Tuesday, February 28th, 2017
I love to watch The Voice. Tonight, I was in tears, my heart was racing and I couldn’t move on without some internal processing. Vocal music is a beautiful thing and on this show the coaches encourage the contestants to sing through their stories.
On this episode, a woman named Stephanie Rice shared her story. She was the daughter of a Baptist pastor. Her father happened to be doing a series on the sin of homosexuality when she actually realized that she was lesbian. She was just 17 years old.
In response to their daughter’s situation her dad exhibited abusive public verbal attacks against her at school and her school counselor had to remove her from the room to protect her from further abuse. Her parents refused to allow her to accept awards for her high school accomplishments, which were amazing. They subsequently gave her an option; either she sought counseling to change or she could go to college and they’d no longer affiliate with her and she’d be history to them. She chose to be honest with them and she took the consequences. (more of her story)
Her response was to dig into her schooling and work hard. She got her degree in biology and began working on a project with HIV and AIDS. She became a published author in the Scientific Journal. She discovered how healing her music was to her deepest wounds and began to seek out a music career.
As I continued watching the following contestants perform my heart was more and more impacted by her story. I became tearful as I thought about her situation. It’s not new for me to hear that parents disown their LBGT children. But for some reason Stephanie’s story was so real, so raw that it just hit me once again the reality of how conservative religion can be so harmful at times.
I became furious! A Baptist pastor turned his teenage daughter out and completely separated from her because she’s a lesbian! As her most significant reflection of God in her life, her parents completely rejected her and said she would become history to them. As I reflect on my own experience with fundamental Christianity I’m so ashamed and embarrassed that I ever bought into such rejecting and ignorant ways of thinking and the all too common heartless response to humanity.
Sadly, many teens that endure such pain turn to drugs, addictions, and suicide. Thankfully Stephanie used her intelligence and turned to her talent to become productive. I know for certain that Stephanie will have helpful support and she’ll be surrounded by people who will love and accept her. But the gnawing and rejecting absence of her parents and siblings, whom she said she practically raised, will not go away. One can only hope that they’ll see the true light of God and learn how to love their daughter rightly, regardless of what their own personal convictions are.
I really look forward to hearing more of Stephanie’s musical talent. The depth of her wounds came through her first song and I’m sure with experienced coaching it will only become better!
THIS HAS TO STOP!
Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
I received this message through the Grace Rivers Website. I wrote a response and prepared to send it off and it came back undeliverable. I’m supposing that the writer sent it using a false email address so as to not hear back from me. So, I decided to publish the message and my response here. Maybe they’ll read it.
Every time I hear about you or read something recent you wrote, I just want to cry. I really do. As I see you and so many others turning from the truth of God and turning to your own truth based on your emotions and experiences, it saddens me. And to know that I was once where you were and now that I see the truth of God, my life is ruled by, changed by, healed by the Holy Spirit. And the saddest thing to me is that you and many others like you really, truly think that you’ve been enlightened to the real truth that God was trying to tell you all along. In some ways, I wish God’s Word was totally wrong about the path you and others are taking. Loving falsehood and hating the truth is not a good place to be from an eternal perspective. But who can speak to a man’s heart when a man’s heart is the end of everything he knows and does?
I received your message and appreciate your passion and care for me and others you put in my category.
The transition I’ve made these last eight years has been challenging and yet enlightening. I’ve come to realize that all around the world there are thousands of diverse interpretations and responses to what we know as the Bible. There are denominations spanning the globe and here in the US that have very different views on significant aspects of this book.
For many years I truly believed I had the corner on the market of knowledge and interpretation of the Bible. I was adamant that I, as well as my fellow believers, had the full truth and that we held fast to it. I see now that we were a small faction in reality and that I didn’t have any more evidence of what was true and what isn’t than anyone else.
For me, I now see just how arrogant I was. To think that a few people who believed we had the final truth when honestly there was little evidence that we did. We only held to what was taught us and we taught that we were to be very careful not to stray, or to look into anything that may divert us away from our truth. Smaller factions such as Amish, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, feel the same way and yet we believed they were cults and that they were too narrow.
I’m walking in freedom. Not freedom to sin, or harm others, but freedom to choose how I will believe and can now see that I really know nothing for sure. I walked in faith, and knew I really didn’t know. We were taught to not ask questions but those things we didn’t understand we were to leave to God and keep walking. When I began to ask questions (far before any transition regarding my sexuality) I was disfellowshipped from my Christian small group for being rebellious, a false teacher, and unrepentant!!! Honestly, my questions weren’t that strange or off the mark so to speak. But the group I was in saw themselves as right in every way and I challenged the status quo. And no, we weren’t cultish, just ordinary conservative Christians who had come from a common Southern Baptist church that went through a serious split (over the issue of elders or no elders in the church.)
So, yes, I’ve gone through a major transition and I know it’s very public. But honestly, I have a desire, that is that people will discover, as I have, the true freedom we actually have. Freedom to seek, to walk, to choose, and to live as we feel convicted we should. I’m not a rarity. I’ve discovering many, many former conservative Christians are finding that freedom today. With the media, and internet, there is a lessening fear of expulsion for asking because we know we are not alone and we have others who have walked this road.
Regarding the LBGT community of people, there has been far too many abuses laid on us from well meaning Bible believers. I’m now in a position to be a support to those who are questioning. I’m hearing the horror stories of men and women’s souls that have been severely damaged by Christians speaking from a cultural teaching that can be aligned with the Bible, but doesn’t reflect the real meanings therein. Fear, pain, anguish and yes, suicidal temptation and many other responses are glaring today as more and more LBGT people find the freedom to expose their pain.
Again, Mark, really, I do appreciate your contacting me and I understand the heart behind it. But just today I was wondering, would the large church I used to be a part of, and dearly loved by, ever allow me to come and share my story? Would they have any interest in hearing about my life today and the transition I went through to get here? Would those who used to hug me every Sunday telling me how much they loved me care to hear my heart now? I’d suppose not. Why? I think its because they deem me rebellious, self seeking, and unrepentant therefore my life has no value any longer. I have no story that they’d be remotely interested in hearing.
Peace to you, Mark.
Sunday, February 12th, 2017
Wesley Frank Worthen
On February 11, 2017 Frank Worthen passed from this life into the next. A very controversial figure for most of his life, I met him in 1986 and entered into the controversy myself.
Frank was the founder of Love In Action in 1973. Frank also co-founded Exodus International in 1976. ExGay ministry, which it was called, taught that God could never affirm a gay relationship and that men and women must repent of homosexuality and submit their sexuality to God. It was believed that homosexuality was a broken part of one’s life and that there was potential of healing from that brokenness in their lives.
I applied for a staff position at Love In Action in the summer of 1986. I believed I was called to do this and that it might be possible for God to touch me and resolve my struggle with homosexuality.
I was accepted and I lived with Frank and his wife Anita in one of the residential ministry houses as an Assistant House Leader at Love In Action in 1987 and 1988. I also worked in their ministry office every day of the week. I was with them virtually 24-7 for those two years.
I’m not sure I’ve ever known a man that was so convicted and committed to his convictions as Frank. He was unwavering, and for the most part he was unchanging. Several times my questions and my own search for truth came up against Frank’s beliefs. For the most part, Frank allowed me to follow my own path and allowed me great latitude in my leadership roles in the ministry that he’d birthed in 1973.
Within this ministry context, my questions and pursuit led me in different ways from Frank in ministry practice and theories. Those differences were something that never brought an unkind word, or for the most part no words at all from Frank.
I can respect Frank’s integrity. He remained faithful to what he believed throughout his being until the very end of his life.
Frank never really drew close to me as he had many others. He led me with a very loose hand. He allowed me great latitude in my own development of leadership skills, for which I’m very grateful. At one time I felt jealous of those he did draw close to but quickly realized that closeness to Frank, as in a personal friend, was not something that would have really benefited either of us. It became quite acceptable to me to have Frank be who he was and I’d forge my own path.
Frank missed the mark with me in some ways. He offered very little counsel when I moved towards my marriage to Vileen. I was quite alone in my process. I had very little information to go on that may have helped me discern my own feelings about marriage and was left with not much more than a blind trust of fate that in the end did not work out well. Frank’s marriage worked for him and I’m so thankful he had such closeness with his own wife, Anita.
Moving on, in 1990, Frank moved to Manila to develop a ministry there. I was given the position of director for Love in Action when he left. This left Frank and I to ongoing communication but instead of a daily reference to a common ministry, we had become comrades. He was respectful of my decisions while many times I knew he didn’t like them. But, I knew that I no longer had to conform to Frank’s ways of doing things. It allowed each of us freedom to be who we were.
Most recently, around 2008 Frank invited me to co-lead a weeklong retreat for men seeking answers about their struggle with homosexuality. When I arrived in Inverness California to the retreat center I discovered that Frank’s eyesight was failing and he therefore asked me to lead the entire retreat. It was a very fond memory of my relationship with Frank. It was as though he now saw me as an adult who was competent do it. It was very affirming. One night I went to the chapel and saw Frank sitting alone. I sat beside him and he began to weep, almost uncontrollably. He began to share with me some very intimate things on his heart. I saw Frank more vulnerably than ever before. It was a moment of connection that will last in my memories of Frank Worthen.
Later, in 2012, I struggled with deep anger towards Frank for what I learned through his teachings. But in processing that anger I realized that I actually formed my own prison regarding homosexuality and could blame no one but myself. My path led me to a very different belief about my own homosexuality. But at the same time, Frank’s journey led him to a marriage with Anita that was without a doubt one of the most endearing parts of his entire life, with the exception of his relationship with God. Mine was very different and therefore, I made decisions that were different.
As my life changed and my own path led me to come out as a gay man I knew Frank would vehemently disagree with my conclusions. So I chose to just remain distant. I had no need to please him, or to seek advice, as I knew it would differ from my convictions. So, Frank and Anita became part of my past journey but not a current connection.
This past year I received a surprise private message from Anita.
Frank n I are well…..just the stuff that happens with age.
I was remembering you and me and our friendship. I’m not looking to be part of your life but was remembering that I love you and wanted you to know that. All the other stuff is there also, don’t need to go there, you know.
Anyway, wanted you to know
I responded with affirmation and thankfulness for her writing.
I realize there is tremendous latitude for choice in our personal lives. I’ve grown to trust deeply in grace and unconditional love. I want nothing more than for Frank to find peace in eternity and for Anita to find peace for her years to come.
I realize there are many people who are struggling to work through their experience with ExGay ministry. I’ve worked through many things personally and therefore I have no reason for bitterness towards them, or the ministry they invited me to. For two decades Love In Action was a place of healing from my childhood wounds for me. It was also a place for many, many fond memories of connecting with endearing people and friends. I can say for those reasons I’m eternally grateful for Frank Worthen.