DENVER — A "serious budget shortfall" at Focus on the Family has prompted the conservative Christian group to issue a special fundraising plea, and contributed to a decision to cede control of its contentious "Love Won Out" conferences about homosexuality to another religious organization, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Focus on the Family, founded by child psychologist James Dobson, is on pace to fall $6 million short of a $138 million budget for the fiscal year that began last October, spokesman Gary Schneeberger said.
Jim Daly, president and CEO of the Colorado-based evangelical ministry, explained the challenges in a letter to approximately 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. "Income is down nearly $6 million from what we expected and planned for this year. I want to assure you that we're committed to good stewardship AND living within our means, just as so many families are today."
Focus on the Family also announced Tuesday it would no longer stage "Love Won Out" conferences across the country. The events drew both participants and picketers for their promise to "help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome."
The events will go on, instead staged by Florida-based Exodus International, a network of ministries whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."
Schneeberger said it made strategic sense for Exodus, which is expanding its work with churches, to take over the conferences starting in November. Focus will lead its last Love Won Out conference in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 7.
Gay rights groups have long criticized such initiatives as harmful. The American Psychological Association last week said mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments. The group also endorsed approaches "that integrate concepts from the psychology of religion and the modern psychology of sexual orientation."
Schneeberger said that one staff position will be eliminated and that other financial steps are under discussion. Last fall, budget problems prompted Focus on the Family to eliminate more than 200 positions.
For more on this story, as well as Focus' response to a recent report debunking reparative therapy for gays, go to The Gazette's religion blog, The Pulpit, at thepulpit.freedomblogging.com.