodus’ old fables for what they are.

Having navigated the Exodus web site’s subterranean labyrinth, and brushing aside the site’s cobwebs and skeletons, pastors who still feel under-informed are finally invited to join the Exodus Church Network, where — for the $50 annual “donation” — a church wins the privilege of belonging to a network of similarly underinformed and spooked-out churches.

The Exodus church application form asks several intrusive questions about church employees’ sexual behavior — but nothing about their financial accountability, academic or clinical credentials, commitment to do no harm to counselees, or preparedness to arrange aftercare to counselees who might be damaged by amateur guidance.

On the one hand, it might be tempting to encourage antigay churches to waste $50 per year on Exodus’ tainted goods: The more time and money these churches waste, perhaps, the less they’ll have to spare for campaigns to promote discrimination and violence against gay members of their local communities.

On the other hand, real people continue to be injured by na?Øve, incompetent church groups and amateur counselors that are underinformed and misled by Exodus.

The Exodus Church Network is, in short, a dilapidated facility that masquerades as a new ex-gay support system. It is presently incapable of aiding ministers in providing solid and reputable pastoral care. While growing, the network is no better equipped to counsel than Exodus’ shrinking network of self-proclaimed “ex-gays.”

Will Exodus hire reputable mainstream mental-health professionals to sweep the network free of its numerous goblins — or is the network’s purpose not spiritual and psychological, but political?