Love in Action, pt. 3

In John Evans post on Wayne Besen’s website, he says the following:

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.)

I have now reviewed the relevant sections from The Third Sex, Ex-gays? There Are None, Anything but Straight and all of the statements from John Evans, interviewed Kent Philpott and Frank Worthen. I cannot see how anyone could come away from all of these sources and conclude that John Evans and Kent Philpott were the sole co-founders of LIA. Every source concurs on the following story:

In the early 1970s, Kent Philpott owned a Christian book store with a Christian counseling office. Within one week (in either 1973 or 1974), Kent Philpott had three conversations with homosexual men: John Evans, Frank Worthen and another man who I am attempting to locate (he is Bob in The Third Sex?). Bob was seeking counseling, John Evans had previously had some conversations with Kent but that week had disclosed his homosexuality with prompting from Kent and Frank Worthen was already engaged in an outreach and wanted to make Kent aware of it. That weekend, Kent called all three men and asked them to meet together to consider how best to minister to homosexuals. Within two weeks, the group met with at least six and perhaps as many as 10 homosexually oriented men and women there along with Kent Philpott.

The group was viewed differently by different participants. Kent and Frank and perhaps Bob viewed the group as a encouragement to gays and lesbians to live within a traditional Christian sexual ethic. John and perhaps the women there seemed to see the group as a way for the conservative church to welcome and affirm homosexuals without reference to behavioral conformity to a traditional ethic. The group wanted a name and one of the women suggested Love in Action. This name was agreeable to all concerned and so it was adopted for the support group.

I will leave it to the reader to determine founderhood. I think a case could be made for all those at the original meeting being considered co-founders, in the sense that they were all there at the first meeting. This description does not make for a pithy soundbite, but apparently it is what happened.

It does not appear to me that there was much that was founded. The group was a loosely organized support meeting with very little structure. John Evans envisioned a gay affirming group and Kent and Frank envisioned a support group to encourage people to remain consistent with traditional morality. After awhile John Evans had a car accident and was in the hospital for nearly a year. During his recovery, he began to meet with pro-gay Christians (he called himself and the others LIA “dropouts”) but apparently maintained some LIA contacts at the same time. Eventually he transitioned to Evangelicals Concerned.

When I think of a founder of something, I think of someone (or several someones) who conceptualizes it, organizes it and shepherds it to reality. Frank Worthen was already doing ministry and continued to do it through the support group which evolved into more of an organized ministry. I can understand how Frank Worthen saw LIA as a continuation of what he was already doing through the distribution of his audio tapes. Very quickly, Frank was the leader of the new group.

I have found some interesting discrepancies. One relates to John Evans’ year long hospitalization due to a car accident. He has said that this occured after Kent Philpott told him to leave Ron Morano, his partner. (More on this later, but Kent Philpott disputes the account of John Evans.)

From the post on Wayne Besen’s website, Mr Evans says: 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.

However, in the Pennington book, Evans said the car accident was in another man’s car as they were on their way to the other man’s home for a sexual encounter. He did not say what happened to the other man. Either way, it appears that Mr. Evans was pretty distraught at the time. But these are disparate accounts and might call for some caution in interpreting the accuracy of other recollections and perceptions as well.

I am going to continue with my explorations but I am convinced that it is misleading to say that Kent Philpott and John Evans were the sole co-founders of LIA.

11 thoughts on “Love in Action, pt. 3”

  1. Right — ministry participant, as they all were. And you’ve already mentioned earlier that the three had a parting of ways over which direction to go (with Evans going one way, the two going another).

    Without going through all the pages before and after (which I’m not going to do today!) to find the REASON WHY this occured — actually, I cannot recall it being mentioned in any case — this does mean that Besen (from Evans) did said that Worthen was involved from the beginning. And that there was a later falling out.

    This is what you also found. On that you actually agree with Besen (don’t drop dead) — and your claim that Besen didn’t include Worthen simply is not true.

    (To recap: that was what I asked, not who was to blame for the split; and on that I’m sure we’d get three different versions).

    Are you sure you haven’t got this LIA foundation story confused with the “Exodus founders” mythology quotes etc??? You’ve talked about that and Besen before.

    Next bit.

    Yeeesss, that was Randy Thomas… ack, just noticed that was not in the paragraph before the quote. Sorry if that threw you.

    The fact he hasn’t corrected it is of no consequence.

    What should trouble you (it did me) is that Randy SHOULD NEVER have made such a blatently untrue statement. He’s been involved in Exodus for some 13 years and is the membership director AND is a current poster boy and frequent spokeman.

    What Randy said wasn’t a “urgh, you’re right, that does read confusingly doesn’t it” — but a flat out falsehood. Should I believe that he did not know better, despite how firmly he spoke on the subject, and that it needed you to eventually point out his error?

    Or, alternatively, that Randy didn’t have a clue but still came out with a strongly-worded barrage against a couple of people?

    Given that we’re all being asked to accept their testimonials at face value AND consider that they know what they are talking about — it doesn’t bode well to be considered either untruthful or clueless.

  2. As for Besen’s book and Worthen, he says on page 65 that he was a “ministry participant” and on 66 that Philpott kicked Evans out and replaced him with Worthen. This is not how it happened according to any of the sources I have reviewed.

    As for the statement you found, I assume this is from Randy Thomas’ blog. He wrote that before I wrote my piece concerning the founders of Exodus that is now posted on their website. I don’t know why Randy hasn’t corrected his blog but he was aware of the placement of the article on the website and sent it to all ministry directors when it came out.

  3. Hmmm, I presume you mean the A Trilogy of Tragedy chapter?

    Regarding the statement about Philpott and Evans being the co-founders, Wayne Besen says this in his book

    But that’s not what I’m reading right now in front of me. While Besen does concentrate on the story of John Evans, it is clear what and who is going on around that story. It does read that Evans had more to do with Philpott, at least on a personal level, than others; but Worthen is mentioned.

    Even the index entry for Worthen includes “LIA foundation, 65, 66”; so I’m not really sure why you’d think Besen said that.

    As for the follow-on — I thought it was concluded that “founder” could be those there at the start (whether they held up their hand for a formal position) OR only those on the original Board. As there were rather a few more than just 5 people involved in the “start-up”, I’d lean to the former. If I remeber, you leant to the latter.

    You’ve also reminded me of something I meant to pass on (and, forgot). What would you think of the following?:

    “And the two men [Bussee/Cooper] they mention as “founders” of Exodus who left their wives for each other… were really just volunteers and one helped with the first conference. Neither man, while around, were ever staff or on the board.”

  4. I probably should not have posted anything until I was more confident in it. I guess I am thinking of my blog as a place to think out loud. That is what I have doing all along here. Let me say that all of this is a work in progress until it is published on my website or in some official capacity.

    Regarding the statement about Philpott and Evans being the co-founders, Wayne Besen says this in his book and it is repeated all over the Internet (no time to find sources now – Google, Yahoo 🙂

    I do not think Frank is lying. From his perspective, he was already engaged in a ministry, Philpott asked him to join with him in this support group and he eventually brought it into what he was doing at LIA.

    I hope to bring all of this together in some form that I will give to LIA and see what they do with it.

    I got interested in this awhile back because of statements like this: “The founder of every ex-gay ministry in America has proved to be an extraordinary failure. The two founders of Exodus International, [the world’s largest ‘ex-gay’ organization], divorced their wives to move in together.” – Wayne Besen, as quoted in an October 8, 2004 article by Natalie Troyer of the Washington Times.

    I do not believe this viewpoint is supported by what I have found and that is the big picture as far as I am concerned. You have torture the concept of founder and ignore the contributions and lives of several people to get to a conclusion that “the founder of every ex-gay ministry in America has proved to be an extraodinary failure.”

  5. Oh, Warren, I am most certainly reading what you’re writing. Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we:

    I have had contact with Kent Philpott and Frank Worthen, both of whom convened the first meeting of Love in Action. Both deny these statements [“Evans, a gay man, founded what may be the first modern ex-gay group in San Raphael, Calif. in 1973”]. Evans was being mentored by Philpott and came along to a joint meeting of Philpott’s mentoring group and Frank Worthen’s group. At that meeting, the approximately 15 people present decided together that Love in Action was a better name for the ministy than the previous name (Brother Frank’s Tape Ministry). With all due respect to Frank Worthen, I agree.
    –you on your own blog, Aug 1.

    As to Besen on Philpott, page 66 of Anything but Straight: “I went through a divorce and I know they pretty much wrote me out of the history of it[LIA].”

    So in thirteen days, you’ve gone from making the claim Philpott and Worthen started the ministry with Evans getting “mentored,” and the group trying to decide what to rename Worthen’s ministry (even though two years later Philpott’s book refers to that tape ministry as separate and distinct and still so-named), to “Worthen was there just as much as Evans,” and Philpott giving his ministry over to Worthen, and you “leaving it to the reader to determine founderhood.”

    Now grantdale has joined me in asking why you’re giving Worthen a free pass for his misstatements.

    I do want to “get it” Warren. When we’re talking about gay-change ministry, and Philpott used to do it, but isn’t doing it any more, and tells Besen, “I’m an old time gospel preacher,” and is doing televangelism and not gay-change, then, yes, I can say that he “gave up on it,” without it having anything to do with whether I agree with him or not.

    You’re just not being consistent, except that everything you say seems to be the “spin” that you claim to be trying to expose.

    Now how about it. You gonna call Worthen on his lies? You gonna call Love In Action on their falsehoods on their website? Or are you still worried about who was driving whose car when John Evans had his accident.

    Better yet, how about how many founders of ex-gay ministries are still ex-gay? How many were heterosexual and are now in other endeavors? You’ve opened Pandora’s box here. You’re not only stuck with Evans, despite your early desire to play him off as some tangential third party, you’re stuck with rooms full of people you had to let in to keep from making liars out of Love in Action. How many of those 15 at that “name change” meeting are still straight?

  6. I did have one question (to start with ha ha).

    Who said (and when) “that Kent Philpott and John Evans were the sole co-founders of LIA”? I’ve missed something?

    This is what John said, as example, recently:

    “Kent Philpott, Frank Worthen, and I were the only original members there.”

    He freely acknowledges the others and also states that there were, at least in John’s view, other “original” members.

    Kent has not been making public comments, for whatever reason, and the only person I see who has consistently been denying (or hiding) the involvement of others is Worthen.

    You have had very little to say about Frank, or the consistency/accuracy of his public statements — which is curious…

    Also wondering if Kent had an answer on the publishing issue the The Third Sex?

    (Oops, that makes it two questions.)

  7. What you are writing bares little connection to my posts.

    The more you discounted Evans’ role, the more you effaced Worthen’s as well, because Worthen appears even less grounded in its beginnings than Evans.

    You are not reading what I writing or you simply don’t want to get it. Worthen was there just as much as Evans. All accounts say that. He was one of the three people that contacted Philpott and prompted Philpott’s excited call to all three men.

    since Philpott has given up on ex-gay programs as well. How about “the sole founder gave up?”

    Where are you getting this? He had his own problems but is still in ministry and is still supportive of LIA. He gave the program over to (there he is again) Frank Worthen but he didn’t discount it to me or to Besen in his book. You may not agree with him, but you cannot say he gave up on it.

  8. Yes, Warren, that is the dilemma, isn’t it? That’s the quicksand I referred to in another post when you were flailing away trying to take the sting off of Evans’ denunciation of the program.

    The more you discounted Evans’ role, the more you effaced Worthen’s as well, because Worthen appears even less grounded in its beginnings than Evans.

    And if you get rid of both of them, then Philpott is the sole founder, which makes Love In Action’s current statements a blatant lie, along with your charactization that this issue is somehow one of “spin” by critics of ex-gays, since Philpott has given up on ex-gay programs as well. How about “the sole founder gave up?”

    I think the real genesis of this, is that ex-gay groups are not comfortable with the truth that the majority of the people who begin them come to the conclusion they are ineffective and either close them or leave them to the minority who think they are effective.

    You’re in pretty deep water on the Exodus claim too. Its obvious you can’t get rid of Bussee, because he thought Exodus up, and he’s still alive to defend himself. Gary Cooper’s dead, and he wasn’t on the board so you’re pretty safe there.

    But the gotcha on Exodus is that when you look closely, questions like “what happened to Exit” suggest themselves, and suddenly you’ve got the parade of forgotten programs that populate Pennington’s book that underscore the original question you’re trying to discount as “spin.”

    Truth has this annoying habit of rushing in like seawater, Warren. If you frame the questions so narrowly that you can cut out all the failures, you cut out the successes too, and make them liars in their claims that they were sole founders.

    I know you didn’t endorse Worthen’s claims. You excused them, as opposed to Evans claims, which you attacked.

    If you want to be seen as a man with academic integrity and intellectual honesty, you’ve got to treat these “founding members” evenhandedly. That means you have to show at least as much concern over Worthern’s sole founder claims which bear directly on the question at hand, as who was in whose car during Evans’ accident, which doesn’t.

  9. PS – I did not endorse Frank’s status as a sole founder. All of those at the first meeting were founding members. What became LIA the organization was a continuation of Frank’s preexisting organization. By that time John Evans was not really a part of it by his own admission. Let me remind anyone reading this, my main interest in this is to correct the spin put on the issue of the founders by critics of ex-gays. If those same critics said, “one of the original (or organizing) members of the Love in Action support group, John Evans, now believes LIA is destructive,” I would have no problem with it.

  10. Frank is Frank Worthen and if mentioning him in the preface disqualifies him as a founder then the others are likewise disqualified. I noted that Frank had a pre-existing effort going on and he came to the first group as a continuation of what he was doing. No one knew in that first group what was going to come of it but what came of it was something that Frank Worthen stayed with and became the Director of. Love it or hate it but LIA took on Frank Worthen’s perspectives and became an organization instead of a support group under Frank’s guidance.

  11. What I find lacking in your analysis, is a resounding endorsement of Frank Worthen’s status as sole founder. I’ll agree that a case could be made for any number of people as founders. Some sources indicate as many as 15 people were involved.

    Yet today’s Love in Action website claims only one founder. Worthen is noted twice in the book The Third Sex, in both instances in ways that suggest he was outside the organization.

    In the acknowledgement on page v, after thanking the six people for sharing their lives, Philpott thanks Frank for his “encouragement and suggestions.” Unless Frank is also your elusive “Bob,” and it was written this way to protect his anonymity, this suggests he was outside LIA.

    The end of the the introduction claims: “Thus it was we started a fellowship for homosexuals. Ted, Bob, Eve and Frank all helped. This book is our attempt to share the good news with others.”

    Then, in chapter 9, on page 182, the first paragraph reads:

    A significant part of this chapter comes from my associate and friend, Frank. He has been a homosexual almost all his life and has prepared several tapes on the subject. Two of these tapes, Counseling the Homosexual and Pitfalls have been especially useful to me.

    An asterisk lists Frank’s address (seperate from Philpotts) for inquiries about the tapes.

    This sounds to me like somebody who had no interest in being a founder, someone who was pursuing his own ministry, and wanted to keep it that way.

    So while I’ll grant you that many people were involved, I can’t see how anybody can come away from the entirety of Third Sex or Ex-Gays with the view that Frank Worthen was what Love In Action claims on his behalf.

    Instead of worrying about who was driving whose car at the time of John Evans’ accident, I’d suggest you address the misstatement on Love In Action’s website about its own history.

    For people who claim to be dispensing the truth about the “gay lifestyle” to confused teenagers, its pretty damning that they can’t even correctly represent their own history.

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