Follow up on the James Stabile story

On December 15, I posted a lengthy account of a young man, James Stabile, who was featured in a CBN segment extolling the healing power of a ministry in Dallas. According to the story, he met Dallas area minister Joe Oden, while cruising the gay bars in the Oak Lawn neighborhood. Rev. Oden, at the time believed the young man was converted and renounced his homosexuality. However, after awhile, James went off to Pure Life Ministries in Kentucky because the homosexuality had not gone away. Not long after getting there, Mr. Stabile was sent back home to Dallas. 

Since then I have spoken with Rev. Joe Oden, Paul Strand at CBN and by email to Michael Johnston at Pure Life Ministries. I hope to talk to Mr. Stabile today as well. I will be adding to this post throughout the day but, between other things, want to get some of this recorded.

Joe Oden encountered James Stabile during the first “purity siege” on September 4th. The event was referred to in the Dallas Voice. On that occasion, Joe asked James if he had ever felt the power of God. James said no, and Joe said would you like to. James said yes, and Joe touched him, led him a sinner’s prayer and said Fire, referring to the Holy Spirit. Again, Joe touched him and said Fire. At that point, James seemed visibly impacted, and Joe took his reaction as a sign that he had been “radically touched by the power of God.” Rev. Oden believed this was quite possible since his conversion experience was of a similar nature. While his issues were not sexuality related, he said he was delivered from his past life in a similar dramatic fashion. A video of this event is available on Google Videos and still embedded on the Lightthehighway website.

However, Rev. Oden said, he now believes James began lying to them immediately about his life and past. He said they did not know it at the time but he was untruthful about his parents, specifically mentioning his father. For instance, according to Rev. Oden, Mr. Stabile said that his father was on drugs. Also, according to Oden, James said his father would be very angry if James went to a deliverance ministry, even that his father might retaliate against the church in some way. At the time, Oden did not know that James father was Joseph Stabile, pastor of the oldest United Methodist church in Dallas.

The Heartland church found James a place to live with Bible School students where he stayed for about 6 weeks. Here is how the Lightthehighway website describes what happened after the purity siege.

One of the most astounding encounters of the evening was that of James, a 19 year-old homosexual atheist, who called the police in an effort to stop the Siege. One of the men from the Siege struck up a conversation with him, and James stated that he had never accepted Christ nor felt the power of God. The young man told James he was about to experience something that would change his life, and that is exactly what happened. James was one of many who fell under the power of the Holy Spirit that night.

He then accepted Christ as his Savior, and was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. We serve a miraculous God!

Immediately, James packed his Jeep and moved in with five students who attend Heartland School of Ministry, a Bible college in Irving, TX. He left his family, his partner, everything he knew, and everything that identified him with his past. His plan is to attend Heartland School of Ministry. In an interview, James said, “I am willing to talk to any homosexual, drug addict or sex addict because I know what hell feels like, but now I know what heaven feels like and it is so much better.”

In addition, the church helped him get a couple of jobs. However, looking back, Rev. Oden now believes that the lying continued. At first, Rev. Oden overlooked some of James’ untruths because he believed he really wanted help. “On the flip side,” Rev. Oden said, “he said he wanted to be free of homosexuality and live for God.” After awhile, however, Rev. Oden and College pastor Steve Baldwin, confronted James about various lies. For instance, according to Rev. Oden, James told one of his employers that the church wanted James to make more money on his job so he could give it to the church. However, according to Rev. Oden, this was not true. Concerns over truthfulness led to the Heartland School Ministry asking James to leave the shared arrangement with the students in mid-October.

Then, James moved in with another couple who did not attend Heartland. While with this couple, he continued to attend church, albeit sporadically. At about this time, Rev. Oden contacted Joseph Stabile who told Rev. Oden that James had bipolar disorder and was probably not taking his medication. According to Rev. Oden, Rev. Stabile was upset with him for not contacting him sooner. Rev. Oden explained that he did not do so because of the things James had said about him. Also, at that point, once he was aware of the need for medication, Rev. Oden said he told James to take his medication. “I told him, ‘James, you need your medication.’” Rev. Oden explained, “We believe in healings but God had not revealed to us that he was healed of that so we told him to take his medicine.” Rev. Oden believes James was off his medication the entire time he was in contact with the Heartland ministry, but flatly denies that the church recommended that course.

All this time James was saving money to get into Pure Life Ministries. Apparently, he was still struggling with sexuality issues. On October 31, about a week or two before he went to PLM, the Christian Broadcasting Network came to town to shoot a segment on the I-35 revival. CBN wanted to interview someone who was changed as an aspect of the purity siege and ongoing revival activities. Paul Strand of CBN told me he had seen the video of James’ conversion and read his story on the Lightthehighway website and wondered if James would be available for an interview.

Rev. Oden told me that he did not think James was ready to be interviewed. After all, he had moved out of the Bible School housing because of continual lying and apparently was not free of homosexual desires because he wanted to go to PLM to address this issue. Shortly after the CBN segment was filmed, James went off to PLM, spending about 2 or 3 weeks there (I am not completely clear on the timeline as yet). Rev. Oden does not know much about what PLM knew about Mr. Stabile. Those arrangements were made between PLM and Mr. Stabile. However, he believes PLM probably did know that Mr. Stabile was bipolar.

Back to the CBN interview, Paul Strand told me that he asked some Heartland staffers if James Stabile was a committed Christian and if they felt safe enough with James to put him on national television. Paul said he received no cautions from anyone. However, Paul did not talk to Joe Oden until the interview. On that interview, Mr. Oden said, “We laid hands on him…He was hit by the power of God and filled with the Holy Ghost … got plugged into our church, and is just living for God.” I asked Rev. Oden if he would restate that if he had the chance to do it over and he agreed that he would. It is still not clear to me who gave Paul Strand the thumbs up on Stabile.

As an aside, Rev. Oden wanted to correct an impression left by the CBN segment that the Heartland church believed Isaiah 35:8 refers specifically to Interstate 35. “We do not believe that, that was something CBN came up with,” Rev. Oden explained. “We see Isaiah 35:8 as a theme or a symbol for the revival we believe God wants to bring to this area,” he said. Thus, Isaiah 35:8 is a kind of metaphor for the revival campaign. Oden says the church has events planned for another Interstate highway soon and does not believe this was prophesied in the Bible.

Apparently the publicity is having some effect as CNN’s Anderson Cooper Show is slated to have a crew in Dallas today to interview Oden and others about the I-35 revival.

Regarding Mr. Stabile’s short stay at PLM, I can add this. Michael Johnston, Director of Media and Donor Relations, said in response to an email asking about Mr. Stabile, “As a matter of policy, we do not confirm or deny the enrollment of any individual in our counseling programs.” Well, this is sensible but it did make me wonder if the confidentiality policy was due to the residential program was licensed. I then asked if the counselors or program was licensed and Mr. Johnston replied that 

Our counselors are “biblical counselors” not “professional clinical counselors” and are clearly identified as such in descriptions of our programs. Our counseling follows a pastoral model based on our closely held religious beliefs and is, therefore, expressly excluded from regulation and licensing requirements of The Kentucky Board of Licensed Professional Counselors.

I also asked Mr. Johnston how PLM handles people who come in with diagnosed conditions and their medical needs and he replied as follows:

1. If an individual comes into the program and is taking a psychotropic medication, he must inform us and he must have a valid prescription.

2. For his protection, and the protection of others in the program, the counselor will dispense those medications.

3. If an individual desires to stop taking those medications while in the program or has decided to prior to entering the program, he must provide a written recommendation from the prescribing doctor. If that action results in behavior that either adversely affects the individual’s progress in the program or adversely affects others, they will be allowed to continue with the medication.

4. We do not routinely require screening of those coming into our programs by a “local psychiatrist or licensed counselor.

I have a call in to Rev. Stabile and hope to talk to him as well.

More to come…

UPDATE: Rev. Stabile has issued a statement here.