The board of directors for Seattle-based Exodus North America voted Oct. 3 to remove John Paulk as board chairman but to retain him as a board member on "probationary" status. The decision follows media reports that Paulk was photographed visiting a gay bar in Washington, D.C. on the evening of Sept. 19.
Exodus International is a Christian organization that encourages homosexuals to leave the gay lifestyle. Paulk, who works for Focus on the Family, is the ex-gay movement's most visible leader. While he is on probation, Paulk will not attend board meetings or have voting privileges.
"John told the board that he had 'no sinful intentions' in entering that bar," said Bob Davies, North American director of Exodus International. "However, he did engage in behavior which has negatively impacted the credibility of Exodus. He was guilty of a serious lapse in judgment, and we feel that his behavior warrants some type of disciplinary action."
Earlier Davies had said that Paulk's actions were "a serious lapse in sound judgment" and that regardless of his reasons for visiting the gay bar, the visit "opens him up to all kinds of speculation and questions by both other Exodus leaders and also the gay community."
Paulk's visit to Mr. P's, a popular bar in the heavily gay Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, was documented with photos. Initially Paulk said he entered the bar at random to use the restroom, but later admitted he had known it was a gay establishment before entering it.
"It's very unfortunate that initially John was so fearful that he hid the truth," said Davies. "He told me later that he was more ashamed of how he handled that than his initial decision to enter the bar. John's unwillingness to tell the truth from the beginning was most unfortunate, as it has further undermined his public credibility."
Davies said he doesn't believe Paulk was looking for a sexual liaison when he entered the bar, but was "enjoying a temporary escape from the responsibilities of the rest of his life. That was his pattern for years in the gay community."
The Exodus board developed a list of requirements Paulk must fulfill to remain on the board. "We are confident that they will ensure that John is given appropriate accountability and support as he moves through a period of restoration," Davies said.
In a letter to Exodus leaders, Davies said, "John has demonstrated genuine remorse over his behavior and the negative impact that it has had on the credibility of Exodus … He is deeply committed to his wife and children. He is willing to seek godly counsel in analyzing what brought him to this point."
Davies concluded, "This incident, however unfortunate, is giving us another wonderful opportunity to share our unique message with the watching world and also the Body of Christ. I hope that our redemptive response to this situation will be a godly example for many churches in dealing with their own leaders who stumble in various ways."
Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family's public policy division where Paulk is employed, declined to comment on the disciplinary actions Focus will be taking with Paulk, but said that he assumes Paulk will eventually resume his role with Focus's Love Won Out events.
"The actions taken by the Exodus International board were appropriate," Minnery said. "I am pleased that John will remain a member of their board as he continues the process of restoration."
Other media coverage includes:
Chairman Disciplined for Gay Bar Visit—Exodus International Press Release (Oct. 3, 2000)
Chairman of 'ex-gays' disciplined for gay-bar visit—The Washington Times (Oct. 6, 2000)
Ex-Gay Ministry Leader Removed for Embarrassing Public Slip—Charisma News Service (Oct. 5, 2000)
Group removes Paulk from post—The Colorado Springs Gazette (Oct. 5, 2000)
Paulk removed as Exodus chairman—The Advocate (Oct. 5, 2000)
'Ex-Gay' admits bar visit—The Washington Blade (Sept. 29, 2000)
Gay bar trip could cost man his job—The Colorado Springs Gazette (Sept. 23, 2000)
Tough Questions for an 'Ex-Gay'—Newsweek (Oct. 2, 2000)
Ex-gay leader confronted in gay bar—Southern Voice (Sept. 21, 2000)
Previous Christianity Today articles that Paulk appeared in include:
Weblog: Are Conservative Christians Abusive Parents? | Plus: An ex-gay leader goes into a bar, and blaming spanking for youth violence. (Sept. 26, 2000)
Called to Hate? | How antihomosexual crusader Fred Phelps discredits the church. (Oct. 25, 2000)
TV Stations Turn Down Exodus Ads | (Sept. 6, 1999)
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