Stabile fell victim to ‘Purity Siege’ on Cedar Springs strip 2 years ago
They what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And so it seems for former "homosexual sinner" James Stabile, who’s still proud to be "out" in Oak Lawn and has announced his new ex-ex-gay organization, Love Actually.
In May 2007, when he was 19, Stabile was caught up in the "I-35 Light the Highways" Christian intercessory movement. He says his Methodist and Catholic church upbringing had taught him that everything homosexual was a sin, that he was a sinner, and that he would burn in "the lake of fire" if he didn’t change his ways.
So when he was approached one night during a "Purity Siege" on the Cedar Springs strip, he was susceptible to feeling the "fire" of religious indoctrination.
He didn’t have a prayer in the world of standing up to a team of seasoned intercessors.
The Light the Highways movement was kicked off by Cindy Jacobs, a "prophet" of Generals International. The group’s only listed location is a post office box in Red Oak, near Waxahachie. The national I-35 movement called for churches from Laredo to Duluth, Minn., to pray, evangelize and intercede all along the I-35 corridor, for 35 days, based upon a biblical verse in the 35th chapter of Isaiah.
Pastor Steve Hill of Heartland World Ministries Church in Las Colinas was the lead "radical evangelist" for the mission, and it was Hill’s group who approached Stabile, then at a low point in his life, and prayed for his soul.
Stabile says he thought he was going to hell for his sins.
He’d been "whoring himself out" in Oak Lawn at the time, and when he was approached by the intercession team, they asked if he was "pure."
Stabile said no and they led him to believe it was because he was gay.
Stabile says he realized later that he would have been engaging in the same sexual behavior had he been straight, but at the time, he believed them. He didn’t want to be "gay anymore" and didn’t want to "feel dirty."
So he agreed to attend reparative therapy at Pure Life Ministries, located along the Dixie Highway in Dry Ridge, Ky.
Pure Life’s Web site states it is "on the front lines rescuing souls" and "setting men free" from their sexual addictions. They outwardly condemn homosexuality and gay churches, including the Cathedral of Hope, where Stabile says he has now found salvation and "God’s love."
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."
Calls to Pure Life seeking comment for this article were not returned. But Steve Gallagher, founder and president of Pure Life, has written, "People who have a bent towards homosexuality must resist those desires which come out of their lower nature, repent of their sin, and commit themselves to living in obedience to God’s Word."
Earlier this month, the American Psychological Association released a statement reaffirming its position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and advising mental health professionals to "avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments."
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."
Stabile found spiritual support at Cathedral of Hope and says that he owes his life to the congregation. He says it was at CoH that he realized God loved him and that he loved God.
Gallagher has a different take on the church billed as the largest primarily congregation in the world. Gallagher says "homosexual churches" including "Cathedral of Hope" and "Metropolitan Community Church" are growing at an "alarming rate."
The Rev. Michael Piazza, dean of the Cathedral, says although Metropolitan Community Churches, an international denomination of LGBT congregations, isn’t showing growth right now, the number of LGBT-friendly and LGBT-affirming churches is growing at a steady rate.
Cathedral of Hope started in 1970 as the Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas. The church disaffiliated from MCC in 2003 and in 2006 was accepted into the United Church of Christ, a liberal denomination that was the first mainstream denomination to support legalizing same-sex marriage.
"A glance at the organizational directory of the Dallas Voice shows clearly that there are more and more places where we are welcome," Piazza said. "The Episcopal Church now permits it [same-sex marriage], and it appears the Lutherans are about to join us. This is a train that has left the station and cannot be stopped. Mr. Gallagher needs to be alarmed because the lie he stands for is being increasingly exposed."
Stabile says the strong spiritual support he found at CoH made him realize it was time for him to give back. And he decided he could do that by helping fill the need for a place that ex-ex gay people "can come to and know they are not alone, that they are loved and loved by God."
That led to Stabile’s recent announcement of the formation of Love Actually during the inaugural meeting of the North Texas LGBTQA Coalition, held on June 20.
Stabile says he had started out looking for an already-established local organization for other survivors of reparative therapy. But he came up empty-handed.
"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.
At COH, he says he "experienced so much love and grace I finally realized that the only person that didn’t love me is me. … I thought if God loves me and gay people love me, then I can help others in the same place."
Stabile feels that forming the group is a spiritual calling.
"If I didn’t feel a calling, I wouldn’t do this," he says. "I created Love Actually to share that God wants to love you."
That is a message, he says, that many LGBT people need to hear, especially those who grew up in conservative religious homes and have been "brainwashed" into thinking being gay condemns them to hell.
Stabile says he tried to become straight at Pure Life by repeating affirmations such as "In the name of Jesus, I am straight." But it didn’t work.
He also says that Pure Life told him the devil was in him in the form of homosexuality and that he was a sex addict.
But Stabile says that one night while out walking on a ridge and praying, he heard a voice as clear as a bell, that told him otherwise: "God," he asked, "Am I gonna be straight?"
The reply he heard: "No, I made you the way you are. You can suppress who you are, but you’ll never be straight."
For Stabile, this was a spiritual "aha" moment when he was finally able to come to grips with who he was, to honor himself and recognize he was not going to "burn in hell."
With Love Actually, Stabile hopes to help others come to the conclusion that being gay is not a choice. He hopes to encourage others to accept themselves as they are.
Pastor Colleen Darraugh of MCC of Greater Dallas agrees.
"We believe that our sexuality and our spirituality are both created by God and are gifts of God. When we accept who we are, who God made us to be, we are able to integrate our being and step into healing and wholeness in our lives and relationships," she says.
Stabile concludes that it is all about loving unconditionally. He promises that with just a little love, he "can convince people that they definitely don’t want to go to straight camp."
For more information on Love Actually e-mail Stabile at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renee Baker is a licensed massage therapist and transgender diversity consultant. She can be reached online at www.ReneeBaker.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 14, 2009.