The Role of Michael Bussee or Gary Cooper in the Founding of Exodus
A cross-divide conversation from the Bridges-Across and Exodus General email lists.

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NEW! August, 1998
Toward an International Discussion of Homosexuality
At 09:27 AM 3/21/98 -0800, someone wrote to a Bridges-Across list:  

"An article by Cliff O'Neill was published in BAY WINDOWS (Boston) March 1-7. 1990 Vol. 8, entitled  'Forget We Ever Said Those Things: Two founders of "ex-gay" ministry now repudiate goals of Exodus International.'  The founders, Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, 'denounced all such programs that seek to "convert" homosexuals into heterosexuality.' Bussee felt guilty that "there may very well be out there people that I talked to who are dead now because they committed suicide because of the guilt that I  inadvertently heaped on them."  

This is a conversation that occured on the Exodus list.  uploaded with the permission of the participants. 

Tom Cole:  

"I'm sure many of you receive unwanted email messages from [] as I have.  Although I have asked him to discontinue sending me email, he persists.  His latest was an article about Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper.  I know that one of them has died of AIDS, but what has become of the other? Also, I have learned to trust about half of what I read."  

Maggie Heineman: 

[quoting "trust about half of what I read."] 

"Yes! Amen! You might be interested in 'Condoms in the Cathedral: An ACT UP organizers first person account' 


"Could someone please tell me their true involvement with Exodus International?  From the way it reads, Bussee invented Exodus.  I am constantly bombarded with their names in discussion with the gay subculture ( how  do you like that [instead of 'gay community'] Gene?).  Any information would be greatly appreciated."  


[quoting "From the way it reads, Bussee invented Exodus."] 

"I didn't know that was false until I began educating myself about ex-gay ministries.  When people pass that along they don't know that they're lying."  

Bob Davies:  


"I am sending you by snail mail some information on Michael Bussee.  He is frequently called the  "co-founder" of Exodus. Here is the story: Michael helped organize a weekend conference in September 1976, at which many 'ex-gay' ministry leaders came together for the first time. Later, this was referred to as the 'Exodus Summit Conference.'  That weekend, several important decisions were made.  All the ministries  would come together as an organization, to be called 'Exodus.'  Delegates also decided to hold an annual conference. So Michael did have a big hand in our formation.  Be careful not to deny or minimize his role when speaking publicly about our history.  

"About three years later, Michael left his wife and daughter for another man -- another male staff member (also 'ex-gay' and married) at EXIT, the Exodus ministry where they both worked in Anaheim, Calif.  This other man was Gary Cooper, who is also frequently called a 'co-founder' of Exodus.  One time I asked Frank Worthen about Gary Cooper.  He said, 'Gary who?'  Frank should know -- he was at the first Exodus conference and has been involved every day since its inception.  [articles by Frank Worthen] 

"I questioned Michael Bussee about this a few years ago, and he said that Gary was a volunteer in the ministry at that time, and he picked up conference guests at the airport who were arriving for the conference!  So much  for Gary's role as 'co-founder' of Exodus.     "Gary died about five years ago of HIV/AIDS-related illness.  Michael is now in another "long-term" relationship with a man -- I don't have details.  

"Michael and Gary 'married' each other publicly in the MCC about 1982 (not sure of exact year). I have never heard anyone question Michael about how Gary got AIDS if they had been 'married' (and supposedly sexually faithful) since the early 1980s. They are always presented as the 'happy gay couple' in anything that I have seen. I suspect there is another story 'off the record' about how many sex partners Gary had during their 'marriage.'  

"Tom, I will send you some articles on Michael and Gary which have appeared in previous issues of THE EXODUS STANDARD. If there are any other[s] reading this who would like the same information, please write/fax/phone the Exodus office and request 'the articles on Michael Bussee.' Ask that the request be forwarded to me, so you will be sure to get the right materials!  

"Hope that this is helpful. If anyone has further questions, don't hesitate to contact me <> for further info.  

--Bob Davies"  

Bob Kuyper:  

"Anyone with questions about the early days of Exodus should write our Transforming Congregations Program Associate, Ron Dennis. Ron was at the 1976 founding conference and is as much a "founder" as Gary Cooper or Michael Bussee. He knew them and others. His comment to me about many of the ex-ex-gay folks was that was a long time ago. I don't know if Ron is on this list.  

"I have observed Exodus ministries since the beginning of TC  [Transforming Congregations], 1988. I have found most of the people in ministry are still in ministry or they have gone on to something else but not back to their former lifestyles. The charge that most have been replaced by heterosexuals is false.  

"I have asked people if they would doubt the claims of Christianity because one of its "founders" Judas, committed suicide.  

--Bob Kuyper, Editor, Transforming Congregations"  

Doug Houck:  

"There is a lot more to his story of founding a ministry, hosting a summit meeting that resulted in the formation of Exodus International.  

"Mike became a Christian, dealt with his homosexuality, got married, and started a ministry all within one year. He was a baby in Christ at that time.  

"It is true that there were virtually no ex-gay ministries at that time (we are talking mid 1970's).  

"Today, Exodus has developed to the point that Mike's scenario sends the red flags flying, and rings the warning bells -- but it is 20 years later.  

"We want our leaders to be grounded, two years of celibacy is required before starting a ministry, boards are required for accountability, etc.  

"Mike was one of the instruments of God in allowing us to be where we are today.  

"Because Mike succumbed to temptation is a reminder of the perilous path that we walk. And he is true to himself -- he comes from a pro-gay theological perspective, and is clear about that. He isn't trying to deceive anyone.  

--Doug Houck  

"P.S., Some of the information I know about Mike comes through his ex-wife, who applied for a position at Metanoia Ministries while I was director there."  

Ron Dennis:  

"For Tom and others about the beginnings of Exodus:  

"I was there and a part of it, served on the Board from beginning. Held Exodus here in Las Vegas [LV] at Lake Mead Lodge, suggested and arranged for John Holland (Foursquare Church) when he was keynote speaker, helped put together Exodus VC-Canada, etc.  

"The beginning involved Mike Bussee and Jim Casper [Kaspar]. They ran Exit Hotline out of Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim, helping gays to exit homosexuality. They (Mike and Jim) called together a gathering at Melodyland for people in ex-gay whom they knew about. God had sovereignly raised up unassociated ex-gay type ministries around the country and world (including Theophilus Ministries in LV ). About 40 people gathered, shared their beginnings, and formed a loose knit affiliation of ministries which was called Exodus. And so Exodus began.  

"The last Exodus conference I attended was at Denver. After Mike Bussee returned to his old lifestyle, we did visit with him personally at his place to reason with him. He clearly stated his choice to return and be with his lover.  

"Hope this helps clear up some of the misconceptions and wrong information about the beginnings and continuing work of Exodus. Our ministry work (Theophilus) has expanded to include helps ministries to the poor and needy in rural Nevada, jail ministry, involvement with the Board of Transforming Congregations, and more.  

"Feel free to contact me <>.  

"In Christ,  

--Ron Dennis <><"