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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!!!!!


 

September 2nd, 2016

Reaction to Cursing Words

 

TwainA FB friend of mine had a post and thread that revealed something that I think is important to think about.


This man openly admits he has same-sex attractions and is married to a woman. He shares openly about how much he and his wife enjoy their marriage. There are times when people say things about his marriage that are unkind and cursing of his commitment to his wife and family.


There are some mixed orientation marriages that survive and some that thrive, however, the percentage of mixed orientation marriages that end in divorce is staggering. The wounding and subsequent pain is very difficult for all involved when this happens.


meme

He received this message recently and says he gets messages like this periodically, and some even worse in threatened intent to harm. Its sad when people feel the need to curse others who speak of their lives with joy and purpose. But I think there are times that underneath the cursing words, is a deeply wounded heart. Maybe this is true all of the time.


What’s disturbing is the thread of comments that followed his post. Here are some examples:


It’s Jesus in you that he hates. That and it’s his way of discrediting you so that he will feel justified in believing the lie.


As I read this, I hear the slithering voice of the accuser…. The same voice that told Eve that she deserved to have the knowledge of good and evil…. The same voice the came from the man of Germany who said to Germans that the Jews were responsible for every thing they didn’t have… The accuser of men. But Jesus says 1-Fear not! He has overcome the world. 2- No weapon formed against you will prosper. 3-you overcome by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB and the word of your testimony! 4- What you testify sets forth Gods promises!


Being set free from homosexuality threatens the LGBT agenda. Stand firm. With God you can overcome!


Obviously a very angry, devious, jealous type of person buddy. Oh, and I left out stupid and ignorant To heck with him… You just do you and hold your head up high!


People that are haters and stuck in their own sin say that about every sin,” oh you will not change…” They say that bc they have no hope and live by their impulses and desires not by the spirit says God’s love guiding them. He is a person without God. Simple. I will pray for him. If he is harassing you, you can report him.


Small-minded people who are hurting have felt the need to employ this “school playground bully” tactic. In order that he may validate himself, attempting to discredit you is all that the graceless and depraved mind may do. “Blessed are you when men say all kinds of evil against you…” Extremely small minds with vast emotional hurts and deficits, criticized our Lord – - you’ll experience no less my friend. “Count it all assurance that Christ is doing Kingdom work in and through you.” I love you brother, as do your wife and the kids, and all your family here.


He is a very small-minded coward. Otherwise he wouldn’t hide behind making posts like this and stalking you to do it.


He gives more power to eros than agape love.


As I sit here reading these comments I can’t help but wonder, “What would this person think, or feel, as they read them?”


The person who sent the original message may in fact be angry. Their words seem to say they are. But, if we were to impact others with love, forgiveness, kindness, peace, would we say these things? I see such deep critical words towards the person who wrote them. There is an obvious lack of listening more deeply, and caring for this person is representative in the comments.


One person commented:

Be encouraged brother…If they’re posting, they’re still watching. Keep praying for them.


I think there was some recognition here that someone is listening. What do we say when we think others aren’t listening? It’s as though the commenter isn’t present so thoughtless reactions come through. But I think this reveals something even greater. I think this reveals just exactly why some people are wounded and angry with Christians.


When I was less aware and honest about my own critical heart and shallow minded faith I said many of these same things. I didn’t care enough to filter my own heart so as to refrain from speaking thoughtlessly. I even got more defensive through the years because I had my own “haters” who wrote to me words that cursed my life and my faith. I just minimized them and judged them to be of the Devil, or that their sin blinded their own hearts.


Frankly, it was my sin that blinded my heart from seeing the broken hearted and their pain. I shooed them away with my shortsighted words and excused my arrogance by saying I was obedient to God and had God’s favor. I judged them to be far from God therefore hate filled their lives.


Let’s try to be kind, just because.


 

August 17th, 2016

The Cost Of ExGay Ideology in My Life

 

ExGay Ideology – Costly to the heart, the soul, relationships and the pocketbook!


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1The ExGay movement began in the middle 1970’s. Believing in faith that God could do anything, people who came through the Jesus movement believed that God could deliver gay people from their struggles setting them free from homosexuality. While searching for a method throughout its years, practitioners of ExGay therapy used various techniques to find something that would achieve their goals. Using prayer, addiction models of recovery, blind obedience and deliverance thousands of people were subjected to ExGay conversion therapy based on a religious belief that God calls it sin and in order to be a good Christian gay people needed to repent of their homosexual sin. There are many stories of painful attempts, discouragement, and in some cases suicides. Throughout the years of ExGay ministry there has been an unwillingness to admit its failure to produce any real change in sexual orientation. That is until 2013 when Alan Chambers, then the president of Exodus International, proclaimed that 99% of those seeing change didn’t find the changes that were proclaimed through it’s years and Exodus was closed.


Love In Action was one of the founding ministries. Formed in 1973 they were also the first to utilize a residential program believing there’d be more success if they developed a supportive community environment. I was a staff member for 22 years. For 18 of those years I was the Executive Director. I was also a board member with Exodus International for eleven years.


Yes, I was a significant leader within the movement, but I was also a victim of it’s false claims. Here is some of my personal story about my own experience with ExGay ministry.


“John, how much does it cost to come to Love In Action’s program?” “Well, it’s $550.00 per month for our residential program.


In 1987 that was the monthly fee. But what I didn’t see coming were the hidden costs there would be ahead for me. Costly to my heart, soul, relationships and my pocketbook!


It was 1984 and I was in pain. I was discouraged and living in emotional turmoil. I was divorced from my first wife and living as an out gay man.  I was trying to navigate through this transition and attempting to figure out how to live life as a dad to two little toddler girls. After several failed gay relationships, I was now in a relationship that I tried to make into something long term, but it just didn’t have that potential and I didn’t want to be alone. I felt lost and didn’t know what to do next.


Some friends introduced me to evangelical Christian faith based on a personal relationship with Jesus. It was different than my background in Catholicism in that it seemed to include more connection to a personal community and a lot more communication about its beliefs. The relationships and the communication were attractive to me. I attended a local church a few times and discovered they were starting new singles ministry. I had gone to one of the meetings where their new singles pastor was introduced and I liked what he had to say.


So, when I broke up with my partner I quickly filled the void with a commitment to the meetings and began an entirely new social circle not having anything to do with me being gay. I decided to no longer contact any of my gay friends. Interestingly, they never contacted me again either. It seemed I was shutting the door to that part of my life.


I didn’t hide being gay but I was careful whom I told. No one rejected me and some were even willing to talk with me about my recent past. Most of those I told encouraged me to consider the belief that being gay was sinful and that I needed to seek God for wisdom and direction regarding my relationship choices. I didn’t feel shamed by their encouragement, but internally I began to absorb the belief that I needed to change something about myself that was deeply woven into the fabric of my being.


At one point about a year after I left my partner, a close friend suggested that I go with her to a meeting at a local hotel. It was hosted by a traveling preacher that she said was known for delivering homosexuals from their struggles with prayer. I was naïve to this newer religious practice and figured, “who wouldn’t want to be delivered from homosexuality?” I went with her to a meeting and came away more depressed than I had been in a long time. His message was very strange, there was no real reference to any deliverance and in so many ways my hopes were dashed. But I kept some desire for freedom stored away with the belief that maybe God was powerful enough to take the plight of homosexuality away from me.


Two years later, I heard a speaker on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. She talked about her son being gay and that she was part of a coalition of ministries that helped men and women leave homosexuality behind. I wrote a letter to Focus seeking information on these ministries and got an informational sheet back. On it was information on Love In Action, then in California.


I wrote them a letter consisting of only a couple of paragraphs. I mentioned my history of having been married and having two children and that I was looking for help. I didn’t get a letter back; instead I got a phone call from Anita Worthen, the director’s wife. She said they were looking for someone to be a house leader’s assistant in one of their new residential houses. Needless to say, I was surprised to have that conversation. For some reason, I became very excited about the potential of this prospect and set my mind on the goal of going there.


I was dating a girl at the time with hope that I could somehow make a heterosexual relationship work out. I didn’t want to be alone and I heard from all sides of my new religious world that I could not have a gay relationship and continue on with God. But this relationship wasn’t working so well. I was really shut down emotionally. Due to my fears of failure and the deep shame that I lived in, I wanted out of the relationship. But I was afraid of another relationship breakup. I didn’t want to tell her I wanted out and lived in the conflict of emotions.


Love In Action offered to accept my application for the position there. I felt hopeful! They were known to be the experts on ExGay ministry and one of the premier ministries nation wide. They said Jesus would set me free from homosexuality and that the director was married and had found success.


I had been deep in prayer about finding full time ministry. I was sincerely seeking a way I could be more involved in my faith. This opportunity seemed to come at just the right time since my employer, the Union Pacific Railroad, was offering buyouts of $35,000 for employees who would willingly give up their jobs.


The position at Love In Action was a volunteer position. I figured that the buyout would help me take care of my financial responsibilities and I could afford to do this for a couple of years. But underneath it all, they gave me hope for deeper changes in my life. I wanted desperately to be a man of integrity and of good reputation. Even more significantly, I wanted to be a good dad for my daughters. I believed that being gay would cause me to lose that hope.


I believed Love In Action had it all for me; big changes, a deeper foundation in my faith, help with my homosexual struggles, and potentially hope for a future marriage and overall success in life. I wouldn’t have believed anything to the contrary even if someone would have challenged my decision. What I didn’t figure into the equation were the hidden costs of my decisions.


I sold my house and all of my household things. I stored my keepsakes and packed my car with my daily essentials to move 1500 miles across the country. I had an emotional evening with my daughters telling them I was leaving for California. They cried and I stuffed my deeper feelings because I believed my decision to leave them was for the greater long term good.


I got to Love In Action and began to hear they dealt with homosexuality through prayer, obedience and having a deeper faith in God. I learned to separate myself from any homosexual trappings and associations. Much like an alcoholic, I had to make a decision that I’d never go near gay bars, gay people or gay paraphernalia. I had to keep my life pure or I’d never receive the answer to my prayers.


I believed that there were other gay men who had successful marriages to women. Their marriages appeared to be honest and open. Their wives knew all about their homosexuality. That was hopeful for me because I never wanted to hide things. I continued communication with my girlfriend back home. I was excited about what I was learning and talked with her a lot about everything. I’m sure this gave her hope about our relationship. The distance between us allowed me to relax and open myself up emotionally again which also gave us both hope for a future together.


Through the first year I was excited about all of this and made a commitment to stay another year. It seemed people were being helped and I thought I was providing hope to those who felt hopeless like I had felt. It seemed the many questions I had in my life were being answered through the Bible and the Christian community. They showed me support and helped to confirm what I was doing was right. I was still left with many questions and insecurities about what I was learning. But I kept mostly quiet about them.


After the second year I made the decision in faith to ask my girlfriend to marry me. In so doing I received little counsel about what this was going to be like. Men who had gotten married to women didn’t really talk much about the things closer to their hearts. One word of advice I remember was, “John, don’t worry about the plumbing, it’ll work when it’s time,” referring to the wedding night. I thought, they must be right. They’ve gone through this.


So, the wedding came, and the honeymoon night arrived. It was really difficult for me. Actually, the entire honeymoon was challenging and I shut down my emotions just to make it through. But I believed it was because the ugly demon of homosexuality was barking at me attempting to steal the victory. The first six months of our marriage was horrific for me and full of emotional turmoil. But through some discussions and revelations, I felt I needed to just relax and so I stuffed my fears for the next 24 years. Yes, for 24 years. I thought I was having success because I was faithful and was not acting out in homosexuality.


The ExGay teachings just continued to heap messages on me that I was broken, sinful, unhealthy and that I needed healing. The lessons of obedience, sacrifice, and faith only became more ingrained in my soul with seemingly no way to find success. They produced no changes in my sexuality. But the seeming requirement of separation from anything gay caused me to separate from myself and from others who didn’t believe as I did.


ExGay ministry, community and teachings cost me dearly. From a practical and financial standpoint, it cost me $35,000. I didn’t receive any salary for two years, and only partial salary for two more years. I considered that was paying for the ministry training I was gaining. I used this to rationalize that great expenditure. That was a lot of money in 1986!


Not realizing it at the time, it cost me a lifetime relationship with my daughters. Moving 1500 miles away from them, their childhood experiences, and a regular development of trust created a gap in our lives that will never be rebuilt. There is no natural foundation between us, which would create a history to work with in our lives today. I missed school events, birthdays and holidays with my kids. I missed dances and regular days together. I never saw their friends or heard their pain. I missed putting them to bed at night and celebrating life with them. They missed knowing my heart, my values and me. They missed having a dad throughout their childhood who loves them dearly.


My biological family was from other religious beliefs. My faith system was very narrow and it just wasn’t comfortable to connect with others who believed differently. People who seemingly supported my goals surrounded me. I was taught that leaving homosexuality was difficult and required great sacrifice to make it, even if it meant not being around my family.


There were aunts, uncles and cousins that I grew up with that lived back in Iowa. When I finally saw through the deception of my former involvement in ExGay ministry I realized that I had lost over two decades of knowing them. I discovered their love for me had spanned the years. But I didn’t experience it because of the lack of contact with them. While searching to know love and feel connected I discovered I’d missed the love of family for all of those years. I missed family celebrations, holidays and reunions. I missed funerals and weddings.


While I was taught that with faith, God could make my marriage work. I was taught that if I were faithful to the marriage, God would honor my commitment. I believed that if I held on that some day I’d finally find the combination that would release me to love my wife, as I believed she deserved. After years of learning, years of counsel, years of faithfulness, and years of believing God beyond hope; I discovered there had been no change, no lifting of the anxiety that I had felt from the very beginning. We both lost severely through this.


I lost the hope of intimate connection that drove me into ExGay ministry to begin with. I paid dearly year after year with a sense that I was deceiving others due to living an image of a successful marriage while underneath it was anything but that. I felt separated, alone and disconnected most of the time.


There were many followers of ExGay ministry and church members who looked to our marriage as an example of the testimony of God’s change in my life. I believed I was living in integrity because I was faithful to the marriage and hadn’t had any sex with men since that last relationship in 1984. I believed that was success! I believed that was all I could hope for. After all, I was living a sexually pure life regardless of how I felt inside. Denying our feelings was part of the commitment.


I was internally critical of my wife. I was sharp at times, discouraging at others. I went through emotional mountains and valleys. My life and vocation were filled with lots of drama that distracted us from the dysfunction within our marriage. Keeping us both in denial we went on and on, year after year believing we were doing okay.


I had some gay friends from my past that I’ve reconnected with. In our recent conversations I’ve discovered some amazing things. Each one spoke of their faith in God and how that’s helped them through the years. I wonder why I didn’t hear that back then? I also heard something surprising. Each one talked about how they loved and respected me those many years ago and how they could see that I was determined to go my newer direction into ExGay thinking so they didn’t follow up with me.


Wow, these men loved me and saw good things in me I didn’t see myself. They hurt for me, as they knew I was moving into something that they didn’t believe was a good thing, but allowed me the freedom to make my own choices. I missed out on friendships like that! I missed a history of years of knowing them as long-term friends. This makes me sad.


I’m a very creative person. Most of my hobbies and creative aspirations involve the perception of being gay. So, ExGay ministry taught me to separate myself from those kinds of things. Out of my blind obedience, I gave up artistic hobbies, theater and other creative outlets. I missed the fun of dreaming up something and bringing it to fruition. Year after year of wanting to be involved again in Community Theater or building something in a shop just hung out in the recesses of my mind. Ministry was my calling and I didn’t believe I had time for hobbies. And, needless to say I might meet a gay person that would tempt me away from my goals of being a successful ExGay. I needed to keep my face like flint towards the Lord and away from the world.


That is, until I left Love In Action. In 2005 we had a huge protest by a group of young people who were opposed to us working with youth. This began a huge internal struggle with staff and legal matters. After no seeming way to resolve the conflicts and a split board of directors, I chose to resign. When I stopped the huge merry-go-round of Love In Action and ExGay ministry, I discovered something deeper. I realized there were myths within my belief system. I found deception within my conservative faith and the church community I’d been involved with.


Some called Love In Action “cultish” but at the time, I wound’t admit to that. But I can now see that as in many cults, there is collateral damage in the lives of those who become subjected to them. At Love In Action much like many cults, we held to teachings of self-sacrifice and separation. Within cult practice, some people give their life savings to support it. Some program participants sold everything they had to go through our program. I sold many things I wish I could have back. I drank the Koolaid.


Oh, my gosh! I see it now! I see the broken philosophies. I see the false beliefs. I see the carnage as exhibited by others who finally escaped its grasp. And, after a time, I finally saw the cost to me personally and I was one of its leaders.


I grieve. I grieve the losses. I grieve what I could have had. I grieve what I’ve done to others. I grieve thinking about my former wife and what she could have had if she hadn’t married me. I grieve that my kids lost out on having a dad. I even grieve that they didn’t have me for a dad because I think I could have been a really good dad.


I feel responsible and accountable for those things I taught though the program and those things I said publically. I was a nationwide spokesperson. My words spread a wide and long path based on what I thought I had to believe. When I found myself questioning the validity of my beliefs my mind went quickly to words I’d heard, “God’s ways are not our ways” or “you can’t trust your own thoughts, you can be deceived.” This was similar to another cultish tenant I saw, don’t trust your own thoughts. I was a model of obedience. I believed I could stand up with confidence because I hadn’t failed the system. I was sexually pure. But my heart was sick.


I’m thankful for a few years left to experience life beyond ExGay ministry. I’m trying to connect as much as I can with my daughters and grandchildren. But it’s hard due to the lack of history we’ve shared. I’m trying to reconnect with my family even though some have already died and I don’t have that chance.


The money, well the money is gone and that isn’t as big a deal. But it frustrates me to think I bought into the deception out of hopelessness and despair. My vocation did provide an income for my family for many years, but even that brings some guilt as it came from the pockets of others that hoped for so much more.


I’m tremendously thankful that my gay friends from years ago have allowed me back into their lives. I’m a richer person for knowing them today. Their unconditional love, affirmation and support are very important to me.


I’m trying to make amends whenever possible and when doing so isn’t harming to others. I have an open policy to anyone who wants to contact me. I have diligently searched for opportunities to contact others who may need to hear my heart today. It’s my greatest desire to see others find freedom from the bondage of ExGay ministry, its teaching and philosophies.


I’m beginning to enjoy my life for the first time. I’m rediscovering creative hobbies. I’m allowing myself to be playful, even childish at times. I sing out loud. I laugh at stupid things. I’m silly. I found success in cooking wonderful things and love to serve them to others.


I have a large workshop that is my dreamland. I build, paint and create amazing things out of pieces I gather along the way. I receive compliments on my projects! I’m good at it and I enjoy the process of dreaming it up and making it come through to reality.


I realized I also became free to enjoy true love, natural to my gay self. I found an amazing husband. I can see now that the anxiety I felt for so many years was due to living in conflict with my sexuality and trying to live in an unequally yoked marriage. My husband and I feel comfortable, connected, and naturally fit to one another. I’m finding that I can have a successful intimate relationship. I believed for so long that I was so broken, as taught by my former religious community, that I could never find intimacy that was fulfilling.


We serve one another. We affirm each other liberally and with sincerity. We laugh, we cry, we don’t ever want to be separated. We complete one another. We compliment each other’s personalities, gifts and talents. We’re faithful in our hearts and in our lives, naturally. Isn’t that what marriage is? I’ve finally experienced it.


Living free from bondage is something that I was taught was the goal. It’s just that along the way I lived in it while seeking freedom from it. Living in a community that teaches separation from the world creates a legalistic sacrifice that brought me a load of denial. I wanted to be a good person. I wanted to have a solid faith. I wanted to have God close to me. While I believed I was working towards those goals I was actually losing them. My daughters were distrusting me, my faith was shallow as it was based on many forms of denial, and I always felt distant from God because of the deep shame stemming from the messages of brokenness. But, no more!


As I sought freedom, I lived in bondage. As I searched for truth, I lived in deception. As I tried to lay a foundation for being a good dad, a good husband, and a good family man I was a distant and uninvolved dad, a deceived husband and I lost years of family life.


ExGay ministry is a tool to deceive, to lead to bondage, and to harm innocent and needy people who have already lived a life of rejection and separation. I do not believe it is the hand of a loving God that would lead anyone to it. But rather, I see it as a tool of evil to separate people from themselves.


There are people who choose ExGay ministry to help them live a celibate life in conjunction with their faith. I don’t judge them and believe that we must all live with integrity. But sadly, I believe the underneath messages can actually make living a celibate life more difficult. There are also those who continue in leadership within ExGay ministry. Having been a former leader, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I stayed all those years because I believed I was helping people, but I also stayed out my own fear of failure and not knowing what else I could do with my life.


I jumped off a cliff, trusting God more than I ever have. This led me to a more authentic faith and a life of more integrity than I’ve ever had. I do not regret that decision at all.


Through professional counseling, healing retreats and an intensive 90 day life coaching program I’ve gone through a lot of healing from my experiences. There is more to come, more healing and more life.


 

August 9th, 2016

Raised in Traditional Christianity – and Ashamed

 

I recently read this story from a FaceBook friend. I found it was succinct and communicated an extremely common struggle that LGBT people go through when they’ve been raised in traditional Christianity.


robert lofgren picI grew up in the Evangelical Church. From moment I was a baby, I was in church every time the doors were open. We were taught about God’s love and grace ever since I could remember, but also that God was a God of holiness and wrath. You see, we could not talk about God’s love, without also talking about his wrath.


From a very young age, I sensed that there was something different about me; I didn’t feel like I quite fit in with the other boys. When I hit puberty, that’s when I knew that there was something horribly different about me- something utterly sinful, something to be ashamed about, something that would cause a great amount of anxiety and trauma in my life. I was gay.


I was gay, but I wasn’t supposed to “claim that as my identity”. To refer to myself as gay was to align myself with my sin nature, and I wasn’t supposed to do that, since I was a new creation in Christ. I learned as a young pre-teen that I was an abomination before God, but there was somehow the hope of salvation for me.


What did hope look like?

I had two options to be obedient before the Lord. The first, I could get some counseling and maybe God would give me natural desires for a woman. There were others who were supposedly successful- the Evangelical Church lifted them up as shining examples that change and healing were possible. (Many of these ex-gay leaders would go on to later divorce their spouses and eventually admit that they had never changed. Several of them would also go on to form long term relationships with people of the same sex. But, they weren’t spoken of, and when they were, they were demonized as people who had fallen away from he faith)


The other option was a lifetime of celibacy. After all, this was my thorn in the flesh, and maybe God would never remove it from me. Maybe this “struggle” was predestined for me as a way that I would draw near to God and stay near to God throughout my lifetime.

If a gay person didn’t follow these two options set before them, well then they were shaking their fists at God. They were following the broad road that leads to destruction. They were living a “lifestyle” that would certainly lead them to the eternal flames of Hell.


These teachings, which I believed because I heard them taught over and over again riddled my whole being with fear, anxiety, depression, and disillusion. I could never see myself loving a woman as a heterosexual man could, even though I believed that God was capable of the miraculous. After all, I had prayed for years, read some books by various ex-gay authors, and even received some counseling throughout Bible college, yet I never received any healing. If my only option was celibacy, I thought that maybe I could do it. Maybe with God’s help and with the help of the Church community, I could stick it out. But as the years went on and I saw my friends married off one-by-one, I started feeling more lonely. I started wondering what would become of me as I grew older. I started to wonder who would be there if I would ever struck down with illness…and who would hold my hand, sing to me, whisper their love to me, and kiss my face as I lay dying?


Jesus said that his yoke was easy and that his burdens were light, and if we believed and followed him that we would find an abundant life, that rivers of living water would flow from within us and that we would never thirst again. So why couldn’t this be true for me, why didn’t it seem to be true for any LGBTQ people within the conservative Church? If I was following good teachings, why wasn’t I- why weren’t we- producing good fruit? Why were we depressed, addicted, and suicidal in elevated rates, compared to the general population?


The Church’s teachings brought me to a place of despair. They drove me to alcohol, as a way to self-medicate, and temporarily forget my problems. Struggles of addiction are common for many of us who grew up in religious, non-affirming environments. When I formed a longterm relationship with another man, I brought my problems into our relationship. When we had sex, I felt dirty. I always felt like I was living in sin, but didn’t feel like there way any other practical, life-giving option. He even asked me about marriage, but I felt like I couldn’t bring myself to that, as I felt it would be the last straw with God. We had no support from the conservative Church, but I also feared stepping into an LGBTQ-affirming church, as I was always taught that they were ultra liberals and threw away the Bible to fit their own agenda. Yes, I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to grow old alone, so I chose to stay with my partner, through all of this internal conflict. Luckily, he was a very patient and forgiving man.


My struggles with the Church, and with my faith and sexuality lasted for many years. Even though I have found an affirming community and a new way to understand Scripture, I can still feel the lasting effects of my experiences with the Evangelical Church and it’s negative teachings about LGBTQ issues. I have scars. I’m still a bit haunted.


I will do everything that I can to make sure that the next generation doesn’t have to experience what I experienced growing up in the Church, and that hopefully they will know a God and a community that loves them and accepts them fully.


Robert Lofgren


 

June 30th, 2016

Gender Roles – Do They Always Fit?

 

man headI heard through my many years in church community that the husband, in subjection to Christ should be the provider and protector for the family. And it’s been traditionally taught that a woman should manage her children and her home. This little meme says that this is the “Natural Order of the Household.” Really?


This teaching sounded good to me for many years. It seemed to make sense to have some headship to the family system. Some women I spoke with through the years seemed to appreciate their husband fulfilling that role in their lives so I thought it all worked pretty well if it were followed.


I didn’t question it as it’s been taught that this model came from the Bible. Lately, I’ve been doing some internal evaluation about many things I’ve been taught. This is one of those standards that I truly no longer believe is something that is good for everyone, or in every situation.


Sure, a good husband who loves his wife dearly, follows his faith deeply, and honors his family is a good thing! There are situations where this is the very best and it works well. But, those situations are rare to find! Needless to say, not everyone is married and there are many more situations that just cannot fit that model and this causes many problems. I do not believe this is in any way, a “Natural Order.” This is not at all natural for some people and to try to make it so causes some people’s lives to get into all sorts of knots.


This model says that a husband should be the provider for the family, the protector and so on. Well, once again if the husband has a great job that can provide this is wonderful! But this isn’t always the case. So what should one do? And there are husbands who aren’t the best suited for being a protector. Their personality, or their daily situations just may not fit that role.


I find that this model can cause many internal struggles of shame, performance anxieties, and can create endless insecurity. I’ve personally known many men who feel ongoing shame from not being able to be a provider for their families. I also know families where the wife is the main provider due to her education or her career path. This also can undermine a husband’s sense of balance if he believes this model is the only biblical model for his family.


What about single moms, or dads? Where do they fit here? In my former church communities there were attempts to dance around this dilemma and try to find ways to fit this into a neat little box but honestly, it just doesn’t fit and once again can cause a sense of alienation from others due to the sense of not belonging to a “biblical” model of submission.


I’m a gay husband. My husband and I have talked a lot about this model and our own lives. Being in a gay marriage has taught me a whole lot about marriage, family, and submission to models that just don’t fit everyone. In our marriage I’ve learned that we both have different talents, roles, and strengths. We allow those to lead us into our own cohesive home and family. But I’ve also felt at times that I’m not fitting into a stereotype which causes me to have a lot of questions. But in reality, it works for us to mold our home into what does work for us, uniquely. I’ve learned that each person, married or not, with children or not, straight or otherwise, would do well to discover their own strengths and use them. This, is a far better spiritual model in my opinion. God has created us each, individually, with our own strengths.


There are spouses who do well at financial provision. Some do better at home management. Some will do well to see potential dangers and provide protection. Some are better at keeping house, cooking, or home maintenance. These roles are not gender specific – ever! We just cannot put people into those kind of narrow spaces. It just doesn’t fit.


As a man, I’ve always had talents that were often seen as more fitting for women.  I cook well. I clean. I also manage the home maintenance. I do the laundry, run errands and shop for household needs. My husband goes to a nine to five job. He’s good at what he does and works hard at it. He manages the finances, bank accounts and watches over our investments. He is good at that too! He isn’t good at cooking, or cleaning. These things stress him out! We work together equally to make all of this happen. Neither of us is higher, or more significant than the other in our roles. But being gay doesn’t make this unique. Regardless of a person’s gender, these roles are definitely flexible based on each person’s unique design.


As with so many other things, when we try to fit things into religious boxes like this it causes problems and takes away from people feeling good about themselves. The lack of freedom for each one to explore their own roles can cause people to fall back from seeking their own strengths and living out their created design!


In my humble opinion, this teaching of Christ the head of the husband, the husband being the provider, protector of the home, and the wife being the manager of the family and children somehow has been misconstrued and falsely interpreted. When this was created men were perceived to own their wives as property and things were very, very different.


In todays world it seems to me that those who do the very best with their roles, family relationships, marriages etc. are those who no longer believe they need to follow this archaic teaching. Those who discover their own strengths and live by them seem to be the most confident and the most effective at living out their daily lives. I know a man who raises and home schools his children while his wife earns the income for the family. They’ve done this for years and it really works for them. But this family has to constantly go against the grain of traditional religion. They have to live in self affirmation of their choices to live out their strengths and there are some who judge them for being out of sink with biblical teaching.


Frankly, I’ve always been naturally good at household things. I’m random, I’m creative, and I’m flexible. I’m good at managing our home. In my previous marriage, my spouse was great at managing our home. I spent my time within our relationship on my vocation and on outdoor maintenance. Things have changed for me and my role has changed too. These things are certainly not set into stone.


I’m not trying to say that the traditional model doesn’t work because for some it does. But as always, it’s not a one size fits all. Think about it. Does it work for you? If not, then find what does and live in it. There are traditions that are just that, traditions that are not truth.