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Posts for August, 2009

James Stabile Update

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2009

In December 2007, we presented a few commentaries about the 700 Club testimony of James Stabile about his miraculous cure from homosexuality – and his subsequent flight from ex-gay resident group Pure Life Ministries.

Dallas Voice has a follow up article providing more detail and discussing what James is doing today.

Along with 45 other men, Stabile says he spent more than three “horrible” months in the conversion therapy program at Pure Life, until they finally kicked him out for being an “unteachable spirit.”

“They teach you to hate yourself,“ Stabile recounts, “and you think everyone else must hate you, too. … I had turned my back on who I was.”

Stabile says he felt trapped at Pure Life, and that they would not let him leave. He says in order to get expelled from the program, he and another young man staged a kiss in their support group.

“We couldn’t leave, so we made out in our therapy session to get kicked out,” he says. “They held you there by force … in the middle of nowhere.”

But he came out of the experience as a stronger person. “I am a straight camp survivor,” he says, “and I’m proud to be gay now.”

Currently, James seems in a much happier place. He has “found salvation and God’s love” through his participation at Cathedral of Hope, a UCC mega-church with a primary outreach to gays and lesbians. Stablile wants to take his experience of recovery from Pure Life and use it to help others who may be disoriented and feel out of place when they leave. He is starting a new ex-ex-gay organization called Love Actually.

“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”

It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.

He says he found an online home at BeyondExGay.com, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”

“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.

I wish James well on his venture and hope that he can be helpful to others who are seeking to find themselves again after their experiences in ex-gay ministries.

Mental Illness and the I-35 “Miracle”

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2007

I’ve already mentioned that a very good childhood friend of mine developed schizophrenia when we were in high school (he wasn’t diagnosed until his mid-twenties however, despite years of counseling). But wait, that’s not all. During a summer session in college, one of my four dorm roommates was particularly interesting. His name was Codé; he was French and rode a Peugeot bicycle around campus. We all thought something didn’t add up to his story though. There were just too many odd twists and inconsistencies. Then after about a month, he disappeared and nobody knew what happened.

Well, toward the end of the term, we finally learned that “Codé” was in a psychiatric hospital on the West Coast. He wasn’t from France, but he was from Versailles, Kentucky (where they pronounce it “ver-SAILS”). And he was bipolar. The moral: when someone is acting very strangely, there’s a good chance we’re dealing with a serious mental illness.

Warren Throckmorton has been digging further into the “Highway to Heaven” story. He talked with three principals in the story: Rev. Joe Oden of the Dallas-area Heartland World Ministries Church, Paul Strand at CBN, and Michael Johnston at Pure Life Ministries. The interesting thing that’s coming out is that they all saw clear signs of mental illness, but they all chose to ignore it. Unless there’s a worse possibility: that they are not trained to recognize it when they encounter someone who’s mentally ill.

The episode with Codé surprised all of us. But then, none of us were studying to be mental health professionals, nor did any of us pretend to participate in the neo-counseling netherworld in which so many ex-gay ministries operate. Heartland World Ministries and Pure Life are being supremely reckless when they take on the task of “counseling” those who they say are suffering from a “pathological” condition while refusing to submit themselves to professional regulation. They get away with it by saying that they’re Christian counselors, not psychologists, psychiatrists or, you know, real counselors. But they’re doing nobody any favors. What’s more, their purposeful lack of professionalism exposes them and their clients to potentially serious consequences. Heartland and Pure Life are lucky things didn’t spin tragically out of control. But the luckiest of all is James Stabile. Damn lucky.

“Highway to Holiness” Becomes Highway To Hell

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2007

Remember the street evangelists who sought to make I-35 a Highway to Holiness? Pat Roberson enthusiastically reported on this revival effort on his television show a while back. That report prominently featured James Stabile, a young man who was supposedly cured of his homosexuality at a “purity siege” held in Dallas’ Oak Lawn gayborhood.

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John Wright of the Dallas Voice has followed up on the story. He contacted Joe Oden of Heartland World Ministries Church, who was also featured in Robertson’s report, to discover what happened after Stabile was “cured”:

Oden told me Stabile had been shipped off to Pure Life Ministries, which operates a residential treatment program in Northern Kentucky.

“It’s a program for people who’ve lived alternative lifestyles just to get totally clean,” Oden told me.

Upon further investigation, I discovered Pure Life Ministries is also the place where Mike Johnston — remember him?! — is director of donor and media relations.

Johnston was the HIV-positive “ex-gay” who was featured in the anti-gay video “It’s Not Gay” before he was busted in 2003 for hosting orgies and having unsafe sex with other men on the side. (Despite all that, the American Family Association is still selling his video as if nothing every happened.)

Wright also contacted Stabile’s father, the Rev. Joseph Stabile, who is the pastor at Dallas’ oldest church, the Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church. Rev. Stabile said he’s fully accepting of his son’s sexual orientation and believes that being gay is neither a choice nor a sin. When asked what happened, he said that his son simply left home that Friday evening and never returned:

James called a few days later and told his parents he was moving out, and that he’d be back to get his stuff. James apparently had moved in with some folks from Heartland.

After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them.

Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too.

Joseph’s parents said James has a tendency to be less than truthful, especially when he’s off his medication, and that he loves attention. They said they don’t believe he’s ever questioned his sexuality, but that the folks from Heartland manipulated and exploited him for publicity.

Not surprisingly, James Stabile didn’t stay in the program for very long.

When James was kicked out of Pure Life, his father asked if they could provide him with a bus ticket home. After all, James had paid $2,100 up front plus $150 a week to be part of the program. Pure Life refused.

Now nearly four months after that fateful “purity seige,” Jame has returned home where he’s seeing his therapist once again and is hopefully back on his meds.

I-35 Saves!

Jim Burroway

December 1st, 2007

Some people can crack open the Bible and find just about anything. Jeff Baldwin opened Isaiah to chapter 35 and decided to that Interstate 35, which runs from Lorado, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota would be the Highway to Holiness.

Isaiah 35, I-35 — get it? Anyway they’re set to clear cities along the entire stretch of the highway of gays. And so far, they’re claiming far better success than Exodus ever dreamed of.

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That’s not the first time I’ve heard claims of instantaneous “cures” for homosexuality. I wonder if Jones and Yarhouse will be looking into this?