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September 11th, 2017

Prayers for…….

 

Ugh, I just googled “prayer” and began looking through the images. It’s exasperating.


The whole concept of “prayer” has always been challenging for me. I’ve never fully grasped the whys and wherefores of prayer. I’ve heard all of the reasoning one could ever hear and teachings etc. But when I see it in reality, in my perspective, nothing ever lines up. Oh, yes, I’ve seen wonderful things happen, coincidences and hopeful outcomes. I’ve seen people experience wonderful healing, tremendous blessings that they’d hope for, but I look at all of those who see very different outcomes when they have the same desires, same heart, and same beliefs behind their hopes.


Two major hurricanes


Two friends died this past weekend


A family member going through extensive chemo therapy


Hundreds of thousands dying around the world from tragedy


I’ve changed my approach. I no longer say, “I’m praying for”. Oh, my mind has been filled with thoughts, caring hopeful thoughts for all of those I know who are impacted. I easily think and say, “I hope for”, “or it sure would be wonderful if.” When something amazing happens, I say, “I’m so thankful for” or, “I can really celebrate”. But I really can’t ever say anymore that my prayers were answered, or, “Thanks be to God for answered prayer.” When it hurts, I can also easily say, “I’m so sorry.” or “I hope you’re not alone.”


During our recent weather conditions, as with everyone else, I’ve heard many asking for prayer or praying that the tragedies would go around them. So, if they go around them, this likely means they’ll go to someone else, other than them or their families. Or, of someone experiences a pass, they thank God for the pass and I see several miles away someone else didn’t get the pass and they’re suffering. Are we really praying with such selfish plans? Gee, I sure hope this doesn’t affect me! Or, I want to win this battle, even if it means someone else loses.


Or, someone is praying for miraculous healing, quoting all sorts of Bible scriptures to support their prayers and faith, then the person’s health declines or they may even pass away, then they say “God chose to take them home.” Or “Another angel in heaven.” Human’s aren’t angels!” and I truly never believed God chose to take anyone home. God does not choose to remove our little ones from our lives! Nope, I don’t believe that. But it’s horrific when it happens, painful, and leaves us with mind boggling questions most of the time.


Celebrate healing! I’m truly thankful when someone’s life takes a turn for the better. I’m grateful when a tornado goes back into the sky and skips over humanity and belongings. But I do not believe its God turning the tornado around, or causing it to skip to another location causing devastation. Life happens, good and bad. People live, and people die. Weather can cause tremendous trauma when our lives get in it’s way.


Can’t we just walk alongside one another, support, give, share, and hold one another through challenges? Can’t we just be “thankful” when something wonderful happens? When we ascribe it to “God” then what does that say to someone else who didn’t get the promotion? Does God not love them? Does God not think they begged enough?


I am actually finding more gratification keeping it away from “God heard, or God acted!” and just living in the circumstances, good or bad. I’ve seen deeply motivated people, families, who are encountering life-threatening cancer. They’re connecting, supporting, living through, and with those affected and I can share with their hearts deeply. As soon as they say, “God promised full healing, and I’m standing in faith, believing,” they lose me completely. I lose them because of my thoughts about the many others who do not see the answers they hope for.


I believe in God. I believe in the total connectedness of the universe and the way all things seem to be so intertwined throughout creation. I believe that there are times when things we hope for occur and it’s truly because we’ve desired them to happen, asked for them to happen. I believe in goodness of connection and the way that things at times seem to just line up as in “the stars were in alignment.” And I can see how easily one can say, “Its from God”. But that’s when separation occurs between the have’s and the have-nots. I do not believe God is the big game controller in the sky.


So, today, in the wake of losing two friends in death over the weekend, I’m in shock. I’m deeply challenged when I heard that a mom had just suddenly died in their sleep, at just 60 years old. Her husband came home and she was gone, laying on their bed, he couldn’t wake her. Why? Why did my friend, whom I had promised I’d call, pass on before I could call her? Her family is devastated. People loved her dearly. By all accounts she was beautiful, helpful, caring, and an influencer. God did not call her home. She passed away for reasons unknown at this time. It is just the way it is. And yes, it sucks!


My other friend suffered for a long time with a brain tumor. Painful, enduring, disheartening and it dealt a deathblow to him and his family. They experienced relational healing through it. His family drew close and suffered together in losing their father. His former wife was left with years of struggle from the relationship and then the grief coming from death before she could understand.


Oh, the prayers of many flew up! Prayer vigils, churches across the land supported this man with belief, and statements of God’s healing. The mom, who passed suddenly, had no one beside her as her heart stopped and died alone without any preparation. Rather than “I’m praying for you” what will her husband and sons need now? Once the last amen is said at her memorial, what then? Will there be prayers of faith that their pain will go away? Sometimes that kind of sudden loss creates a pain that never goes away. Is God present in that kind of grief and answering the cries for relief?


Frankly, I’m finding far more comfort in my uncertainty. I’m finding relief knowing that I am no longer believing in a “God” miracle, but rather I’m seeking patience, peace, and joy in circumstances, through life, in trials and in celebration. And I’m no longer “on my knees” begging God for things to be different than they are. But when they are different, I find I can celebrate and connect far more easily because it’s usually because of people responding, or amazing circumstances unexpectedly occurring.


I hope!

I share!

I celebrate!

I hurt!

I struggle!

I don’t understand!

I question!


Not God;


But life. The Universe. Humanity. Creation.


Answers unknown to any human.


Outcomes; unexpected, and desired.


Life is what it is and always has been.


There is nothing new under the sun.


Weather destroys without discrimination.


People die, we all do.


Some find a silver lining and attribute it to God.


Some do not and shake their fists at God.


 

July 19th, 2017

Ark Encounter is Now Rainbow Pride

 

John Smid at GCN 2012-web flipKen Ham, builder of “The Ark Encounter” wrote this on his page recently:


We now have new permanent rainbow lights at the Ark Encounter so all can see that it is God’s rainbow and He determines its meaning in Genesis 6.


The rainbow is a reminder God will never again judge the wickedness of man with a global Flood—next time the world will be judged by fire.


The Ark is lit permanently at night with a rainbow to remind the world that God owns it and He decreed it’s a sign of His covenant with man after the Flood—Christians need to take back the rainbow as we do at the Ark Encounter.


When my older daughter was just a toddler she discovered the rainbow. She loved it’s colors and began to make it part of her life of hope. She went on to collect Wizard of Oz memorabilia keeping part of her rainbow fascination live through Somewhere Over the Rainbow.


Like most people, I’ve always loved seeing rainbows, double rainbows, and full ground to ground rainbows. I find them a wonderful display of God’s incredible creative hands.


As I’ve processed my life of faith I’ve often thought about the story of Noah’s Ark. For a time I only reflected on the promise from God through the symbol of the rainbow. I even created a clown persona of “Rainbow the Clown”  based on a new life from the old when I was in mime theater. I’ve pondered the animals and often wondered how all of that worked anyway.


But more recently I thought about the other side of Noah’s Ark. I’ve pondered the side where God’s anger turned to genocide and ruin. I’ve wondered how a God of love could have possibly been so angry and disappointed he killed off all the people, the animals, and botanic life but for a select few. It began to ruminate into my soul and I started to question the validity of the story as a literal historic event. Today, I see this story as a very sad destruction and can’t imagine why any one would put Noah’s Ark in their child’s room. I wonder how parents today explain God’s choice to destroy the inhabitants of the earth?


arkWhen I saw Ken Ham’s newly decorated ark I began to experience disappointment and discouragement. Reading through comments on his page that related to his choice to symbolically “take back the rainbow” was another trip through shame, condemnation, and certainly a reflection on my own history of bigotry and judgment. And by the way, Ken’s (supposedly a Bible scholar) post references the wrong Scripture. The rainbow reference is in Genesis chapter 9! I once again saw the anger and mean spirit that many people have towards LBGT people. I also saw the frustration, pain, hurt, and anger evidenced through the LBGT community towards critical people who call themselves Christians.


The arrogance and judgment evidenced through this newly established display of the rainbow of colors is horrific! To establish a people group as being less deserving of God’s grace as evidenced through the biblical promise of grace is none less than spiritual hierarchy and pride! Really, Ken? Do you really want to do do this? Does it make you sleep better at night? And of course, it’s backfiring in some ways as people are thinking Ken’s gone gay affirming on them.


Sadly, I used to think the same way. I even once said we should redeem the rainbow from the LBGT community back to Christian purposes. I get it. I understand when a group of people develop a certain belief and stop questioning it and just follow the crowd. I understand the fear of difference, the fear of God’s retribution (as evidenced in the Noah’s Ark story).


But now, I’m on the other side of my former thoughts because I studied, processed and opened my eyes concerning what I had thought, what I’d been doing. I began to realize that in my heart of hearts, the positive symbol, the hope of the rainbow, was for all people, all kinds, all thoughts and beliefs. The Rainbow is a sign of scientific wonder, a glow of color, something understood by all faiths, all languages and all ethnicities!


Honestly, as I ponder Ken Ham’s new light show it causes me to wonder. How could I have been so arrogant? How could I have been to narrow and judgmental as to attempt to take the rainbow away from LBGT people?



 

June 23rd, 2017

Boy Erased Becomes Movie

 

boy erased penguin group


I’m happy to announce that Boy Erased will soon become a full feature film!


A year ago a new book was released called “Boy Erased.” It’s a memoire written by Garrard Conley. The basic premise of the story stems from Garrard’s childhood being one where he was raised in a conservative Baptist home and how this impacted him being a young gay boy. The story continues to include him being outed and his parents sending him to Love In Action’s two-week program to attempt to change his sexuality.


When this book first came out, I felt embarrassed because of the negative connotation that could be derived from Garrard’s words about the program I led for almost two decades. As I processed my personal feelings and reactions to the book I realized that his story uncovers things that were painful for him, harmful for his development as a young man and that his story needed to be told.


A month ago I was contacted by Garrard to invite me to participate in a conference call. The meeting would involve a discussion about a film production company that was planning on making a movie about Garrard’s book. I was certainly willing to talk with them so the call was arranged.


The script has been written by a very successful actor/screenwriter Joel Edgerton. I have been asked to be a consultant to the film production. Without hesitation, I was willing to fulfill that role. I’m encouraged that they have asked me to be involved with the process because it shows me that they are truly interested in receiving input. Joel assured me that they are committed to a film that does not make a villain out of God, or anyone else that has been involved in Garrard’s life and experience.


As a part of my own integrity and desire to make amends wherever they are needed and appropriate, it is my privilege to be part of the production team for this movie.


The film will be produced by Anonymous ContentFocus Features has acquired worldwide rights to “Boy Erased” and the production is on a fast track and plans are made to begin filming this fall with a 2018 release.


boy-erased-joel-edgerton-lucas-hedges-nicole-kidman-russell-croweBoy Erased will be a quality production with highly desirable actors such as Lucas Hedges (Jared), Russell Crow (Garrard’s dad), Nicole Kidman (Garrard’s Mom) and Joel Edgerton will play the ministry director (my role).


There will be upcoming reports and announcements so stay tuned.




 

June 13th, 2017

A Mom’s Heartbreaking Decision – Her son, or God?

 

Religion. For some it’s a resting place. For others it’s a structure to maintain security. For many, it’s a roller coaster of life experience. But for far too many, its bondage.


The love this mom has for her son is evident. She has loved him for his entire lifetime and never knew she’d be facing this terrible dilemma. God vs. loving my son.


stanStan Mitchell, pastor at GracePointe Church in Franklin Tennessee, posted on FaceBook about a divine appointment he experienced while attending the Southern Baptist Convention. These are his words:

Just spent a very stealth & quiet 5 minutes with a Southern Baptist pastor’s wife whose husband happens to pastor a large church a few hundred miles from Nashville.


Their son who is gay, now lives in our beloved City of Music and, lately, has been visiting GRACEPOINTE. She wept as she explained that of their four children, he was the most beautiful of spirit, the kindest, the most loving (she was obviously troubled by the reality that she simply could not capture his beauty with her hurried and pained words) and yet, and yet, they destroyed him with their faith. Destroyed him.


I will never forget and forever will be inspired by her request:

“Love him for us. Love him the way he deserves. Love him the way we should have. Tell him what I wanted to and couldn’t.”


My heart broke. I couldn’t tell for whom it broke more – mom or son. I told her there was still time and opportunity for her to do this. She looked dubiously around the foyer of the hotel, teeming with her husband’s ministerial peers, and said with the saddest of eyes, “Please love him.” And she walked away. I have scarcely met a sadder human. Trapped. My chest physically hurt.


Sigh. Tears.


If there is a heaven, it will have to be a place where mothers and fathers fall on their gay and transgendered children’s shoulders and say, “I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry.” And it will be enough. I hope it will be enough. Please, sweetest Christ, make it enough.


I know who I will be looking for after church this Sunday.


While the details I’m writing may not be factual based on this mom’s experience, they ring true for many.


You see she was taught that homosexuality was an abomination. She believed it was sinful, a choice, and that if continued her son would never be able to be a faithful Christian if he followed his flesh. She feared that without repentance, he may be suffer the fires of hell.


She was also taught that her husband was her leader, her earthly priest. She believed that God’s plan was that he’d be the head of the household and that God would give him wisdom for leading their family.


Throughout her childhood, her family church had pastors that she also believed had a special anointing from God to shepherd the flock around her. She trusted his words and his insights. Now, her husband is also her pastor.


Her heart tells her to love her son. Her religion tells her to follow her husband, her pastor, and her lifelong beliefs.


She has nowhere to turn because her husband doesn’t want to talk about it and she fears her friends will think she’s a bad mom and that she didn’t raise her children right.


So, in this select moment she sees a pastor that others consider reprobate, a false teacher and someone who has lost his mind in exchange for his feelings. But she’s heard he’s kind and gracious with gay people. She’d heard that his church accepts them right where they are and that he’s spoken of God’s love for them. Who else can she trust with this deep anguish in her heart?


She’s given her son up – for adoption – by this church. She realizes she can’t be the mom her heart would lead her to be so with her arms reaching out and her heart broken, she asks this man to be the surrogate parent, “Love my son.”


She is accountable. She has relinquished her own mind, her own heart, and her own responsibility to love her son. She doesn’t believe she can, and she’s far too afraid of the consequences if she does. Ask any mom who has gone through this what they had to do to honor their heart. The choice may be temporarily costly, the rewards are everlasting.


This, my friends is a crying shame! This is a horrible and ungodly situation. I’m furious! I’m really angry that any religion would bring someone to exchange their own minds for the opinions or teaching of someone else’s thoughts. It hurts terribly that a marriage would come to a place where one partner would defer so much to the other that they’d give up their own child to a presumed leadership requirement. It grieves me terribly that any friend, or fellow church member would reject, torment, or even hate a mom who chooses to love their child in the manner they deem right.


However, I’m thrilled, heartened, and thankful that there are people who are willing to think for themselves, follow their god given hearts, and who listen to the heartbeat of a loving God – as Stan Mitchell is doing.


I’m not surprised that in this moment in time, this Southern Baptist, Preachers’ wife, mom, has run across Stan at the SBC convention. Stan has chosen to go to this event if for no other reason than for this moment, with this mom, for this reason.


Please, for God’s sake, follow your heart. Listen to your own soul. God is in and through all things and God is speaking to you, right where it counts, in your heart. Drown out the voices of control, the voices of shame, the voices of condemnation – for they do not speak for God.


We have got to get this! For far too many years ignorance has been the controlling factor. We know better now. We have to do what is right.


Here’s a story of a mom who’s been there, and who is now affirming of her son.


Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 9.31.22 AMFrom Liz Dyer:

I have a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ+ kids. We have more than 1,400 moms in the group and continue to grow. The group was especially created for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ+ kids. One thing we often discuss among ourselves is how we reconcile our Christian faith with supporting and affirming our LGBTQ+ kids. My own journey of reconciliation was one of the main things that led me to create Serendipitydodah for Moms. Here is the short version (Click here) of how I reconciled my faith with being affirming. This process took place between one and two years.


 

May 23rd, 2017

Healing the Pain from ExGay Ministry – Another Story

 

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#113 years ago a young 19 year old man came into a program I was leading called “Love In Action.” He was bright, intelligent, and seemingly lost inside himself. He came with his mom as companion for our two week “non-residential” program with the intention of finding a way out of homosexuality. He had been raised in a deeply religious home and had been taught that homosexuality was sinful.


Garrard Conley has written a memoire about his life and experience with Love In Action. Being a gay man who tried desperately to rid himself of what he had believed to be sinful and deadly, his experience with ExGay ministry and conservative religion had actually had a reverse effect. He has experienced deeply harmful emotional and spiritual trauma as a result. His book, “Boy Erased” has gained a lot of momentum around the country as people hear his tender, and humorous heart, describe his painful experiences.  About two years ago we reconnected on FaceBook. We had a couple of conversations which included talking about his book project. We exchanged contact information but hadn’t really spoken much since then.


In May I was attending a vintage car club regional event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Early Sunday morning on the last day of our event, I saw a message from him, “Hey John, I’m in Eureka Springs! I’m speaking at a book reading event here. I see you’re here too, can we meet up?”


He was scheduled to share his book and read some excerpts from it at the Blooming Books festival at the Crescent Hotel. We agreed to meet one another and I was looking forward to seeing him in person after all those years. While we both looked much the same, our circumstances had changed drastically. Garrard is now an out gay man who has found far more peace about his past experiences then the last time we had spoken. I’m now married to my husband Larry after my own thirty year journey through ExGay ministry and conservative evangelicalism.


What an amazing experience to sit and talk with his man. I could hear his heart and validate the pain he had gone through. I understood it. We walked down the road from the hotel he was staying in to a beautiful “Frank Lloyd Wright” styled home in the woods to a breakfast for the writers at the festival. As we sat on the balcony looking over the trees, the host and homeowner sat down beside us. We shared our stories with him as he attempted to process our unique past.


As we stood up to get ready to leave, being cautious with his circumstances, I asked Garrard if I might attend his reading. With a little hesitation, he said “Sure, I’d like that.” He went on to think about what that might be like and asked me if he could introduce me as the ministry leader in his book. I said, “Of course, I’d be privileged to do that.”


I left to go eat a little lunch and then I went to the festival to find Garrard’s mother was there as well. She is actually the one who saw my FaceBook post and alerted Garrard about me  being in Eureka Springs! She had once believed her son was destined to a ruined life if he continued as a gay man. After her own research and journey she came to the place where she could actually accept, love and celebrate her son’s life and support his book, and he is doing quite well!


As he spoke, Garrard talked about how he’d learned about compassion and how compassion had helped him to release much of his past pain. I was impressed with his maturity and how well received he was by his audience. He introduced me and I spoke about the courage it takes for a man like Garrard to face his pain and actually grow into compassion through it. I also addressed my own regret for things I had done through my position with ExGay ministry. It was a tearful experience and humbling to stand beside Garrard who had once been so wounded by my position and leadership.


This story is not over and there are so many others like it. I’m so thankful that on that Sunday morning, Garrard’s mom had seen a FaceBook post about me being in Eureka Springs. I’m learning more and more every day about serendipity and that there are no coincidences in this life, only opportunities for us to seize.


 

March 1st, 2017

Fear and Coercion in ExGay Ministry

 

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1This is the second post this week on homosexuality and youth. I’m outraged once again about the mixed messages of love and rejection that come from well meaning, but deeply misguided Christian homes.


“I love you and want you to know that God loves you and wants the very best for you! I also want you to know that God disciplines a son He loves and if you continue in this behavior, you may suffer God’s consequences here on earth, and possibly in eternity if you don’t repent and follow God’s ways!”


In many circles this statement is all too familiar. In many families this statement is similar to many that parents say to their growing children. On first read it sounds loving, and significant and should be taken seriously. Within those who grow up wrestling with homosexuality or any gender identity struggle it isn’t all that easy to process. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t sound loving at all and for many, it actually sends them into great inner turmoil that seems to have no resolve.


I struggled my entire life with my identity and my sexuality. In my earlier years I really had no words to describe it. When I was young, our culture didn’t discuss sexuality openly and in our family we were in such a mess that we didn’t really discuss much of anything. I was alone.


As I grew, I moved into choices that I thought might lesson my struggle, but they often turned out to be more damaging. But again, I had little to no resources to help me navigate through my life. When I was a young adult I discovered the gay community. I believed I’d find people who understood and a community that would love me. What I found was humanity and some very discouraging relationships. I didn’t know that was all too common for twenty-somethings and my experience wasn’t tainted just because I was gay.


When I was presented with the Christian message I thought surely God knew what I needed and what was best for my life so I bought into my new religion hook, line and sinker. As I embraced the hopeful messages of God’s love and redemption, I also embraced the false notion of God’s rejection and retribution. What I didn’t realize was how much fear I embraced along with it. The fear led me into deeply seated legalism that permeated my soul and sent me into losing something deep within me. The damage has been very difficult to heal and find freedom within my life.


I recently read an article by an organization called Restored Hope Network. It’s an organization that is based on the things I used to embrace about God’s love, and his retribution. Its focus is on homosexuality and they preach against homosexual relationships and the potential of God’s punishment and separation if someone doesn’t repent of their homosexuality.


In a statement by Anne Paulk, the Executive Director for Restored Hope Network she said:


“I want to briefly address a view that was recently expressed on local CBS TV, with which we declined the interview. In this report, a local celebrity psychologist who appears often on the news said this,


“To try to force somebody or really coerce somebody to change something about themselves that cannot be changed really can put these people at greater risk for suicide or other mental health issues.” said Dr. Robinson.”


We are also against the concept of forcing and coercion. Her comment is not relevant to our ministry whatsoever nor our summer conference in San Diego.”


I understand Anne’s statement. In my history of ExGay leadership I would have never thought we were coercive. I always believed our ways were loving and I wanted more than anything to encourage people towards God’s ways because I believed I knew what God’s ways were for homosexual people. But today I see things so differently.


As I review my own experience I can now see that I was coerced by force out of fear of God’s retribution. I was taught, and I believed that God would eternally punish people for disobedience. I couldn’t have possibly allowed myself to even ponder that being gay might be okay with God. I didn’t realize just how coercive our ways were. The pressures coming not from “this is what I want you to do” but rather, this is what God wants you to do and that was even more damaging. I also see how deeply manipulative my message was. Using fear tactics is a powerful tool to get people to do what we believe is best for them.


This morning I received a message from a FaceBook friend.


“Hi John, thank you for offering to speak with me. The question has arisen because a young student of my partner’s is being forced by his parents to engage in this atrocity (ExGay conversion therapy) and yesterday he was taken to a suicide crisis center. I am so angry, so sad. I am also inspired to write a post, carefully and thoughtfully; explaining why “ex-gay” is anti-Christ. Anything you can share with me from your experience and of the process of how you “escaped” the thinking and process. What role did faith (if any) play in you accepting yourself? Do you have any advice for parents who still believe their child should be forced into this?”


This is still happening, my friends! A young teen being forced into therapy that he doesn’t want, nor see the need for. How can this be healthy? How do his parents think this could possibly have a good ending?


Just this week, a Colorado House committee passed a ban Tuesday on gay conversion therapy practiced by a licensed mental health professional. And rightly so! Someone has to step in and protect these young people from the harmful practice!


It was good to speak with my FaceBook friend but she and I both realize the harmful position this young guy is in and how little chance his parents will actually see the light and stop this insanity. He needs burden bearers and I’m thankful his teacher is one of them but she is very limited in her influence on the situation.


So, in reality, Christian messages of retribution can be extremely coercive! They can be very manipulative and in the end the consequences can be deadly! My prayers go out to this young man. I hope he can find some resolve internally and that he will find people who will support him through this terrible time in his life. Nonetheless, he will forever be burdened with a history of suicidal ideation and fear that he will be rejected based on the fact that he is gay.


We must continue the discussion and open our hearts to new realities regarding people within the LBGT community.



 

February 28th, 2017

A Parent’s Rejecting Heart – Shocking!

 

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I love to watch The Voice. Tonight, I was in tears, my heart was racing and I couldn’t move on without some internal processing.  Vocal music is a beautiful thing and on this show the coaches encourage the contestants to sing through their stories.


On this episode, a woman named Stephanie Rice shared her story. She was the daughter of a Baptist pastor. Her father happened to be doing a series on the sin of homosexuality when she actually realized that she was lesbian. She was just 17 years old.


In response to their daughter’s situation her dad exhibited abusive public verbal attacks against her at school and her school counselor had to remove her from the room to protect her from further abuse. Her parents refused to allow her to accept awards for her high school accomplishments, which were amazing. They subsequently gave her an option; either she sought counseling to change or she could go to college and they’d no longer affiliate with her and she’d be history to them. She chose to be honest with them and she took the consequences. (more of her story)


Her response was to dig into her schooling and work hard. She got her degree in biology and began working on a project with HIV and AIDS. She became a published author in the Scientific Journal. She discovered how healing her music was to her deepest wounds and began to seek out a music career.


Stephanie Rice

As I continued watching the following contestants perform my heart was more and more impacted by her story. I became tearful as I thought about her situation. It’s not new for me to hear that parents disown their LBGT children. But for some reason Stephanie’s story was so real, so raw that it just hit me once again the reality of how conservative religion can be so harmful at times.


I became furious! A Baptist pastor turned his teenage daughter out and completely separated from her because she’s a lesbian! As her most significant reflection of God in her life, her parents completely rejected her and said she would become history to them. As I reflect on my own experience with fundamental Christianity I’m so ashamed and embarrassed that I ever bought into such rejecting and ignorant ways of thinking and the all too common heartless response to humanity.


Sadly, many teens that endure such pain turn to drugs, addictions, and suicide. Thankfully Stephanie used her intelligence and turned to her talent to become productive. I know for certain that Stephanie will have helpful support and she’ll be surrounded by people who will love and accept her. But the gnawing and rejecting absence of her parents and siblings, whom she said she practically raised, will not go away. One can only hope that they’ll see the true light of God and learn how to love their daughter rightly, regardless of what their own personal convictions are.


I really look forward to hearing more of Stephanie’s musical talent. The depth of her wounds came through her first song and I’m sure with experienced coaching it will only become better!


THIS HAS TO STOP!





 

February 23rd, 2017

Every time I hear about you or read something recent you wrote, I just want to cry

 

I received this message through the Grace Rivers Website. I wrote a response and prepared to send it off and it came back undeliverable. I’m supposing that the writer sent it using  a false email address so as to not hear back from me. So, I decided to publish the message and my response here. Maybe they’ll read it.


Dear John,

Every time I hear about you or read something recent you wrote, I just want to cry. I really do. As I see you and so many others turning from the truth of God and turning to your own truth based on your emotions and experiences, it saddens me. And to know that I was once where you were and now that I see the truth of God, my life is ruled by, changed by, healed by the Holy Spirit. And the saddest thing to me is that you and many others like you really, truly think that you’ve been enlightened to the real truth that God was trying to tell you all along. In some ways, I wish God’s Word was totally wrong about the path you and others are taking. Loving falsehood and hating the truth is not a good place to be from an eternal perspective. But who can speak to a man’s heart when a man’s heart is the end of everything he knows and does?



Mark,


I received your message and appreciate your passion and care for me and others you put in my category.


The transition I’ve made these last eight years has been challenging and yet enlightening. I’ve come to realize that all around the world there are thousands of diverse interpretations and responses to what we know as the Bible. There are denominations spanning the globe and here in the US that have very different views on significant aspects of this book.


For many years I truly believed I had the corner on the market of knowledge and interpretation of the Bible. I was adamant that I, as well as my fellow believers, had the full truth and that we held fast to it. I see now that we were a small faction in reality and that I didn’t have any more evidence of what was true and what isn’t than anyone else.


For me, I now see just how arrogant I was. To think that a few people who believed we had the final truth when honestly there was little evidence that we did. We only held to what was taught us and we taught that we were to be very careful not to stray, or to look into anything that may divert us away from our truth. Smaller factions such as Amish, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, feel the same way and yet we believed they were cults and that they were too narrow.


I’m walking in freedom. Not freedom to sin, or harm others, but freedom to choose how I will believe and can now see that I really know nothing for sure. I walked in faith, and knew I really didn’t know. We were taught to not ask questions but those things we didn’t understand we were to leave to God and keep walking. When I began to ask questions (far before any transition regarding my sexuality) I was disfellowshipped from my Christian small group for being rebellious, a false teacher, and unrepentant!!! Honestly, my questions weren’t that strange or off the mark so to speak. But the group I was in saw themselves as right in every way and I challenged the status quo. And no, we weren’t cultish, just ordinary conservative Christians who had come from a common Southern Baptist church that went through a serious split (over the issue of elders or no elders in the church.)


So, yes, I’ve gone through a major transition and I know it’s very public. But honestly, I have a desire, that is that people will discover, as I have, the true freedom we actually have. Freedom to seek, to walk, to choose, and to live as we feel convicted we should. I’m not a rarity. I’ve discovering many, many former conservative Christians are finding that freedom today. With the media, and internet, there is a lessening fear of expulsion for asking because we know we are not alone and we have others who have walked this road.


Regarding the LBGT community of people, there has been far too many abuses laid on us from well meaning Bible believers. I’m now in a position to be a support to those who are questioning. I’m hearing the horror stories of men and women’s souls that have been severely damaged by Christians speaking from a cultural teaching that can be aligned with the Bible, but doesn’t reflect the real meanings therein. Fear, pain, anguish and yes, suicidal temptation and many other responses are glaring today as more and more LBGT people find the freedom to expose their pain.


Again, Mark, really, I do appreciate your contacting me and I understand the heart behind it. But just today I was wondering, would the large church I used to be a part of, and dearly loved by, ever allow me to come and share my story? Would they have any interest in hearing about my life today and the transition I went through to get here? Would those who used to hug me every Sunday telling me how much they loved me care to hear my heart now? I’d suppose not. Why? I think its because they deem me rebellious, self seeking, and unrepentant therefore my life has no value any longer. I have no story that they’d be remotely interested in hearing.


Peace to you, Mark.


John

 

February 12th, 2017

Frank Worthen (1929-2017)

 

Frank WorthenWesley Frank Worthen

(1929-2017)

On February 11, 2017 Frank Worthen passed from this life into the next. A very controversial figure for most of his life, I met him in 1986 and entered into the controversy myself.


Frank was the founder of Love In Action in 1973. Frank also co-founded Exodus International in 1976. ExGay ministry, which it was called, taught that God could never affirm a gay relationship and that men and women must repent of homosexuality and submit their sexuality to God. It was believed that homosexuality was a broken part of one’s life and that there was potential of healing from that brokenness in their lives.


I applied for a staff position at Love In Action in the summer of 1986. I believed I was called to do this and that it might be possible for God to touch me and resolve my struggle with homosexuality.


I was accepted and I lived with Frank and his wife Anita in one of the residential ministry houses as an Assistant House Leader at Love In Action in 1987 and 1988. I also worked in their ministry office every day of the week. I was with them virtually 24-7 for those two years.


I’m not sure I’ve ever known a man that was so convicted and committed to his convictions as Frank. He was unwavering, and for the most part he was unchanging. Several times my questions and my own search for truth came up against Frank’s beliefs. For the most part, Frank allowed me to follow my own path and allowed me great latitude in my leadership roles in the ministry that he’d birthed in 1973.


Within this ministry context, my questions and pursuit led me in different ways from Frank in ministry practice and theories. Those differences were something that never brought an unkind word, or for the most part no words at all from Frank.


I can respect Frank’s integrity. He remained faithful to what he believed throughout his being until the very end of his life.


Frank never really drew close to me as he had many others. He led me with a very loose hand. He allowed me great latitude in my own development of leadership skills, for which I’m very grateful. At one time I felt jealous of those he did draw close to but quickly realized that closeness to Frank, as in a personal friend, was not something that would have really benefited either of us. It became quite acceptable to me to have Frank be who he was and I’d forge my own path.


Frank missed the mark with me in some ways. He offered very little counsel when I moved towards my marriage to Vileen. I was quite alone in my process. I had very little information to go on that may have helped me discern my own feelings about marriage and was left with not much more than a blind trust of fate that in the end did not work out well. Frank’s marriage worked for him and I’m so thankful he had such closeness with his own wife, Anita.


Moving on, in 1990, Frank moved to Manila to develop a ministry there. I was given the position of director for Love in Action when he left. This left Frank and I to ongoing communication but instead of a daily reference to a common ministry, we had become comrades. He was respectful of my decisions while many times I knew he didn’t like them. But,  I knew that I no longer had to conform to Frank’s ways of doing things. It allowed each of us freedom to be who we were.


Most recently, around 2008 Frank invited me to co-lead a weeklong retreat for men seeking answers about their struggle with homosexuality. When I arrived in Inverness California to the retreat center I discovered that Frank’s eyesight was failing and he therefore asked me to lead the entire retreat. It was a very fond memory of my relationship with Frank. It was as though he now saw me as an adult who was competent do it. It was very affirming. One night I went to the chapel and saw Frank sitting alone. I sat beside him and he began to weep, almost uncontrollably. He began to share with me some very intimate things on his heart. I saw Frank more vulnerably than ever before. It was a moment of connection that will last in my memories of Frank Worthen.


Later, in 2012, I struggled with deep anger towards Frank for what I learned through his teachings. But in processing that anger I realized that I actually formed my own prison regarding homosexuality and could blame no one but myself. My path led me to a very different belief about my own homosexuality. But at the same time, Frank’s journey led him to a marriage with Anita that was without a doubt one of the most endearing parts of his entire life, with the exception of his relationship with God. Mine was very different and therefore, I made decisions that were different.


As my life changed and my own path led me to come out as a gay man I knew Frank would vehemently disagree with my conclusions. So I chose to just remain distant. I had no need to please him, or to seek advice, as I knew it would differ from my convictions. So, Frank and Anita became part of my past journey but not a current connection.


This past year I received a surprise private message from Anita.


John,

Frank n I are well…..just the stuff that happens with age.


I was remembering you and me and our friendship. I’m not looking to be part of your life but was remembering that I love you and wanted you to know that. All the other stuff is there also, don’t need to go there, you know.


Anyway, wanted you to know


Anita


I responded with affirmation and thankfulness for her writing.


I realize there is tremendous latitude for choice in our personal lives. I’ve grown to trust deeply in grace and unconditional love. I want nothing more than for Frank to find peace in eternity and for Anita to find peace for her years to come.


I realize there are many people who are struggling to work through their experience with ExGay ministry. I’ve worked through many things personally and therefore I have no reason for bitterness towards them, or the ministry they invited me to. For two decades Love In Action was a place of healing from my childhood wounds for me. It was also a place for many, many fond memories of connecting with endearing people and friends. I can say for those reasons I’m eternally grateful for Frank Worthen.



 

January 19th, 2017

Parents, you are NOT the cause of your children’s homosexuality!!!!!

 

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I just saw a post that there is an upcoming one day conference in Arkansas stating its for people struggling with same sex attractions and their parents. They say they will answer questions for pastors, leaders, and parents. The brochure states these questions for parents:


What could we have done differently?

What did we do wrong?

How did this happen and why didn’t I see it sooner?


For over two decades I taught that homosexuality was developed based on life experience and poor parental relationships. Several years ago I discovered I was wrong, dead wrong. I evaluated my experience and was shocked, and ashamed that what I had believed, and taught for over 20 years was deceptive and caused tremendous harm in the lives of LBGT people as well as their families. This teaching added to the shame parents already felt about having gay kids and very often created an even wider chasm between them and their children.


Several years ago a former client of Love In Action told me that after his mother died his dad gave him a letter she’d written to him before her death. In it she said, “I’m so sorry I was such a bad mother.” The depth of his pain was great and he realized she was referring to what she’d believed about him being gay and the role she thought she’d played in causing it. Story after story of broken family relationships have come from this false teaching. I’m not sure I know of any positive effects from parents believing their parental relationships with their kids caused them to be gay. Time and time again, I’ve heard LGBT people trying to tell their parents they didn’t cause this and in far too many cases the parents have believed their pastor’s sermons and other Christian literature over the heart of their child.


I’d like to quote from one of my friends’ story:


“When I came out to my parents in 2003 as someone who “struggled with same sex attractions” as I began participating in an intensive weekly support / recovery program, I told my parents not to blame themselves; however, as I went through that program and as I read a ton of books afterwards, I found myself desiring a closer relationship with my father (a good thing) and found myself distancing myself from my mother (a bad thing) because I subconsciously believed that my relationships with my parents had some sort of impact on  me having same sex attractions. So I was doing whatever I thought necessary in order to “meet those unmet emotional needs that caused me to be attracted to my own gender.”


As I began accepting the fact that I am gay in 2012, and after reading “The Velvet Rage”, by Alan Downs, I began to see that I had the type of relationship with my parents that I did growing up *because* I AM gay. They didn’t know about my growing same gender attractions, but they were relating to me the best way they knew how as the parents of a gay son. The ex-gay world taught me the opposite; that I was “attracted to men” because of the type of relationship I had with my parents. Coming to this new realization was life-changing and life-giving to me.”


Thankfully, his story has a good ending as far as his relationships with his parents goes. But not all end up well, and certainly not without the pain they all endured during the time they believed homosexuality was developed from bad family relationships.


Questions like the ones promoted by this upcoming conference do nothing but add to the misbeliefs. Regardless of how this conference handles those questions, bringing them up smack in the face of every parent who hasn’t gotten free from the shame and guilt.


I’m FURIOUS that this harmful deception continues today in 2017!!!!


Exodus International, a very large coalition of ExGay ministries, shut down several years ago. As they evaluated the success and failures of the 40 year run of the ministry they realized that no one had changed their sexual orientation and that many, if not most, were struggling with their faith, their sexuality, and their family relationships. The leaders, including myself,  now spend a tremendous amount of time apologizing and making amends for our part in promoting the lie of child development theories.


Rob and Linda Robertson, parents of a gay son, created a documentary, Just Because He Breathes, about how ExGay theories and child development causation of homosexuality led to the untimely death of their son. He had believed he had shamed his parents and the division in their relationships led him to self medicate through chemical addictions and he passed away from the effects.  Rob and Linda went through a hellish evaluation of their family relationships and have now come to realize their son was gay, period. Their story is a glaring example of the extremely harmful results of this shame-based teaching.


A couple of years before their son passed away they attended an Exodus conference where there was a strong emphasis on youth. While the young kids were meeting with the leaders I met with the parents in a space just outside the door to the auditorium where their kids were hearing lectures. When I met them again recently, my heart dropped realizing that I was in part responsible for their false beliefs about the development of their son’s homosexuality. This stuff is extremely dangerous!


I’ve known parents who have separated from their LBGT kids as a result of religious based teaching that they needed to see the harm of homosexuality and practice tough love and stringent boundaries with their kids. Thousands of LGBT youth have become homeless from the division with their parents, arguing, fighting, and alienation. LGBT youth shelters have risen up all over the country in an attempt to meet the needs of the homeless teens who are gay.


I’ve personally attended over 35 conferences produced by Focus on the Family called Love Won Out. These conferences promoted the deception that people can see change in their sexual orientation, taught child development theories on the causation of homosexuality and scared people into believing that there is a homosexual agenda that is attempting to breed into our school system. Each conference had an attendance of over 800 – 1000 people primarily comprised of parents. The oceans of tears from the audience did not appear to come from hope, rather it was a manifestation of the grief producing teaching that came from the facilitators of this horrific display of false doctrines and theories.  For several years I helped facilitate the Q & A after the parents sessions. In my position I held to their general presuppositions, but in my heart I wanted more to show the parents how to love their kids unconditionally. After a season, I was no longer asked to help. I was considered to edgy and far too loose on my standards for their comfort. Something inside me was deeply challenged but at the time I didn’t know what it was.


As the leader of Love In Action for twenty two years as well as my service on the board of directors for Exodus International for eleven of those years, I’ve seen thousands who have begged God, pleaded, wept and searched their hearts deeply while looking for change in their sexual orientation. I’ve experience parents who have cried until there are no tears left in the hope they’d see the miracle of change in their kids’ lives. After I resigned from Love In Action in 2008 I began my own search for truth. I finally looked back with honesty and realized I had not seen anyone’s sexual orientation change and got in touch with the wreckage that had occurred in many men and women’s lives.


Over the years I was asked many times about the success of our programs. I knew I could never talk about sexual orientation change so I just kept my responses on God. “Oh, people here leave with a better relationship with God, and that is success in my opinion. That’s what is most important.” I always had that conflict in my heart. Most people came with a desire for change and parents support their loved ones’ decisions because they too hoped for change. That was not the reality of the outcome of our ministry work.


But honestly, the only real healing I’ve seen take place has occurred when LGBT people find grace and peace in accepting themselves as they are and for parents who have come to realize they did NOT cause their kids to be gay. The real peace comes when they finally accepted their kids while no longer expecting them to seek change. I’ve now seen tremendous healing when families come back together with more honest expectations and real unconditional love for one another!


I’m speaking out once again! Far too many still believe these things. Families must be reunited in love, acceptance, and support for one another.


THIS MUST STOP!!!!! The lies must no longer be acceptable to people of faith!


Parents, you are NOT the cause of your children’s homosexuality!!!!!