I know some of this will be repetitive, but I’ll try to recap the whole story.
A few days after returning from Malibu, I met with the Area Director, Scott Didrickson, to tell him that through counseling I had come to the conclusion that I was gay. He told me parents wouldn’t want me around their kids, I shouldn’t put a gay lifestyle on display, it would affect my business, etc. He said he had no idea what the next steps would be, but that he would have to discuss them with Young Life’s national Human Resources Department, which makes and enforces policies. Although he said he had no idea what to expect, he did know they would ask if I had been involved in sexual relationships with students. It’s interesting that that is the only thing he felt confident saying he knew had to be a part of this process, as if all gay people who work with minors are pedophiles and child predators. At my next meeting with the mission staff, Danielle Eylander, she said that was a requirement of all situations when a gay leader comes out, and they were required to ask this. Scott Didrickson brought up other examples regarding gay rights in the media and said he hoped I wouldn’t have to make this a “big deal,” which implied to me that he did know what was going to happen, and he didn’t want anyone else to know about it.
The meeting in which I was terminated was at Red Robin with both Scott Didrickson and Danielle Eylander. Scott Didrickson explained that the HR Department at Young Life’s national headquarters had determined that I had to be terminated from my volunteer position due to a clause in Young Life’s Faith and Conduct Policy, which states that anyone living “a homosexual lifestyle” is not to be included in the mission of Young Life. They were very upset that I had posted that policy on FB, because they feel kids and parents don’t need to know about it. They blamed me for “causing drama,” and “creating division,” and urged me not to make them “look bad.” They tried to guilt and shame me by saying that if I told people what was happening, I would be the one that was not acting like Jesus because I would be taking kids away from the ministry. Scott Didrickson asked, if not verbatim, something similar to, “Do you feel like you need to educate people about this?”
After I announced that I had been terminated, I heard from parents that when they called or emailed the Young Life office to inquire about the matter, they were told it could not be discussed. If it was a donor pulling their donation, they got the opportunity of a vague conversation. I wanted to make sure that it was clear to everyone that I was terminated and that I did not resign, so a couple weeks after that meeting, I emailed Scott Didrickson to request a record of the termination in writing. I received no response. After asking again via text, Scott Didrickson said he said he would check his email. A few days later, I got this response:
“I spoke with our HR department and they do not do letters of termination for volunteers.”
Interesting. An international organization that avoids requests for written records and has a policy not to provide letters of termination; an organization that revolves around serving minors but refuses to create, store or provide records regarding what adults are and are not currently approved to work with those minors, with the reasons why they’re not. I’ve never heard of that before.
I’m pretty mellow, and everyone knows I let things slide; I’m not one to share my opinions or participate in debates. On the rare occasions that I put my foot down, it doesn’t budge. On this issue- being clear with students and parents about why their Young Life leader can’t be their Young Life leader anymore- I put my foot down. I again asked for a written record of my termination in two separate emails to Scott Didrickson, and he never responded.
Finally, I posted on FB that I would show up to the next Young Life club with several news outlets to cover the story. After weeks of silent avoidance, it took less than 30 minutes to get a response from Danielle Eylander, who urged me to remove the post “since it’s hurting kids.” That is typical of these kinds of situations- the organization that discriminates against gay individuals and then shuns them, refusing to respond to communications, takes no responsibility for how their policies, actions and words hurt kids. It’s the gay individual who feels the need “to educate people about this” that is responsible for all the negative repercussions. It’s education about discrimination, prejudice and bigotry that’s the problem. My mistake.
Then the Regional Director, Mason Rutledge, took over, offering to meet. He said, “I’ve never done one of these docs, as it is not our usual practice, so we are working on it. I’m having to rely on others.” In “25 years with Young Life,” he had never done a doc like what? Never done a doc to terminate someone for being gay, without putting in writing that they were terminated for being gay?
Here are the exact words I had used to refer to this “doc:”
- “Can you please send me a written record of my termination from Young Life?”
- “Just wanted to check in because I never received a response to my email requesting a written record of my termination.”
- “Can you please confirm in writing that I have been terminated as a volunteer from Bellevue Young Life?”
- ” It has been 7 days since I requested a record confirming whether I have or have not been terminated from Young Life. I believe that is a reasonable request of any legitimate organization.”
- “I’ll be happy to meet with you if you send me the document to review first.”
- “Please send the written document, I have requested it several times from several people, and the response is unacceptable.”
- “I’ll be happy to talk in person if I get what I requested, which is a written record confirming I was or was not terminated.”
- “I’ve requested from Scott and national hr a written record and they refuse to have any contact. That’s a reasonable request of any legitimate organization.”
- “If they can’t give me a written statement confirming that I have or have not been terminated then there’s a problem. Refusing to respond to anything is a problem.”
- “If they really feel they’re justified in terminating me that they should have no problem putting it in writing. Trying to cover it up this way makes it worse.”
- “Yes if I get the letter first, which is how I’ll respond in email.”
- “I will still come on Monday if I don’t have the written document.”
Scott Didrickson’s initial response stating that Young Life does not do “letters of termination” for volunteers makes it clear that he understood at that time that I had been terminated, since I was asking for a written record of the organization’s action. Mason Rutledges’s insistance that he hadn’t done “one of these docs” makes it clear that he also understood that I had already been terminated at that time. You can see from all these ways that I referred to my request that I did not specify that I wanted a letter of termination or any specific kind of “doc.” All I wanted was a formal written record of the termination, and anything Young Life had already created for its own records would have been sufficient.
I asked Mason Rutledge to send the document before the meeting, but he refused, insisting that we meet in person. Young Life trains its leaders not to put themselves in “you said- they said situations,” but that was the only way they were willing to communicate with me. After three meetings with Young Life staff had proved that they would not be honest about the content of our communications, I was no longer comfortable putting myself in that position, and I told him I would bring an attorney to the meeting. He promptly cancelled the meeting less than 16 hours before it was supposed to occur, claiming he’d be out of town during the day and time that he himself had set less than 48 hours previously. I later received a voicemail in which I was told, “Sounded like you wanted to have an attorney present. Young Life is not going to let that happen.”
Mason Ruledge had also written, “Obviously your request to have an attorney involved means more folks involved in our end.” How many folks does it take to create a written record of a termination?
My legal team advised me to remove all posts I had made on FB and my blog regarding the matter. We all knew Young Life would be looking for anything and everything they could use against me. I refused to remove or edit anything.
The day of the cancelled meeting with Mason Rutledge, the back end of my blog lit up. My blog provides stats on how many times my posts are read and where those readers access them. To nobody’s surprise, all of the reads on my blog that day came from those “more folks” in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Young Life’s national headquarters are located. After reading my second blog, Coming Out, 37 times, they settled on the best solution:
“You used Young Life kids to process your journey in your personal sexuality, both in individual settings and in Cabin Times at 2 different camps.”
Maybe in all those 37 times they opened that blog, they failed to notice the date on which it was written- September 29th. I was terminated on August 31st, so it’s impossible that this reasoning could have been the cause for my termination. Another benefit of written records.
At Malibu this year, the speaker shared personal sexual information regarding her ex-husband’s addiction to pornography, which resulted in their divorce; a head leader shared testimony during club about how he had engaged in promiscuous sexual activity as a youth; a summer staff shared about how a sexual assault impacted her personal sexuality; and a work crew student shared his personal sexuality as he described a struggle with pornography. At many camps, including this one, an invitation is extended to students who want to meet with these people and further discuss their personal sexuality in a more private setting. In addition to all these examples at just one camp, I have witnessed other leaders share openly with students about their personal sexuality and struggles for purity within cabin time settings; this has even been encouraged during leader meetings. I have also witnessed head leaders come into cabins and share graphic details of personal sexual encounters in efforts to relate to students. Essentially what I shared would be equivalent to a straight leader telling students that they are attracted to the opposite gender. That happens all the time as leaders discuss boyfriends, girlfriends, fiances and spouses with students.
No gay person tells people they’re gay until they’ve fully processed it themselves. The process of “coming out” is the result of a lot of previous processing- in my case, 26 years of life, 11 years in the Christian faith, a degree in Pastoral Ministry and Biblical studies, several months of counseling with a licensed medical professional, and endless internal processing. Before I told anyone I was gay, that licensed medical professional had suggested that we reduce our sessions from twice a week to once a week, and then once every other week, because in his professional opinion I had already sufficiently processed the matter. That licensed medical professional is also a mandatory reporter, and would never hesitate to report anything inappropriate or to remove me from any situation that put any minor at risk. No one in a position like mine would “use” kids to “process” the difficult journey of understanding and accepting personal sexuality. Telling kids that you prefer the same gender is not processing anything, it’s sharing the conclusion of the processing that has already taken place. It’s like telling them you prefer Coke over Pepsi- they don’t care, it’s a non-issue. I didn’t share anything inappropriate or anything that made anyone uncomfortable. None of the parents of any of those kids had a problem with it, and they did their best to support me, sending letters and trying to get me reinstated as a leader.
The letter was dated was dated October 16, 2015, with my termination “effective immediately.” Before this date, shortly after the meeting on August 31st, I was removed from all communications among Young Life staff and leaders, including email chains, group texts, and Facebook messages. They held several meetings with adult and student leaders and explained that I was no longer a Young Life leader. My leader login to the Young Life website was disabled. On October 15, 2015, Danielle Eylander wrote, “I haven’t seen anything but Scott said HR gave him something.” When I responded that Scott Didrickson had not provided anything, she wrote, “No, he has something. He told me he did and that he told you and never heard back.” If there was something written previous to October 16th, the date on the only letter I received, then why would it have been altered? If there wasn’t, then it proves the lack of communication extends far beyond just little old me. If my termination was “effective immediately” on October 16th, does that mean there was an openly gay adult volunteering in Young Life for approximately a month and a half? Or was I removed from all communications and blocked from my leader profile on the website before those “more folks” read my blogs in an attempt to find a different reason to put in writing in order to prevent educating people about their damaging discriminatory policies?
Let’s not forget, they originally refused several times to make or provide any written record regarding these “several recent events,” so they really couldn’t have thought they were that serious. If it was serious enough to justify permanent termination with no chance to return, they should have taken the initiative to document it without being asked several times. Even if they had, it shouldn’t have required so many different folks to be involved in that process. Every staff and volunteer within Young Life is a mandatory reporter, so it would be illegal for them not to report things that cross a certain line. That line was never crossed, and that’s why this was the best they could do when searching for a reason to terminate me that they thought would look better for them in the media or in a courtroom than their original reasoning of me living “a homosexual lifestyle,” which was the only reasoning provided in the conversation on August 31st. In that meeting, the fact that I shared my sexual orientation with students in private settings and at camps was never discussed or used as a reasoning for my termination. Again, that reasoning was just Young Life’s attempt to backpedal and cover up the reality of their homophobia, bigotry and prejudice.
It was only after the letter of termination had been created that they invited people to call and actually discuss the matter, which they had previously said could not be discussed.
Before the letter was written, I received a text saying, “There may be disagreements, and ones that are personal and hurtful,” but we had never had a disagreement about my telling students that I was gay at that point. I had told Danielle Eylander about the time when I told a student at Chipotle that I was gay, so she was aware of that, and it was never discussed in the meeting in which I was terminated. Even if we had disagreed on that issue, I wouldn’t consider that kind of disagreement personal and hurtful. She must have been referring to the only personal and hurtful disagreement we had ever had- whether my sexuality should or should not limit me from leadership.
At no point in the three meetings I had with Young Life staff, or any communications at any time, did they offer any sort of plan to help me come into alignment with their religious beliefs and convictions, as should be offered in any situation regarding church discipline. In fact, when I texted both Scott Didrickson and Danielle Eylander months earlier to let them know I was struggling personally and needed to find a way to better balance, neither of them ever responded at all, and certainly did not offer any sort of assistance as is promised in their core value statements. They only texted me when they wanted me to do stuff for them, and never showed any interest in my personal well being. I am not blaming them for any of that; I am just clarifying that they did not follow through with what they say they will do to support leaders. They have made a point to emphasize that everything I have done in this process was against their standards, which I feel is true of their actions. In fact, they voided their Agreement by failing to respond or attempt to provide any assistance after I expressed several times and in several ways that I was struggling personally (with depression, stress, anxiety, etc.)
If I haven’t provided enough evidence to prove that the issue of me telling students was not included in my termination on August 31st, hopefully this will help: On October 15th, 2015, Mason Rutledge wrote, “I have also had new information come to my attention on Tuesday evening.” I had only requested a written record regarding my termination on August 31st, so any information that came to anyone’s attention after that should not have been included in that letter.
The day after I was terminated in the meeting with Scott Didrickson and Danielle Eylander (September 1st), I posted a Facebook status in which I wrote, “After receiving the official word that Young Life as an organization has decided to end its relationship with me as a faithful volunteer of many years, I decided to sleep on it before posting this…I cannot in good conscience put others at risk of one day being excluded as I have been by supporting an organization that discriminates based on sexual orientation, ignoring the fact that all psychological associations agree that sexual orientation cannot be changed and that Americans have voted to recognize gays as legally equal.”
In a response to a comment on that status, I also wrote, “The definition of discrimination is ‘treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.’ The only reason for my termination was my sexual orientation, or belonging to the class of homosexuals. I believe most would accept this as discrimination.”
The day after all that had been written, on September 2nd, Danielle Eylander texted me regarding the post, saying, “Just saw your post. Thank you for taking to heart the things I said.”
So I already had an informal confirmation of my termination. It was clear that this had been the “official word” from Young Life, and that the only reasoning understood by all parties at that time was my sexual orientation, not any act of sharing about that sexual orientation with anyone in any setting. Danielle Eylander confirmed that Young Life as an organization had “decided to end (synonym for terminate) its relationship with me as a faithful volunteer of many years.”
Before Young Life issued the official termination letter, another leader tried to defend me, writing, “But the thing with [this leader] really irked me and really became the final push to my decision. Personally and in my faith, I’m still praying and dealing with Mikel’s decision to come out as gay… I’m not a fan of it, but I do love and support him because he’s a good friend. He’s got a heart for others, but if this decision can disqualify him I’m not sure we are showing Christ-like grace…I know [this leader] still identifies himself as Christian and not as gay…It hurts me to see someone who gave so much of his life/ time to an organization and lived a life of serving just to be cut out like that.”
Scott Didrickson responded:
“there’s more to consider and think about when it comes to building your own theology on topics like sexuality, leadership, grace, etc….”
Once again, this proves that it was clear to me, staff, leaders, and everyone involved that I had been terminated before the letter of termination with the false reasoning was provided. If communication had really been an issue, Scott Didrickson would have responded with something like “there’s more to consider and think about when it comes to using Young Life kids to process a personal journey regarding a personal sexuality both in private settings and in cabin times at 2 different camps.” But of course, that wasn’t the real issue.
The Bible provides guidelines and standards for removing people from positions of leadership in ministry. All of those standards and guidelines require open, honest, clear addressing of the issues at hand, not only with the individual receiving the consequences, but also with the entire church leadership and church body. Issues of disciplinary actions within ministries are supposed to be used “to educate people” about the core beliefs, values and convictions of the ministry, so those who participate in them can determine if their personal beliefs, values and morals align with them. Young Life’s consistent refusal to be open, honest and clear about its actions regarding my termination are the result of them formulating and practicing their own theology on topics like sexuality, leadership, grace, etc…
Everything was clear up to that point, and I was very clear that I understood and respected the beliefs. Everything was cordial until I had a problem getting them to put the termination in writing, and instead of telling the truth they decided to take the predictable route of denying, lying, covering up, and attempting to slander my character by implying to parents that I had been involved with inappropriate communication with minors.
The reasoning is inconsistent with everything that happens at Young Life camps, but I’m sure Young Life thought it would sound better for them in the media or in a courtroom than their policy regarding “a homosexual lifestyle.” Ultimately, what sounds best in the media is scandal, and what sounds the worst in a courtroom is inconsistency. The media loves to uncover large organizations in outright lies, and lawyers love to highlight inconsistencies, especially when the evidence is as air tight as mine.
When I asked Scott Didrickson to apologize for implying that my sexual orientation made me more likely to commit sexual felonies against minors, he responded, “I would like to acknowledge that you are hurt, and that saddens me.”
My repeated attempts to participate in a reconciliation process that follows Biblical standards of all parties admitting to their offenses have been repeatedly met with this response:
“As I said in my previous email, I don’t see a resolution to this, given the approach you’re taking.”
It seems Young Life has prohibited its staff from acknowledging any of the homophobic remarks they have made toward me, from telling the truth about my termination, from admitting fault in any way, and from apologizing for anything. But of course, it’s my approach that prevents a resolution. It’s the way I have “represented Young Life’s response” that keeps us from moving forward.
A volunteer in Bellevue Young Life named Micah Humann recently wrote to me, “The decision was made. Get over it, and move on.” He also urged me to “suffer in silence.” Although I’m sure this wouldn’t be approved by the Almighty HR, it’s the sentiment I feel is present within the entire organization. Get over it, move on, stop telling kids that it really is OK to be yourself, that God’s love really is limitless, that there’s a problem with discriminating based on sexual orientation and then lying about it. “Suffer in silence” so that we can continue discriminating in silence. I’m over what happened to me, but I’m not over what the policy does to the many closeted students, volunteers and staff within Young Life.
This year, there was a male leader in Bellevue Young Life who was found to have been communicating with one or more female students via texting and/or social media in a way that Young Life determined was inappropriate. They believed that this leader’s actions displayed a lack of discernment in determining appropriate boundaries for an adult entrusted with the care of minors. Was that leader terminated? No. He was removed from leadership for a short period of time, missed summer camps this summer, and returned to leadership. If the problem in my case was really a communication issue, don’t you think I would have the same opportunity? No, I didn’t. That’s because it was never about a communication issue. I was terminated because I am gay, not because I told anyone I was gay, or because of the setting in which it was done. I wonder if there’s any written record about that leader’s incident and disciplinary process…Maybe you can ask. I wonder if you they would respond, or if you would get the truth. It sucks that we have to wonder, doesn’t it? (After this blog was posted, contact information for the local Young Life staff was removed from the website. The phone number was replaced with a number to the national headquarters so the local staff doesn’t have to handle these questions. The only place on the website where the Area Director’s phone number can be found is on the page asking for donations.)[After they read this update, the number to the national headquarters was replaced with a landline number for an address that the website claims is their “mailing address only!”]
Since everything I’ve predicted so far about this process has come true, here’s my next prediction: YL and its staff will say nothing. They can’t continue to lie and be called out for it, and they can’t apologize or tell the truth without creating even more legal liability than they already have. They can’t say that I wasn’t terminated on August 31st because that would set legal precedent to not terminate other gay leaders. They’ll go back to saying nothing, and what is that called? Shunning, or ex-communication. Yes, that still happens. (Three months after writing this blog, time has unfortunately proven this prediction true. My last offer to meet with the local mission staff was not accepted, and I have never heard from them since.)
I once thought that their actions proved that being gay is the ultimate sin in their eyes. Turns out that revealing the truth of their policies, beliefs and actions is the ultimate sin, from which there is no coming back. That’s what you have to do when you want to continue living above accountability instead of above reproach.
When you compound religious policy with religious lies with religious denial, you dig yourself into a pretty religious hole. If I was in that kind of a religious hole, I wouldn’t know what to do or how to handle it either.
The reason they can’t be honest about their policies boils down to fear. They are fearful of the repercussions that would result from everyone knowing that Young Life discriminates based solely on sexual orientation. If everyone knew that, they would lose students; their ministry would be less effective; they might lose some of that green stuff that pays the president of their not-for -profit’s salary, which is well over half a million dollars per year. They are fearful of how the tides are turning, and what this means for them in the long run.
It is no longer the volunteer pastor, formally trained in Biblical interpretation, theology and Pastoral Ministry, through whom God has effectively worked to successfully minister to hundreds of unchurched families in one of the most “exclusive” communities in America and happens to be gay that has to be afraid to share his beliefs. It is the organizations that have to be afraid to say what they think when their beliefs include discriminating against perfectly capable Christians that God wants to work through to reach more people. It is the organizations that don’t want records of their actions because they fear the shame of the public spotlight. Instead of the gay individuals shrinking away in guilt and shame, embarrassed to talk about what’s really going on, it is now the organizations. They’re realizing that the majority of Americans don’t agree with what they’re doing, and questioning how far they can continue like this in a world that’s becoming more and more educated, more and more unsatisfied with self-righteous denial of accountability from outside sources. People will no longer accept responses like the one Young Life made to every parent who wrote a letter of support on my behalf:
“We ask that you trust those in leadership to make decisions about volunteer leadership in a way that is appropriate for the circumstances and in the best interests of students, fellow leaders, staff and the our common purpose.” (I’ll let you catch the error in that sentence.)
The parents who wrote support letters recognized immediately the predictable, bigoted attempt to deflect responsibility and defame my character when Young Life responded, “we regret the choices he has made both in his communications with students as well as the way he has represented Young Life’s response.” They saw right through it, recognizing the “prehistoric techniques” and “cowardly cop-out.”
The issue of fear is the most commonly addressed issues in The Bible, with well over four hundred related passages and verses. The Bible teaches that although what God calls us to do may cause repercussions that we could fear, our confidence in who God says He is and who He says we are enables us to overcome that fear. I see Young Life’s words and actions as a result of fear, which demonstrates a lack of confidence in their policies, which are a result of their theology and Biblical interpretation, which are a result of their relationship with God. It took me a long time to allow God to lift me out of the religious hole I had dug for myself, and it will take Young Life a long time too. I do not rejoice in their fear or condone the actions that their fear has driven them to take; I simply recognize it as an indicator that the tides are turning in favor of increased rights and inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the universal Church. If the way an organization punishes good people creates fear for themselves, that’s a good indicator that what they’re doing is not love, and it’s not from God.
Shortly after this blog was posted, revealing their policies and unethical business practices, Young Life doubled down on their Confidentiality Agreement, further prohibiting staff and volunteers from disclosing to parents and students any information within the Faith and Conduct Agreement, Conflict Resolution Guidelines and regular practices within Young Life.
Protecting Personal and Confidential Information
In February Risk Management and HR developed a new Employee Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement that Employees were required to sign when we logged into staff resources.
Leader Screening updated by October 31
New this year is the confidentiality agreement that we will need all volunteer leaders to complete on staff resources. It should pop up on the first screen when they sign in. Please look at your staff volunteer rosters and see if screenings have expired or still need to be completed by current leaders. Please also go to your volunteer manager and expire any leaders who are no longer serving in the area. You just click edit at the far right of their name and change the expiration date to tomorrow.
The original policy while I was a leader:
An updated version of the policy:
32 thoughts on “The Tides are Turning”
I just came across this post and wanted to write a quick response. First of all, I have never been involved in American young life; however, I was involved in Canadian yl for a long time. It is an entirely separate organization.
I’m sorry you have had to experience such outright bigotry and homophobia from your friends that you served alongside. One would hope that this experience didn’t exist anymore. But you are right, the tides are turning and young life will change its perspective.
In Canada, the clause about homosexuality is no longer included on the sexual conduct policy and there are gay leaders in various areas. I know that your experience may still happen within that ministry but I hope it is becoming less and less.
Thanks you for writing this post and keep going. Isolated gay teens and adults with benefit from this!
Young Life of Canada is not a separate organization from Young Life in the US. Second, the Malibu camp was in British Columbia. The Company Overview at their FB page says that “Young Life has been working with teenagers for over 50 years. We currently have Young Life work happening in over 50 communities across Canada with the national office located in Langley, BC.”
I understand how you can be confused and misled, because there is very little information about Young Life available to the public. The facts are that Young Life Canada and Young Life USA are two separate legal entities, which allows them to have separate policies that don’t affect the other. Gay marriage was legalized in Canada long before the US, so they had to change their policies regarding gay leaders earlier. The US will inevitably have to change as well, that is indisputable. When they split, both sides fought hard to maintain control of Malibu, and the US side won. It is now the only Canadian camp the US entity owns, and the Canadian entity has no legal interest in it.
Man I want to start by apologizing for the hurt you’ve been through. It’s obvious from reading that a lot have bridges have been burned and a lot of pain has come from this experience. I want you to know my heart behind this comment is to extend empathy and not to condemn but I want to respond a little bit to this situation. It’s clear that things were not handled best or lovingly by the staff in your area from what you’ve said and that’s not okay, there should have been more open communication and honest discussion like you said. Having said that I’ve got to say that you have completely missed the point in all that YL seeks to accomplish. As a leader now I can say that I was led by an amazing friend (who is now openly gay but did not come out until a couple years after he graduated college) when I was in high school. I have so much gratefulness and love for my friend and can say I am where I am in my faith today partly because of him. When I was informed of his sexuality by him recently it did not change any of that gratitude and love for him and it never will. He loved me well and led me well and struggled with his sexuality while doing it. So I want to be first to say that you are right to be hurt if anyone made you feel less-than adequate for your sexuality. Having said all that, you still missed the point. Every person is just as flawed as you are and even a mission with as great intentions as Young Life has is still owned, operated, and managed my imperfect humans who are just as capable of missing the mark as you are. People screwed up, feelings were hurt, things weren’t reconciled appropriately. That doesn’t help to clear any heads when that’s the way things are left. Here’s why you missed the mark: Young Life is not a lying, evil, corporation chasing money and trying to hurt people that is worth of being sued and slandered until it is shut down. Regardless of people in authority missing the mark the mission of Young Life is not changed; to introduce kids to Jesus. If you truly believed Young Life was such a horrible entity you would not have been a leader for 8 years.
I am not trying to downplay the pain you’ve experienced or the way you have felt shunned by a ministry you have poured a lot of your life into. I have no doubt that you have well-founded and deep hurt from this experience.
But here’s the deal; if you’re allegiance is first and foremost to Christ than you would need to reconcile the way you are reacting to this situation with the way Jesus commanded us to live. We are called to follow Christ’s example in living Sacrificially. The whole concept of picking up your cross is the act of identifying with Christ in the way he layed down his life for us. You see we get wrapped up all the time in the ways that we feel we have been wronged or denied something that we feel entitled to. (Jobs, money, things going according to our plan, our sexuality, etc). But while we get wrapped up in putting our foot down on issues where we feel we have been wronged we ignore the example of Jesus who in act of laying down his life denied himself everything he deserved. The son of God traded imortality for humanity, power for weakness, a throne for a cross. Jesus laid down his right as ruler of the universe to suffer on the cross for our rebellion.
It is only when I stop myself in my tracks and be honest with myself that i realize that nothing is mine anymore if I am to be a follower of Christ. I am surrendering my life, rights and comfort in order to be Jesus’ hands and feet. I will give my time away, which is rightfully mine to show up in a kid’s life and point him to Jesus. I will spend less of the money I earned working on myself so that I can pay for a kid to go to camp or to grab dinner. I will subject myself to rejection by high schoolers. But none of these actions are down because they are convinient or easy to swallow. They are done because I have agreed that making disciples of all nations takes precedence over what I want or feel that I am entitled to.
I would not know Jesus at all had I not been pursued by a YL leader who would not have been there had YL not existed or been welcomed into the school. I would not know I had worth or eternal significance had it not been for that friendship. You miss the point because you seeking justice and awareness and legal action for having been wronged is not a worthy cause to attempt to disenfranchise and slander an organization that has its shortcomings but does immeasurably more good in the long run for the Kingdom and for people. I imagine this is why the issue was attempted to be handled internally; not as an elaborate cover up to protect money and positions of power but to not hurt or hinder the overwhelmingly good impact that the ministry is having not only in your area but around the world.
I hope my words weren’t hurtful to you, no anger or judgement is felt on my side. I wished honestly to express empathy and let you know I do care about your hurt but I also wanted to honestly present my prayerful thoughts on the matter after reading it.
Praying for peace in your life.
If Young Life changes some day it will be because you and others just like you are telling the truth, and leading by example. The details you share help others know the hazards and obstacles, and shine a light into the darkness, and end the fear. You refused to let others stumble alone in darkness, and you did so knowing the likely cost to your position and place in the community. This makes you a hero, and the best kind of role model for people young and old to emulate.
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A similar issue arose in my area. I would love to exchange stories and I have some ideas on how to give a voice to the marginalized. Please, email me personally! Thanks for sharing your story.
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I have been in Young Life for three years, and my leader knows I’m gay. I really wanted to do work crew this summer, but when I applied they said they didn’t need anyone. I just saw pictures of three other kids from our group that just did work crew. I asked them about it, and they said the same leader texted them asked them to do it a couple weeks after I applied. No one ever said I couldn’t do it because im gay but now that I read this I htink that must be it. I dont really know how to feel but its actually pretty embarassign and humiliating because I wanted to go and I could have done everything the other kids did. They are nice people and the cmpas are fun but i hope they let gay people volunteer someday
Thanks for posting all this. I was terminated from being a Wyldlife leader for the same reasons and it sucked. Same thing happened with speculations going around as to why I was terminated, that were being spread by them.
Thanks again. Makes me feel better knowing I wasn’t alone on this. As sad as that is.
Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear everything went like that but I’m not surprised. Your blog has been circling around Young Life staff in Southern California the past couple weeks because a leader in a local area is working on the production inspired by your story. I’ve been an area director for years, and have always allowed gay leaders on my team, but unfortunately we always have to keep it hidden so the national office doesn’t find out about it. A couple years ago they found out about one gay leader and I had to pretend I didn’t know he was gay. I will never forget that, I felt like Judas denying Jesus even though of course he wan’t Jesus but he was a great leader. I’ve talked with a couple other area directors and staff that I know are secrety affirming, and we’re interested in the plan. We don’t know what we can really do, but just know you’re not the only one who wants to see change. Sorry I can’t say who I am or what exact area, but I at least wanted to say thanks for being willing to share your story. We are all praying that no more students are subjected to the negative messages sent by the way dishonest mistreatment of LGBT people is accepted like this within YL. All the gay leaders I’ve ever had have been great and we have never had a problem. The problem is not gay people, it’s Christians who are unable to accept that God is big enough to work through everyone.
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I’m so glad I just stumbled across your blog. I was looking for YL’s policies online because I’m a closeted gay leader and I wanted to double check them. I’m sorry to see that your experience went this way, and it definitely causes a lot of fear and anxiety for me too because I don’t want them to start any tumors or false allegations about me when I come out like they did with you. Sounds like I need to go about it a different way, like have someone with me in the initial meeting or tape record it or something so they can’t lie about it later like they did with you. Do you have any ideas for me because I think I’m ready to come out pretty soon.
I was in YL for about four years and never had any problem with anyone. I came out to my area director and all of a sudden everything changed. They told all the leaders not to talk to me and everything got really weird. I got really concerned because I didn’t want anyone to think I had done anything bad because I hadn’t. The way they handled the situation made it seem like I had done something bad to a kid but I never did. It was the worst thing I ever experienced in my life because they were like saying they had to keep kids safe, like they had to keep them safe from me just because I was gay. In my area a lot of parents and kids still buy that, so it sounds like you’re in a different area, but I think it is getting better and I hope it will all be good soemday.
sorry to hear you had such a bad experience but Young Life is right on this one. gay people should not be in youth ministries and whatever they have to do to keep them out is for the greater good. I’m in Young Life and I think the reason we say gay lifestyle is because no one is really gay, they’re just livign a lifestyle like they are, and that is an abomination. I would quit Young Life if they ever changed this policy because I believe in the word of God and I dont care what culture says. You’re not doing what’s right just by saying all this even if it really did happen, you’re just trying to jusitfy and rationalize your lifestyle choice and kids need to be kept safe from people like you.
“gay people should not be in youth ministries” but “no one is really gay”–so there’s no problem!
I am an Area Director, and I noticed some changes made earlier this year. There were some subtle messages sent at the 75 year celebration. In February, all the staff had to sign a new confidientiality and non-disclosure agreement, and then all the volunteers had to also in May. There were some changes to the Faith and Conduct Agreement also. I try to stay pretty in tune with all the policies, but I’ve been watching and hoping for some changes in this area for a long time. Now that I read this blog, I think the timing kind of lines up. I can tell from your other blog like they were ignoring you and not listening, but I think you made more of an impact than you know. Of course you’re not the only one in this kind of situation, but very few share about it, and this is pretty well documented. The dates of your situation and blog kind of coincide with the changes made for everyone, so I don’t think they ignored it completely, even if they didn’t talk to you directly. I wish they actually made changes toward actually being inclusive, but it seems like they just tightened up on their position legally. We’ll just keep praying that the policies come to reflect more of what most people actually feel, because most staff and volunteers I know would have no problem serving alongside gay leaders. It’s pretty unfortubate the service center is in Colorado Springs because that’s just like a mecha for the most conservative of evangelicals and they are just unable to think any differently, as you’ve also mentioned. Keep sharing your story and letting people know how you feel and how you’ve been affected by all this. I’m sure some kids and probably adults are seeing your example and they really need it. You are planting seeds and I know someday thigns will change and you can say I told you so.
Um… The dude “came out” during cabin time at camp. Totally and completely inappropriate. It does not matter where you fall on the subject. Wrong time, wrong place. Camp is about the kids, not you.
Grow. Up. Do you even know first hand the beautiful red carpet that is laid out for our LBGQT friends at club and camp?
Everybody loves the hating, juicy side of every story. Nobody wants to think for a second this leader acted inappropriately. I would have made the same call.
I’m a gay leader in YL and I don’t know what to do. I guess I’ve know since I was a little kid but still I’m not really ready to come out because church and YL are important to me and I know all that will change whether I’ve changed or not. I cant live like this anymore and I need help. What should I do? I don’t know who to trust and if if I ask for counseling my parents will get suspicious. I feel trapped. I can’t tell my area director because I do t want it to get around and I want to keep serving and everything. But seriously I can’t live hiding anymore and I still love God with all my heart and that won’t change even if people say it does. Can you email me?
I would honestly just come out and leave YL for being bigots. It’s wrong to terminate someone because they are gay! This kind of shit pisses me off. These Christians probably never had gay friends growing up in their entire lives.
Why would you want to support a hateful group like YL. The shame and shunning is terrible
I was a lesbian leader for a few years but left a couple years ago. My area director knew and it was kind of just overlooked. I think it’s different for gay men, and I’m sorry about that. It won’t always be like this but to be honest I don’t have much hope for any change any time soon. Even if everyone knows all this is wrong at this point the thing is it’s kind of socially accepted and expected for Christian organizations to do this and that won’t change anytime soon. I couldn’t be like open about myself or talk about it or let anyone know, students never knew as far as I know. I’m glad you called them out though because too many just go along with everything and I’m ashamed now that I did too. Best of luck to you and seems like you’re doing better now. The first year is always the hardest but it will just continue to get better.
Thanks for sharing this. I’m on staff, so I’ve heard about this. Sounds like there have been some miscommunications and misunderstandings, but I think overall you’re right. The way we handle these kinds of situations is wrong, and I hope it changes.
I’m surprised to see there are other Yl leaders out there like me. I’m gay but don’t want to have to stop serving, but I feel like I have a moral obligation to kids if I care about them the right thing to do is show that it’s ok to be gay and Christian. I don’t know how to communicate anything with YL without giving away that I am gay and it seems like something no one brings up unless they’re gay so it seems like it will never change. What can we do?
I’m a gay student and I’m in young life. I’ve never tried to do leadership or anything and I’m not out yet except for only a few close friends. I was wondering what they think about LGBT people because I know it’s a Christian group but they’ve never talked about it. I’m scared now that I see this because I feel like they won’t treat me the same if I come out or they’ll think somethings wrong with me even if they don’t say it and my friends that are really into it might feel like that too. I don’t know if I should stay involved to try to show them a good example of a normal gay person or if I should just stop going before I come out. I’m not sure when that will be but probably before I graduate so I don’t know. Thanks for putting this out where because now it’s clear what they believe and how they treat LGBT people.
The other day at Campaigners my friends were talking about gay marriage and how it’s cool that everyobe is starting to be more accepting and everything. It felt good because I think Im gay but nobody knows. Our leader was the onlt one that said its not ok because it’s unnatural and it’s a sin. He said people become gay if they were molested or if they don’t have a good relationship with their parents, but I know none of that is true for me because none of that has ever happened to me. I don’t think my friends really agrred but it still makes me worried to say I’m gay to anyone because I don’t want themt o think I was molestred or I have problems or anything. Our leader said if you’re gay you it’s like a mental problem and stuff, so I don’t want my friends to really believe that. I know a lot of religious people feel like that but it doesn’t seem like they really understand it or listen to anything anyone else says about it. I feel like if I come out that would be awkward because we all know he said that stuff and feels that way so I don’t know what would happen. I don’t have any problem with God and I actually belive it and want to know more about it but it seems like they wouldn’t want me to if they know I’m gay. I tried to look up the official beliefs on the website but I couldnt find them so I was surprised to find this and see that this is what they think and do. I dont think anyone would treat me differently if I come out but I guess maybe religious people still would.
Dude, your obviously monitoring what is posted here for whatever gain you to feed your anger and hate.,
I know the whole REAL story. You freaking CAME OUT during cabin time to a group of kids?!?! How selfish are you?!? What on gods green earth think that’s ok? I don’t care where you fall on this subject.
You were wrong. You were selfish. You got called out. Now youre mad.
Get over it?!? Seriously, anger is going to eat at you forever. So, you don’t agree. Great. Stop crying and go live your life.
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Just how Jesus would respond, eh Micah?
wow. In 1976 i was kicked off of YL Staff because there was an ” appearance of evil” in my life. I will never forget those words. I lost every friend i had and 40 yrs later, it still hurts. I had hoped YL had grown a bit, perhaps even figured out that the Jesus they say they love would not send away a gay person. guess not much has changed after all.
Really glad to see this discussion. I’m wondering if there is any Younglife-type organization that is LGBT friendly? I’ve been leading a youth program in my town through a small church, but we’re considering linking up with a few other small churches in town for an interdenominational ministry. There have been Younglife groups in town in the past, so I was considering organizing through them, but was doing my homework on the LGBT issue and obviously that’s not going to work right now if this is where Younglife stands. I know so many kids who need a place to explore who God is in an environment that truly shows God’s agape love toward them and their LGBT friends and neighbors. Anyone know of organizations doing this?
I’m glad that blogs like this exist to have these discussions, but I think we also need to talk about what to do about it, beyond the disappointment of being hurt by a ministry usually known for so many good things.
Thanks for the comment. I appreciate that you’re not willing to partner with Young Life due to this issue, because I do believe that is in the best interest of kids. As far as other organizations go, there are LGBT youth friendly groups, but they are not as large, mainstream or well-known. They tend to be more locally-based, so I am not sure what’s available in your area. I try my best to be the change I want to see in the world and not just complain but actually do something, so I continue to work with youth in my area in all the same ways. I volunteer weekly at local schools, go to sports games and events to support students, do monthly events, and organize summer trips. It is harder to do it on a smaller scale, but it’s worth it. I appreciate your support for students in your area, and I hope you can find options that work well for you and accomplish the goal of keeping the best interests of the student in mind.