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.