Dignify and Deploy 26: Hopeful Realists
‘The great choice posed to the human person in the modern world: deciding between sanctity and the loss of one’s humanity.’ (Witness to Hope, p. 118)
Lonnie Frisbee was a winsome firebrand who ignited a generation of ‘Jesus People.’ John Wimber estimates that 85,000 young people woke up to Jesus through Frisbee’s Spirited ministry. Frisbee was also a same-sex struggler who abused power by seducing young men. Though many gained new life through Lonnie, a few lost theirs. In and out of sobriety, he burned bright for a decade or two then unraveled. He died of AIDS in ’93.
Wimber gratefully acknowledged him as a catalyst for Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard. And he spoke frankly of Lonnie’s efforts to be chaste. ‘In this season, Lonnie was clean’, John would comment on their intersection, inferring that Frisbee’s freedom was short-lived. The inconsistency resulted in John barring Frisbee from Vineyard efforts.
John and Carol sought help for him, including seeking Annette and I out to serve him. Lonnie wasn’t interested; renown, infamy, and fear got in the way. John landed on securing a way of recovery for any willing soul, be it healing from childhood wounds (Lonnie had a deep history of abuse) or from the wounds adults impose on others.
That’s why Wimber loved Living Waters. He wanted his leaders who stumbled to regain their footing and run further. He hired us in the mid-nineties to provide pastoral care for Vineyard ‘laborers’ who needed to pause and take account. Annette and I started a group alongside Living Waters for the unique needs of leaders seeking restoration. John sent me overseas to help sort out some moral failures. The integrity of persons made in God’s image—marriages, singles, children--were at stake. So was the integrity of a movement.
John cared about that. Through Lonnie, he learned that the most luminous were no less damaged and liable to damaging others. What John didn’t do was reject the one who failed.
Of equal importance: John didn’t lower the bar, morally-speaking. It is easy when someone struggles deeply, as in profound same-sex attraction, to accommodate that struggle as destiny, as identity, as ‘just the way some people are.’ In his own way, Wimber held fast to a biblical vision of one’s original dignity. He fought for it.
And he insisted, choose again! Your struggle invites you to be heroic.
St. John Paul II amens such heroism. The depth of our conflict becomes the ground for a truer and more authentic humanity. It exposes LGBTQ+ liberties as a compassion as cruel as death. We must choose. Will we flee into unreality, or enlist the help of the saints and fight? Both John Paul and Wimber direct the fallen to get back up and walk, steadied by others, on trembling legs.
For John Paul, ‘defining sin down was not pastorally sensitive, because it took the dramatic tension out of life and denied human beings the opportunity for moral heroism. Repentance and forgiveness, not pre-emptive absolution, was the truer humanism.’ (Witness to Hope, p. 525)
‘Forgive us God, for lowering the bar. Help us face the depths to which we have fallen, that we might reach upward and be raised by You. May Your Mercy be glorified in our fragile, faithful lives. In turn, grant us patience and empowered truth with which to guide weaker members.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”