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.)