I hope this letter finds you in good spirits leaving the Holidays, this was the first Christmas I’ve gotten to spend with my family for some time. I’ve had a lot of difficulties loving my family or having grace on them for not “getting me” in my childhood. Living Hope Ministries (LHM) in Arlington, TX has helped me a lot with that in their sermons, podcasts, and weekly support groups – a lot of wonderful healing has happened in my life through that ministry. So, the end of the holidays came with a downer as I learned about Apple’s choice to remove Living Hope Ministry’s app from the app store. I am writing to you of my own volition to ask you to reconsider this decision by sharing my experience with the ministry and addressing Truth Wins Out’s claims.
I’m not sure about your story, but as many same-sex attracted people have said, I’ve been attracted to men as far back as I can remember. Growing up in the 2000s (I am about to turn 26), I did my schooling in a time where it was safe to be gay, but for some reason, the idea of coming out just didn’t feel right, so I didn’t. In my teenage years, I began to develop emotionally dependent behaviors on guys in search of healing for the wounds and frustration I felt in my heart. I often only had one friend at a time, and this continued on into college. My first interaction with LHM was around this time (I was 19 y.o.). I’d heard about it from some older men who attended the same church as me and thought it’d be a good way to get cured from my gayness. I explained this desire to the man who did my intake interview, Brock (he was a straight man who had a passion for helping believers who struggle with same-sex attraction, or SSA. I say was because He passed away in 2016.) and what he said was roughly this: “Walker, I believe God can do all things and I believe he can take your attractions from you. But he may not, I’ve never seen it happen.” What he was getting at went right over my head, and I charged on in life expecting prayer and church involvement would cure me.
Of course, I was woefully mistaken. I started to live a double life: straight ROTC guy during the day, Craigslist hookup surfer at night. I even had different names, email addresses, and phone numbers to separate the dark from the light. This physical outlet for my attractions didn’t help though, and my struggles with emotional dependency eventually caused me to be dismissed from my ROTC program, resulting in the loss of my scholarship and any hope at a career in the military.
Life after college wasn’t much different, and the longer I continued my double life, the worse my mental condition became. Even with supportive friends and family who loved me dearly, I had never felt more alone, more unknown, or more hopeless. God was the only entity that came to mind who could save me from my sadness. I didn’t know it then, but He was calling me up from the death and darkness I was experiencing into the life He had for me as His adopted son and heir. After three years of no involvement in LHM, I returned to the ministry with a broken and contrite heart, ready to surrender my life to the Lord regardless of His intent to change my attractions.
Since this surrender, I’ve learned not to be ashamed of my attractions, and I’ve shared openly with hundreds of people – from congregations and coworkers to bartenders and other strangers. I’ve learned how to set healthy relational boundaries to guard my heart against emotional dependency, and I’ve become involved in a church community that knows my story. My walk with Christ is no longer about salvation from my sexuality – it’s about Christ, who saved me from my sins 2000 years ago on a cross! As I mentioned before, a lot of healing in family relationships has happened, too. Most of all, I’ve learned that who I am is not who I am attracted to, it is who God says I am – His adopted son. Guess where I learned all that? Living Hope Ministries in Arlington, TX.
Does the story about my experience with Living Hope Ministries ring true to any of the allegations made by Truth Wins Out?
Just like me – the people who seek out Living Hope Ministries are doing so in response to a sincerely-held belief. It does not have the ability to force people to subscribe to its beliefs.
- LHM does not:
Protest gay-affirming churches or assert its views publicly,
Offer, promote, or recommend conversion therapy or anything of that sort,
Preach “pray the gay away”,
Pair its members off with assigned spouses of the opposite sex.
- LHM DOES; however:
Preach God’s forgiveness, grace, and redemption through the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
Provide resources to help churches respond more lovingly to LGBTQ+ members of their congregation in spite of convictions toward homosexuality/transgenderism,
Provide a safe space for people, who struggle with SSA and want to live in obedience to an orthodox interpretation of scripture, to share openly and encourage one another,
Teach parents to respond lovingly to children who’ve chosen to live in pursuit of their attractions.
Passionate as he may be, the gentleman from Truth Wins Out (TWO) is just plain wrong in his assertions about LHM’s approach to ministering to Christians who struggle with SSA. He cherry-picked phrases from video clips and articles, and even provided no reference to support his allegations of the ministry offering conversion therapy or preaching “pray-the-gay-away”. He didn’t because he couldn’t find any, and he couldn’t find any because LHM does not offer any kind of therapy. Truth Wins Out’s claims are, in fact, untruthful.
Of course, Apple’s reasoning for removing the app may have been more heavily influenced by the potential of negative publicity. But you have stood firm in the face of uglier foes in the past – namely in the precedent you set by defending the rights to your consumers’ privacy from the government.
Finally, in TWO’s mission to improve tolerance for LGBTQ+ people, they have refused to consider the need for tolerance for religious people. The content on LHM’s app is only accessible if the user decides to install the app and consume the content. Even if LHM did preach intolerance, It is not inherently intrusive as one must opt-in (by installing) to gain access to the content. Inversely, TWO as asserted their intolerance toward the views they claim the app espouses by successfully petitioning Apple to remove the app from its platform.
Mr. Cook, I humbly ask you to reinstate the LHM app’s availability on the app store, considering my personal experience and the untruthful claims of Truth Wins Out. There are hundreds of other men and women whose stories are similar to my own and can give testament to the healing, not harm, not conversion, that happens in the lives of participants in Living Hope Ministries.