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Archive for December, 2014


My Response to Anne Paulk

Friday, December 5th, 2014


After the announcement came out that I had married my partner this last month, Restored Hope Network’s Executive Director posted the following on their very public FaceBook page.

Quoted:

Restored Hope Network“Sad news to report, John Smid just got married to a man. His former wife was my roommate before they were married over 25 years ago.


When I think of John Smid’s life story, I do think there are several things we can learn from him.”


“1. Compromises in one’s walk with God matter. Sin will be found out and small compromises in thinking lead to misbeliefs and then to sin. Eventually, sin becomes solidified and justified. Take away for all of us: confess your sins to one another that you may be healed. Get sinful thinking out of the darkness and exposed to the light and accountability of the people of God.”


“2. Rigorous legalism and pride lead to collapse. Instead of his massive to do lists, or “to not do” lists, gracious, loving and firm boundaries are powerful and persuasive when employed by leaders of families, companies, ministries, organizations, and nations…”


“3. The version of powerless grace that Whitten, Chambers, Paulk, and Smid ended up employing helped those heading into sin get there and justify it. Jude 3 & 4 have something to say about that. They attempted to sever Jesus, the Son of God, from His own words and that will not stand. Everything He said will be accomplished. Matthew 24:34-36″


“4. Do not raise up leaders too quickly. They need to be tested through experience and time.”


“5. Beware ego-driven and “above the rules” leaders. That attitude is called narcissism in clinical terms. It is called self-centeredness in normal human usage. We are not above accountability to one another and to God.”


“And lastly, as one of our leaders wrote, “It’s not over until it’s over.” Keep praying for friends and loved ones who are walking outside of God’s clearly communicated will. It is by God’s kindness that anyone comes to repentance.”


Most sincerely,

Anne Paulk


JohnSmidReflectiveShotB&WFantasyBackgroundMy response:

She’s connecting my life situation with her comments even though we have not had so much as a conversation in many, many years. She’s made the statement and implication that I have been compromised in my moral, ethical, and religious life and that has led me to live today as an authentic gay man.


Honestly, I was legalistic in my own life as well as in the way I responded to others. Legalism has taken its toll on my personal and public life. I have spent years now reconciling with people who have been impacted by my struggle with legalism. I’m not quite sure how she’s connecting living in legalism with her comments on boundaries, but when I was trapped in deep legalism, I wrapped it up in a kinder word, “healthy boundaries.” I believed that in order to please God, I had to pursue perfection. I also believed that if I forsook any association with homosexuality that my chances were greater I’d be delivered from it. So, my obedience to God translated into being legalistic with myself. In my belief system, I also became legalistic with others hoping they may find their deliverance as well.


It is the uncompromising grace of God that I experienced which led me to love others, and to love myself more fully. It is through the grace of God that I’ve seen amazing restoration in my personal life and wonderful reconciliation with others whom I’ve wounded. Grace is powerful, restorative, and redemptive far beyond what I’ve known ever before. Freedom from legalism has brought me to enjoy the true nature of God like never before.


As to her comments that some may have fallen back because they were put into leadership too early, I doubt that was the case for me.


I was involved in Singles Ministry for two and a half years while attending leadership conferences and training along with mentorship by the Singles Pastor. While in Singles Ministry I developed and led a pantomime clown ministry with twelve participants. We worked intensively to develop ministry presentations and personal ministry approach within our outreach.


When I began my season within ExGay ministry I worked as an assistant house leader for one year while working as an office attendant in the ministry offices. That was followed by three years in various leadership positions within Love In Action under the supervision and mentorship of Frank and Anita Worthen, the former directors of Love In Action.


After four years of intensive experience and training I became the Executive Director for Love In Action and I became a board member for Exodus International where I served eleven years in a board position. I attended 35 Love Won Out conferences, and over twenty Exodus International conferences not to mention the regional events as well.


I worked in ExGay ministry for twenty-two years overall. For some reason I don’t think my life fits Anne’s suggestion that my life became compromised due to being put into ministry too early. As a matter of fact, it was after twenty-two years that I took a much needed sabbatical where I spent time with a life coach and counselor to realize that it was time for me to move on to a new season of my life.


It was after that when I realized that I had not known the true grace of God and that my ministry had become an exercise of my own will and legalism. For some reason, I don’t think my leadership was premature. My seasoned leadership and subsequent maturity has actually taught me how to be honest with myself and freed me to live an authentic life.


I have always been known as someone who wore their hearts on their sleeves. My life has been an open book everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve never hidden any struggle or battle with sinful temptations. As a matter of fact, I was one of the first Exodus leaders to speak honestly about my ongoing same sex attractions at an Exodus conference general session.


In my tenure as an ExGay ministry leader I taught many things that I believed were necessary to adhere to, or to forsake in order to maintain our walk with Christ and find freedom from homosexuality. As far as I was able, I never compromised anything that I taught. I knew I could not teach something and not obey it myself. I don’t believe Anne’s assessment here is accurate.


Frankly, with the kind of false assumptions about my personal life and potential judgment I see in Anne’s statement, I’m not sure I want her praying for me for she may be praying amiss.


Sadly, her words sound so very familiar from when I was involved in ExGay ministry and being a common way we assessed  anyone who had “fallen” or “gone back to the lifestyle” as we’d call it.


When I would hear of someone going back, I had to figure out why it happened. I most often did so without any conversation with the person themselves. I used what I believed to be spiritual principles that we taught to come to some forgone conclusion about the situation. This method denied the real life experiences of those we were bringing to our judgment seat. We minimized the reality that much of what we were teaching was not really working to truly free the individual of their unwanted homosexuality.


It wasn’t until way after I left Love In Action that I began to listen to others. When I now got  in contact with of one of the people we previously judged for going back, I finally heard their heart. It’s those conversations that led me to apologize and to extend mercy and grace to them.


Well, this is certainly not what is written above. And, I believe that in any event if Anne and I were to connect, I would not feel heard, and likely would not be heard in reality.

 

Why Did I Get Married?

Friday, December 5th, 2014


first-christian-churchLarry and I go to a local Disciples of Christ church in Paris, TX. Our church is a place where I find peace, loving connection, and a lack of imposed theology. I don’t hear things that promote legalism or churchy expectations. We are loved and accepted there. Larry and I attend only a few times a month due to our heavy work schedule as Sunday mornings are our only relaxed time at home. We try to go to evening social events to get to know the people better and we sing in the choir.


This last Sunday, we were totally caught off guard and surprised. We had not officially spoken of our relationship with most people there. We understand they assume we are gay and that we are connected to one another. But Sunday, during the announcements the pastor said, “Larry and John are with us today! Two weeks ago, they went to Oklahoma and got married!” The congregation began to applaud in unison. After the service, many of those in attendance surrounded us, hugged us, and congratulated us.


I cannot tell you what this has meant to me and to Larry. Our relationship was not only recognized, but it was supported and our friends at church see us as a legitimate married couple. We are normal.


The pastor chose to uncover the pink elephant that was looming and spoke of our marriage in the normal fashion. He freed the members of our church to embrace their feelings about our relationship as seen by their affectionate response to us afterwards.


We went to supper with one of the elders and his wife recently and they said, “And as it should be, Larry and John. If you can’t serve communion right next to me at my church, then I’ll never serve communion there again. How are you any different than I am?”


I believe more people get it than one would think. We have found a wonderful, accepting, and loving community here in our Paris community. We’ve not had ANY kickback from anyone here. I’ve not felt any fear, or discomfort in any situation I’ve been in and Larry has been completely accepted at work, and with family.


Why did we get married in the first place? Well in some ways, our reasons were initially different. But after being married now, my heart is changing.


As I formed a relationship with Larry, I knew something was very different about it. I really wanted to invest my heart and soul into what was developing but I had some hesitations. I didn’t want to say “until death do us part.” I’ve been married twice before and felt insecure about making a vow that was permanent. It was just a reality check for me. I did, however, make a vow to him that was something like, as long as there is life breathed into our relationship.


I didn’t see much reason for getting legally married. It wasn’t something that had any romance to it. Our commitment service on November 16th, 2013, was romantic for me. Our friends and family gathered together with us to confirm our love for one another. That was enough for me.


But we continued to talk about legal marriage. Larry believed it was a very important step to make. I was willing to agree because I didn’t see anything negative about it.


After being in this relationship, we both realize there is a definite investment that each of us have made. We have merged every aspect of our lives, financial and personal. There should be some way to protect those investments. We’ve spoken with lawyers about what it would take to do so and it seemed the mountains of legal forms and such were insurmountable. There was also a sense of indignation that one would have to do that when a simple marriage certificate would take the place of most of those forms.


I began to realize that with a legal marriage, there would be certain financial benefits that I believed we needed to take advantage of. There were also some protections that were significant. So, I became convicted that we should get married and that it was a legitimate decision to do so.


As we saw more states opening up for same sex marriage, we realized Texas was a little way off. We began to search flights and travel arrangements to go to a state where we could get married. Literally when we were just about ready to reserve a flight to California, we heard that Oklahoma had opened up for us. That was sure convenient! We decided to make it the same date as our commitment ceremony and the plans to go to Tulsa were made. Pastor Chuck Breckenridge from Diversity Christian Fellowship agreed to marry us. I have a niece that lives in Tulsa so she and her family came to take pictures for us. John Brooks and Robyn Whyte, long time friends, came along to witness the legal forms.


IMG_2158I had no idea what would happen in our hearts after we pursued legal marriage. I didn’t expect that it would take us to the deeper levels of life and relationship that it has.


I’ve gained further security in the love that we have for one another. We have now made a legal commitment to merge our lives even more. As a person, Larry McQueen has decided to invest his life into mine totally and completely. That means a tremendous amount to me at a very deep personal level.


Last week Larry contacted the human resources department at the headquarters of his employer. He said he had married his same sex partner and asked if they offered employee benefits to the spouse. Without any hesitation, the answer was yes! I am now going to be covered with insurance policies offered through them.


I have now experienced some of the benefits of what so many who have gone before us have paid the price for. The sacrifice of those passionate about equality in marriage have made, have given us and so many others the freedom to marry the one we love, just like the heterosexual population has been able to do throughout history.


I can now hold the hand of my husband while we are praying in church with the freedom and recognition that our relationship is not lingering in the shadows of uncertainty, but it is real and acknowledged for something positive. I am a legitimate spouse of someone with whom we’ve made serious and deep investments in relationship, finances, and personal relationships. We’re not “friends” or “roommates.” We are a married couple.


Wow, that’s profound. We are a married couple.


Yes, there are times when my cultural history comes up and says, you’re weird, or this is strange and attempts to disallow the reality of our relationship. My religious history stares back at me saying I’m deceived, I’m living in sin, I’m losing my salvation and God is far from me. But when I’m with Larry in love and life, it isn’t weird or strange at all. When I look at my faith and my experience with God throughout all these forty years, I see my Creator more than ever and my faith is far richer and deeper than ever. We are two human souls that love each other deeply and have made the decision to live as one and to forsake all others. We embrace God together in and through our lives while we constantly seek further depth and understanding in our faith.  The unity and peace that I experience is something I truly cherish, spiritually, physically, and intimately.