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.
BOOK REVIEW: Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm, edited by Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings
A new book by Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings rightly exposes how psychology has been overtaken by psychologists who advance social advocacy over mental health care. Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm documents how the mental health professions have been overtaken by social activism to the detriment of scientific inquiry and quality mental health care. Anyone in mental health or who cares about the profession should read this book.
Wright and Cummings are not conservatives, at least in the sense that they necessarily support social conservatism. However, they have been pragmatic and keen observers of the mental health professions over the past 40 years. As a young counselor, I first met Nick Cummings when American Biodyne, the first real managed behavioral health care company, came to Ohio as a manager of the state employees behavioral health care. This was around 1985 at the beginning of the managed care revolution in mental health. I just started my counseling private practice in Portsmouth, Ohio and was looking to get on board the managed care train. Biodyne did something very novel; all therapists in the preferred network were required to be trained by the company leaders, including president, Nick Cummings. In all my years of education both in school and post grad, I have never listened to a better trainer than Nick Cummings. He believed therapy could be a powerful influence in a person’s life but it was never to be used to gratify the therapist or to promote a political agenda. That same theme permeates this book.
Cummings and Wright believe that modern psychology has been taken over by forces of social activism and as a consequence face irrelevance. Here are two quotes from the book regarding psychology and sexual orientation therapy:
“In the current climate, it is inevitable that conflict arises among the various subgroups in the marketplace. For example, gay groups within the APA [American Psychological Association] have repeatedly tried to persuade the association to adopt ethical standards that prohibit therapists from offering psychotherapeutic services designed to ameliorate “gayness” on the basis that such efforts are unsuccessful and harmful to the consumer. Psychologists who do not agree are termed homophobic. Such efforts are especially troubling because they abrogate the patient’s right to therapist and determine therapeutic goals. They also deny the reality of data demonstrating that psychotherapy can be effective in changing sexual preferences in patients who have a desire to do so.” (From the introduction, page xxx, emphasis added).
“Although the APA is reluctant or unable to evaluate questionable practices and has thus avoided addressing the issue of best practices, this did not prevent its Council of Representatives in 2002 from stampeding into a motion to declare the treatment of homosexuality unethical. This was done with the intent of perpetuating homosexuality, even when the homosexual patient willingly and even eagerly seeks treatment…Vigorously pushed by the gay lobby, it was eventually seen by a sufficient number of Council members as runaway political correctness and was defeated by the narrowest of margins…Although the resolution was narrowly defeated, this has not stopped its proponents from deriding colleagues who provide such treatment to patients seeking it.” (From Chapter One, by Nick Cummings and William O’Donohue, pp. 17-18).
There are fine chapters regarding the misuse of the term homophobia (“It is most unfortunate when scientists attempt to pass implicit or explicit pejorative evaluations of individuals holding certain open and debatable value positions as part of their science”), abortion, pluralism, political correctness and so on. As noted, Wright and Cummings are less concerned about the social outcomes of psychology’s misadventures into social activism than they are with the consequences to the profession. They paint a picture of psychologists being unable to support themselves as psychologists because the profession has become enamored with social change.
Mental health care in the US is adequate but barely so. Any practicing counselors knows how difficult it is to find quality services anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of this country. Cummings and Wright correctly observe that the professions preoccupation with social activism threaten to make the professional associations irrelevant as forces for quality and affordable health care for all people. The book was apparently completed before both APA’s went headlong into the same sex marriage debate, but I believe favoring same sex marriage is just more of the same activity lamented by the Cummings, Wright and colleagues. When it comes to mental health delivery, Nick Cummings has rarely been wrong in his predictions. I don’t think he is wrong this time.
Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm, edited by Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings is published by Routledge.
I didn’t see the segment but the article about it is on the ABC website. Love in Action is getting much attention lately but the media are making generalizations that are staggering. Here are the four major ones that come to mind.
1. LIA is lumped in with all reparative therapies. This is inaccurate. LIA is not a therapy program but a ministry model to assist clients to identify with Christ and Christian teaching. As such, not everyone will agree with all their practices (I don’t) but I will defend their right to practice their Christianity in the peaceful manner that they do so. Reporters need to distinguish between ministry based programs and therapists.
2. Reparative therapy is an umbrella term for change programs and therapy. Not true. Reparative therapy is based on psychoanalytic ideas and is associated with Elizabeth Moberly and Joe Nicolosi. Umbrella terms might be reorientation therapy or sexual identity therapy. For instance, I believe that sexual orientation is a murky concept and fluid but I am not a reparative therapist. I would label what I do as sexual identity therapy since I attempt to help a person integrate a sexual identity that is consistent with their total personal identity.
3. The APA, AMA, ACA, you name it, have all said reparative therapy doesn’t work. Not really. What they oppose are therapies that take the stance that all gays must enter treatment because homosexuality is mental disorder to be cured. This broad statement implies that seeking to live in accord with one’s beliefs does not work and all change approaches have been proven ineffective. Not true. I challenge readers to produce such studies.
4. Belief in change is a conservative Christian thing. I agree that many who are conservatively Christian believe in change in sexuality but there are those who are pretty far from CC who believe change occurs as well.
Going forward, I hope reporters not only seek to produce a “news product” but also learn about the diversity of views on this issue. Otherwise, they are simply reinforcing distortions.
How is this a responsible program?
I watched the CNN/Paula Zahn show regarding Love in Action. Good reporting is allowing the principle characters to tell their stories and to report both sides of related controversies. This program came close but fell short. Director John Smid was interviewed. Fair enough. A satisified graduate and a dissatisfied graduate were interviewed. Fair enough. But then the bias was in interviewing APA’s Jack Drescher as the lone representative of the professional class. Fair reporting would be to interview a professional who has no dog in the fight (Drescher does not qualify) or balance his perspective with another professional who takes another view. Humorous, however, was Paula Zahn’s closing when she referred to the concept of change as if it were an idea from another planet.