‘To speak of the healing of the homosexual is to speak of the healing of all persons everywhere.’ Leanne Payne
Leanne Payne passed into glorious Life on Ash Wednesday. She left a glorious legacy of Life for DSM/LW. To describe her influence as foundational is an understatement.
As our staff memorialized her, I was amazed how each of us had experienced at least one profound, enduring healing encounter with her. In books and conferences, in Word and Spirit, she prayerfully brought Jesus, mighty and tender, into the deep aches and fractures of our humanity; she gave us language for our sexual disintegration and its restoration in Christ.
As I reflect upon her personal influence, I realize I could write a book on it. May it suffice to share some events that shaped my reliance on the Healing Presence.
Undone by ‘The Broken Image’, I first met Leanne face-to-face in Vancouver BC, 1982. I had the privilege of testifying before her last session. During the ministry time, I laid down all public composure as Jesus through Leanne instructed me to destroy strongholds of unclean thoughts. I had to learn how to fight for the integrity of my own ‘temple.’ His divine masculine will was empowering my own.
Soon after, we hosted our first conference with Leanne in West Los Angeles. There she did her first full scale ‘Renouncing Baal’ teaching in response to the hordes of young men and women from DSM who had just repented of gay practice. Bodies flew over pews as Leanne flung holy water (in a Presbyterian church at that!) and demons were expulsed. Leanne’s utterance, in a classy Southern drawl, ‘Patsy quick, get the holy water!’ remains a DSM mantra.
A couple years later, we had a full PCM in Los Angeles. As Leanne taught on ‘Restoring a Sense of Being,’ a young woman with SSA and a huge attachment wound walked quietly to the podium then respectfully asked Leanne to pray for her. Leanne stopped and quietly led us all into prayer; the result was a profound move of the Healing Presence into her depths. That morning, Jesus healed a young woman from a foundational wound; the rest of us discovered a healing key that is fundamental to our offering to this day.
I accompanied Leanne to her first PCMs in England; she had a wry form of expression that incited me. As she told a ‘healing of memories’ story that involved the surprise death of a beloved family bird (‘Tweedy’, Leanne mused, ‘was oven-baked…’), my cartoonish imagination went into overdrive and I began to laugh uncontrollably. Hundreds followed and the session ended in holy hysterics.
Annette loved Leanne’s feminine genius and felt a unique blessing from Leanne upon her own well-developed intellect. And Leanne’s mind was peerless in the way that she could assimilate different disciplines—psychology, philosophy, literature, theology, spirituality—into a coherent whole.
Similarly, she possessed a heart for the whole Church which invited us to consider the healing power of holy symbols, namely the sacraments. She highlighted the many ways that the unseen Real manifests Himself; this not only healed breaches between divided parts of the body, it also contributed to our personal wholeness. Leanne helped us to become more thoroughly Christian.
No-one leader impacted me more. She loved me well, imparting generous encouragement, gentle wisdom, and severe warnings. She guided me as I wrote Pursuing Sexual Wholeness, then I poured her input and writings into the foundations of Living Waters. Her advocacy of Living Waters opened doors for national expressions of the program throughout the world.
When Leanne spoke, Annette and I listened. She earned her right to inform our lives. And when we disagreed (as sons and daughters must do in order to become who they are), we learned to wait expectantly for the season in which we could reengage once more. We could not refuse this foundational woman! She was a part of who we were as persons and ministers. To disavow her would have been to disavow ourselves.
Leanne was a prophet. She saw how the increasingly ‘gay-friendly’ Church signaled a lack of understanding of what it means to be human and thoroughly Christian. She grieved over the darkening of the Church’s mind and fought hard to make evident the Church’s foundational truths. For this she suffered. Unwavering in her convictions, often misunderstood and dishonored, her eyes saw beyond the obvious to what mattered. Hearts that see what Leanne saw are hearts that hurt. Her suffering was not in vain, as healing poured from her into our broken lives.
I am deeply grateful for the honor accorded Leanne in her last years by Gino Vaccarro, a spiritual son unlike any other, who with team will ensure that Leanne’s legacy proceeds with MPC. I am equally grateful for Leanne’s Wheaton prayer group, led by Sile Ellison-NiChionna, who surrounded Leanne with tender care in her last years.
Perhaps that prayer group is the primary legacy we received from Leanne. As the DSM/LW staff interceded for all who love her, I recalled that above all else, we are a prayer group who together seek the face of beautiful Jesus, listen for His healing Word together, then rise to offer healing to many. Leanne taught us that inspired pastoral care is how we best convey the Church’s vision of what it means to be creatively, humbly, joyfully human. Leanne embodied that. We will miss her. And we will continue to pray, to heal, to fight and to stand for what she imparted to us.