How Love in Action Began

 Chapter 27

My counseling work at the Marin Counseling Center is the nexus for telling the story of Love in Action.

Generally, I had appointments Tuesday through Friday, four to six each day. During one week in what I think was 1972, Betty scheduled appointments for three men on three different days. I had never met any of them before, and as it turned out, none of them knew one another either.1 

1 The exact date of the beginning of Love in Action has long been in dispute. The appointment books could not be found, and for a number of reasons, researchers will find different people saying different things in regard to when, how, and who, regarding the founding of LIA.

Each of the three men said they were homosexual and had been all their lives. Each claimed to be Christian, and all three were quite conflicted about the contradiction between what the Bible said and their behavior. Two of the three were living with lovers; the other had intermittent lovers. Two of the men were regular church attenders. One was a school teacher, one an artist, and the other a businessman.

The businessman was Frank Worthen, who owned the Black Market in San Anselmo along the Miracle Mile. Frank, a sincere Christian, had begun an outreach to gay people. He made a tape of his testimony and sent copies of it to those who responded to his ad, which Frank placed in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was an outreach he called, Brother Frank’s Ministry. Frank and I became good friends and co-partnered the new ministry. Frank is still doing the work under a new name, now married for many long years to a former lesbian, and together they do a wonderful and faithful ministry to those with same-sex attraction. 

In turn, each of the three told me that they wanted out of their homosexual lifestyle. 

During my time with Love in Action no attempt was made to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. LIA was so accused, but that is not the truth. In every case, people came to us declaring they were gay and wanted help to get away from the “life.”Now I was wondering what in the world I should do. It went through my mind that this might not be accidental or coincidental—it might be the hand of God. 

Homosexuality! I knew little of it. The closest I had gotten to it was knowing a couple of fellow medics in the military who got caught in the barracks, 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 getting acquainted with, at least from a professional point of view, 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, and I called each one and set up a joint meeting for the end of that week; that first meeting was likely on Saturday morning. We met in my office, and after a couple hours or more of intense conversation, we decided to meet together on a weekly basis to discuss issues, pray, and lend mutual support and encouragement. So we did, and after a few weeks, the artist said he knew of three women, all lesbians, who would like to join us. They did, and after two or three meetings of 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, one she had already thought of out of 1 John 3: “Love in Action.” Everyone liked the name so, that was it. 

How the First Book, The Third Sex? Came to Be 

After several months but less than a year, there was a general consensus that we should write a book. Since I had one book previously published, the task of writing it fell to me. It seemed logical to me to begin with the stories of those people already in our little group. I simply taped a conversation with each one, starting with what each remembered of his or her early childhood, and we worked through defining life moments all the way to the present. 

Without exception, each of the six, both the men and the women, were convinced of being born homosexual. It was as though there was a third sex, men attracted to men and women attracted to women. I was completely naïve about all this and did little more than listen to what was being said and make sure the tape recorder was working properly. From time to time, one of the six gave me a book on the subject, which I studied, but none of it made much sense to me. 

Surprisingly, as time wore on and the tapes started piling up, the idea that each one had been born homosexual began to break down. I was as shocked as the rest, when it became evident that certain circumstances evolved, primarily with the nuclear family, which were largely instrumental in the development of their sexual identities. I had assumed from the outset that what I had been told was accurate, that they were born with their homosexuality. Now, one by one, and without exception, it was clear that the same-sex attraction developed over time. (Later on, what I have just written was denied by three of the six, namely that it was discovered that none of the six was born homosexual.)

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 handful 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. Zondervan Publishing House had published my first book, but this book did not fit for them. As it turned out, it did not fit for a number of other publishers either. The whole topic was a hot potato in the 1970s, especially for Christian publishers. 

A favorite publisher for those of us who were in the charismatic movement was Logos International. Most of us knew of Dan Malachuk, the president of the company. I sent a letter off to him, and someone at Logos sent me a favorable return letter. I immediately made a plane reservation to fly to White Plains, New York, where Logos was headquartered. 

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 his large office making a case for the book, its importance, the potential scale of its outreach, and the groundbreaking impact it might have. 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 grew, and there was real change in people’s lives. I was fearful that it was moving too fast, as more and more people became involved. As a pastor of a fairly large church that was also growing, Love in Action was threatening to overwhelm me. Over and above those feelings, however, was the sense that this was the direction God wanted for me. 

The Sequel—The Gay Theology 

It was not long, perhaps just under two years, that the need for a sequel to The Third Sex? became apparent. The pattern for the second book would be the same as the first, except there would be four instead of six interviews. Two men and two women volunteered, and I prepared this material exactly as I had for the first book. Following the interviews I added some theological content, this time 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. 

Logos also published The Gay Theology. It was very courageous of them to publish both of these books, and at royalty time I always asked them to plow the money back into their work. I never received a dollar from Logos, because they went bankrupt sometime later. Many people owe a great deal of gratitude for the courage of Logos and Dan Malachuk. Logos International closed, but another Logos emerged later on, and the present Logos publishing house is not the same as the Logos of Dan Malachuk. 

The events that followed the publication of The Third Sex? in 1975 and two years later its sequel, The Gay Theology, could be described as analogous to a whirl wind. At times, I have regretted the publication of these books, because the grief that descended upon me and my family at that time continues to some degree even to the present day.

Though I had been trained as a counselor, I was not prepared for dealing with people who had the misfortune of being involved deeply in homosexuality. It was difficult for me to understand the pain and frustration they were enduring. Though I could present Bible truths and listen to life stories, I struggled to get inside the hearts and minds of those who were showing up. As a heterosexual, I did not have a clear understanding of the gay life, so my role was limited. Others were better suited for the real work of Love in Action, mostly Frank Worthen. 

On the Door Step 

From all over the country people were arriving, hoping to find a way to leave their homosexual conduct behind. There were, in the broad sense, two motivations that brought them to San Rafael and the Love in Action ministry. First, as Christians they wanted to follow Jesus more carefully, and they knew that homosexual behavior was neither Biblical nor pleasing to their Lord. Some of them had been to pastors and other ministers who saw nothing wrong with homosexuality and who then attempted to confirm or affirm them in their sinful ways. Usually, such un-Biblical counsel worked for a season only. The Holy Spirit, we found, would not endorse homosexuality, so any cover-over or “fix” was merely temporary. 

Second, non-Christians were simply desperate to leave the gay lifestyle. From these people I learned that the designation “gay” did not accurately describe the day-by-day life of the homosexual. Many of them were older, both men and women, but mostly the men called “aunties,” whose bodies were not what they used to be, found that the gay life was one of repeated rejections or just unacceptable sex. And this was all before the days of HIV and AIDS. 

Often I would hear a knock at the door, open it, and find a poor, desperate individual, sometimes without baggage or money in the pocket, wondering if he or she had found Kent Philpott and Love in Action. 


Frank Worthen, one of the three men whom I counseled during that first ground-breaking week, was the real leader of the ministry. I served more as a pastor and teacher for Love in Action, and I withdrew from hands-on ministry in 1978. Before this time, however, a group that would be called Exodus was forming elsewhere. It acted as an umbrella organization for ministries like ours, groups that were springing up spontaneously in many different places. I have a photo in which I am speaking to one of the first national gatherings of Exodus in Minneapolis in 1975. 

Love in Action was not the only group that had come into being in order 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 has been repeatedly 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 outside the door, seeking support and encouragement to turn from their sin and help them live new lives. There may have been some groups out there who were perceived as intent on sexual identity change, but I never encountered such an organization. 

Leave a Reply