This is a detailed paraphrase of the meeting I had with Scott Didrickson and Danielle Eylander, both staff of Bellevue Young Life, on August 31st, 2015, ten days after I met with Scott Didrickson and first told him that I am gay, and four days after I met with Danielle Eylander to discuss the same topic. I cannot share direct quotes from this particular meeting due to reasons I also cannot share on such a public forum. Please keep in mind that this paraphrase is done directly from the exact words with no addition, subtraction or editing of the progression of the conversation. I have offered to make the account of this meeting available to Young Life staff, but they have not accepted the offer to hear their own exact words.
For the record, I am trying to get back to just educating people about Young Life’s beliefs, policies and actions regarding gay people. I can definitely admit that at times I have strayed from my goal and gotten personal and hurtful. Everyone I’ve talked to about my blog is kind of like, “Yeah, we got it. They fired you when you came out as gay, and they told you not to talk about it, because that’s what Christians do. Then you started a blog, and they panicked and made up a different reason, because that’s what Christians do too. Then they shut down and stopped communicating when you wanted real answers to real questions, because that is also just what they do.” That’s basically it in a nutshell, and I think everyone pretty much gets that. I guess I just wish it wasn’t so predictable.
Over the past couple months, I have attempted several times to communicate with Scott Didrickson, Danielle Eylander, as well as Ann Shackelton, Young Life’s Senior V.P. of HR, Terry Swenson, Young Life’s Senior V.P. of Communications, and Newt Crenshaw, the President of Young Life. All of them have refused to communicate. I am content knowing that I have been the party that has kept the doors of communication open, that I have done my best to understand this process, and that I am the party that is willing and able to be publicly open, honest, clear and accountable regarding this process.
The purpose of this blog is not to suggest that it is wrong for Young Life or any other organization to hold beliefs regarding theology, sexuality, and behaviors, or to create or enforce policies based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. Although I disagree with Young Life’s beliefs, policies and actions regarding gay people, and I think that they are damaging and contrary to the heart of Christ, I believe they have the right to hold them and act upon them as they determine. What is unquestionably wrong is that the organization, its local staff, regional staff and national staff have all participated in directly lying about and covering up the reasoning of my termination.
A former volunteer in Bellevue Young Life, Matt Sharp, recently asked me, “Who is your audience?” I think that’s a good question. The audience is anyone who is interested for any reason, but I think who I care to reach most is the “furthest out,” which seems to be the Young Life staff directly involved in this process. Their hearts are hardened, and that’s ok, I totally I get it. Danielle Eylander said it best: “Whether people are- they’re homophobic or not, and if they are homophobic, they’re blinded.”
I will keep commentary and supporting evidence out of the paraphrase, but I have included footnotes with corresponding numbers that you can refer to during or after your reading of the paraphrase.
This meeting took place in Red Robin, a public location where there is no implied confidentiality, with signs posted on the entrance notifying all patrons that recording is taking place. We made small talk and ordered food before getting into the nitty gritty, so here’s where the paraphrase picks up:
Scott Didrickson asked me what had been the hardest part about coming out. *1
I said that the hardest part about coming out was knowing that even though I was still the same person I had always been, still believed all the same stuff about God, and could still do everything I had always done, some people would always see me as different and treat me as less than just based on this one part of me, which wasn’t a choice.
Scott Didrickson and Danielle Eylander teared up *2 **2, and Scott Didrickson said as much as he didn’t want to add to making me feel less than or different, he had spent three hours on the phone with HR,*3 **3 and he did have to tell me that they were going to enforce the policy I had posted on my Facebook *4 **4 ***4. He said I had probably known about the policy before our last meeting, and this is probably what I was expecting.
I said yes, it was what I had expected after reading the policy, and even though I disagreed with it, I respected the beliefs. *5
Scott Didrickson said he had read the book I had given him at our previous meeting, and that it brought some new perspective, but he disagreed with many of the ideas in the book, but that was ok, because he had other friends he disagreed with about other theological issues, and those disagreements didn’t affect their relationships. *6
I said yeah, I didn’t expect him to agree with all of it, and that was ok.
Scott Didrickson said he had also read the posts I had made on Facebook, and said he agreed with some of them and disagreed with others. He said that he agreed with a post I had made about identity, and said he got that but didn’t get everything, like he got some of his friends’ perspectives on some theological issues but not others.
I said yeah, not everyone has to agree on everything, and that’s ok.
Scott Didrickson said even though he disagreed with the theology of being gay and Christian in the book and didn’t believe gay people should serve in ministry, he appreciated the tone of the book and how it was focused on being able to talk about these issues and disagree but still get along. *7
I said yeah, I agreed, and it was important to talk about it for a lot of reasons, and I had learned a lot through my time in counseling, learning about these issues, and reading this book and others.
Scott Didrickson said that even though Christians can have different perspectives and opinions regarding homosexuality, the world will know we love God by the way we love each other, so he hoped we could set a good example by disagreeing about this issue but still getting along so that people could see that. *8 **8
I said yeah, I agreed, I would try my best to be respectful in voicing my disagreement with the policies and beliefs.
Danielle Eylander said I shouldn’t post the policies because they are private and they are not available anywhere except the Faith and Conduct Agreement, which students never see. She said students were confused about who had sent me the policy I had posted, and it was confusing because I didn’t cite the source. *9 **9
I said I did cite the source and had said that the policy was from the Faith and Conduct Agreement when I posted it.
Danielle Eylander said yeah, I did say that.
I asked then what was the problem?
Danielle Eylander said kids were wondering if Scott had sent me that, and not all the leaders agreed with it, and it’s not available to kids, and it’s not something they teach kids.*10
I said it is something they teach kids, because actions speak louder than words, and kids are seeing that this is something the organization believes and enforces. I said if this is what the core of the organization is saying, then that affects the whole organization, and kids and parents have a right to know the core beliefs and values of any organization they’re involved with.
Scott Didrickson said that they weren’t going to try to make me look bad, and he could understand why I would want to go that direction, but he hoped I wouldn’t try to make Young Life look bad, for the sake of the kids.
I said telling people that I was terminated because I’m gay wouldn’t make me look bad, so I was fine with them saying that. I said sometimes organizations make themselves look bad.
Scott Didrickson referenced the book again and said it was about being able to disagree about this issue without arguing.
I said yeah, we didn’t have to argue, and the other part of the book is about educating people about these issues, and educating people is not arguing. *11
Scott Didrickson asked if I felt the need to educate people about this.
I said yes, definitely.
Danielle Eylander asked if I thought that was creating division, because a lot of leaders don’t agree with the policy, and it was about relationships, so talking about this issue would create division among leaders, students, within families, and in the community.*12
I said no, talking about it was not creating division, because the division already exists, and talking about it is just educating people about the division that already exists. I said I was not creating division, and just talking about it doesn’t have to create division.
Danielle Eylander asked didn’t I think that was causing drama, because she and Scott had nothing to do with the policies or this decision, and the other local leaders didn’t either, so she didn’t want it to affect their relationships with kids.*13
Scott Didrickson said he knew my desire was to see kids come to know Jesus, so they didn’t want kids to choose not to be involved over this issue.
Danielle Eylander mentioned a particular student about whom we both care and said that she was worried this student wouldn’t come back after this. *14
I said that’s his choice, and everyone should be able to know about the policies and beliefs so that they can make educated decisions about if and how they want to be involved with the organization. I said any parent would want to know the core values and beliefs of any organization their kids are involved with.
Danielle Eylander said there is more to Young Life than just these beliefs and policies, there’s more to what they do, and this is a divisive issue, so she didn’t want all the good they do to not be seen because of this one thing.
I said there is more to me than being gay, so if this is the one issue that can make the organization say they don’t want me involved, it could also be the one issue that makes students and parents decide that they don’t want to be involved.
Danielle Eylander said this policy isn’t relevant to everyone, it’s only relevant to a very small percentage, and all kids are allowed to be involved no matter what. She said not all the policies are relevant to all the leaders, like the policy about underage drinking wouldn’t be relevant to me because I’m not underage. She said this was the hardest policy to enforce because it’s not a choice, and it’s so personal and hurtful, but when it comes down to it, the contract is all they have, so HR has to enforce it. *15 **15
Scott Didrickson said yeah, it wasn’t their choice, HR made the decision. He said Young Life is a huge organization with thousands of staff, so they had to have policies, and if they made exceptions to the policies in one area they would have to change things everywhere.
Danielle Eylander said even though Seattle is generally pretty open, West Bellevue has a lot of conservative families, and students might feel uncomfortable because they might feel like they have to agree with their family beliefs, but their friends might disagree. She said parents had complained in the past about their students being in the same cabin with a gay student, and Young Life had to be a safe place where everyone felt comfortable. *16
I said all the feedback I had gotten from students and parents had been very positive, and many parents had thanked me for setting a good example for the community by coming out, and all the parents I heard from didn’t see any problem and wanted me to be able to continue. I said if people are uncomfortable having their kids around gay people, that’s an irrational fear, so we shouldn’t have to cater to those people to make them feel safe.
Scott Didrickson said that Young Life is all over the country and in other countries, with thousands of staff and volunteers, and the policies had to be enforced the same everywhere, so even though people might be ready to have a gay leader in our area, there are a lot of people in other areas that wouldn’t be ready for it. He said there are parents in many places that wouldn’t feel comfortable having their kids go to camps with gay leaders as cabin leaders, so it wouldn’t be fair to not have those kids come. He said that he understood my desire was to see kids be involved in ministry and come to know Jesus, and we all just had to do what Jesus would do. *17 **17 ***17
I said that this was not what Jesus would do, and if it was, He wouldn’t be telling me not to educate people about it.
Danielle Eylander and Scott Didrickson both got visibly flustered and tongue tied for a minute.
Danielle said Young Life is about ministry, and they didn’t want the relationships that other leaders had with kids to be affected by kids knowing that this was a policy. She said that not all the leaders believe the same thing and don’t agree with the policy. She said they never talk about this issue, and the policies aren’t available to students and parents, and the only place this policy can be found is in the Faith and Conduct, so students and parents don’t need to know about it to be involved with the organization. *18
I said this policy and this action is affecting relationships, and being gay shouldn’t have to affect my relationships with kids or the way I work with kids. I said all relationships should be open and honest, especially in ministry, and it is wrong to get kids involved with an organization without fully disclosing the core beliefs and values that are believed and taught, whether through words or actions. *19
Danielle Eylander said there’s more to Young Life than this.
I said there’s more to me than being gay.
Danielle Eylander said if I had questions I could call HR. *20 She asked Scott Didrickson who he had talked to from HR. **20
Scott Didrickson said he had talked with Ann, and she would be a good person to talk to if I had questions about the policy. He said he wanted me to know that this was an issue that Young Life was still thinking about and talking about, and this is where things were now, and we could keep talking about this issue. He said this request might be kind of underhanded since they were saying I couldn’t be a Young Life leader, but he asked if they had students who were struggling with their sexuality and wanted to know more about the perspective of being gay and Christian, could they refer them to me. *21
I said of course, I would always be around and willing to work with any student for any reason. I said it would be good to talk about it, that I wanted this whole thing to be very open and honest, that I had no problem talking about it, and that I didn’t want this to be something where people were wondering. I brought up a recent issue with Bellevue Football and talked about how the community had been upset about the appearance of a scandal with that issue, and this didn’t have to be a scandal, and the only way to prevent that would be to talk about it. I said we should have a meeting with students and parents who were interested in knowing about why I was terminated, and we could all talk about it and show that we disagreed about this issue but could still talk about it and get along.
Scott Didrickson said that wasn’t a good idea and Young Life probably wouldn’t let that happen.
I asked if I could have a written record of my termination.
Danielle Eylander said they probably wouldn’t put anything in writing, but if they did they would just send something to the local committee, reminding them of the policies and reminding them that these policies were still current and enforced. *22
*1 I had come out publicly nine days earlier, the day after I met with him individually.
*2 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Danielle Eylander: I mean, the reason why I was crying is because you were asked to step down in that meeting.
Me: Well I wasn’t asked to step down. He never asked me one thing.
Danielle Eylander: Oh, well, terminated. It’s, it’s yeah.
Me: It’s a difference.
Danielle Eylander: It is, yeah, you were fired. But, yeah.
**2 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Me: He wouldn’t have been tearing up, both of you wouldn’t have been tearing up if you didn’t already know that I-
Danielle: That you were being terminated.
*3 In meeting on 11/21/16
Me: Like when- at that meeting when Scott was saying exactly what he said, he was like ‘I spent three hours on the phone with HR, asking all my questions, we read everything that you posted,’ and you know that, and then he teared up, and you both teared up because you knew what was coming, and he said like, ‘that policy is going to be enforced,’ and he was crying, and you were crying, because, like, you knew what that meant.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
**3 In meeting on 01/05/17:
Me: And Scott said in the meeting, like ‘I spent three hours on the phone with HR going over everything, and this is what our- this is what the response to you is’
Danielle Eylander: But he didn’t list things, yeah.
Me: The response, the response, had nothing to do with what was said in the letter.
Danielle Eylander: Right.
*4 Up to that date, this was the only policy I had posted on my Facebook:
**4 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Danielle Eylander: I mean the post- the mission statement that you put on your blog.
M: Well the mission statement that I posted in my blog is the same one I posted on Facebook, and that’s the same one that Scott referenced when he was terminating me, so he said, ‘I talked to HR, and they said that they are enforcing that policy that you posted on Facebook.’
Danielle: Well you should, I don’t know, yeah.
***4 In meeting on 01/05/17:
Me: Like admitting where you’re starting from. And like we started from ‘We told him in a meeting that he couldn’t lead because he’s gay, and that’s our policy. And then, but we can’t admit that that’s what happened.’ That’s unacceptable, and I have a feeling that it is like a legal matter and like that’s going to continue to be their version of things, and that is going to interfere with any sort of effort to go forward. Like, they kind of have to be able to admit, like-
Danielle Eylander: We were covering up.
Danielle Eylander: I’m sorry.
*5 In meeting on 11/21/16
Me: No, that doesn’t mean, anything, because what I said at the very beginning is that I respect the beliefs.
*6 In meeting on 01/05/17
Danielle Eylander: Then when we came back, I know that Scott said, like, I know that he said, ‘I read your-the book, and I really enjoyed it.’ I know he said, ‘I, like, don’t agree with the theology, but like, it changed the way I feel, and duh duh duh.’
*7 In meeting on 01/05/17
Me: Do you see that if those were talked about in parallel situations, like if he was saying, ‘I don’t agree with the theology of being gay and Christian, and I don’t agree that any gay person should serve in any Christian ministry, and now you can’t serve in this ministry,’ don’t you see how those are parallel conversations?
[local pastor]: Do you see how that can be understood?
Danielle Eylander: Yeah, but, yeah, but.
Me: It was in the meeting where I was terminated, right after I came out as gay, and a meeting where no other reasoning was discussed.
Me: How can that not be understood that that was the reason that I was being terminated?
Danielle Eylander: Well, I’m sure that’s like what’s being implied there, but also, like, you did come out to kids.
Me: But that wasn’t discussed in that meeting.
Danielle Eylander: But I don’t know why he didn’t, like, that’s why I want you to talk to Scott.
*8 In meeting on 11/21/16
Me: I asked for that, and what I think is like very wrong, is like, Scott said, like ‘The world will know we love God by the way we love each other.’
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: And then like you’re denying that this is the way you’re loving, by like removing me from leadership because I’m gay.
Danielle Eylander: Mhmm.
Me: Or because that’s not right or whatever.
Danielle Eylander: Mmhmm.
Me: And like that is not allowing the world to see how you’re loving me. And telling me to be quiet about it is literally telling me, like, ‘Don’t let people see how were loving you.’
Danielle Eylander: Mmhmm
Me: And that is very, very wrong. And
Danielle Eylander: What can I do? Personally what can I do? Cuz
Me: Like, I think you need to be honest.
Danielle Eylander: I can’t really talk about it.
Me: Well you can.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah, I can, and I can, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to work with the girls that I work with, and I wouldn’t be able to do the ministry, like, not the organization, but I wouldn’t be able to serve the girls that I serve in this capacity, like I do, and like I don’t think its wrong. I get that, really, like the context changes it because its hurtful to you, but I don’t think its wrong for an organization to say, ‘Hey you can’t discuss what happened,’ and it’s always been like that, we’ve never discussed why a leaders’ been asked to step down. Like, or why a leader stepped down.
[local pastor]: Terminated
Danielle Eylander: Terminated, yeah, that’s what I meant to say.
**8 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Me: No, he was saying like, like I said, that the world will know the way we love God because of the way we love each other, and that we shouldn’t, like, it’s ok if we disagree and blah, blah blah, and its totally like, that’s all fine, but when it comes down to it, it’s like you’re not willing to acknowledge what we’re really disagreeing about.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: And that is a problem, because like kids are getting involved in something without-
Danielle Eylander: Knowing.
Danielle Eylander: But that’s every church, I mean, what do you think this church’s policy is? People aren’t asking what the policy is.
[Just Commentary: Unfortunately, this is the mentality of many Christians. Even if they know that discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong, they participate in it because they they are waiting for it to change. The whole “everyone’s doing it, so I/ we can do it, too” mentality is the exact opposite of what leaders of youth should instill in youth.]
*9 In meeting on 11/21/16
Danielle Eylander: The only thing I wanted you, and maybe it wasn’t my place to ask, but I was thinking about kids, was if you could just say- not just say ‘Young Life,’ but say, like ‘HR, or Young Life’s policy, but you’re saying, ‘Young Life, like Young Life believes this, the people in Young Life believe this.’
**9 From my third blog post, written a couple weeks after this meeting:
The Young Life staff was very upset that I published the official YL Faith and Conduct statement in a FB post; they feel students and parents don’t need to know about it because it applies to staff and volunteers only and is not something they teach students. I disagree because it’s exactly what they taught all the students when they used it to terminate me from my volunteer position.
[My own words, but just to demonstrate that I have been saying the same thing since day one. They cited the policy I had posted on Facebook when terminating me, were very upset that I was talking about the policies, and pressured me hard not to talk about it. Their narrative has changed like the wind, and the staff at all levels have said whatever is convenient at the time, but mine has been consistent from the beginning.]
*10 In meeting on 11/21/16
Danielle Eylander: The only reason I asked you to stay- and I’m sorry, I am sorry for this, if it came across a way I didn’t mean, is like [leader name], if that’s not [leader name’s] belief, like all I thought of was [that leader’s students] being hurt, like, ‘Oh [this leader] believes that I can’t be a part of Young Life.’ Like, and I shouldn’t. I’m sorry that I even asked that.
*11 In meeting on 01/05/17:
Me: Because what happened with me was absolutely unacceptable. Umm and a lot of people that this happens to just walk away forever and never say anything about it, and they believe like what people tell them, like I believe, ok another subject, but they believe that if they speak up about this issue it is hurting the church or the organization or people involved in the organization.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: I believe that I was made to feel that way, and a lot of people believe that, and I don’t believe that.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: I believe that ultimately to help the church and the organization and the people involved, everyone, everyone involved, no matter where people land with their beliefs or their theology or opinions or whatever, talking about it never hurts, that’s like any counselor, psychologist, would never tell anybody ‘Don’t talk about something that’s important to you.’
*12 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Me: When I came out you said, ‘Don’t talk about it.’
Danielle Eylander: I didn’t say, ‘Don’t talk about you being gay.’
Me: Well you said, ‘Don’t talk about how this, like, relates to the organization.’
Danielle Eylander: No, I said, ‘Talk about how it relates to the organization.’
Danielle Eylander: Yeah, I just said, ‘Don’t talk about it,’ I said, “Be careful when you say, like, ‘This is Young Life,’ like to a kid.”
Me: No, and you pushed me really hard about posting the policy.
Danielle Eylander: I just said ‘when you post policies,’ and from my understanding, [M], I thought in some ways we were on the same page, and I thought that you would have, like I went into that meeting from our last meeting.
*13 In meeting on 11/21/16
[local pastor]: You and Scott did not make the decision.
Danielle Eylander: Scott and I did not make the decision.
*14 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Me: Well the problem is, is like, ‘We’re not going to talk about this, we pressured him very hard not to talk about it, and now that he’s talking about, were going to send out this-‘
Danielle Eylander: But I don’t know how anyone pressured you. People could have asked you to stop doing the blog and no one has. No one is telling you to stop talking about it.
Me: No, in our, just our meeting, you pressured me hard.
Danielle Eylander: And I’m sorry if that’s how it came across, I promise you my intention was to talk about Young Life however you wanted, but just say like the organization. All I wanted, the person I was thinking of was _ and I promise you in that moment I was thinking I would absolutely hate for [this student] to think that [this leader] agrees with what you’re saying, which [they] never signed anything agreeing to that, so it’s like to [them], it’s like, ‘Yeah, gay people can lead, and [they] probably think that they can’t in Young Life, because most people assume that, like I don’t even think that they can here, I think most people assume that, but they’re waiting for it to change. I think that is the assumption of most people, but in that meeting, and if I delivered poorly, or if that was the wrong time to think about [those people], and that was a time where I was supposed to think about you, I just, I did feel like it was worth saying that time, because I just, I was thinking of [that leader], like [that leader] doesn’t agree with that, and I didn’t want [that person] to think that way of [that leader]. That was my intention, to preserve their relationship. I don’t care if you, I mean I do care because it’s the avenue I use to have relationships with girls, but, like Young Life HR, I want you to talk to them, I want you to fight, I want them to hear your words.
*15 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Me: My issue was, I felt in that meeting that, well obviously I felt like you were telling me not to talk about it, which was a problem
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
M: But I felt also that it was honest, and you were saying, ‘This is the policy, and we talked about it, and Scott and I are crying now because you’re not going to be a leader anymore, because you’re gay.’ That was what was communicated, and obviously I was prepared for that.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: I knew when I came out that that’s what was going to happen, because like, you just know. Umm, it doesn’t matter who I told or when or what I believe, it’s just that if I was gay and If I came out publicly I would not be in Young Life..
Danielle Eylander: And that may be, it may be the truth.
Me: It doesn’t matter what was said later, because that’s what was done at that time, and that was both your’s and Scott’s understanding of the reasoning at that time, and that’s what you both communicated at that time.
Danielle Eylander: And just because I’m a leader or part time staff in Young Life doesn’t mean, I don’t have to agree with every single thing that they say and do. Like of course, that meeting was- I hated seeing you like that. I hated being a part of that conversation. I never would want anyone to feel hurt because they were left out or rejected because of their sexuality, like, at all. I’m sorry that, I’m sorry for that meeting. I am sorry for that meeting.
**15 In meeting on 11/21/16
Danielle Eylander: I used the words you cannot lead the gender you identify as a partner. And I said, so I think, like that is a rule.
Me: Well, so you see that’s like a rule.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah, that is.
Me: That only excludes gay people, that’s homophobic.
Danielle Eylander: I get, by default, it is homophobic.
[Just commentary: Danielle Eylander related the enforcement of the policy regarding gay leaders to the policy regarding sexual orientation. By doing so, and by saying that it wasn’t a choice, she communicated that she recognized that this policy applies to all gay people, per their policy, even if sexual orientation is as much of a choice as one’s age. She also clarified that this policy does not apply to actions, but to people, as in all gay people. I don’t know if straight people have a different understanding of what being gay is, but I can tell you from experience that the only thing being gay means is that one identifies members of the same gender as potential romantic and/ or sexual partners. By saying that leaders are excluded based on this criteria is reinforcing the fact that leaders are excluded based solely on sexual orientation, not on any actions and beliefs that may or may not be related to their sexual orientation. I am a person who identifies members of the same gender as potential romantic and/ or sexual partners, so based on Danielle Eylander’s understanding of Young Life’s beliefs and policies after ten plus years on staff, I would not have been able to continue in my role as a Young Life leader, whether or not I had told students I was gay in any setting. This is what was was originally communicated to me, and it was the original reasoning for my termination. For them to pretend otherwise is deflection and deception.
*16 In meeting on 11/21/16
Danielle Eylander: Part of the reason why we don’t say anything is because we did have some parents say like homophobic things and want to talk about it in the other direction.
*17 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Danielle Eylander: And also like there are, like, I have conversations all the time with homophobic people in Young Life.
**17 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Danielle Eylander: Like from my understanding and my honest belief, do I think it had to do with, do I think that homophobia exists in the church and in Young Life? Yes.
***17 In meeting on 01/05/17:
Danielle Eylander: I do know that there are probably tons of homophobic people in the ministry of Young Life, like it is a national- international- organization, but I don’t, like, can I say what? Sorry.
*18 In a phone call with Ann Shackleton, Young Life’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources on 02/06/17:
Me: Sure. I was wondering about the current policies regarding homosexual people within Young Life, and how are those policies available to, say, students or parents who want to know more about them?
Ann Shackleton: Ok, um, I think you’re aware of our policy regarding sexual conduct. [I asked about “policies regarding homosexual people within Young Life,” and the first and only association Ann Shackleton made was sexual conduct. This is a hugely significant problem, that when people think of homosexual people, they do not acknowledge their personhood but only think about if and how they are sexually active.] And that- I, I know that because you did sign it, three times, so I think you’re aware of that, so we won’t go into that on this call, but I will tell that, regarding parents and kids, and I think you know this too, so you know, we, we start with someone based on relationship, and as they become more involved with Young Life, if they want to become a volunteer, if they want to work for us on staff, then we become more, umm, we begin to talk about policies at that point. But we begin with relationship instead of policies, so that’s, so when, when someone becomes aware of our policies, that’s uh, uh, um, that’s not at the initial contact, but it certainly isn’t something that we want to keep from people, but you know, someone that we’ve met for the very first time probably wouldn’t be aware of our policies, but as they become more involved, I think you know that we’re a Christian organization and that we carry a more, um, traditional, orthodox view of sexuality because we interpret scripture, that would be umm, that would be something that they’d become aware of sometime after our first meeting with them for sure, it wouldn’t be at the beginning of our relationship with them, obviously. Umm, and I think that that’s probably not a surprise to very many people, that we would have that policy that would outline our interpretation of scripture. However, that doesn’t mean that we have any less respect for someone else’s interpretation, or your’s, or another church’s, or another organization’s. We would just talk from our perspective on that. But at the right time, you know, when they wanted to become, um, more involved.
Me: So, according to what you just said, a parent who wants to know more about Young Life and its policies, and the values that all the leaders and staff are required to sign a contract saying they agree with, a parent who’s interested in that, cannot learn about those policies unless they take the steps to become a volunteer or staff member?
Ann Shackleton: Umm, we, uh, all the policies are available to all volunteers and staff when they decide to go that direction.
Me: So if a parent wants to know about Young Life’s beliefs and values regarding sexuality, maybe to make sure that they align with the beliefs and values of their family, and to make sure they want their students to be influenced by those values, they are not able to get answers to those questions?
Ann Shackleton: Those things come, umm, in conversation, umm through relationship.
Me: And students are not able to know about the policies until they become student leaders, so they are not able to consider that as a factor when determining whether or not they want to be involved that in that way, is that correct?
Ann Shackleton: You know, [M], we have policies, and we have practices that come out of those policies, and those policies and practices are all very normal for an organization that holds the orthodox view of sexuality that Young Life holds.
Me: And student leaders enter into contractual agreements as minors with Young Life, and their parents are not allowed to know the policies of the organization that they’re making this agreement with unless they are volunteer leaders or staff members, is that correct?
Ann Shackleton: Uh, um, [M], is there anything else?
Me: Oh, do you want me to clarify that question, was that unclear?
Ann Shackleton: No, I understand your question, but our policies and processes, those are internal, we don’t disclose those.
Me: Ok, and you mentioned you don’t respect me any less based on my different interpretation of scripture. Can you expand on what you think those differences are, and how you came to understand that we have differences in those areas? Because, as you said earlier, we’ve never met, and this is the first time we’ve talked, so what are those differences, and when how did you come to believe that we have differences regarding interpretation of scripture regarding sexuality, and how that might relate to the policy you mentioned that I signed three times, and how is that related to my termination from Young Life, which occurred on August 31st, 2015?
Ann Shackleton: Umm, no, I’m not going to expand on that, but if there’s anything else I would be happy to hear it.
Me: But you acknowledge that you believe that I have a different interpretation of scripture regarding sexuality that conflicts with Young Life’s policies?
Ann Shackleton: [M], is there anything else?
Me: Well, I’m just wondering what motivated your statement that you don’t respect me any less based on my different interpretation of scripture, can you expand on that?
Ann Shackleton: Um, no, I’m not going to, I’m not going to do that, but, [M], is there anything else?
*19 In meeting on 11/21/16:
[local pastor]: He’s saying it doesn’t matter. The real issue is-
Danielle Eylander: Right, but I- the real issue is what?
Me: That, so, like, gay people, LGBT people, like you don’t understand and you’ll never understand what it’s like to like be in community that says it’s one thing-
Danielle Eylander: Right.
Me: And is another, and when that community represents God himself. And the way they treat you is genuinely the way they feel God would have them treat you, because that’s how God would treat, and then they treat you like this, you’ll never understand how that feels.
Danielle Eylander: I won’t.
Me: And it’s not ok to deceive kids and get them involved in something without fully disclosing that that is the expectation or the requirement, so that if a kid loves Young Life when he’s 15, 16, 17, 18, becomes a leader and comes out when he’s, you know, 20, 25, 30, and then is rejected by an organization that says it’s one thing and isn’t.
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: Then that is the most devastating thing that someone could ever experience. And if you’re going to have that belief, and you’re going to take those actions, that’s fine, but lying about them is not ok, and it’s not ok to make up false reasoning, or to change the reasoning later, or to say that the reasoning is something when its really, really something else, whether that something else is gay or business or whatever, it is unacceptable, and it is unacceptable to deny that those policies exist, or to not educate yourself about if the policies exist, or the beliefs, or how those beliefs are implemented into the ministry. That’s not ok, and I feel like you are deceiving kids and potentially getting kids involved that will someday have the same experience, and I feel very burdened-
Danielle Eylander: Yeah.
Me: To protect kids from that experience.
Danielle Eylander: You feel like I’m deceiving them because I’m telling them you can be gay and a leader, or like?
Me: Well if that’s what you’re saying-
Danielle Eylander: I’m not, I’m not saying anything.
*20 In meeting on 11/21/16
Danielle Eylander: When it comes to what happens with Young Life and Young Life’s decision in letting you go, I do think it would be helpful for you to talk with someone from HR, like I do think it’d be helpful, I’ve always thought that from the very beginning.
**20 Just commentary:
This is how I know Danielle Eylander had not talked to anyone in HR before this meeting, and that she had not overheard or been a part of any conversation with HR prior to this meeting. If she had, she would not have asked Scott Didrickson who he had spoken to from HR.
*21 In meeting on 11/21/16:
Me: Yeah, like I said, everything in that meeting was ok, except that you said that I shouldn’t talk about it. And Scott saying that I shouldn’t educate people about it.
Danielle Eyander: No he didn’t.
Me: Yes he did.
Danielle Eylander: But see, that’s not what I remember. I remember him asking you, ‘Do you want to educate people?’ And I remember in my mind thinking ‘Oh, why’d he just ask that?’ And then he said, ‘If we have kids that want to know more about being gay and Christian, can we give them your number?’
Me: No, what he said was, ‘This may be second handed because were saying you can’t be a Young Life leader, but if we have kids who are dealing with this issue, can we connect them with you?’ So he said, ‘We’re saying you can’t be a Young Life leader.’
Danielle Eylander: But he’d already said you couldn’t be a Young Life leader.
Me: I know, I know, but he was like ‘Are you going to educate people about this policy and what we’re doing?’ and that is unacceptable.
(Danielle Eylander is mixing up her facts. She acknowledged that this was said, but said it was in the context of helping other kids. In reality, those topics were about four minutes apart and not related at all.)
*22 Just commentary:
When I asked for a written record of the termination during the meeting, neither Scott Didrickson or Danielle Eylander corrected my use of the word “termination.” Danielle Eylander said that if they did provide anything in writing, it would just be a clarification that “these policies” (the policies regarding homosexuals within Young Life) still exist and are still enforced. When I asked for the written record six weeks later, this is what it should have been. At the very least, Danielle Eylander and Scott Didrickson should have spoken up when people were preparing to send me a written record with reasoning that was inconsistent with the reasoning provided during this meeting, and inconsistent with the reasoning they said would be included in any written record that might be sent to me. They want to play dumb and act like they don’t know what was happening and why, but that’s part of being blinded.
Facts: The above detailed paraphrase covered about eight minutes of a 60 minute conversation. Obviously more was said, but this is the most significant portion. Here are some facts about the total conversation:
Number of times Young Life’s policies regarding sexuality were mentioned as a reason for my termination: 13
Number of times the reason for my termination was related to students and/ or parents being uncomfortable with having gay leaders involved: 4
Number of times the reason for my termination was related to other adult leaders and/ or staff disagreeing with the idea of gay people in ministry and/ or discomfort having gay leaders involved: 6
Number of times I was told not to talk about Young Life’s policies, beliefs or actions regarding homosexuals and/ or my termination process: 18
Number of times Scott Didrickson and Danielle Eylander clarified that we disagreed about this issue (the issue of whether or not gay people should be allowed to serve in Christian ministries, including Young Life): 10
Number of times the reasoning for my termination was related to my act of telling students I was gay, the only reason that was written in my letter of termination six weeks later, which Ann Shackleton, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, claimed was not written or sent by any Young Life staff: 0
Number of times the reasoning for my termination was related to a perceived conflict of interest with my business, a reason I heard for the first time on 11/21/17 from Danielle Eylander, and a reason that Ann Shackleton, Senior V.P. of Human Resources said she is “not aware of”: 0
Number of times the reasoning for my termination was related to anything I had ever done or said in eight years with Young Life or eleven years total working with youth: 0
Number of times I was asked to step down or resign, or given any opportunity to respond to the action Young Life was taking: 0