‘Cure’ in disguise

Posted on 26 Sep 2014 at 6:45am

Arlington ‘ministry’ dedicated to ‘curing’ homosexuality gets prize money for NT Giving Day fundraising efforts

Wade-Building

HOUSED IN THE CHURCH | Living Hope Ministries’ website lists its physical address as 301 S. Center St. in Arlington. That is the address for the Wade Building, a commercial building owned by — and bearing the name of — First Baptist Church Arlington. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Tyler Curry  |  Contributing Writer
nash@dallasvoice.com

When it comes to the people of North Texas, the phrase “go big or go home” certainly applies —  especially when it comes to their pocketbooks.

The sixth annual North Texas Giving Day took place on Sept. 18, giving donors in North Texas an opportunity to give to local nonprofit organizations that they may not have been previously aware of. And the giving was good.

North Texas Giving Day, powered by the Communities Foundation of Texas, raised a total of $26.3 million for local area nonprofits, surpassing 2013’s total by more than $1 million.

In addition to those donations, some nonprofits also received special grants and prizes given out by local foundations for reaching certain goals throughout the day. One of those nonprofits was Living Hope Ministries in Arlington, which received two grants totaling $10,000 from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation.

ATF gave these grants to the nonprofit with the most unique donors between 2–6 p.m. and between 6 p.m.–midnight on North Texas Giving Day.

But some supporters of the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and NTGD may be surprised to find that Living Hope Ministries is an ex-gay ministry whose sole purpose is to help people “leave homosexuality” and “stop the suffering of same-sex attraction.”

Additionally, Living Hope Ministries received bonus funds for all donations over $25 based on a prorated dollar match awarded by Communities Foundation of Texas.

Living Hope Ministries is not a physical church, but is instead an organization with the sole purpose of counseling men, women and children who have same-sex attractions they believe conflict with a Christian identity. Living Hope does not identify itself as an ex-gay ministry, but rather as a Christian organization that teaches men and women how to “overcome homosexual feelings by leaning on Christ.”

At least one NTGD donor said she was shocked to learn that Living Hope Ministries was allowed to participate in NTGD. “I don’t feel like this is for the betterment of our communities and takes away from other legitimate nonprofits actually making significant contributions,” said the woman, a city of Dallas employee who asked that her name not be used.

Living Hope Ministries, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, used its website to actively recruit supporters to give during NTGD so that the organization could qualify for the additional prizes and awards. The 501(c)3 nonprofit raised $60,035 for its anti-gay congregation, beating organizations like Alliance for Children, which raised $57,125 toward its mission of protecting North Texas children from child abuse, and The Resource Center, Dallas’ LGBT community center and HIV service organization, which brought in $14,480.

Arlington Tomorrow Foundation Executive Director Carolyn Mentesana said she was shocked and concerned when she learned that an ex-gay ministry was receiving ATF grant funds. She said that ATF gave the grant money to Communities Foundation of Texas with the understanding the funds would go to a nonprofit engaged in community outreach and support, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, after being made aware of Living Hope’s purpose, Communities of Texas Foundation and Arlington Tomorrow Foundation reached an agreement through which Living Hope would receive prize money from Communities of Texas Foundation but not any grant funds from Arlington Tomorrow Foundation.

Because Living Hope was not designated as a physical place of worship during the NTGD application process, Communities Foundation officials said they will still honor the grant to Living Hope despite now knowing about the organization and its functions.

“We verify 501(c)3 status, but we do not make a judgment as to what their causes are,” said Carol Goglia, director of marketing and communications at Communities

Foundation of Texas. “Our committee verified that [Living Hope Ministries] was in good nonprofit standing and that they didn’t appear to be a physical church.”

A representative from Living Hope Ministries said that the grant funds would not be used towards one specific program, but for the overall operation of its services.

Many other religious-based nonprofit organizations received donations and prizes from NTGD, but these organizations have clear, tangible programming.

For example, the Presbyterian Night Shelter is a housing program for adults, the elderly, families, those with mental or emotional disorders and veterans. And the Union Gospel Mission provides the homeless population of Dallas with meals, clothing, shelter, emergency medical services and daycare for children. The Stewpot, a First

Presbyterian Church of Dallas program, offers a safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals in Dallas, providing resources for basic survival needs as well as opportunities to start a new life.

The Rev. Jim Mitulski, interim senior pastor at Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United States Church of Christ, said he is “disappointed that NTGD is a way to support this organization. This is a program based on bad science and bad religion. It is preying on people’s weaknesses and exploits them.

“To me, this is similar to funding a hate group, because this organization goes against people’s normal and natural sense of self. This is prejudice in a religious cloak,” Mitulski said.

The Cathedral of Hope, the largest LGBT Christian congregation in Dallas, did not participate in NTGD because of religious exemptions.

Living Hope Ministries Executive Director Ricky Chellete couldn’t be reached for comment.

But according to an article Chellette wrote for the ministry’s magazine, “Each week, over 100 people gather in three locations for our in-person support groups for young adults, men, women, friends and family and wives of men who struggle with same-sex attraction. Our staff spends thousands of hours each year in personal, pastoral counseling and mentoring with individuals seeking help for their unwanted same-sex attractions. Our young adult and adult retreats draw over 120 people from states across the U.S. and countries across the globe for a weekend of bible study, discipleship and worship.”

In addition to its in-house worship services and annual retreats, Living Hope also offers online support forums with more than 7,800 members from 170 different countries. Many of the ministries clients have posted testimonials on the website praising its efforts to help them control their same-sex attractions.

The ministry, on its website, makes no claims to have “cured” homosexuality in its clients, nor do any of the clients claim to have been “cured.” But the testimonies make it clear the clients believe that LGBT and Christian identities are mutually exclusive.

The American Psychological Association does not classify homosexuality as a mental disorder and says that churches and mental health practitioners should not make efforts to “cure” same-sex attraction.

Living Hope Ministries held its 25th Anniversary Fundraising Celebration Banquet at the Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas the day NTGD was held. Park Cities Baptist is one of Living Hope’s many partner churches in the North Texas region. The physical address for Living Hope, 301 S. Center St. in Arlington, is in the Wade Building, a building owned by First Baptist Church Arlington, according to the Tarrant County Appraisal District website.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 26, 2014.

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