Author Wayne Besen has released an explosive letter by Love In Action’s co-founder and former ex-gay John Evans, which rebukes gay conversion groups saying that they “shattered lives.” The group he started has recently made headlines because it runs a boot camp for gay teens called “Refuge” that tries to turn adolescents heterosexual, often against their will.
“In the past 30 years since leaving the ‘ex-gay’ ministry I have seen nothing but shattered lives, depression and even suicide among those connected with the ‘ex-gay’ movement,” Evans writes in his letter to John Smid, Love In Action’s current director. “I challenge Christians to investigate all sides of the issue of being gay and Christian. The Church has been wrong in the past regarding moral issues and I’m sure there will be more before Christ returns.”
Evans, a gay man, founded what may be the first modern ex-gay group in San Raphael, Calif. in 1973, along with a heterosexual preacher Kent Philpott. Evans left his life partner of ten years to start the gay conversion group. He later dropped out after he realized it didn’t work and his best friend committed suicide because he could not turn heterosexual.
“Having the founder of Love In Action step forward to admonish the ministry he started speaks to the utter hopelessness and futility of these groups, not to mention the danger they represent,” said Wayne Besen, Author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. “Most disturbing are the compulsory gay boot camps for teens which are tantamount to child abuse. They should immediately be shut down.”
In May 2005, 16-year old Zach Stark told his fundamentalist Christian parents that he is gay. Horrified by the news, they vowed to fix him by sending him to an “ex-gay” boot camp in Memphis to be reprogrammed. Like a modern day message in a bottle, Zach used his Internet blog to send an SOS.
“I told my parents I was gay,” he wrote. “This didn’t go over very well,” and “They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they ‘raised me wrong.’ Today, my mother, father and I had a very long talk in my room, where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays.”
The next day, Zach threw another bottle into the cyber-sea.
“It’s like boot camp. If I do come out straight, I’ll be so mentally unstable and depressed it won’t matter.”
Here’s John Evans’ letter:
July 30, 2005
Love In Action
ATTN: John Smid, Director
Dear Mr. Smid:
We as born again Christians believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. We Basically agree on the fundamentals of salvation. I’ve been a born again Christian for over 50 years and I’ve noticed Christians reading the same scriptural passages, yet arriving at different personal interpretations regarding moral issues. Some of these issues that have divided Christians within recent years have been slavery, women’s rights, the Charismatic movement and other issues, including divorce.
Within my lifetime, I’ve known members of my own family being asked to leave churches they had attended for years over issues of divorce and re-marriage, yet later welcomed back when a different interpretation of scripture was explained.
Today, the subject of homosexuality is being discussed among Christians. Most Christians find the subject too uncomfortable to make a personal investigation, but rely upon the traditional Christian condemnation of homosexuality. There are more scriptures dealing with divorce than homosexuality, yet, today, Christians give each other the freedom of personal interpretation regarding divorce. I’m sure homosexuality will be added to the long list of disagreements among Christians.
In 1973, when I helped organize the “e-gay” ministry called Love In Action, I admit I had never heard of a different view of homosexuality or made an effort to research the issue. I held to the traditional Christian condemnation that all homosexuality was sinful.
One day, I read a booklet by Dr. Ralph Blair called, “An Evangelical Look At Homosexuality.” I prayed before reading this booklet and was shocked, yet refreshed, because I had never heard such remarks regarding this subject from another Evangelical Christian.
I wrote Ralph Blair that I would like to discuss his views regarding this matter and his return letter informed me he could meet with me at my home in San Raphael, Calif. The night he arrived I invited several of my friends who were also involved with Love in Action to join us. We studied the scriptures dealing with homosexuality. I had struggled most of my life with this matter and I would continue to try to be “ex-gay” if it were God’s will. Over the past 30 years I have studied both sides of this subject and now know it’s not my sexual orientation that’s wrong or sinful. But one should allow the Holy Spirit to guide his or her life whatever one’s sexual orientation. I challenge other Christians to study the scriptures to show yourself approved unto God and don’t be afraid to challenge the traditional condemnation of homosexuality.
The Church has been wrong in the past regarding other issues and I’m sure there will be others before Jesus returns. I know my views regarding homosexuality and being Christian does not agree with most Christians and I’ve been accused of being “deceived and tricked by the Devil.”
God alone knows my heart and Jesus Christ means too much to me to go against the leading of the Holy Spirit as he guides me as a born again Christian. Someday, each of us will stand alone before God to give an account of our lives and I want Him to be satisfied with me.
I just returned from the 25th annual Conference of Evangelicals Concerned, a group of gay Christians who know that it is possible to be both gay and Christian. In the past 30 years since leaving the “ex-gay” ministry I have seen nothing but shattered lives, depression and even suicide among those connected with the “ex-gay” movement.
At the E.C. conference I met gay Christians who have an even closer relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit seemed to hover over the entire conference. The closing communion service seemed as if Jesus Himself was there saying, “Come to me all who labor and are laden with the burden of trying to conform to the impossible conclusions of others, and I will give you rest.”
Again, I challenge Christians to investigate all sides of the issue of being gay and Christian. The Church has been wrong in the past regarding moral issues and I’m sure there will be more before Christ returns.
Love in Christ,
Original Member of Love In Action, 1973
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.