Fred Pattison, founder of The Evangelical Network (T-E-N), has written this first-person account of his life journey and the history of T-E-N.
I came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in November 1947 as a 15-year-old teenager. It was through a small independent fundamentalist Baptist church located on Long Island where I first heard the Gospel. It was while attending this church that I opened my heart and life to Jesus Christ. Previous to that time I had always been "religiously" inclined. My parents were Protestants and always saw to it that I attended whichever church they were attending. We moved several times always finding and attending a mainline Protestant church in the community where we were living at the time. My life journey began in Westchester County in New York's Hudson Valley, then on to Brooklyn and finally to Long Island where I grew up. As a young child and youth I always loved going to church. In fact from my earliest recollection I had wanted to enter the ministry for my life's work. Upon coming into a personal relationship with Christ this desire to serve God intensified.
Attending that independent Baptist church on Long Island drastically changed my life and molded my belief system for the rest of my life. I immediately plunged into serving God as best as I knew how to. I became president of the youth group in this church, began carrying my Bible with me to school each day, became actively involved in a group in the metro New York area known as High School Evangelism Fellowship (Hi-BA) and became an avid reader of Holy Scripture. At that point in my life I not only devoured Scripture but I committed to memory many Bible verses. As a zealous newly born again teenager I began passing out Gospel tracts and witnessing not only to my classmates in school but also on the streets, in restaurants, and wherever anyone was willing to listen to my testimony. When I was 16 years old I began preaching. I formed the youth group of my home church into a Gospel Team calling ourselves: Christ's Crusaders. Since my earliest recollections I have had a special love for people of color. The majority of my preaching in those early days was in small African-American Baptist and Pentecostal churches.
Upon graduating from high school I went off to Northeastern Bible College. During my junior year there I began a Sunday School close to my home on Long Island. We met in the basement of one of homes of this inter-racial community. There was only one church in this community and it did not welcome the black residents. Our Sunday School sought to reach the African-American residents. Our group began to grow. It soon organized into a church. This congregation continues to exist having observed its 50th Anniversary in 1954. It continues to be a predominately African-American congregation with a few non-black attendees and members.
While pastoring this congregation I worked with the New York Billy Graham Crusade in 1957. Then in 1958 I believed that I needed to move on. I relocated to Tucson where I founded Faith Baptist Church. I remained pastor of Faith Church until 1970. It was by this time that I finally accepted the fact that I was indeed homosexual. All through those many years I struggled with my sexuality. Growing up as a rigid, strict and legalist fundamentalist Christian intensified this struggle with my sexuality. This struggle became so unbearable that I finally came to the realization that I had to leave pastoring. At that point in my life I was unable to reconcile my Christian Faith with my sexual orientation although as a Baptist I never doubted that I was a child of God. I'm one of those people who believed then and continue to believe that once an individual is "in" Christ that individual is kept secure by the power of God. See John 10:25-30; Romans 8:1; 1 Peter 2:10; John 1:12-13.
From 1970 to 1976 I floundered in my faith. Leaving Tucson and moving to Phoenix I attended various churches but vowed that I would never again get involved in a church. I could not just walk away from my faith in total. Then, in December 1972, I met the man who in May 1973 became my lover, my companion, my partner in life. He was a lapsed Catholic who professed to be an agnostic and here I was a backslidden fundamentalist Baptist. What a pair we were.
In 1976 we discovered the Phoenix Metropolitan Community Church. We began attending that church. Joseph, my spouse, liked it and persuaded me to attend the services with him. After attending for a short time we both became members of the church. From Christmas 1976 to Easter 1977 the pastor of the Phoenix MCC was house bound due to illness. Knowing that I had pastored other churches the MCC District Coordinator David Farrell appointed me as the Worship Coordinator of the Phoenix church. The church's pastor returned to the pulpit on Easter Sunday of that year and gave his resignation. By this time the congregation had gotten use to me as their pastor. On the first Sunday of October 1977 I was officially installed as senior pastor of the Phoenix MCC. The very next Sunday the old building that the congregation had purchased was firebombed. But that's another story. Two years later we erected our own building at a different location. My life-partner headed up the building of the new structure. At that time we were the very first gay-oriented outreach to build its own building.
By this time in my life I had come to the point of understanding that one can truly be a Christian and be gay. I studied the so-called clobber passages of Scripture and came to the reconciliation of my faith with my sexual orientation. There are two individuals who greatly influenced me to come into this understanding. The first one was Troy Perry, founder and head of the UFMCC. The other individual was Ralph Blair. He had founded a group known as Evangelicals Concerned. For me, as an evangelical, this was exciting to finally come to know of two evangelical Christians who were also homosexuals.
As pastor of an MCC-related congregation I became involved in the denomination. However, you must keep in mind that I was from a very rigid separatist fundamentalist background. Being part of a denomination was new to me. I hate to admit it but I became a thorn in the side of the leadership of MCC. I had carried over with me my fundamentalist mindset as well as my Baptist emphasis on autonomy and sovereignty of the local church. In retrospect I created problems that I should not have. From 1977 to 1988 I created waves, not all good ones, in the UFMCC. And though I continue to disagree with that movement in some areas I am thankful to God for leading Bro. Troy Perry to have the vision to launch out, when he was a lone voice like the prophets of old, to the gay and lesbian community. I am truly sorry for the discomfort and trouble that I caused my brother in Christ.
By this point in my life I no longer viewed myself as a fundamentalist but as an evangelical. My doctrinal stance had not changed but some of my rigidness and legalistic behavior mellowed. This has continued to be my experience through the years. In my younger days I viewed nearly everything in terms of black or white. I now view many things in terms of gray.
During this time I had put out feelers to find other evangelicals who were part of the UFMCC. I did this mostly through newsletters and folders that I wrote and mailed out. By the way I have long buried and am somewhat ashamed of much of what I wrote in that material of yesteryear. However, I did receive a number of encouraging letters from a few MCC'ers. Then in 1987 I believed that there was a need to network with fellow evangelicals who were part of the denomination. It was at this point that T-E-N was born. Our original plan and purpose was to reach evangelicals within the UFMCC. However, this never came to fruition. It was also at this time that the church in Phoenix was having disagreements with the District Coordinator over the Deity of Christ. The church had let it be known that unless the District Coordinator could and would affirm belief in our Lord's deity the individual would not be permitted to preach when visiting the church. The District Coordinator asked the leadership of the church as to why the church remained in MCC when it appeared that the gulf between the two was widening. That did it. A specially called congregational meeting was held and the congregation voted, with a near unanimous decision, to withdraw from the denomination.
This decision affected the vision to T-E-N immediately. No longer was the original intent and purpose of the network the same. The networking now focused on reaching evangelicals not necessarily affiliated with the UFMCC.
The first T-E-N Weekend was held in February 1988. For many years thereafter the T-E-N Weekend was held the last weekend of February each year in the facilities of Casa de Cristo. The original Council consisted of a number of people nearly all from non-MCC churches such as the late Sylvia Pennington and the late Jerry Felix Russell worked with me in establishing T-E-N. Cornerstone Fellowship, Casa�s sister church in Tucson, with their pastor Rada Schaff, were vital in T-E-N coming into existence. Soon an Annual Labor Day Weekend was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Some of those ordained to the Gospel Ministry by T-E-N in its early years included: Rada Schaff of Tucson, Jim Elsbury of Chicago and Rick Morcomb of Vancouver.
During those early years T-E-N grew but never to the point that it is today. We had both our ups and downs. T-E-N had a number of churches either officially affiliated with it or supportive of the concept in a number of states as well as in Canada. A group of churches in Tanzania, East Africa affiliated with it. As the founder of T-E-N I believed that there was a need for a school to equip and train others for public ministry. I founded Phoenix Evangelical Bible Institute (PHE-BI) and headed it up until retiring and turning the reigns over to Dr. Joseph Pearson. The school is no longer located in Phoenix and has changed its name to Christ Evangelical Bible Institute.
I withdrew from T-E-N affiliation shortly before I retired from active pastoring. As I look back on the reasons for my disagreement with the leadership T-E-N at that time I regret that I made the move that I did. I guess that what they say that hindsight is better than foresight is true after all.
I am truly excited as to what I observe happening in T-E-N today. Todd Ferrell is indeed a man of vision that I believe God has raised up for this hour in T-E-N�s ministry. I've known this brother-in-Christ for many years and encouraged he and others a number of years ago to establish Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church of San Francisco. My prayer is that God will continue to bless and use my brother as he seeks to obey God in leading this network of evangelicals ministering to the GLBT community.
Upon retiring I founded Olive Tree Ministries, in Strawberry, Arizona, which is non-denominational and takes an evangelical approach on most matters. We publish literature as Strawberry Views dealing with Sundry subjects. This material is written with both gays and non-gays in view. We also conduct seminars and workshops and seek to minister to people regardless of sexual orientation. We also maintain a small house church in the mountains of central Arizona. We are available to come to minister wherever and whenever the Lord leads.
Fred Pattison died on July 9, 2012. He and his partner and companion in life Joseph Sombrio celebrated their 39th anniversary this year.
(This statement provided by Fred Pattison with death notice from announcement by The Evangelical Network.)
Biography Date: March, 2010
Evangelical | Pennington, Sylvia | The Evangelical Network | Clergy Activist
“I met Pastor Fred in 1981 while on a trip to Phoenix to visit my friend Stuart. Stuart had been telling me of a church he had discovered after moving to Phoenix from our home town of Rockford, Illinois. At this time I had just went through a very nasty divorce, had given up my ministry, had my ordination revoked from the Pentecostal Church, and I was struggling to move forward. I went to lunch with Fred, Joe, and a group of people from Casa. I expected to hear all the sexual things possible from a group of gay people. Was I ever surprised, they were speaking of Christ and His love, and dreams of the future for the congregation. Fred and I spoke and he became my friend and mentor. The next year I moved to Phoenix to join the congregation of Casa de Cristo. Plans were beginning to form of building a new social hall to the building, I became a part of that work. Together,with Joseph, we finished the project. This is the one time I experienced true leadership, Fred put the vision out there, people caught the vision, and when we finished, the building was paid for in total. After Fred retired we remained great friends. I spoke with Fred the last time a week before his death. He said, "Rich, you've been a good friend, and I am so proud of all you have accomplished since I first met you." Even at the end he took time to encourage me. Fred Pattison helped me go from suicidal to a successful businessman and a proud born again gay Christian, no longer ashamed. Fred,I will never forget your gift and I will do my best to carry on your legacy. I will see you again, we will catch up then.”
– as remembered by Rich Glisson on July 15, 2012
“In the 1980's I came to know Fred when I started going to Casa de Cristo Evangelical Church. I was raised a preacher's kid but pretty much walked away from the Lord for many years. One day I saw the listing for the church and decided (divinely directed?) to check it out, and I found home. Sitting under Fred's teaching and pastoring I came back into a close relationship with my Lord. Eventually I became a Shepherd in the church for several years. I am so grateful that Fred preached the gospel and saw firsthand so many people being saved, miracles happening and people being healed. We experienced a great moving of the Holy Spirit and a growing church. I will never forget the praise time and worship team. Fred was not only my pastor but my friend. He and I would have a prayer get together at the church at lunchbreak, we both joined WeightWatchers (the only guys there) and then go to Coco's on Camelback for a big breakfast. I totally trusted Fred with my feelings and I believe he trusted me. The relationship that he and Joe had inspired me so much and what a great example of love. I am so sad to hear that he has passed but equally blessed as I know where he is at. I miss you Fred and will always remember sitting under your preaching and your friendship. It is because of your love for Him that you touched so many people.”
– as remembered by Ron Johnson on July 16, 2012
“There is no doubt in our minds that we were led to Casa de Cristo Church and Pastor Fred Pattison by God's Spirit. Though we had been a couple for about 20 years, most of those years were spent in a drunken stupor. We quit drinking in January 1988, and of course this left a huge void in our lives, as all of our so-called friends gave up on us. When we were planning our vacation in March of that same year, the name Phoenix came to me, as if I could actually hear a voice telling me we should go to Phoenix. In any case we did go to Phoenix and again God's Spirit led us to Casa, and as we listened to Fred and watched the faces of born again Christians we invited the Lord into our lives. Fred became our friend, teacher and mentor for many years. He and Joseph spent time in Vancouver with us and blessed all they came in contact with. One of the favorite quotes I like to use about Fred is this--he always said: "I am a Christian in spite of Christians." As the Ray Boltz song say's "Thank you Fred, for giving to the Lord." It is because of that we two Canadians are children of the King. We miss you dear friend, but will see you on the streets of gold.”
– as remembered by Lloyd & Bob Peacock on July 17, 2012
“It was 1989 and I was visiting Phoenix for a conference at a Charismatic Church out in Glendale. I had heard of Casa de Cristo and on Sunday evening I decided to try to find it and go to church there. As soon as I walked through the door, it felt like home. Their pianist, Ed de la Garza, was working that evening, so they were going to be singing a capella. I play the piano and I offered to play; as my new friend Maria instructed me "we sing in the key of L" (for lesbian). When I heard Fred preach that night I was stunned and deeply moved by the genuineness and conviction in his preaching. My experiences with "ministries" in the LGBT community was that so many of them are egocentric, building kingdoms for themselves .. "ALL ABOUT ME" .. and yet, Fred was utterly genuine and it showed. I remember saying to him as a group of us went to eat after church "You REALLY mean this, don't you?". It was a life changing experience for me. Over the years, I visited Casa de Cristo a number of times, and attended TEN weekends when they were held at the church. It was like the gathering of family, and for sure Fred was the "Dad". I will always be grateful for Fred, and his inspiration in helping us start a church in San Francisco; Freedom In Christ. Fred was such an important part of the founding of that place, and one of the graduates from the Bible School that Fred founded at Casa de Cristo (Phoenix Evangelical Bible Institute) has served as the pastor at FIC for a number of years. My friend who I have loved since we met; Maria Caruana (the one who sings in the key of L) has been a beautiful example of what it means to be a true pastor, and I know she would agree that the training she received under Fred's skilled teaching, has been most valuable in her own ministry. Blessed peace and fullness of joy to you dear Fred, as you live in the fullness of Eternal glory. You will always hold an especially fond place in my heart!!”
– as remembered by Will Byrd on July 18, 2012
“Rev. Fred Pattison was my pastor, mentor and, most importantly, friend since I first walked into his office at Casa del Cristo Evangelical Church in 1991. For context, you should know that at the time I was a junior at Westwood High School in Mesa, AZ (Mormon country), not even 17 years old if memory serves me right. I was a runaway (escapee) from an abusive extended family in Texas, after being orphaned at age 8 after watching my mother die in front of my eyes two months before her 40th birthday. By that young age, I was also a survivor of numerous traumas and injustices including mental and sexual abuse by biological family members, racism and homophobia by both biological and church families in both Roman Catholic and Nazarene traditions (talk about polar opposites). I can only imagine what Fred, a former ultra-conservative Baptist preacher, must of thought of this scrawny olive-skinned teenager with long dark brown hair in a ponytail halfway down his back, wearing my ragged and well-worn The Crucified (Christian Metal Band) t-shirt, skateboard in one hand, backpack in the other, and with my pet iguana Shelby on my shoulder... as I walked up to him having coffee and reading on the patio area of the office. To say that I was a lost, confused, wounded, scared, lonely, frightened, and depressed young half-latino/ half-hispanic kid with a filterless mouth, anti-authoritarian attitude, sarcastic sense of humor, and rough exterior only paints part of the picture. That I was an Honor student with a 4.0 GPA at the top of his class, class president, and Student Council resident who worked and also went to high school full-time concurrently, and yet lived on his own without a parental guardian or being classified a ward of the state helps to paint the rest of the picture. Clearly on the surface, Fred and I appeared to have so very little in common. But when you peek just beneath the surface and looked past arbitrary distinctions such as age, race, cultural background, religious upbringing, political opinions, worldviews and personal opinions we had so very much in common. We shared very similar senses of humor that was often unappreciated or misunderstood by others, political and personal opinions that to many seemed contradictory or counterintuitive but made perfect sense to us... and at the end of the day that's all that really mattered (:-), a deep love for both children, anyone maligned or discriminated against on any kind of basis and animals of all kinds, and most importantly a deep, real, very personal love and reverence for Almighty God, the Alpha and Omega, and Jesus Christ, his True Son, Our Lord and Savior who was and is and always shall be our Everything and for the Holy Spirit in whom we live, and breathe and and in which we have our very being. I quickly learned to love and cherish this profoundly wise, righteous, and anointed man of God who was so deeply loved by many and yet also was very misunderstood and unappreciated by so many others. I recall fondly a bowling team I was once on while Pastor Fred was senior pastor at 'Casa' called the "Holey Rollers"... A passing reference to the accusation many others made to our congregation under Pastor Fred. I wore that label with honor... just as I did when friends and classmates would call me a "Jesus Freak". I honestly can say that I have never known anyone else to have more authority, more credibility, and more simple stage presence than Rev. Fred Pattison. He spoke in a way that resonated to my life, my walk with Christ, my heart, my mind, my sense of humor and political and social worldviews, and most importantly my Spirit. Fred was and always will be my "Pastor"... Because he was so much more than just a "Pastor" to me. He is and always will be in my mind and heart a model of the Love of Christ, a perfectly imperfect and yet forgiven and anointed man of God. He was and is a true testament to the power of perseverence, "sticktoitiveness" as he coined it, and of ever-evolving revelation and insight into the meanings of Scripture. Fred's worldviews, political opinions and Scriptural stances/positions changed many times over the years... And that taught me much. By his example, I saw a very real, human, frail, imperfect person who was truly a saint in my estimation. He never stopped growing, learning, evolving... And he was humble enough to admit when he was wrong even when his positions evolved 360 degrees. I give profound thanksgiving to our Loving Father in Heaven who brought this man of God into my life and who was in many ways a father-figure to me, as was his dearly beloved Joseph, his long-life friend and soul-partner of 39 years and counting. Both of them always watched out for me, defended me, and even protected me from others with less than honorable intentions when I was literally just a child... a minor... under Pastor Fred's flock. I learned much from Pastor Fred... but the most important, life-changing thing I learned from him was that the true choices for me as a reconciled, born-again gay Christian/Jesus Freak is the choice to pick up the Bible and learn and be inspired by those holy pages on a constant basis, the importance of always reading and keeping true to the Holy Word, walking with the Holy Spirit constantly, to always turn the other cheek even when it is painful, to be humble and not so proud to admit when you are wrong... even if it takes you years to figure out, to constantly check our pride and self-centeredness, to always love and forgive when others make it seemingly impossible to do so, to always speak out for injustice and discrimination in all of its many ugly shades. Last, but certainly not least, to always strive to live completely authentic, wholesome, honest meaningful lives... beyond reproach. To always be an example to others of the Love of Christ. And to always love in healthy, wholesome, truly monogomous relationships irregardless of whether it is a same gender or opposite sex pairing. Fred was truly a visionary, a profoundly wise man, and spiritual father and grandfather figure to many... including myself. It is with flowing tears I write this... of both sorrow for his life partner's profound loss of his partner he shared 39+ years with waling side-by-side. Of sorrow from my own sense of profound loss for not being able to see him. But is with also tears of joy for his life, his legacy and the countless lives and souls he helped, transformed, healed, renewed, challenged, shepherded and guided into eternity. I can almost hear Fred and his tambourine praising his Creator and his Savior and his deep bass voice singing... if even off-key... And I can just about see him dancing and running around the gates of heaven rejoicing in his new body. But most importantly, I await the day that he can show me around those streets of gold and show me my mansion and my many loved ones who have gone before me and Fred. "Well done Fred... You truly were a true and faithful servant..." Please save a spot for me. This is not goodbye Freddie... I will see you soon... On the other side. And we shall praise Him forever. Marc Wendell, BSW Galations 2:20”
– as remembered by Marc Wendell on July 20, 2012
“I met Fred Pattison in 1991 as I traveled from Texas to California, stopping along the way in Phoenix to attend this church that I had heard about that was evangelical, charasmatic, yet gay affirming. My life was forever changed. I cried the rest of the way home after that. Fred Pattison's life and ministry probably saved my life. Until finding out about this ministry I had struggled with my sexuality and Christian faith. The struggle at times seems unbelievable. My life, my passion, my purpose and ministry can all be tied back to the life and ministry of Fred Pattison. I love you Fred. I am a life that was changed!”
– as remembered by Todd Ferrell on July 9, 2012
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