Who Was Lonnie Frisbee?

Lonnie Frisbee

I’m not really old enough to remember it, but the “Jesus People” movement was a full-blown phenomenon in the late 1960s and into the early 1970s. Centred mostly in northern California, hippies began getting into Jesus and these “Jesus Freaks” turned the established church on its ear. One of the most influential figures in this period was a young man with the unlikely name of Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie’s ministry was influential in the foundation of two of evangelicalism’s biggest denominations. And yet, his name has disappeared from most accounts of the movement. Why? Because Lonnie was gay.

David di Sabatino has made a documentary film about Lonnie and it will be shown here in Toronto later this month as part of the Reel Heart Film Festival. I’m very interested in seeing it, but I do find one thing interesting. The director, who is an evangelical, talks about Lonnie’s homosexuality as a “struggle with sexual sin” and points to Lonnie as an example of a flawed prophet. Sadly, Lonnie died from AIDS in 1993, but I wonder what would have been the outcome if Lonnie had been able to embrace his sexuality and be accepted in the evangelical movement for what he was, without feeling like he had to live two separate lives.

Film critic Peter Chattaway conducted a lengthy interview with director di Sabatino back in April and the director says that Lonnie was raped as an eight-year-old child and that this might explain his fragmented identity, but I always find it funny that Christian people always need some “explanation” for someone’s sexuality. It’s more likely his fragmented identity was a result of not being able to tell people close to him about his homosexuality for fear of being denounced.

That being said, the film sounds like it genuinely tries to understand a complex individual, and I hope I’ll get to see it. It doesn’t hurt a bit that there are lots of Larry Norman songs in the soundtrack.

Note: Music was a huge factor in the Jesus People movement. Here’s a great site with lots of history on “Jesus Music”.

Comments

  1. he was a man after God’s heart. a man, not a saint. he was a wounded soldier, torn and worn by those who were jealous of the gift that God gave him

    he was a man willing to serve, and it cost him a great deal.

    he was a friend to the friendless and to me

  2. Rebecca Norman says:

    Lonnie was a great man. He was my cousin.

  3. Jeff Hurst says:

    I agree with your assesment of Lonnie and know several people who still hold Lonnie and all their memories of him close in their hearts.
    I am sorry that many leaders fail to show the same grace to people with certain struggles as they do to others.
    I am looking forward to seeing the new documentary of his life and influence on so many of us!
    Sincerely,
    Jeff Hurst

  4. r.r.harlan says:

    In a classroom next to the first Calvary Chapel,I was baptised by the Holy Spirit and spoke glossalalia with Lonnie. A pivotel point in my relationship with Christ and my worship of Him. See the the works of the Spirit as such, not the man. Lonnie was indeed a vessel for God.
    May we all be as much.
    R.R. Harlan

  5. ooooooooooooooooo says:

    In a Wednesday July of 1969 Lonnie commanded devils to come out and let me go and they did as they were commanded. I was aware I had them before I ever met or knew of Lonnie Frisbee and they spoke through me in tongues of devils and did deceiving wonders to lead souls astray. That man was full of God and the spirit of love that shown through him was able to set me free and I am still free after all these years. Praise God! I know I will see Lonnie when I leave this world to be with the Lord. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. There were about 35 people in the old Church on Sunflower & Greeville and it had just gotten seating. Lonnie Frisbee did not save me. God worked through him and set me free. I love the brother for being God’s instrument. There were three brothers working together that evening. Jim Golden and a brother I only new as Mickey . All three were filled with the Holy Spirit and acted as one because one Holy Person used them. Calvary Chapel was much different in those early days. Lonnie demonstrated the way , the truth, and the life and if Satan found a vulnerable spot and Lonnie died of it he didn’t die forever. God has a hold of us and he is able to keep what is His until that day. This man serve God in the power of His Spirit his sins are washed in the blood of Jesus great sacrifice that allows us all the come boldly into the presence of a Holy God as though we had no sin. Jesus died for sinners and Lonnie was a sinner saved by God’s mercy and grace. People say unkind things out of ignorance and not to be mean. It hurts to hear such things about someone you love. I have left out my name because of the subject of my testimony but God knows who I am and that I am telling the truth and 35 people were witnesses that Wednesday evening in July of 1969 to the exorcism.

  6. SFBaptist says:

    We Christians are very good at marketing to each other, being self-congratulatory and very smug, but, boy, do we stink at forgiveness and grace. We cry all day long that God has shown us grace, but we run away from anyone who needs that same grace from us. Lonnie was a giant of a man and a powerful vessel of the Holy Spirit. Duane Pederson, a close associate of Lonnie’s during the Calvary Chapel days, is another towering figure in influence over my life as a pastor and evangelist. Lonnie should always be remembered not as flawed or as horrifically sinful, but as used by God just like all of us other filthy sinners. I will see my brother Lonnie in heaven.

  7. Laurel Dunn says:

    I sat under Lonnies ministry back at the beginning in the chapel. I was saved there. He moved in God’s power and annointing, and as a new babe, I was in a Godly fear of his power. I wanted him to minister to me, and yet, I didn’t, not wanting to be exposed. This was one of the most powerful times in my life. When the Holy Spirit was moving, I would have to take a “peek” to see if I had been translated to heaven, or was still here. He was a wonderful brother, no matter how it ended. God’s gifts are without repentence. I have a lesbian daughter who was so hurt by the Church that she has fallen away, although I know God still has an increadable calling on her life, sooo I wait…..

  8. It's sad that what the Lord did in a small group called Calvary Chapel over 30 years ago, he couldn't do now, as Lonnie and those like him not only would not be permitted to speak or minister in the church but would be promptly escorted out. We have traded the Holy Spirit for comfort and familiarity, we have become Father Son and Holy Scripture. Calvary Chapels sadly are now ruled by nepotism, Simony, and who you know, and by “who you know” I don't mean “Jesus”, every pastor now has to be connected by blood, or by an old network of familiar faces, an old boys network. In one particular case a young Calvary Chapel pastor is married to another mega church's pastor's daughter, so he is given a senior pastoret in an established smaller Calvary Chapel, and the previous pastor comes to the mega church where he is now allowed from time to time and in the absence of the Senior pastor to preach to the thousands that attend this mega church, a small price to pay… it has become an employment agency for the extended family….It has been said, “it seems that every move of God begins with one man, and then it becomes a movement and finally a monument,” well even though they try to wipe him out and erase him from memory, for better or worse “that man” was Lonnie Frisbee, and then the movement that God used him to beget becomes a monument….Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard's revisionist history is very different than how the Bible portrays the men God used in the Bible, men who were frail, faulted and struggling with sin, but we enjoyed their gifts, we used their calling and were amazed at their anointing, and when we got what we wanted a movement with thousands of churches then we threw them away, threw away the spark, the catalyst, and the man God used into the darkness. Men like Lonnie Frisbee come into our midst very seldom, maybe once in a lifetime to bring a fresh touch from God! and yet who was there for Lonnie when he needed help and understanding, who was there to lift him up rather than condemn him, “for when you do it to the least of these, you've done it unto me!” Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith, Gregg Laurie, shame on you….and thank God for the man that God used, because of Jesus working through that man you are where you are today!

  9. Lonnie Frisbee's story has a sad ending, but as he himself admitted, homosexuality is a sin. Just as adultry cannot be excepted in the Church, neither can homosexuality. I don't think that means he will burn in hell, but he could not continue that lifestyle and also continue to be a Church leader.