At age 54,
Tom Hank's
1989 Letter of
to LAM

on this page...

Tom's call to
minister to the
marginalized LGBTs

The influence of
Jacques Ellul's
analysis of ideology
and propaganda

Community Church

Letter of Resignation from the Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Hanks
to the Latin America Mission - 1989

January 21, 1989

Dear friends,

I want to begin by thanking each of you who have faithfully stood with us in prayer and financial
support in our 25 years with the Latin America Mission. It has been a great privilege to minister the
Word of God in the context of that fellowship with its positive emphasis on cooperative evangelism
and service.

However, since we arrived in Buenos Aires 3 years ago I have been grappling more in depth with the
meaning of the Gospel for oppressed sexual minorities (gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, etc.), who
easily number more than 3 million in greater Buenos Aires (with its population of some 10 million).
Traditional evangelical approaches, imposing the nuclear family as the norm (despite Jesus and
Paul’s liberating examples and teaching), leave such minorities untouched and alienated. Growing
involvement in ministry confirmed tentative conclusions already reached from extensive reading and
study or Scripture—that traditional evangelical (and Catholic) approaches were tragically flawed and
producing disasterous results. For example, demanding either sexual abstinence or heterosexual
marriage as the only alternatives for homosexuals is in fact promoting not only higher rates of
suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism and divorce—but now AIDS. Even conservative evangelical
scholarship increasingly supports alternative interpretations of the Biblical texts traditionally used to
promote oppression and persecution of homosexuals. However, the new evidence is commonly
hushed up on popular and institutional levels.

While in England for theological meetings in July 1986, I was privileged to attend a special weekend
church conference on AIDS, at the close of which I sensed God speaking to me very powerfully
about following Jesus in this ministry—whatever the cost:

    In simple trust like theirs who heard,
    Beside the Syrian Sea,
    The gracious calling of the Lord,
    Let us, like them, without a word,
    Rise up and follow thee.

Jacques Ellul’s analysis of ideology and propaganda have proved of immense help in discerning the
homophobia dominant in traditional attitudes and ministries. In this process it has become
increasingly clear that the conclusions I have reached would be at present unacceptable both to the
LAM and to most of the individuals and churches that support us. Hence, as of Feb. 1, 1989, with
deep regret I am resigning from the LAM.

Providentially, during these personally tumultuous years, the Lord repeatedly has provided contact
with the Metropolitan Community Church (as well as with several ministries), first in London, later in
Latin America and the U.S.A. Like any ecclesiastical institution, it has its limitations, but through its
help to me personally, I have come to appreciate deeply the perspective and wisdom it brings after
20 years of fruitful gospel ministry. With its roots in Pentecostalism, the charismatic dimension
remains prominent (especially important for Latin America) and the proportion of ordained women
(around 40%) is much higher than in our mainline denominations.

Thus, though under new auspices, for the foreseeable future, I expect to continue the work I have
been doing: encouraging Bible study and prayer groups and cooperative evangelism, with special
focus on the spiritual needs of the marginated sexual minorities, both within traditional evangelical
churches and also in the new M.C.C. in Buenos Aires; theological research and writing; hospital
visitation of AIDS patients; working with evangelical churches to develop their ministry to AIDS
patients, friends and families. In one church (Methodist) I am beginning a summer Bible study series
on the Sermon on the Mount, and we plan to start on John’s gospel in March. In another
(Presbyterian) I have been asked to begin a series on the theology of the Westminster Confession.
My Spanish study guide on Ecclesiastes (incorporating insights from Ellul and a recent Inter-Varsity
commentary), and the study guide for 1 Corinthians await publishers reactions and suggestions for

The M.C.C. is unable to offer me a salary for this ministry; however, like the L.A.M., they are able to
provide tax-deductible receipts for anyone who would like to contribute. If you have a serious interest
in continuing to pray for me, I need to hear from you soon (much of our last salary is going to get out
this mailing—“Reaganesque” measures to cut back the mailing list are pending). Contributions
should be designated for “Tom Hanks fund” and checks made out to “U.F.M.C.C.” (Universal
Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches), and mailed to:

    U.F.M.C.C., Suite 304
    5300 Santa Monica Blvd.
    Los Angeles, California, 90029

Finally, I would like to make clear my deep gratitude to Joyce for faithfully keeping a difficult secret
and living with me for 28 years despite the tremendous emotional cost. I believe that she (now with
her parents in St. Louis) will be writing you soon also. I have not attempted to describe the anguish
or our personal situation for several reasons: areas of uncertainty remain and we see things
somewhat differently; it would take a book, not a letter; and she prefers to speak for herself.

As you’ve probably noticed, I have a young “namesake” in Hollywood who is a much better actor
than I am. Now 54 years old, I gladly yield the stage—40 years is a long time to keep an act going. I
am profoundly thankful that after so many years of desperate searching and questioning, I have
been permitted to get some solid answers (Mt. 7:7-8) and to witness in 3 continents a deep work of
the Holy Spirit with people commonly ignored, despised and feared (*homophobia). If you are in a
traditional evangelical church, some 10% of the adolescents there probably are being encouraged
to start out on a life-long “acting career” like mine. I Wonder if that’s really what you want. And I
wonder very much, if after reading this, we are still friends.

Sincerely in our Lord,

Tom Hanks
Tel. (54-11) 4393-5989
Lavalle 376-2D
1047 Buenos Aires Argentina

P.S. I highly recommend the guide prepared by my own denomination (with excellent bibliography),
"Breaking the Silence, Overcoming the Fear; *Homophobia Education," The Program Agency,
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), $3.50.
Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks,
Theologian / Director
of Mission.
Buenos Aires, 2006
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