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.
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.”
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.