John Evans says in his recent letter to Wayne Besen: “Now to actually claim that I was never a part of the original group that founded Love In Action boggles my mind.”
I am not claiming Mr. Evans was not there. I am exploring the roles people who were there played and I am exploring the spin surrounding the issue. My curiosity was piqued by Wayne Besen’s claims that none of the ex-gay organizational founders ever changed or remained straight. I have learned that the claim is not true as it relates to Exodus and I am now looking into that claim about Love in Action and may do so about other groups (for instance I have recently learned that there were two founders of Homosexuals Anonymous and one of them is still straight after 30 years).
Well, it is better than nothing. John Evans has commented about the beginnings of LIA through Wayne Besen’s website. I am still comparing time lines from all three men, Frank Worthen, Kent Philpott and John Evans but it appears there are some differences.
I think this whole issue is confounded by the use of the word founder. As it appears from both this post from Mr. Evans and what I am hearing from Mr. Worthen and Rev. Philpott, there were possibly as many as ten founders, if by founder we mean those who were at the meeting when the name “Love in Action” was suggested. Love in Action as such did not exist before that meeting. John Evans in this post makes it sound like everyone dropped out. Frank Worthen didn’t, and there is at least one other “founder” who is still ex-gay although I do not have permission to use his name.
As the reference to the Third Sex? makes clear, there were multiple organizers and participants who helped make these early LIA meetings go. Statements such as: “Former ex-gay John Evans, who co-founded Love In Action with Rev. Kent Philpott in 1973…” are misleading.
I think a more accurate description would be, “one of several founding members,” or “one of several original participants.” Mr. Evans’ post makes it even more clear that LIA at the beginning was little more than people gathering in a group for Bible study and or mutual encouragement. Furthermore Mr. Evans says in this most recent post that he didn’t envision a change ministry when he came to the first LIA meeting. This does not sound like he and Kent Philpott were on the same page, as one would expect with co-founders. A participant yes, a founder? I guess maybe this is in the eye of the beholder.
Here’s an example of “an expert is only someone who agrees with me” kind of thinking. This opinion piece mentions the book Destructive Trends in Mental Health edited by Rogers Wright and Nick Cummings but then seems to damn it because it was reviewed by Dean Byrd on the Narth website. Does this guy even know who Wright and Cummings are?
This look backwards is interesting to say the least.
For example, there are conflicting reports on the internet about when Jack McIntyre committed suicide. One source says 1975 and the best sources say 1977. I have found a death notice that places his death in early 1977 and can find nothing in 1975. This is relevant to the story for a variety of reasons, one of which is the frequent claim that John Evans left Love in Action after his friend Jack McIntyre’s suicide. A corollary to that claim is the one that Jack McIntyre spent 4 years in Love in Action and was driven to suicide by that group.
I continue to look for contact information for John Evans to get his perspective on these matters. Without that, there is reason to doubt these claims. According to a note by Rembert Truluck on his webpage, the first Evangelicals Concerned chapter was started in Marin county with Ralph Blair making a trip to see John Evans. This is consistent with Frank Worthen’s recollections that John Evans and Jack McIntyre and several other people left Love in Action about three months after the name Love in Action was adopted to join with Ralph Blair. This would have been late 1974 or early 1975, which is also given on the EC website as the founding year of EC. Since Jack McIntyre committed suicide in 1977, he would have been away from LIA and with EC for about two years. Also, John Evans would have left LIA before the suicide, not after as has been claimed. He may waited until after McIntyre’s death to denounce the ministry but he and McIntyre seem to have left LIA long before the suicide.
Most of these claims about LIA and Exodus seems to come from a common source but the claims are never sourced. I continue to explore and talk to people…
Strange as it may seem, my sincere effort to listen to those asking me to consider other views of the founders of ex-gay ministries has taken an interesting turn. I asked Wayne Besen for the contact information of John Evans who was involved in Love in Action early on and here is the response I received. Must have struck some kind of nerve.
Zach Stark has spoken out on a new blog (he took the old one down). He generally has good things to say about Love in Action and he now wants to be left alone. I am impressed with the generally mature responses he is giving to those posting on his blog.
No comment as yet from the Queer Action Coalition, the folks who broadcast Zach’s original blog to the world.
From Wayne Besen’s news release regarding John Evans:
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.
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 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.
John Evans left the group several months after it started. He formed a pro-gay group. The suicide referred to in the Besen release occurred after Mr. Evans left Love in Action.
More to come…
Transcript of the CNN interview.
Wayne Besen is circulating a letter from John Evans critical of Love in Action. Besen claims Evans was a co-founder of Love in Action. In Evans letter, he doesn’t say he was a co-founder. Evans refers to himself as an “original member” and an organizer of LIA. According to several independent sources I consulted, John Evans cannot be considered a founder; Frank Worthen was the founder.
Frank Worthen started Love in Action in 1973 along with support from a minister named Kent Philpott. John Evans may have been one of the original people to respond to Frank’s 1973 ad about Love in Action.
Why the focus on the founders of these groups?
I just made contact with Kent Philpott, the pastor who all agree was a co-founder of Love in Action. He confirms that Frank Worthen was the other co-founder of Love in Action. John Evans came into the ministry as a member after it was started. He and others (60 plus people the first year) surely did contribute to the organization of the effort but according to Rev. Philpott (who knew nothing of the recent focus on LIA), John Evans was not a founder.
I am at a loss to understand the fascination with founders. I know of no one who doubts that some people change their mind and beliefs about homosexuality, leave ex-gay ministries and live as gay. Even if these false claims (e.g., about Exodus founders and now Love in Action founders) were true, it would not prove what that change never occurs. By confirming the real story about the founding of LIA and Exodus, I do not think all people will now be required to believe change always occurs. One of the main issues for me is credibility. I have come to the conclusion that I believe nothing from those who make these claims unless I confirm them myself.
Another addendum (8/6/05)
I am learning that all of this is pretty complicated. For instance I was wrong above that John Evans was one of 60 people who were merely organizers. He was one of the original group that helped name Love in Action. There are other aspects of the story though that I am looking into. Here is what I can say at this time. Love in Action would have occured without the involvement of Mr. Evans but it would not have happened without Kent Philpott and Frank Worthen. And I think all agree that it was an unnamed woman in the first meeting who suggested the name. Also, the suicide attributed to Love in Action has been done so quite unfairly in my assessment.
Provided nothing breaks in London or Aruba, I will be on CNN Sunday night at 10:15pm opposite the president of the Human Rights Campaign. We apparently are to talk about LIA, Zach Stark and reorientation therapy. My understanding is that Zach Stark has completed the program and is doing well.