Around the same time (mid-seventies) and place (San Francisco) that Harvey Milk aspired to become the first openly gay politician in history and firebrand for ‘gays’ as a protected ethnic group, God plucked another brand out of the fire. Frank Worthen repented of an adulthood defined by homosexual pursuits and turned toward Jesus as the basis for a new life. Sourced in the deep well of his ‘Jesus-people’ community in Marin County, Frank began to minister to men and women who needed help bridging the gap between the ‘gay’ community and the Church.
‘Love-in-Action’ was born, the first formal ministry ever to expressly bridge such a gap. It was truthful, Spirit-inspired, and hammered by demonized Pharisees and immoralists ever since.
I first met Frank in the early eighties when I was at Fuller Seminary; he sought me out to give practical steps to his people on how to progress into healthy opposite-sex relating. Annette and I drove up from LA to his ranch in the bay area where we met him and his roommate/best friend, a longtime business partner who shared Frank’s sexual background but only marginally his faith. ‘No wonder he is asking me to teach THIS lesson,’ I thought as I considered what could be an impasse in Frank’s path to whole relating with women.
Don’t get me wrong. Frank was morally clear but still in process. Soon after, a prophetic friend challenged Frank: ‘You need to be open to all that God has in store for you!’ Anita was right around the corner.
The two first met at a conference in Oregon where Frank taught steps out of homosexuality and Anita, an earthy and fun single mom, wondered how she might best care for her ‘gay’-identified son. Like the clash of many strong-willed people, they liked each other as much as they did not. Through the sparks they fell in love, married.
I tracked with them only a little since that time. I simply know our efforts at Desert Stream draw life and strength from Frank’s faithfulness. The Worthens went ahead of us and a host of others to blaze a trail of hope throughout the world for persons impacted by SSA; they did so graciously while enduring more attacks than an entire book could contain.
Yet for me, ministry is not their main legacy. It is their love for each other.
Last year, I caught up with the Worthens in their ranch above Sacramento after Frank had a serious heart attack. It was beautiful to witness how a crisis could distill their devotion to each other, reveal its essence. While Frank napped, Anita confided in tears that her only desire was to give this man the full honor he deserved. Weakened by the prospect of loss, she feared her adequacy to give him his due. To honor him in life and in his passing impassioned Anita.
Frank recovered only to discover less than a year later that cancer was spreading throughout his body. Nothing could be done, so the two determined to enjoy their lives together on the ranch. I recently visited them again and when Anita left the room, Frank confided in me that his one desire was to leave Anita as financially secure and settled on the ranch as possible. While that desire tempted him with fear that he might fail her, it also motivated him to act and to succeed, one task at a time, to make a way for her future. He welcomes heaven, while laboring in love for his beloved. Not much else matters to Frank.
Frank’s days are in God’s hands. By the report of both Frank and Anita, these days together are their best ones. Peace prevails, and invites them to reflect on a life together that has created thousands of spiritual sons and daughters.