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June 6, 2005 – Love In Action Protest Anniversary

Thursday, June 6th, 2019


protestToday is the 18th anniversary of the “infamous” protest of the Love In Action program for LGBTQ youth. Monday morning, June 6th, 2005 numerous protestors came to the new to us campus in Memphis, TN to say they were there to support a youth called “Zack” who’s parents had him enrolled in our program. Zack posted on “MySpace” that he didn’t want to go to the program but his parents wanted him to. His friends took up his cause.


Morgan Jon Fox, a film producer, arranged the protest and documented it on film for a later produced documentary called “This is What Love In Action Looks Like.”


As the Director for the ministry, I was horrified. The protest led a nation to respond causing numerous road blocks and challenges to the ministry. Several local licensing agencies confronted us such as the Drug and Alcohol licensing agency, the Mental Health authorities, and the Child Protective Services. We were found without fault but none the less these were tremendously unnerving to endure.


The distractions from the protest caused many internal reactions and after unsurmountable internal staff splitting and battles I resigned from the ministry in 2008.


Morgan is an amazing person, a man of deep integrity. He initiated a meeting with me after the protests had subsided. I was surprised at our meeting and found him to be nothing like what I expected. He wasn’t defensive. He talked freely, and authentically in our discussion. I wanted to know more about him so I began meeting with him privately for coffee on a regular basis. I learned that gay men can be men of faith, men who are high quality people. This challenged my former beliefs that gay men are none of that. After my resignation from Love In Action and my tenure as a Board member for Exodus International, I continued meeting with Morgan and began collaborating with him on the film he was producing.


The protest shocked me into an evaluation of my entire work with ExGay ministry. I began asking deeper questions about our effectiveness and the program structures to discover I had been deeply wrong. The protestors, their loving way of handling the protest and their respectful ways of managing it were off putting, in a good way. I found that took away my defenses. It was a protest that truly worked and accomplished their goal. The “Refuge” youth program closed. Love In Action closed their residential program, downsized and is now another organization that does counseling for sex addition clients and has only minimal focus on homosexuality.


IMG_1367Every year on this day I celebrate my own freedom from deception. It was the battles on the street in front of Love In Action that created a space for thought and subsequent change.

 

Pride Message – 2019

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1June 6th, D’Day, 14 years ago (2005), was a life changer for me. I was the Executive Director for Love In Action, an ExGay ministry. I worked there for 18 years (1987).








protestAt 8:30 on a Monday morning, a large crew of protestors showed up at our, new to us, campus. Bull horn’s screeching “JOHN SMID! John Smid! we know you’re there!” For many weeks, the protests continued. There were 24 news programs focusing on me, and the protest, over a two-week period.


The group was saying that our program and ExGay ministry was harmful. I was incensed! I was put out; angry, and believed they were causing us harm through their efforts that went internationally viral on the Internet! I received slanderous threats, emails, and even official government assessments saying that they were going to lock our doors.



morganThat protest, led by Morgan Fox, was chronicled in the documentary film, “This is What Love In Action Looks Like.


Their efforts created huge drama, caused eventual staff splits in our ministry, and brought about such havoc that I began to evaluate my position with the ministry. By 2008 I was burned out and decided to resign from my position, leaving the ministry in the hands of the board and a temporary director. After a few short years, the ministry almost closed and is now changed to a new name and run by a one man counseling office primarily focused on sex addiction clients.


Do protests work! This one did! Thanks to the deep level of integrity of Morgan Fox followed by regular private meetings with him, my life was changed! After leaving the ministry I began to think back over those 22 years to realize that our ministry was a tremendous failure.


No one ever changed from gay to straight. Some found freedom from destructive habits. But we were not advertising that we helped people to find freedom from destructive habits, we said we offered “Freedom from Homosexuality through Jesus Christ!”


No one found freedom from homosexuality. Actually, most found even deeper bondage to shame resulting from a double life, hiding their homosexuality even more out of fear that God would reject them if they embraced it. Some even committed suicide out of their deep despair and others attempted suicide. Most went through deep and dark times in their attempt to reconcile their inner turmoil created largely by the false message, “If you love God, you’ll allow God to change you.”


John-Smid rainbowDuring this Pride month, I want so say loudly, “I’VE CHANGED!” I’ve changed from hidden to open, from falsehood to truth, from closeted to free and open. I’ve changed from being a deceiver to a truth teller.


You can read a chronicle of many of the changes that occurred during that time in my book, (Click here) Ex’D Out, How I Fired the Shame Committee.



Here is an interview done by The Dallas Morning News 2019.




 

Evangelicals, is Buttigieg more immoral than Trump?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019


IMG_1367I saw this on a FaceBook post:

Question for Evangelicals: How important is it to keep Trump in office? I’m doing research for a blog post.


I decided to write a response.



You’ve asked a good question! I’ve pondered it for a couple of days.


I’ve thought about everything I’ve learned, been taught, and believed through throughout my Christian life experience. Every church, pastor, leader, and congregant I’ve been connected with has always conveyed loudly the importance of living a moral life. I’ve been taught that it is vital for our culture, and our country, to invest in leaders who exemplify the virtue of honesty and moral living. I’ve been taught that a leader must be someone that lives his or her life as an example to be followed, to be seasoned and not to be immature.


I’ve been taught that immoral living has the potential of destroying the fabric of our lives and culture. I’ve heard many a sermon strongly admonishing us all to avoid course jesting and disrespect for others.


Our voting public has elected a man who is as far away from those examples as one can be! He has been virtually the opposite of all of the virtues that Christian culture has taught me as right. In no way does he exemplify a role model we can follow. If I had small children I’d have to do damage control to make sure they did not in any way believe he was a good model to follow. I’d have to make sure they knew that almost every public speech he’s given is full of slander, cheeky and immature talk.


I’ve also known that most often unwanted pregnancies come from a lack of responsible actions with our sexuality. Some believe that the significance of Trump’s role is his stand on the sanctity of human life and yet his example as the highest office in our land reveals anything but that. Some would say that his role in office for them was to establish Supreme Court justices that stand for pro-birth decisions and yet the example of Trump’s life completely contradicts the morality we’d say could minimize unwanted pregnancies. Some have said Trump’s stance “for the family” is important and yet he is a role model of anything but the true model of family commitment and relationships.


Some here have said that Trump is a new believer. But doesn’t the Bible teach us not to place an immature believer in leadership? And, I’d like to know how, if at all, he is exemplifying the fruit of a humble and changed life? We’re taught that you’d know them by the fruit of the spirit.


When allegations about President Bill Clinton’s infidelity emerged in 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical denomination, passed a resolution declaring that “moral character matters” for public officials. Back then, the SBC urged Americans to vote for candidates who “demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.” Somehow, we’ve lost that message completely.


Two decades later, the fact that most white evangelical Christians are willing to overlook President Donald Trump’s infidelity, his dishonesty, his disparaging rhetoric toward immigrants and refugees, and the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against him suggests that the Evangelical view on morality has changed dramatically. Many white Evangelicals have put politics first before their religious belief and practice, compromising their convictions.


Now that a gay man is running for president, all of a sudden his sexuality is an issue for many Evangelicals, negating his potential to win the election, regardless of the other factors of his integrity and ability to remain respectful in the midst of debate. For some reason many Evangelicals seem to turn their eyes away from Trump’s immoral life but hang on to their disdain for LBGTQ people. This cannot be a used as a scapegoating of gay people.


I’d say that those who desire a moral culture, pro-birth decisions, and conservative values, best place their energies elsewhere. I’d say that Republicans and Democrats might place their entire efforts in denouncing the inept role model of Trump (rather I hear mostly excuses and minimizing the reality of the situation) and begin nurturing up a more positive person to lead our country!


There are those who’s burden hangs on undocumented people. I get that. I believe we have a horrific problem with immigration practices and principles. Just today, it was revealed to me that a very wealthy white Evangelical I know has a significant foreman in their successful business that has worked for them for many years, who is an undocumented worker! Until we find common ground on these issues, they will remain. This acquaintance of mine (and so many others, including Trump) is unwilling to sacrifice their multi-million dollar business to losing their illegal, and yet, they’ll rail on border issues and reelect Trump on the basis he’ll lock them all up!


I’d say that in our current political climate, all politicians become subjected to a bankrupt system that is running this country into the ground. Many would have believed and hoped Trump to be the answer, but he has not. He just doesn’t have the depth of character to have embodied the solution. I too hope for a day when American politics is cleaned up! It’s time. We are headed for dire problems if this isn’t dealt with.


One positive thing in all of this; Trump’s horrific behavior and ethics has allowed some light to be shed on the truth of many political issues. May we all pay attention, no matter where you fall on this continuum.



 

So Here We Are

Monday, March 25th, 2019


SoHereWeAreTextMy heart has been heavy the last couple of days. I’m overwhelmed with the number of LBGTQ people who are suffering with the effects of PTSD in their current life.


I began to evaluate my own life while talking with my husband, Larry, last night. Damn, just the trauma alone of growing up as a gay boy in this culture is traumatic enough then when you add to it, life events, family struggles, painful relationships, loss, grief, identity struggles, and on and on, it’s really tough.


The effects that all of that has on us is incalculable. I look back and see so many ways in which I have been wounded and the ways that I have endured things that were really tough for me, I can see the rejection I’ve felt that seems to continue in many ways. I’ve hungered for some relief but it just keeps going.


And yet, AND YET,

These life circumstances make us into who we are, trauma and all. There are some people who surround us who actually see through our pain into the beautiful people that we are in our colorful ways! They see our introspection as insight for their own lives. They see the unique views of life that we bring to the table as a challenge to their own process of development. They see our tears, often invisible, as a tenderizer for their own rocky parts. They love us just because, because of who we are and how our lives bring something unique and incredible to their own.


There are those who don’t get it. For whatever reason they don’t see through our lives into their own. That’s okay. Nothing we can do will change that. But I recognize that I MUST look around me to see the crowd that is closest to me, who love me, who appreciate not only my pain, but my impact on their life.


Phew, trauma? Yes. PTSD? Yes. But here we are, here I am.


Some reflections I’ve collected from a FaceBook Post:


I try not to dwell too much on what I have been through, but instead try to find ways to be an example or offer a hand up to those who are struggling with their gayness.


While things have gotten somewhat better for our youth since my years growing up gay in the 60s/70s, there are Still Parents throwing their children out the door and onto the streets as well as Bigots attacking LGBTQ folk for sport.


I am thankful you talk about your experiences. So much of our history is lost.


*********

John, thank you so much for posting this. Yes, so much pain and sorrow and shame — and agree with Kevin, the consequences of my pain and suffering had devastating effects on my relationships. I had no idea how to communicate, how to deal with conflict resolution, how to dream. I am writing my story and this has been profound — facing the process of healing. I’ve also created a workbook based on Ezekiel 34 that has also brought so much healing into my heart and mind.


One thing that continues to haunt me is the underlying feeling of guilt… and I know it is just a side effect of the misinterpretation of Gen 3, the Fall, and being told over and over again and being JUDGED by media, family, society, church that I am different, wrong, perverted, odd, and I need to change, to dress more feminine, etc. etc. I participated in the judging and misinterpretation too as I was a ex gay leader as well. I so wish I knew then what I know now. What a heavy responsibility leaders have… to make sure they are a true shepherd and not a wolf.


I am so sorry for the pain I may have caused anyone by not having the attitude of compassion and love… but one of conforming to a false religious experience. My heart needed to soften and my mind needed to be renewed. It is my mission and passion to unravel the lies I was told and present the beauty of the metaphoric truth of Scripture –which is GOOD NEWS and brings peace and compassion and inclusion. If anyone is interested in this healing tool, connect with me and I’ll send you a free PDF.


*********

The evidence of the neurosis among gay men is all around our community. When you begin to demean and diminish the character of a young boy at an early age, it has to have a life-long effect. And it does. It not only damages the person, but it negatively effects every other person in his life.


We struggle with our relationships because of the emotional damage inflicted on us by parents, religious leaders, educators, classmates, coworkers and society in general…and then they openly critique and criticize the social symptoms of that damage.


We as a community are also guilty of inflicting damage when we treat each other like hunks of flesh rather than persons. When muscular bodies and substantial genitals become the measure of a man…we have joined the ranks of the “damagers”.


*********

John, what’s worse is that there really has never been enough research on PTSD in rural gay youth. Why? Because it’s a largely inaccessible population (at least it was when the research was most needed). The military has helped strengthen PTSD research, because we have access to that adult population… but gay kids living in Paris, Texas? Nope. Not so much.


As an aside: I’d also like to see more resiliency research on gay youth from backwoods Texas, etc. My unofficial hypothesis is that one reason gay folks are often successful, genuine, and kind, is because of the traumatic experience coupled with the resiliency that the trauma solidified. Great great post my friend!


********

Thankful we are friends. Thankful you show me grace when I don’t always understand because I traveled another road. Thankful you make the effort to understand my journey, too.


 

Uniquely Made – I Am

Monday, February 25th, 2019


IMG_1367I attended a church service last night at a new church plant near where we live. I sat in the front row, because that is where the only seats were available. I haven’t been to a church other than the one we attend weekly in a very long time. They were setting up the sound and musicians were practicing. Our church has traditional style music so seeing and hearing a more contemporary style was drawing me back to years ago and past church experiences.


As I sat there and the music began to play, the ensemble sang, they encouraged us to clap. They were really good! But, I felt something I used to feel almost every Sunday in my former church experiences. I felt as though I had to perform. I felt challenged to somehow experience something spiritual as the music played loudly. I felt conspicuous as my expressions and performance to me seemed less than others experiences. I just didn’t feel as though I measured up to.


As I processed my experience something new came to me. I often speak of the unique design each of us humans have. We are created with different personalities, different tastes, likes and dislikes. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. We relate to the world around us in our own way.


I had this thought; what if we also have different ways we experience the spiritual influences in our lives? What if we were not all wired to appreciate, receive, or even enjoy a group church worship setting? What if my response to the church service last night had nothing to do with my lack of spiritual response and more to do with the reality that I’ll really never feel the same things that some others may in a corporate church setting? I struggled with these things all through my former church experiences. For nearly 30 years I never seemed to get out of a church service what others seemed to receive and always felt somehow, well, guilty or challenged.


I went home from that church service thinking about all the wonderful people I met. Before and after, there were words shared, intimate life experiences related, hugs, smiles, connection was in abundance! I thought about who or what God might be.


I want so much to connect more with my new friends! But I don’t want to do that through a corporate worship service. I want to hang out, to talk, to experience their lives and have them experience mine. I want to know more about them. They seemed to be really wonderful people. I want more of that and less of the sitting in chairs in rows listening to loud music that I feel I need to somehow get spiritual about.


Am I that only one who thinks this way? Am I the only one who really doesn’t enjoy a traditional church service? Am I the only one who wants something different?


I’m still wondering how I can spend more time with my new friends. I really liked them. Maybe I can go hang out before and after their service and occupy myself somewhere different for the time of the service! I am uniquely made.


 

Unhealthy Church Counseling

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019



pastoral

Religious counseling through pastors/church counselors seems to always find a way to hide from legal ethics. There is an entitlement to freedom that lives within it. I’ve heard many pastoral counselors say things like, “We submit to a higher authority and we don’t want to be licensed. We can’t do what we do if we were licensed. The restrictions of professional licensure could prevent us from holding to our biblical standards.”


That is very scary to me!


With church counselors, there is also often a mandate to uphold biblical standards. In some of their counseling cases they could find what they deem sin in the life of their client. So, the counseling office becomes a place of discipline rather than neutral support and counsel. Professional counselors would be obliged to maintain a neutral and supportive relationship with the client. This would be a far different atmosphere for counseling for sure.


One really should never be in a counseling relationship with someone that is their pastor, church leader, or fellow parishioner for more than three sessions. When an individual goes to someone they have a current relationship with for counsel it quickly becomes conflictive for either the helper, or the helpee. These types of dual relationships (a professional term for when the client has a relationship with the counselor outside of the counseling office) are a set up for terrible harm! It creates a conflict of interest at the least and the potential for poor judgment.


This has nothing to do with free speech!


It has a lot to do with the religious system protecting the abuser and not protecting the abused! Far too many times someone goes to the religious counselor from their church to ask about help for having been abused. The abuse may be from a fellow parishioner! For the counselor to truly help their client it would require them to uncover something that may upset the entire milieu of the church community. So, there is a great temptation to attempt to help their church member in ways to avoid uncovering the abuser. Since they are not licensed, there is a perception that they are not subject to the same laws that a licensed counselor would be.


It can really be a struggle for the client in this situation. They may feel fearful of their story being told out of the office, or fearful of being judged or scolded by someone that has been an authority in their life. Or what about the young person going in for counseling from someone that is in a social relationship with their parents? How can a teen fully trust a counselor that plays golf with their dad? Or what about a young woman going to a counseling session with her mom’s bridge club friend? This is likely one of the most significant reasons for someone to seek out a neutral and non-related counselor instead of a pastoral counselor from their church.


Even more potentially threatening is when a young man is having struggles with a sexual matter and his parents arrange for him to go to his youth minister. In this situation, he’s been to summer camps, shared social events with them and knows his parents well. There are all sorts of pitfalls here. Or what about the young lady who has become sexually active and her parents discover her circumstances. The typical church goer might be tempted to take their daughter to the youth minister or women’s counselor at their church. This can be horribly embarrassing, and threatening to this young girl. These types of situations can set a young person up to a life full of shame and unhealthy and shaming attitudes regarding their sexuality and development as a young adult!


Then there is a young couple who are seeking help with their marriage due to one of them having had an affair. I know of someone who was in this very situation. The young woman discovered her husband had had an affair with another church member. When the story came out there was no possible way there could be neutral and helpful counsel for this couple. The man was judged, his wife was pitied and the entire situation involved several members of the church. This should have never been handled through their church counseling office.


I have experienced this myself.


I wanted to sort out some childhood memories that had been troublesome for me. So, I went to a church sponsored counseling center at a church where I knew most of the church members and I’d had a working relationship with the counseling director I had chosen to go to. I didn’t think about the previous relationship or that I knew not only people in the church, but had a relationship with most of the office staff and pastors.


So, as we began to dig into the painful memories I felt some deep emotion beginning to surface. I said to the counselor, “I don’t feel safe enough here to allow these emotions to come up!” I really didn’t understand why I was feeling so distrustful. But the counselor’s response was, “Well, if you can’t trust this process enough then I can’t help you!” I was surprised and felt judged by his response but it wasn’t until years later I figured out what the struggle was based on.


We were meeting in an office next to a hallway where I’d hear people walking by and sometimes even talking with each other. I knew these people! I felt fearful that I’d fall apart and others would be aware of my emotional expressions. And I also never realized that I should have never chosen to go to a church friend, in a church counseling office that was in a church building where I knew everyone!


But something even more significant came up as I thought about the situation. This well educated counselor who had a high level of credentials, should have NEVER allowed himself to be my counselor! He should have known better than to have crossed that line with a church member and friend. I also realized that this counseling center focused primarily on the church members in this church of 4000 people! Almost all of their clients were people they knew and who attended their church.


Sure, they thought they were doing a great thing in providing biblical counseling and care for their church members. But how many of these people were also uncertain as I was and felt fearful and distrustful about their sessions only to feel judged and scolded when their natural inclinations to safety came up?


I was involved in counseling as the director for a recovery ministry. We talked about dual relationships. We were careful to maintain best practices with our counseling relationships such as the requirement to report sexual abuse or broken laws. But what we never took into consideration was that often a client of our program or a one on one counseling client was someone we already knew from our local community or our church.


I can remember times when I was a personal friend of someone that I believed could be helped through our ministry. I’d talk with them and recommend to them that they take advantage of our services. And with some, we experienced some struggles that were an extension of our previous relationship. This was clearly a result of the dual relationship and just plain unethical from the beginning!


I also experienced the entitlement myself of resisting authorities when I was challenged. The mental health authorities questioned us after a very public protest of our ministry. I believed I knew better than professional associations, and I believed I held to a higher authority, meaning God. I didn’t believe that the professionals would agree with our biblical viewpoint and that they didn’t have the same viewpoint due to their secular positions.


In my evaluation of the 20 years I was in leadership of this organization I can now look back and see so clearly how unethical we were in many dual relationships. We were unethical in not allowing the client to self determine their course of action. We certainly were not neutral in the ways we led the client through their journey with us.


Since that time, I had the experience of a three month counseling program with someone that was truly neutral, allowed me to self determine my goals and decisions. I have to say that was one of the most productive things I’ve ever done to help myself find a healthier life.


It’s no wonder that people have so many unresolved feelings as they look back at their counseling situations that were connected to a religious pastoral counselor.


Sure, there is a place for a church led mentoring, Bible teaching, and spiritual development. A church leader can help in exploring the development of a person’s gifts and talent. These are all things that a church mentor can do wonderfully, and should do! But a church pastor or counselor must learn to determine when a life struggle has gone outside of their scope of responsibility or into unethical relationship practices. When it comes to a deep wound, a sexual or intimacy issue, or certainly  something like mental illness must all quickly be referred out to those who are trained, equipped, and neutral.


 

Was Love In Action Double Minded?

Monday, February 18th, 2019


double


Since the film “Boy Erased” has been released I have had many conversations with people who were involved with Love In Action, the ExGay ministry that is the focus of the film. I’ve read quite a few comments that have questioned whether or not the film was an accurate portrayal of the ministry that I led for over 20 years. There are those who are critics, saying that the film maligned the ministry and others who felt the film wasn’t strong enough against the organization.


The film shows a strong, loud leader and many forms of abuse of clients. It’s easy to be angry about the negative portrayal of Love In Action based on the overt extremes of the film. But honestly, this was not Love In Action’s personality, or reality.


I can say, though, that the harm done through Love In action is far more difficult to pin down because it’s much more covert. Love In Action portrayed outcomes and theories that were filled with mixed messages.


Why is there such a disparity? Why are there such a variety of reactions? I’d say because at the core, Love In Action sent mixed messages through its public image, the teaching materials and lectures, and the literature we produced.


I read a comment from someone who has a close loved one who went through the men’s residential program. She had attended some weekend conferences in support of her friend. She said, “Love In Action never portrayed that they were intending on changing someone’s sexual orientation but rather, they offered tools for people who were making the decision to not act upon their homosexual desires.”


Throughout the years I read headlines in newspapers, magazines, and video media saying “Love In Action, Praying away the Gay!” Churches supported Love In Action having the expectation that men and women were finding “freedom from homosexuality.” Financial supporters often asked us what our success rate was. Program clients came to the program with mixed expectations, hopes and dreams that their struggle with homosexuality would be gone through their application of the materials and principles they’d find in their program.


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I’ve taken a look at the teachings and messages that may have been conveyed in conferences and lectures. My findings reveal that honestly, Love In Action did convey a double message with little clarity for what the outcomes really were to be.


First of all, it was common to see in our materials the statement, “Finding Freedom From Homosexuality through Jesus Christ.” The word, freedom, itself is nebulous. What does freedom mean? What do people hear when they see it? What did we mean when we made it a mantra? There is room for a wide reaction, everything from total deliverance from homosexual desires to a freedom to make choices on how someone responds to their desires.


Frank Worthen, the ministry’s founder began the ministry with a recorded testimony titled “The Brother Frank Testimony, Let Jesus break the chains of homosexuality.” This would convey that there could be a dramatic change from compulsive homosexuality to something different. But what would that look like? What would ones’ life be like if Jesus broke the chains of homosexuality?


Some of our lecture topics were; The Essence of Change: Obedience; Tools for Overcoming Homosexuality; and Tracking the Change Process. These topics can definitely convey that people will find significant changes in their homosexual orientation.


We had a class topic of “Masculinity and Femininity” where we’d flesh out the differences in traditional roles, manifestations and stereotypes. I remember teaching that there was a spectrum that people would see and experience. I tried hard to negate the potential of shame from a man being more feminine or a woman being more masculine along those lines. And yet, there were clients that would come away with the understanding that we taught people to live within a physical stereotype! Maybe this is because our rules didn’t allow women to wear plaid shirts, or men to wear pink pants! Once again we conveyed a double mind, and a mixed message about these stereotypes.


Many others have said, “I never heard anyone say at Love In Action that our sexual orientation would change. As a matter of fact, I often heard that we would experience homosexual temptations for the rest of our lives.” I remember saying many times that I still had homosexual attractions. I shared my own personal story of how my sexual orientation had not changed. It was my desire to be as authentic as I could be. But I also said that someone could experience an attraction to someone of the opposite sex and that a fulfilling heterosexual marriage was possible. This could easily say that someone could in fact experience a change in his or her sexual orientation. Even though in my own marriage I had no heterosexual attraction for my wife at all!


In the 1990’s, there was an increased emphasis in the network of ExGay ministries on how the child development process impacted sexual development and potentially caused homosexuality. Frank Worthen often taught on how a man’s overt curiosity of his own gender during adolescence could create a same sex attraction. There were leaders within the Exodus ministry network that believed if it was caused by a broken development that God could heal that brokenness and initiate the development process to completion where a heterosexual desire would be the result. If wounds or pain caused it or a disjointed family relationship then the belief was that healing could bring a complete orientation change through prayer, counsel, and obedience to God’s will.


I taught child development theories in almost every program and conference. I believed in those theories. I believed that homosexuality was often caused by a broken development cycle. In this teaching it could easily be accepted that parents could in fact cause their kids to end up being gay if they didn’t raise them in a healthy and balanced family life. And yet, when addressing parents, I’d say emphatically, “Don’t pride yourself too much, you do not have enough power to create a gay child. It’s not your fault that your child is gay.” Talk about mixed messages! This is clearly a double mind. What in fact did I really believe? It’s no surprise that many parents were grief stricken, and wrapped up in shame.


Some ExGay ministries focused much of their energy on “Inner Healing Prayer.” This was a practice based on the belief that God could do a great work inside a person’s soul that would free them from the bondages of homosexuality. Sometimes it included a thorough evaluation of a person’s genogram, a study of their family history. Breaking family curses or patterns of behavior was believed to bring freedom from the negative patterns in a person’s life today. Again, it was believed that through inner healing prayer, God could do the deeper work of changing a person’s sexual orientation.


Most ExGay ministries, Love In Action included, believed that if it was caused by sin, brokenness, or painful experiences then God could heal those experiences and forgiveness would follow. This would then open up the door for a natural growth progression bringing a person to a new healthier sexuality. And yet, throughout the decades of experience with gay men and women, I’ve never heard of one who made that transition from gay to straight! If our theories were correct, I’d think we see not just one, but many who found this kind of transformation. “You can change!!!” but none we know of ever have.


Throughout my experience with Love In Action I avoided the questions on success. I’d say things like, “Well, when people leave our program they are most often closer to God than when they came. I’d say that’s success!” I knew that we had not seen any change in anyone’s sexual orientation. I knew that our success did not lie in eradicating homosexuality from the lives of our program clients. But in my denial, it was very hard for me to truly admit that, or even think it. I continued to hold out hope that we’d see the miracle! We couldn’t lose that hope. Along with our board and staff, we’d most often attribute a lack of personal success in a client’s life to a lack of application of the tools, or a lack of obedience to God. We certainly didn’t accept the limitations of our programs. We did not take responsibility for our double-mindedness or our mixed messages. We did not do a thorough evaluation of the program’s effectiveness. We did not consider that a VERY high number of men and women ended up right back where they started before the program and often times even more wounded.


We made the assumption that personal bitterness and rebellion created a negative reaction to the program in those who spoke negatively about their experience. And yet, we also taught Family Systems theories in our programs and conferences. I remember very often saying, “Listen to the Scape Goat in the family system. They are most often the ones that point out the underlying truth and they draw attention to the Pink Elephant in the middle of the living room.” And yet, we didn’t listen to the program critics for a valid message about the lack of effectiveness of the program’s outcome.


It’s often heard that God cannot love LGBT people and that they may end up in hell if they don’t repent. I’ve personally never believed that anyone would go to hell for his or her actions and during my time at Love In Action, I’d often share my thoughts on that topic. But, there are doctrines and religious denominations that preach that someone could go to hell for being gay. There are many LiA clients who came into the program motivated by their fear of hell if they didn’t change. It was not rare that parents believed their kids would go to hell if they didn’t fully repent of their homosexuality. The disparity that lay within these conflictive doctrines was hard to navigate and no matter what we said in our program lectures about this, there were always some who would be more impacted by their church pastor’s opinion, or their parents fears. It’s a fairly common conservative Christian doctrine that people lose God’s favor if they live an active homosexual life. This is something that we taught.


It was my belief during those years that homosexuality had the power to cause spiritual or even physical death! We truly thought we were fighting for the lives of those who came to us. We took this very seriously and these fears impacted the things we taught. They affected our ability to rationally think through what people heard from our messages.


Personally, I was afraid to hear the truth about the outcomes of our program. I invested most of my adult life into the program. I heard many good things from some participants and put my focus on them. Yes, there were things that people learned that really helped them to discover a healthier life. Personal honestly about their behaviors was very helpful for them. Family Systems theories taught at Family Weekend conferences helped many to find reconciliation and forgiveness for each other. Yes, parents discovered ways for them to love their children who were gay. In the midst of the double messages, there were nuggets of truth and help.


There are men and women who chose to marry the opposite sex. Many of them have children today and say they are living a fulfilled life! I admit that there is also an element of bi-sexuality that can be true for some. This would allow for some to experience satisfying opposite sex marriage. But from my experience this is not a manifestation of change from gay to straight, but rather evidence of a sexual continuum in humanity. I also know those who married with the hope that God would bring about the healing they desired, only to discover that to never occur ending up in a tremendously painful reality to navigate. Many of those who chose to marry the opposite sex ended up in terribly personal conflicts and the marriages ended up on divorce. Frankly, only a very few have appeared to be successful.


Was Love In Action double minded? I’d have to say absolutely, yes. Our double mindedness caused many personal conflicts and a lot of painful outcomes. I’m not sure what would have happened if we’d been able to be completely honest and present a consistent message. No doubt, the program would have been smaller, and we’d not have been nearly as successful in our fund raising efforts! But maybe less harm wound have been done.


 

Wedding Venue Says NO!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1A Dallas wedding venue, “The Venue at Waterstone” said “no” to a gay couple. Their website says they serve any bride and a groom “whether or not they share our beliefs.”


Any man and woman desiring to join together and make public this most sacred covenant,

whether or not they share in our beliefs,

are welcome to join together and celebrate at The Venue at Waterstone.


Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 9.00.09 AM(Pic from their website)


What bothers me is that they clearly say they’ll allow people whether or not they share their convictions…..unless…. they’re gay. So they could be way across the map from them spiritually, but no deal if they’re gay. There are many gay couples who are very conservative spiritually and they might be totally in alignment with this organization spiritually!


It’s just sad. A wedding venue that could represent itself well by loving all people equally, showing service to all.



the+venue+at+waterstoneTheir beautiful facade has a stench I can’t get out of my mind.


Regardless of differing beliefs, to show a universal loving care for their community in my opinion, would be the best witness of Jesus. Sharing their beautiful venue with others without any conditions on circumstances would be amazing. To love others without conditional judgment is, in my opinion, the way of Jesus.


Hmm. It seems the was the witness of Jesus!


Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 9.02.17 AM





I’m sorry, i don’t think I’d want to work with them.

 

ExGay Leaders Come Out and The Critics Say!

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1This last week two men came out saying they were going to live publically as gay men. One was a friend I’ve known for over fifteen years. The other I hadn’t met until recently.


Their stories were posted on their FaceBook profiles. They spoke of having been involved in leadership of faith-based organizations that attempted to help men live a life of freedom from homosexuality. They spent most of their adult life striving to live their own lives in self-control and according to the beliefs that said they couldn’t be gay. Both had been married to women for many years while trying to remain faithful to their marriages, they suffered their own internal battles with attractions to men.


As I read through the comments on their messages they revealed the wide spectrum of reactions. From deep expressions of love and appreciation to hatred and damnation and everything in-between it revealed the tremendous battle of sexuality and religion.


I’ve been through it! Ten years ago I began my own journey to authenticity. As I waddled through the difficult path I had my own haters, and those who loved me without conditions. I was dis-fellowshipped from a small house church because I began to speak of loving gay people without conditions.


I had former clients from my own ministry who began to share with me their personal feelings about my new liberal approach. My very best friend in the world at the time and his wife wrote me to say they were no longer going to be in contact with me and that I was not a safe person for them to be around. Others shared with me they loved me and didn’t want me to be too hard on myself.


I began the process of writing an apology to those who expressed their pain. As I developed the best way to share my heart, one man wrote me back saying he absolutely could not accept my writings as written. But he said he would rewrite them to his satisfaction and if I agreed with what he wrote then he could accept my words and apology. His response was wise and I did agree! That exercise was very helpful for me and it made way for further understanding of how to communicate with wounded people.


Nine years ago I began listening to other viewpoints on homosexuality and the Bible. I attended conferences for gay Christians. I read books that sorted through stories of LGBT people and their own journeys. I found that my ears had been previously closed and I was not able to hear the hearts of those who had lived in different places than my own experiences.


As the years have gone by I’ve grown. I’ve softened. My heart has been tenderized more than ever before. The critics have not gone away. Just today I got a message from someone I’ve never met:


“Too many psyches mangled. Too many lives destroyed. Smid, you’re not forgiven.”


There is more pain to listen to. People have been deeply wounded by messages that while well intended; they were harmful at the core. Yes, I have had to come to see how my words, my philosophies for decades were deeply wrong.


Yesterday I listened to a podcast interview of a man who was taken to a therapist when he was 16. His parents meant well, and were motivated by shame and guilt. They wanted desperately to eradicate the stigma of having a gay son from their family album! He was young, he was immature, and he was gay. So, on they went spending hours and hours with this therapist who was really trying to swindle them into the potential of separation from their son he deemed rebellious. The therapist was wrong! Clearly wrong, he’d used manipulation and coercion to heap shame and guilt on this young man and fear into the hearts of his parents. The therapy was stopped. But it took years for his parents to admit their shame and how wrong they were. It’s taken years for this young man to reconcile his life. Thankfully, this young man now feels validated and has had some reconciliation with his parents.


What do we do when we did something with good intentions but holding on to bad information? Is there love in the middle of the process? There are well-meaning efforts that have produced some good things but also brought pain that can be hard to sort out. This is a very personal struggle and reality that has been going on for a long time in my own life.


thumbs up downI’ve learned to hear the good things and store them in my heart. I’ve also learned to take deep breaths and listen to the hard things, the attacks and the jabs at my character and to continue to release my temptation to be defensive. Sometimes I want to scream, “Let me off the hook! I meant well!” But as soon as those thoughts come up, I realize that I have to continue to work on myself. My defensiveness is selfish and a distraction from their pain, which is hard to hear.


I have had to accept my own humanity both the good parts and the bad. Listening to others has been invaluable in my own evaluation of life. Within many critics is some wisdom that I need to pay attention to.


I’ve been through two mixed orientation marriages. I was a pronounced leader in an ExGay ministry for twenty two years. Many were helped to find a healthier life and reconciled relationships. I experienced much healing from my childhood wounds through those years.


And yet, many others were deeply wounded from my words and practice. I’ve listened to their heart cries for acknowledgement of the harm done, which I’ve attempted to validate and own.


There were wonderful experiences within my mixed marriages. I was sincere, meant well, and truly tried to make them work. It was not all bad and certainly there was love between us. I have two beautiful daughters and four amazing grandchildren. And I have regrets that will not ever change no matter how painful they are to acknowledge.


It is an extremely hard thing to find the balance of harm and help, good and bad. It’s very subjective. Yes some came seeking help of their own free will. Most came out of shame and fear of what God and others would think or do if they truly owned their authenticity.


These men who are just coming out will walk their own journey. Some who hear them will listen, some will validate while others will hold them against a spiked wall of their own making wanting them to suffer for eternity. Some will empathetically understand while others will hold their bibles up to their faces in condemnation through their own, planked eyes.


I’ve reached out to them from no agenda, but merely to let them know that I understand and am available to listen. We are not alone and being a part of a growing number of former ExGay leaders who are accepting their full and authentic lives has been very helpful for me.


Finding the balance? Well there may not be a balance. There may not be any middle ground. I’m learning to respond case by case, story by story as each one is unique. I have to take my own story apart piece by piece sorting it out a little at a time. Five years ago I said to myself, “You have to learn to love yourself with the same grace and patience you have for others. And I am learning to love my self in the same way I am learning to love others, a little at a time.


It’s been ten years for me to get to where I am now and I’m still discovering areas of my life that need to be taken out of the closet. Two weeks ago I discovered two letters from someone in my past. In them were words of love, and there were criticisms. But I didn’t remember the love parts. I sat and felt tears streaming down my face as I received the love I hadn’t seen that was expressed 40 years ago.


Life can be full of paradoxes; love and grace, pain and healing, intimacy and rejection. And yet, somewhere in the middle is reality.


Peace to all along life’s journey.


 

ExGay App Refused by Apple, Microsoft and Amazon

Saturday, December 29th, 2018


DSC00949

Ex-Gay Programs Are Harmful and Don’t Work


After much thought and encouragement, I’ve written one of the strongest commentaries I’ve ever written against sexual orientation change efforts!


By John Smid


John Smid is the former Executive Director of Love in Action, recently portrayed in the movie Boy Erased


The new film, Boy Erased, has sparked heightened interest in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). The movie tells the story of a young gay man whose religiously conservative family, desperate to turn him from gay-to-straight, enrolls him in Love In Action, an intensive “ex-gay” ministry. While the experience portrayed in the movie was shocking to many people, it was largely an accurate depiction of such programs. I should know, because I’m the former Love in Action Executive Director played in the movie by Joel Edgerton.


The film was difficult to watch because it vividly illustrated the horrific reality of my own journey over a 25-year period. In 1987, I was taught that my homosexual desires were rooted in sinful places in my dark heart. I was told to submit to God so that he would forgive me of my sinful nature. I was also taught that God was a miracle and through obedience and a faithful life, my sexual orientation could be transformed and I would discover my latent heterosexuality.


When one comes from a conservative Christian background where homosexuality is discouraged, it is easy to get caught in this cycle of shame. I was desperate. I was led to believe I could never be a man of integrity if I didn’t change. So, when I discovered Love In Action, it seemed to be an answer to my prayers. That ministry was part of a now defunct umbrella group of “ex-gay” programs, Exodus International. At the time, I truly believed that they were experts and a “worldwide recognized authority on helping men and women find freedom from homosexuality.”


After 24 years of heart wrenching attempts to live as a married heterosexual man, I became honest and began my journey to authenticity. I realized that through my own desperate attempts to alter my sexuality I also led thousands of others down that fraught path. I’ve spent the last 10 years making amends for the harm that was caused through my faulty messages of change.


While leading Love in Action, I attended numerous conferences through Exodus International where all I saw were desperate, wounded people crying at the altars of prayer in hope that God would give them the miracle they were seeking. Leaders shared stories of their own transformation while covering up that they actually remained unchanged. Year after year, the same stories surfaced about distressed people falling away to their own shame caused by the conditional messages that if they didn’t become “straight” it was their fault. Many succumbed to suicide due to their own despair.


Although Exodus and Love in Action shut down due to a lack of efficacy, there are still ministries across the globe today who peddle fraudulent sexual orientation change efforts. Unsuspecting, vulnerable people still enter these programs because they are terrified of the stigma and rejection they may face, by family, church, and friends, if they accept their genuine sexual orientation or gender identity.


What haunts me today is that the remaining organizations know nothing but failure. Yet, they blithely disregard the mountain of evidence: Thousands of people in their care are not becoming straight as advertised, yet these programs cruelly condition God’s love on transitioning to heterosexuality. This causes painful cognitive dissonance and leads to emotional, mental and spiritual scars. For many clients, paying for residential programs and therapy sessions can also be a drain on finances.


As a former leader in the “ex-gay” movement, I wholeheartedly agree with the leading medical and mental health organizations that condemn sexual orientation change efforts. The American Psychiatric Association says that such efforts can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior”, including suicide. The American Psychological Association says, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Such “therapy” is considered so detrimental that fourteen states and the District of Colombia ban practicing it on minors.”


I also agree with Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon’s recent decision to stop selling, in their online stores, a “pray away the gay” app created by Living Hope Ministries. Google should rapidly follow their lead before the app ruins more lives. Such apps are easy to access and compound shame and stigma, while often dispensing psychological advice by people who aren’t qualified and have little or no medical training.


I am particularly concerned by the effects such programs have on young people when their families reject them. Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a researcher at San Francisco State University, found in her 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs.”


A Nov. 2018 study by Dr. Ryan, who also directs the Family Acceptance Project, reports in the Journal of Homosexuality, “Parent-initiated attempts to change participant’s sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with more negative mental health problems for young adults.”


As I look back to my own 22-year history as an “ex-gay” leader featured on programs such as ABC’s 20/20, I can now say that I was swindled into believing I could change. In so doing, I subsequently deceived many because of my own inability to be honest with myself. I continued to solicit clients and donations for our ministry with a watered down message that somehow God was providing the miracle of change.


Thankfully, I finally became free enough that I could honestly evaluate my life vocation. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of energy attempting to make amends and clearly speak the truth. It is imperative that sexual orientation change efforts stop before more young people, as well as adults, are harmed. Conversion therapy in any form is dangerous and potentially lethal. The answer is not self-denial and lies. It is self-acceptance and living one’s truth.


Ex'd OutI’ve written my story of transition in my book, “Ex’d Out, How I Fired the Shame Committee.” I participated in the documentary film, “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.” I was a special consultant in the recent film, “Boy Erased.” I’ve told my story on a podcast, “Unerased.” I’ve participated in numerous interviews and news stories. My goal in all of these projects is to be very clear that I was wrong and the message needs to be told, ExGay ministry, conversion therapy or whatever anyone wants to call it, must STOP.


If one person, hopefully many, could be spared a life of conflict, guilt, unending confusion and pain through my story, it’s worth sharing it!

Also published in the Advocate!