The Southern Baptist Convention, America’ largest protestant denomination, appointed Bob Stith as National Strategist for Gender Issues in 2007. His job is to lead the SBC’ new efforts to promote ex-gay ministries. Stith is a former pastor and chairman of Living Hope Ministries, a Dallas ex-gay support group affiliated with Exodus International.

“I have seen many people walk away from the homosexual lifestyle,” Stith told The Tennessean, Aug. 11, 2007. “And they were so joyful, so thankful for what God had done in their life. If you have a strong enough motivation, it is possible.”

While the Southern Baptist Convention has long held virulently anti-gay positions, the hiring of Stith represents an official embrace of the ex-gay ministries. Since the SBC formed in 1845 over a split with northern Baptists over slavery, it has grown to over 16 million members representing more than 42,000 churches. If only a small percentage of these churches form an ex-gay program, the result would be an enormous expansion of the ex-gay message.