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Friday, September 22

Lonnie Frisbee


I had the priviledge of seeing a bootleg copy of the film about Lonnie Frisbee a few months ago. I've been thinking about blogging about it ever since, but have not wanted to sound like a life critic or know-it-all about something that I only know about 2nd hand. So the thoughts in this post are just my impression of things based on people who I know that loved & cared for Lonnie as well as other perceptions that I have.

From my perspective...
The film starts out giving a full history of Lonnie, the Jesus Movement in the 60s & 70s & into the history of Calvary Chapel & the Vineyard. It is so great to see old video footage, voice recordings & photos of what God was doing in even setting the stage for what many of us are experiencing now. Amazing stories of healing & the divine breaking into the lives of regular people in completely non-hyped ways.

It then goes into some of the personal problems that Lonnie had over his tumoltus life with his marrage, sexuality, ministry affliations, AIDS, etc. I was impressed by how the film shares these darker parts of Lonnie's life.

Toward the end it ends up portraying John Wimber & the Vineyard movement (as well as the Calvary Chapel guys) as being hateful & actually states that they "erased him from their history" due to his having homosexual relationships & dying of AIDS. To me it appears to take the route of 'the establishment' verses Lonnie, the misunderstood genius who has been written out of history because he didn't conform. This is where it really bugged me.

The piece about Lonnie being left out of Vineyard history (I don't know much about documentd Calvary history) is just untrue. Yes, in Power Evangelism Wimber refers to Lonnie as "the young man", so I can see where there could be some foulplay there, BUT in all the other published documents (the 2 that I know of), Lonnie is talked about, sometimes in detail:

  • In The Way it Was, Carol Wimber shares about Lonnie by name (& that books is not meant to be a Vineyard history, but rather a book about John).

  • In The Quest for the Radical Middle there is a whole chapter all about Lonnie, his life & his impact on the Vineyard.
We have some very good friends who were close friends with Lonnie (photos with their kids, a painting that he had done & given to them is on their wall, etc).

According to our friends, the last few times they saw Lonnie (which was in the very early 90s, I believe) he was wanting them to choose sides, my friend made it sound like he was bitter & pushing for what he wanted. Not being misunderstood, but being under authority & accountable leadership. From these same sources, I understand that the Vineyard leaders made sure Lonnie was financially ok & didn't screw him when removing him from a very public platform. That they more took care of business as need be (but with grace for him as friend & individual). If you watch Lonnie's memorial service on Google Video, it appears that Wimber had contributed something (I dunno if that was friendship, financially or what) towards him very late in his life (per some of the comments made).

I have been involved in the removal of public leaders from their place. So I know what it's like when someone agrees & humbly steps down yet stays in community. I also know what it's like to have to pull someone out kicking and screaming... in many cases they leave with the attitude of "screw them". (Not that my impression is that he was full-on like this, but just to illustrate the polar ends of this thing).

So basically, I think people should see this. They should know these stories, if interested. But I was disappointed in the villification of the Vineyard in it. Some of the facts seem slanted & put us in a poor light.

I wonder if Lonnie was still alive, what he would think about the way this story is told? I wonder if people will see this and automatically write off some of the established leaders as "just more bigots & haters"? The impression it left me was of Lonnie, the gifted martyr.

I don't want to start an ongoing commentary on Lonnie's life here, but if any of you who knew him have any comments, feel free (or not) to comment.

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I, too, am fascinated by Lonnie's story and will probably see the film one day. I saw Lonnie once circa 1990 at the Anaheim Vineyard. I have a lot of friends who knew him and were there when all that crazy stuff went down. One of my friends (part of the extended Wimber family) was his roommate for awhile and knew him very well. He told me many amazing stories about Lonnie, as well as some of the tragic parts of his life.

I don't really know how he was treated by leadership (since I wasn't there), but it seems unlikly that he wouldv'e come to a service at the Vineyard shortly before he died if he had been too harshly mistreated.

His is a fascinating story. It's too bad if the film takes a negative point of view on some of the participants, rather than just telling his story.

His is a fascinating story. It's too bad if the film takes a negative point of view on some of the participants, rather than just telling his story.

Larry- That's how I feel too.

this is not verified so take it as that, but apparently john wimber made sure all lonnie's hospital bills were paid in his last years. hardly fits with the picture allegedly painted in the movie.

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