The Third Sex? and The Gay Theology (Revisited)
by Kent Philpott
How it all began
During the 1970s, while pastor of Church of the Open Door in San Rafael, California, I used my background in psychology to operate the Marin Christian Counseling Center out of my office at the Christian General Store in San Rafael, located on Fourth Street. Our book store manager Betty Kenner scheduled my appointments. I had received a BA with a major in psychology from Sacramento State College and then followed it up with a MA for a counseling certificate. (My plan was to be a school psychologist.) Right after the class work for the degree was completed, and after only a little while into the observed counseling phase of the program, I dropped out and moved to Golden Gate Baptist Seminary in Mill Valley to begin my theological education.
Generally, I would have four to six appointments each Tuesday through Friday. There was never a fee charged, though sometimes people instead made a contribution to the church, but this was not sought nor expected. During one week in what I think was 1973, Betty scheduled three men on three different days, none of whom had I known before, and as it turned out, none of whom knew one another.
How “Love in Action” began
Three men—all three said they were homosexual and had been all their lives; all three were Christian, and were quite conflicted about the contradiction between what the Bible and their own consciences said, and their behavior. Two of the three were living with lovers; one had lovers on and off. Two of the men were regular in church attendance. One was a school teacher, one an artist, and the other a businessman.
In turn, each told me that they wanted out of their homosexual lifestyle. And now I was wondering what in the world I should do. It went through my mind that this was not accidental or coincidental—I thought it might be the hand of God.
Homosexuality! I knew little of it. The closest I had gotten to it was knowing that a couple of my fellow medics in the military got caught in the barracks, were very compromised, and it was a big deal. It took awhile before I pieced it all together in terms of what kind of sex they could have. Now I was becoming acquainted, at least from a professional point of view, with three men who told me they were homosexual and were looking to me for some support and guidance.
The next Tuesday I asked Betty for the phone numbers of the three men and called them to set up a meeting for the end of the week. We met in my office, and after a couple of hours or more of intense conversation, we decided to meet together on a weekly basis to discuss issues, pray, and offer support and encouragement. So we did, and after a few weeks, the artist suggested three women, all lesbians, who would like to join us. They did, and after two or three meetings with the six self-described homosexuals and me, we decided to open it up to others. One of the women thought it would be good to give the group a name, and she had one already picked out from 1 John 3: “Love in Action.” Everyone liked the name, so that was what we called ourselved going forward.
How the first book, The Third Sex? came to be
After some months less than a year, there was a general consensus that we would try to reach out to others. Since I had one book published, I was the choice for the author to write for that purpose. It seemed logical to me to begin with the stories of those people already in our little group. One by one, I simply taped a conversation with each one, starting from their beginnings and continuing all the way to the present.
Without exception, each of the three men and three women was convinced he or she was born homosexual. It was as though there was a third sex, men who were attracted to men and women who were attracted to women. This was where we started, but in each case--and I was as shocked as the rest--this thesis eventually broke down and gave way to an understanding that a certain point was reached, or certain circumstances evolved, primarily with the nuclear family, that were largely instrumental in the development of their sexual behavior and sexual self-identity.
The result of this “turning things on their head” was to give our book the title The Third Sex? It was as though I was simply a reporter of what had been discovered. Beyond the six interviews I added a hand full of chapters to give the book a biblical foundation.
Logos International and Dan Malachuk
Once the book was ready, we had to find a publisher. My first book had been published by Zondervan Publishing House, but this book did not fit for them. I would soon find out that it did not fit for a number of other publishers either.
A favorite publisher for those of us who were in the charismatic movement was Logos International. Most of us knew about Dan Malachuk, the president of the company. I sent a letter off to him, received a favorable return letter from a staff person at Logos, and immediately made a plane reservation for Logos in White Plains, New Jersey. Mr. Malachuk received me cordially in his office and allowed me to present my book. He had, of course, read a copy of the manuscript beforehand. As gently as possible he let me know that he did not think Logos would publish the book. Stunned and shaken, I would not let it go. I recall pacing around that large office making a case for the book, its importance, the potential scale of its outreach, and the ground breaking impact it might make. After what seemed like a long time, Mr. Malachuk came toward me, shook my hand and said, “Okay, we will do it.”
And they did do it, and my life quickly changed as a result. The ministry was growing and there was some real change in the lives of people. I was skeptical, even fearful, much of the time, despite the involvement of more and more people. As a pastor of a fairly large church, Love in Action was threatening to overwhelm me.
However, over and above those fearful feelings was the sense that this was the direction God wanted for me.
The sequel—The Gay Theology
It was not even two years before it became apparent that a sequel would be needed. The pattern for the second book would be the same as the first—six interviews of three men and three women followed by some theological content. This time we focused on the kinds of objections and questions we were receiving from the gay community, a segment of which was very close by in San Francisco.
The Gay Theology was also published by Logos. It was very courageous of them to publish both of these books, and at royalty time I always refused the money and asked that it be applied back into their work. Interestingly, I never received a dollar from Logos, as they went bankrupt sometime later before I ever received a royalty payment. Many people owe a great deal of gratitude for the courage of Logos and Dan Malachuk.
Frank Worthen, one of the men who I counseled with during that ground breaking week, was the real mover of the ministry. I served more as a pastor and teacher for Love in Action. In 1978 I withdrew from the ministry in terms of hands-on work, and Frank and those he had developed took the full reigns. Before this time, however, a group that would be called Exodus had formed. I still have a photo of me speaking to one of the first national gatherings of Exodus taken in 1975 in Minneapolis. Love in Action was not the only group that had sprung up to meet a growing need. There were groups all across the country operating with the same goal—to bring the message of a liberating and loving God to people who wanted out of the gay life.
It used to often be said that ministries like Love in Action were out to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals. Nothing could have been further from the truth. No, people with same-sex attraction were lined up out the door seeking support and encouragement to turn from their sin and help them live a new life. There may have been some out there who were perceived as intent on sexual identity change, but I never met such a group.
A Marriage Manual for Former Homosexuals
In 1976 I began a doctoral program, and my thesis was suggested to me by members of Love in Action who were hopeful that they might one day marry and have a family. They wanted a marriage manual specifically written for formal homosexuals. I’ll never forget the gasps that went up when the title of my thesis was read to the group that had come to the graduation ceremonies in 1980 at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, California. From what I have heard over the years, the manual was helpful for some, but I never attempted to have it published. But now, I am going to include it in this journal following the revisiting of the two books that started it all.