Remembering Frank

CoastlineSingle acts of heroism make the news and cycle through social media. But a lifetime of faithfulness—acts of loving obedience to Christ day in and day out—is worthy of a moment of reflection. Those acts over a lifetime are like the constancy of waves along the shoreline. Some large and some small, they eventually change the entire landscape of the coastline.

Frank Worthen lived his life in that manner until his passing earlier this year at age 87. Unless you are in the trenches of—or actively opposed to—ministries like ours, you may have never heard of him. Frank was the pioneer of what has been called the ex-gay movement, blazing a trail for thousands of others to follow.

Blazing a Trail

In his book, Destiny Bridge (Forever Books; Winnipeg, Canada; 2010), Frank shares his story of how God brought him out of 25 years of living as a gay man and led him to start a ministry for men also desiring freedom. His ministry began in, of all places, San Francisco. God went right to the heart of the matter. He chose a man to do His bidding in a city renowned for its homosexual community.

Frank recalls in 1973, a pastor friend encouraged him to put his testimony on a cassette tape. He put an ad in the Berkeley Barb, a New Age paper that also had numerous ads for men looking for sexual encounters. His ad ran in November of 1973 and read, “Let Jesus break the chains of homosexuality. Brother Frank tells how Jesus changed his life. Send for the tape on free loan . . .” His first ad was published on the same page with the racy ads and nude pictures he used to frequent. His tapes became popular enough that he had to make many duplicates.

“You May Not Want Me”

Then in 1974, while driving, Frank was listening to a Christian radio broadcast of a popular preacher talking about the book of Leviticus. The preacher focused almost entirely on homosexuality. He said, “Don’t waste your time trying to convert a homosexual. They can’t be saved.”    

Frank recalls that those condemning words hit him hard. For several days, he considered taking his own life. He remembers praying, “Lord I’m going to serve You, just as if I were saved. You may not want me, but I want You.” Frank sent the radio station his “Brother Frank” tape. He added to his testimony 1 Corinthians 6:7-11, in which Paul declares to a long litany of sinners—including but not limited to homosexuals, “Such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).  He received many positive responses from Christian believers.

Persevering

He started a support group and eventually named it Love in Action, the first formal ministry of its kind. Other groups sprung up all over California, as did several others around the country, including Outpost Ministries in Minneapolis. Back then, there were no resources other than the Bible, so many groups wrote their own curriculums. Frank wrote a booklet, Steps out of Homosexuality. 

He founded Exodus International in 1976, a network of these like-hearted ministries. The founder of Outpost, Robbi Kenney, joined the first Board of Directors, and Outpost was one of Exodus’ original members.

In the beginning, Frank had very little encouragement. Frank says his gay friends abandoned him. In the day and age when homosexuality was taboo to mention in church, his supporters were slow to come around.  He was bombarded with temptation, and in the early days, many leaders went back into the gay life. One can only imagine what he endured. To start an ex-gay ministry as he did with no help and no guidelines in a city like San Francisco is not only extraordinary, it’s miraculous!

Frank and Anita Worthen

Frank and Anita Worthen

Changing the Coastline

Frank not only survived, he continued to thrive. In 1991, he started a similar ministry in the Philippines. Upon the crumbling of Exodus in 2012, in his early 80’s, he led the charge with Anne Paulk and Stephen Black to form Restored Hope Network.

Frank leaves behind Anita, his loving wife of 32 years, and a stepson. He also leaves behind a legacy of steadfast obedience to God’s calling which has impacted men and women around the world for over 40 years. The weight of that impact will be felt as we gather for Restored Hope Network’s annual conference in June. The coastline has changed under the rhythm of his faithful perseverance.

Watch Frank’s testimony here.

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About Dave R. and Candace O.

DAVE R. and CANDACE O. have both been impacted by Frank Worthen’s pioneering ministry work and faithfulness to Christ. They have combined ministry experience totaling 27 years.