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To the Parents – I’m so sorry!

Monday, September 24th, 2018



September 20, 2018

Written by John J. Smid

Former Executive Director, Love In Action, Int’l. (20 years + 2 years leadership prior)

Former Board Member, Exodus International (11 years)

Nationwide spokesperson with the ExGay movement.


The film, Boy Erased is coming out soon. This is a movie that is made from a book by Garrard Conley, a former Love In Action client. As Garrard began to process his own painful memories and trauma from having been raised in a shame based world and through his experience with Love In Action he wrote his memoir, Boy Erased.  It’s about the son of a Baptist preacher who is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program (Love In Action)  after being forcibly outed to his parents.


As I’ve watched the process of the production of Boy Erased, I’m made painfully more aware than ever before of the negative impact that ExGay ministry has had on the parents of LGBTQ people. That awareness is what has led me to write this letter of acknowledgement and apology to the parents of LBGTQ kids.


Background

I had been in several gay relationships after my first marriage and divorce. The uncertainty within these relationships and the painful break ups caused me to talk with a good friend. Her recommendation was to find a life in Jesus and that he could free me from homosexuality. So, in 1984 I embraced a conservative evangelical Christian belief with the hope that my life could be a better one. Very early on, respected, educated and highly influential leaders within my religious community impacted me with teachings that spoke of the vile and sinful nature of homosexuality. They taught that an unrepentant homosexual would never be able to have a good relationship with God and that their sin may even lead them to the eternal punishment of hell. I was taught that homosexuality was a broken condition of humanity that needed healing and restoration. This was also in the time when extremely fearful reactions to the AIDS crisis were in the media frequently.


Those teachings brought me to my own fear of loss and punishment if I didn’t find the freedom I was hoping for. They led me to over 30 years of desperation for my own healing and subsequently into full time ministry leadership that was focused on attempting to help other homosexuals and their families find the freedom that I was promised if I followed a Christian life.


I was also led to believe in an insidious theory that some how a person’s homosexuality was caused by life events, unhealthy family relationships, and personal debauchery. It was believed that through child development theories and family systems teachings, that a person’s sexual development was stifled, broken or damaged from harmful parental relationships and separation from same gender associations. Those theories led to a belief that if God could deeply heal the brokenness then a person’s sexuality would realign itself with God’s design for humanity, heterosexuality. I can’t tell you how many times it was reveberated that I was sexually and relationally broken. The promises for healing and freedom resounded throughout my years of conservative Christian communities.


Through over two decades of full time ministry within the ExGay culture, a worldwide exposure, I never saw anyone experience a change from homosexuality to heterosexuality. But, since these beliefs were attached to a theology of a retributive God and a belief that an all powerful God could do anything, the fear of not accepting those beliefs prevented me from allowing a truthful evaluation of the outcomes of all that we did. It also led me to my own continual grieving while saying, “Why not me God?” But being who I am, I pressed on day after day, year after year, being as obedient as I could possibly be holding on to the hope that some day God would do the impossible and heal me! I could not teach something that I didn’t practice personally, so I was bound to an ever-increasing treadmill while living in the fear that I’d fail and lose everything.


As I primarily ministered to individuals who were wrestling with their own homosexuality, I also had connections with thousands of parents. I watched, parent’s grieving hearts agonized with God for their loved ones with the hope that they might experience the miracle of healing from their broken sexuality. I was an exhibitor at over 30 Love One Out conferences, produced by Focus on the Family. Each conference had an average of 800 – 1000 attendees, most of whom were parents. Our ministry handed out 1000’s of pieces of literature all promising that an omnipotent God would do the impossible for their kids. In all of my years in ExGay ministry, I saw more sadness and grief in one place at these conferences than many could bear. All of this grief was attached to a theology that condemned homosexuality as a broken, sinful and vile situation as well as a tremendous fear of death through the HIV virus.


Through Love in Action we facilitated many parents support groups and weekend seminars that were focused on families with loved ones who were gay. We held to a belief that homosexuality was an addiction that needed intervention to arrest. We facilitated therapeutic tools that often caused even more shame. We hoped to bring an individual into the reality of the harm in their addiction to themselves and others. Many parents and loved ones were thrown into situations that were uncomfortable at the least and completely unbearable for many. Many parents left each meeting with the hope that somehow all of this would have purpose if their loved one would be healed from their homosexuality. Many of them trusted our passionate communication that we could help. Far too many left these experiences feeling as though they’d failed miserably as parents.


Each time I spoke publicly, I did so attempting to hold on to the hope I had for my own future.  It felt like my head was just above the water and unless I continued to believe, I’d sink. I conveyed that same desperation to each person I connected with through those years.  I’d often relay, “If you just hold on to God, it’ll all work out. If you let go of God, you’ll sink into the hell of homosexuality.” I had such deeply seated fears of the destruction of homosexuality in a person’s life and in my own, that I told one man, “It may be better if you were dead than to live in the throes of homosexuality!” Those words haunt me virtually every day.


When I left Love In Action in 2008, I was deeply in despair emotionally and spiritually. I’d gone through three major church splits within as many years with damage and carnage spread throughout our city. Love In Action was horribly damaged through staff splitting and destruction following the infamous viral protest in 2005. I left because I could find no hope, or help, in correcting the circumstances. I believed leaving was the very best thing for me, and for the ministry.


As I left, I went through a lengthy evaluation of 22 years of ministry. I met with a life coach weekly for months to help me sort out what I was going through. As my mind began to clear I came to the realization that what I’d taught, what I believed for so long, was horribly damaging. The damage to my own life was insurmountable. The destruction and abusive theology had wounded hundreds that I knew personally, not to mention the thousands that I impacted vicariously through my influence.


Deep down in my heart, all through the years, my greatest desire was to help people find the best life they could. My desire was to see families reconcile, love each other, and live through the years in unity. As I reflect on those years the very core of everything I taught was leading in the opposite direction. As I followed my mentors and led within ministry with Bible teachings against homosexuality and promoted the wrath of God against it, the outcome produced trauma, discouragement, and nothing but more fear.


I am so very sorry!

As I take an honest look back, I sincerely apologize for how many families had been shredded and how many individuals had lost hope for their lives, some to the point of suicide, through the ministry I led. Needless to say, virtually all of the men and women that went through our program got to the point of spiritual bankruptcy afterwards. I saw the painful separation that had occurred between many parents and their kids based on the fears of displeasing God if they loved their kids naturally and with acceptance of their homosexuality. I remember hearing about how many men and women did not continue in their pursuits of God due to their own shame and discouragement that they did not receive the healing, the freedom they had hoped so desperately for. We were a horrible failure.


I deeply regret those teachings, conversations, and the ways I influenced parents against homosexuality and their own children. Today, I rally behind parents who choose to accept and love their kids who are gay. I can celebrate with families who discover there is nothing broken, or vile about their amazing LGBTQ family members. I make myself available for listening to the pain, and offering encouragement to those I’m able to connect with. I go over and over the lists of the names of people who went through Love In Action’s residential program. I remember their hearts, their courage, and their own desperation. I look back upon the ways that our philosophies could have deeply wounded them, and have listened to the pain from those whom it did.


In the last 10 years I have had the privilege of listening to 100’s of stories, personal pain, and reconnecting with men and women who went through Love In Action. I’ve had parents contact me with questions like, “What now? What do I do now that I’m rethinking my position?” I’ve been in touch with a mom’s support group called Serendipitydodah for Moms that spans the nation, actually the world, that is connecting moms to provide the source of encouragement and support that they do not find in their communities. This powerful collection of Mama Bears is practicing a love for LGBTQ kids that is transformative! It’s a wonderful and amazing thing.


I’m so incredibly thankful for my own family who accepts me for who I am today. I’m saddened to the core for those relationships I have had with those who cannot and I’m so sorry for how my role as an ExGay leader played a huge part in this. But one thing I’ve truly discovered is that when people cannot embrace their authentic selves, they will suffer daily and their souls fall numb over time. When parents cannot accept and embrace their loved ones sexual orientation or gender identity, they will likely live in continual grief and shame. This is not from the hand of God, but rather from the hands of a distorted view of life and cultural shame.


It is my hope that as our world unfolds, shame and degradation for LBGTQ people will stop. It is my dream that families will totally embrace and support their LGBTQ loved ones. May it be so.


 

Is Trump Giving Evangelicals Permission to be Carnal?

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017


JohnSmidReflectiveShotB&WFantasyBackground


For many years I’ve heard people saying that “Evangelicals are false, they hide their feelings behind religion. They don’t tell the truth about their lives.” Yep, that was my story for 35 years!


I’ve been reading posts from Evangelicals that say things like “Trump is saying what we’ve been thinking.” Or “He’s just like us.” They’re also saying, “Our country has tried to remain non-committal and middle of the road for too long.”


Bush was a hard-line Evangelical conservative. He agreed with the vast majority of the Evangelical mind-set. Obama broke through that mold and generally agreed with the liberal mind-set. However both were always careful about their public presence. They followed political protocol, carefully drafting their public words. They always followed teleprompters and certainly never let loose with a word that was considered crass. Even their casual front seemed to be scripted. That’s what we expected from our nation’s leader. We didn’t want someone who might be like us, clumsy, natural, opinionated, and full of loose wires.


Trump, however is rude, rough around all the edges, doesn’t follow protocol, and basically sets his own rules for life and for the Presidency.


Son’s a bitches!

Grab her pussie!

A sugar daddy with a young attractive wife

Kill them all!

We’re the greatest country in the world and I’m the leader of it!

If you do that, I’ll make sure you’ll never do it again, because I can!

Fire them all if they don’t do what we expect them to do!


Hmm. is he really like us? Is Trump freeing Evangelicals who’ve been afraid to be honest, publically? Is the leader of our country giving permission to draw outside the sexually conservative box? Is he giving permission to reveal racism, anti-Semiticism, or selfishness and pride about our country’s privilege? Is he supporting the pride of white privilege so that those who live in it won’t feel guilty? It seems so.


Leaders set the tone. They produce a front that establishes the lines of permission. Trump has lowered the bar, he’s carnal, sexually and verbally abusive, and definitely allows for horrible verbal mistakes and breaking the protocols. He seems to feel it’s okay to build his fortune on the backs of the smaller humans. Isn’t that the American way to the top? And taxes? He seems that it’s okay to round all corners there and he uses the system to the fullest dishonest extent. He doesn’t draw a straight line at all and is as fluid as the closest stream that goes wherever it will. Human? Oh yeah! If its okay with the President, then it must be okay for me.


Are Evangelicals breaking out? They appear to be finding freedom — freedom to applaud bigotry, racism. and unhealthy sexual behavior. Well from what I’m seeing, Evangelicals whom I’ve known for years are sure showing a side of themselves that is shocking to me. I find myself saying, “Boy, you’ve sure lowered the bar in your life.” But truthfully, they haven’t lowered the bar, they’ve just exposed where their bar really is and likely has been for some time. Jesus said he came to set captives free, but I’m not sure this is the kind of freedom he was speaking of.


Maybe there is something good about Trump’s Presidency. If it breaks through the veil of dishonesty and hiding behind a religion then that may be a good thing. If there is a public revelation that Evangelicals are really human beings, carnal behind closed doors, and are seeking a freedom they don’t even know they’re asking for, than it’s wonderful when the captives are set free.


We’ve known all along that a large portion of our country is uncomfortable with LGBT people. We’ve felt the ongoing racism. We know how many people are hiding unhealthy sexual behavior behind closed doors. I think there are still a lot of captives around us. My hope is that they find true freedom. But honestly, most of us are uncomfortable with this kind of truth.


Well, Jesus did say that the truth will set us free.


 

Prayers for…….

Monday, September 11th, 2017


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


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


Two major hurricanes


Two friends died this past weekend


A family member going through extensive chemo therapy


Hundreds of thousands dying around the world from tragedy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


I hope!

I share!

I celebrate!

I hurt!

I struggle!

I don’t understand!

I question!


Not God;


But life. The Universe. Humanity. Creation.


Answers unknown to any human.


Outcomes; unexpected, and desired.


Life is what it is and always has been.


There is nothing new under the sun.


Weather destroys without discrimination.


People die, we all do.


Some find a silver lining and attribute it to God.


Some do not and shake their fists at God.


 

Ark Encounter is Now Rainbow Pride

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



 

Boy Erased Becomes Movie

Friday, June 23rd, 2017


boy erased penguin group


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


There will be upcoming reports and announcements so stay tuned.




 

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

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


Sigh. Tears.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


 

Healing the Pain from ExGay Ministry – Another Story

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017


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.


 

Fear and Coercion in ExGay Ministry

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017


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.



 

A Parent’s Rejecting Heart – Shocking!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017


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!





 

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

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017


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