Reprinted with permission
Friday, August 05, 2005
John Evans: I’m Sickened By Attempts To Re-Write LIA History
by Wayne Besen
The History of Love In Action
By John Evans
I first met the Rev. Kent Philpott when I owned an art gallery in Sausalito, California. This was in 1973. Kent Philpott was the pastor of the Church of the Open Door in the nearby town of San Rafael.
Shortly after meeting Kent, we were sitting in a café in Sausalito, having coffee when he came right out and asked me if I was gay. I was quite surprised because homosexuality was never openly discussed among Christians. Kent said that the Holy Spirit had already “revealed” to him that I was gay. I admitted to being gay, and I told Kent that I believed there should be some kind of fellowship for gay people. When Kent and I discussed a ministry to gay people, I never thought of any type of a “change situation.” I had been in a relationship with my partner, Ron Marano, for over 10 years, and we had been active in the Assembly of God Church in San Francisco for all that time.
Within one week of our conversation, Frank Worthen talked with Kent about his homosexuality. That same week, a third man came to Kent to talk about his confusion about being gay and Christian. At this point, Kent called me at the gallery. He was all excited. He said he knew God was opening a ministry to gay people.
Two weeks later, we all met in the back room of the Christian bookstore in San Rafael to talk about forming Love In Action. That’s when Kent decided to write a book on homosexuality. There were to be three women and three men telling their stories. It wasn’t long before it was published by Logos International under the title of The Third Sex? My story appeared under the fictitious name of “Ted.” (Frank Worthen’s story was not in the book.) The book became a best-seller and people started coming to San Rafael to find a “cure” for their homosexuality.
Next, Kent started telling everyone they must leave their gay lover and withdraw from what he called “the gay lifestyle.” The three women left within weeks because two of them had been together for 18 years. Kent told me I must terminate my long-time relationship with Ron.
The only conclusion I had ever heard since being a Christian for over fifty years was that all homosexuality was wrong and sinful, although I knew my relationship with Ron was good, and I could not understand why it could be wrong or sinful I blindly accepted the traditional Christian condemnation without even investigating if there may be another point of view. I listened to the conclusions by Kent Philpott and broke off my relationship with Ron. That was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
One by one, the original members of Love In Action left. We began to accept we would never change inside. We were also disillusioned with Love In Actions strict policies.
Shortly after leaving Ron, I was so distressed that I could barely function. My mind was on Ron all the time. One day, while driving on the freeway, I was thinking about the holiest love I had ever known from another human being.
This love was from Ron. Knowing I had given up the most precious love of my life, I really didn’t care if I lived or died. Suddenly, I lost control of my vehicle, and was involved in a devastating automobile accident. I was unconscious for several days and spent almost a year in the hospital in recovery. I broke most of the bones in my back. I’ve had several surgeries every since, along with debilitating chronic pain.
The Love In Action “drop-outs,” as we called ourselves, remained friends. They even came to my hospital room once a week for a Bible study. After I was released from the hospital, I held those weekly Bible studies in my home in San Rafael with my fellow “drop-outs.” They also met at my home because I was unable to walk.
One night, a pastor attended one of our Love In Action meetings in the hopes of starting an ex-gay ministry of his own. Kent Philpott, Frank Worthen, and I were the only original members there. During the evening, the pastor asked what had happened to the original members mentioned in the book. Kent and Frank started putting the drop-outs down, saying that the ministry was better without them. The pastor then turned to me, knowing that I was one of the original members. I told him that I was still good friends with those who had left. I admitted that we got together once a week at my house.
Kent and Frank became extremely angry, and Kent said he would talk with me in the morning. When Kent called the next day, he said I could no longer fellowship with any LIA members, the current ones or the dropouts. I told him I could not turn my back on my friends. He then told me I was not welcome at his church any longer or at any more LIA meetings.
That was a difficult time for me. During this time, I read a booklet by Dr. Ralph Blair, called “An Evangelical Look At Homosexuality.” I prayed before reading this booklet. I was both shocked and refreshed by Ralph Blair’s words because I had never heard a different point of view from another evangelical Christian. I wrote Ralph Blair and told him that I would like to discuss his views regarding this matter. His return letter informed me that he could meet with me.
Since I helped organize Love In Action back in 1973, I’ve seen nothing but shattered lives, depression, lies, and even suicide among those involved with LIA or any other so-called “ex-gay” group. My own best friend at the time, Jack McIntyre, eventually killed himself at Marin General Hospital Psychiatric Ward. In Jack’s suicide note, he wrote that he believed that God would forgive him for killing himself, but not for having even one more “impure” thought.
I believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. As a Born Again Christian, I believe that some Christians have taken certain passages in the Bible out of context and used them to hurt and destroy the lives of others. Some of these issues have been slavery, women’s rights, the Charismatic Movement, and the issue of divorce. There are twice as many Scriptures dealing with divorce than homosexuality. Yet, today, Christians give each other the freedom of personal interpretation regarding this subject.
Hopefully, homosexuality will be added to the long list of issues that the church has changed its opinion on once the Holy Spirit showed the people a new way of thinking and understanding the issue.
I challenge Christians to investigate all sides of being gay and Christian. Christians have been wrong in the past on moral issues, and I’m sure, they will be wrong again before Jesus returns. Too many lives are being destroyed by both well-meaning and not so well-meaning Christians who think their conclusions are correct.
I have tried to make amends for helping to start Love In Action in 1973 by telling the truth of who I truly am: I am fully Christian and fully gay. It has not been easy to get the truth out, though, with the continued lies and deception of the ex-gay movement. At first, “ex-gay” ministries claimed they could change anyone’s homosexuality through the “power of Jesus Christ.” Now, at least they admit that their same-sex attractions do not change. Dr. Ralph Blair was one of the brave people who called them on this point.
Eventually, they had to admit he was right when so many of the “ex-gay” ministries fell because the leaders and members could no longer deny who they truly were. Please remember that no matter what any person who claims to be ex-gay says, he or she is still our gay or lesbian brothers and sisters. They still need our love and support.
Lately, I’ve heard that some people are actually trying to claim that I never was one of the original people who started Love In Action. I’m sickened even hearing this. The truth is the truth. Even Kent’s book tells the truth of how Love In Action was started:
In the Preface, Kent Philpott says,
Clearly a new phase of counseling was beginning. I felt inadequate. Preliminary counseling was one thing, but in-depth therapeutic involvement with homosexuals was something else. I knew it would be costly. Thus it was we started a fellowship for homosexuals. Ted, [the false name that Kent used for me in the book], Bob, Eve, and Frank all helped. This book is our attempt to share good news with others. (From the Preface of The Third Sex?, Logos International, 1975.)
Frank refers to Frank Worthen. Bob and Eve are also fake names from the book. On May 5, 1979, I, along with the three women in the book, sent a notarized letter to Logos International, the publisher of The Third Sex? The letter informs them that the claims in the book were 100% false. We demanded that he stop publishing the book immediately. We wrote:
We wish to serve notice at this time that we cannot with good Christian conscience allow these falsifications to continue. Too many lives are at stake, and if these claims are not amended, indicating that none of us have ever changed and become heterosexual and are living at this time, satisfying Christian lives with our mates, following our natural homosexual orientation, we will be forced to take legal action to prevent any further misrepresentation.
But I’m sad to say that even our letter did not stop Logos and Love In Action from continuing to sell and promote the book. They made false claims then that they clearly knew were lies. Those lies continue today. But to actually believe that they can rewrite history makes me very nervous because I know how good they are at deceiving people. I know how deceived I was in the beginning.
Now to actually claim that I was never a part of the original group that founded Love In Action boggles my mind. Even the Rev. Kent Philpott says so in his best-seller. His book was the main reason people came from all over the world to Love In Action. The history of Love In Action is not a mystery. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is just like those who tried to deny the reality of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was very real.
The “ex-gay” movement is very real. It is not just a benign faith community who has the right to their own opinions. They are the people responsible for my best friend killing himself. They threaten the psychological, spiritual, and even physical health of many vulnerable, frightened people, especially gay teens. They are responsible for untold suffering and harm.
“What you have done to the very least of these, you have also done to me,” Jesus says. When they harm gays and lesbians, they harm Jesus. They will be held accountable. They must be held accountable. I hold them accountable.
A brother in Christ,
One of the original founders of Love In Action in 1973
Addendum from XGW: Several posts on Warren Throckmorton’s weblog dispute Evans’ timeline and his claim to be a co-founder.