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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.

 

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.


 

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!


 

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

Thursday, January 19th, 2017


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


What could we have done differently?

What did we do wrong?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


 

Mother’s Day

Monday, May 9th, 2016


MomYesterday was Mother’s Day. I have many, many friends who are LGBTQ. As I read through FaceBook I was rapt with the diversity of comments, celebrations, joy, and sadness sent back and forth between children and their mothers.


Having been involved in ExGay ministry for so many years, I knew hundreds of families that wrestled with homosexuality and transgender issues to no avail. Hope was deferred by the lack of desired changes. Parents hoping beyond all hope that their kids would not have to endure being gay and children wanting so much to please their parents through their expended energy to find change in their sexual orientation.


Today I’m in contact with many of those whom I’d worked with through Love In Action. I knew the families, saw the love and the pain exchanged through Family and Friends weekend participation. Now, I see the outcomes after so many years of walking through the journey. Did their kids change? Is there still a desire to see change? Have they accepted homosexuality as a part of life that isn’t so bad? Some parents have loosened their grips on their expectations of change. Others have joined their kids in accepting homosexuality as part of their lives and no longer see it as a sinful unhealthiness to be healed. Some parents continue to hold out for change and continue to convey a message to their kids that God would want them to be different.


I’ve seen some of the LGBT kids have been able to navigate through their parents’ struggles to find a love relationship with them. Others have found their freedom through an emotional separation from their parents. Then there are those who live a life of conflict, ambivalence and emotional manipulation back and forth in a love-hate relationship experience. It certainly isn’t easy.


I know many of the backstories in families that remain distant and conflicted over homosexuality within their life of their family. I also know what were once the painful realities that have now become glorious testimonies of love and acceptance that have produced an incredible depth in the love relationship between parents and their children.


Yes, another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Some left feeling at peace, others with deep conflict.  Ultimately the resolve comes in the form of conversation. A willingness to speak and to listen and to place no boundaries on what can or cannot be said. Always with respect and a listening ear, this is the way through the circumstances.


We don’t have to agree, or have the same standards. But we will do well to love and value one another even more so when we don’t.


Far too many parents and their children stand at arms length away from each other in fear that we’ll lose one another. But in reality, the space between us is a loss. It’s a loss of what it could be if the gap were closed.


FaceBook was filled with diversity yesterday and I felt joy, and sadness as I read through the posts. There is hope but and it may come before next Mother’s Day.


A beautiful letter for mom’s of LGBTQ kids.

Any time you write a post to moms, there’s always the risk of leaving someone out. Today I (Alise) am writing to one specific group of moms – the moms in Liz Dyer’s group for Christian moms of LGBTQ kids. If that’s you, you can email Liz at lizdyer55@gmail.com to request information on how to join.

https://knittingsoul.com/2016/05/08/to-the-moms-of-queer-kids/


I see you today.

Standing in church,

wondering if you belong.


Wondering if you can share

the pictures of your son

and his boyfriend at prom.


Wondering if you can send invitations

to your daughter’s wedding,

when the people in the pews

knew her as your son.


Wondering if your daughter,

with her suit and shaved head,

will be turned away

at the ladies room.


I see you today.


Not sure if you’re ever going back

to church, after being asked to keep silent

about your gay child.


Hurt over and over again

by a religion that valued rules

over relationships.


Forced to choose between

your flesh and blood family

and those who claim to be your spirit family.


Told you are mutilating your trans son,

told that your love is lacking

because you won’t call your daughter

an abomination.


I see you today.


Not sure if you are ready

to fully embrace your child

after he told you, “I’m gay.”


Feeling torn apart by guilt,

ripped in half by lost expectations.

Wondering if you can love Jesus

and your lesbian daughter.


Learning terms and phrases,

that remind you that your child

isn’t like other children.


I see you today.


Holding your child’s hand proudly,

knowing that there can be no boundaries

when it comes to loving your offspring.


You fight fiercely,

you love unconditionally,

you cry deeply,

and you laugh joyfully.


You don’t let others tell you

what love looks like.


You’ve felt it,

and you refuse to allow it

to be quenched.

I see you today,

you moms of queer kids.


I see you,

and I love you.

Written by Alise


Another beautiful letter, from Susan Cottrell:


Dear Beautiful Child of God,

YES, YOU ARE a beautiful child of God, I don’t care what anyone has told you. I feel a bit helpless here. If I could, I would open a home to welcome you and other LGBTQ kids who have been disenfranchised by their families.


I can tell you what I would say if you were my child. I will speak to you from my heart, to say the many things your parents, and your church, should have said but failed to.


To read the rest what Susan says in her letter, click this link:


http://www.patheos.com/blogs/freedhearts/2015/08/19/if-you-were-my-gay-child-this-is-what-i-would-tell-you/



Supportive resources for moms / parents:


Susan Cottrell, Freed Hearts Ministry

https://freedhearts.wordpress.com


Liz Dyer

https://serendipitydodah.wordpress.com/about/


Sara Cunningham – How We Sleep at Night
A christian mother comes to terms with her son being gay through a personal journey that starts with the Church and ends at the Pride Parade.

http://www.amazon.com/How-We-Sleep-At-Night/dp/1499725388




 

A Life Lost to Suicide

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016


bb04fec3aa1dc09590b4dd91583b7db9Throughout the years I was involved in leadership with ExGay ministries those in the LBGT community often said that we were causing suicides. I often dismissed their accusations, as I perceived them to be attempts only to discredit our work. Sadly last week, January 15, 2016, Jim, a man that was in the Love in Action program back in 1994 committed suicide.


In 1994, Love In Action was considering a move away from San Rafael, CA. As we discussed our plans, during Jim’s  program time with us, he came to me saying that his church back in Memphis, TN would gladly welcome our ministry there. He introduced us to his church leaders, and as a result, we chose to move the entire ministry to Memphis in December of 1994. At that time, Jim was excited about being involved with an ExGay ministry. He was hopeful that he might find freedom from what he believed was a besetting sin. Jim finished the program, moved with us to Memphis and stayed in the program for a follow up year. He seemed to do well and to be thankful for his involvement.


But, along with so many who were part of the Love in Action program, after they moved on, they evaluated their participation and had mixed reactions. When I reconnected with Jim a couple of years ago I discovered he was really struggling with his life and had lost a great job because he was so discouraged. After twenty years of trying, he found his life was under severe depression. He had not had any change in his sexuality as he had heard could be his experience, and yet he was really trying to maintain his relationship with God. After so many years of hearing messages of shame and guilt about being a gay man, he just couldn’t seem to get over his internal discouragement.


A long time friend of his wrote this upon Jim’s death:


Jim left this life today. I knew him 32 years. We were in school together and moved to Gatlinburg for summer jobs from college. Jim was a survivor of the Exodus program. I blame them directly for this. Christ died for Jim, and Jim loved the Lord. No one can separate us from Christ’s love. Thankful, so very thankful we had just spoke on the phone. All my love, Jim.


I’ve reconnected with close to 200 men and women who were involved with Love In Action during the time I was there (1996-2008) I cannot tell you how many struggled intensely with depression afterwards. As I think back to the overt and covert messages that were communicated through Exodus International and through Love In Action, clearly we are accountable for laying out a message that conveyed that people were broken, deceived and wounded because they were gay. We encouraged them through messages of hope that they would experience change if they believed, followed biblical instruction, obeyed and repented of their homosexual temptations and behaviors.


LGBT people have heard messages like:


  • “If you’re gay, you are an abomination!”
  • “Until you repent, you’ll never find a good relationship with God, or others!
  • “If you’re gay, you must submit yourself to God and God will heal your brokenness.”
  • “You’re gay because you had a negative relationship with your dad, and you were overly enmeshed with your mom, or you were sexually abused.”
  • “You were emotionally dependent on that man that you were so close to. That’s sinful and you have to break that off and can never talk to him again!”
  • “Don’t believe the lies the devil tells you! You are not gay!”
  • “Maybe you could get married to a woman and that will help you to not act upon your homosexual inclinations.”
  • “Stay away from anything gay, or connected with your homosexual lifestyle.”


Hearing those messages over and over laid out a negative foundation of belief that some people never overcame. These messages were especially destructive since they were connected to one’s spirituality and relationship with God.


But it wasn’t just Exodus leaders that hold accountability for the discouragement that so many within the LGBT community face. I was part of the communities in several churches throughout my years at Love In Action. Exodus messages were not unique, but they are the messages I heard from the pulpits of many of those churches, through the fellowship discussions, and from radio and television venues. Much of the doctrine and theology I had in those days came directly from those who were teaching me how to live the Christian life and how to overcome my sinful temptations towards homosexuality. I heard the messages loud and clear.


I’m so very sorry for all of the ways I was involved in communicating these shaming and erroneous messages. Jim’s life was clearly wounded by them. He never found his freedom in this life. For this, I am deeply grieved.


Jim’s struggle in this life is over, but the horrific and negative effects on Jim’s life while he was here, will be remembered for a very long time through those who knew him and most closely heard his pain. Jim’s sweet temperament, his kind soul, his beautiful voice will also stand out as unforgettable.


We must continue to evaluate how we have dealt with LGBT people wrongly. We must continue to look deeply into ways we have been complicit in shameful, degrading, and accusatory ways we have spoken towards the LGBT community. We must be willing to admit where we have judged LGBT people as being worse, more depraved, and in need of deeper repentance than others.


join_the_fight_against_lgbt_suicide_button-r70f400623e1948cf88320df5785c5651_x7s24_1024How many more beautiful lives are we willing to lose?


An excellent article by a friend, Stephen Long,  on this very struggle.


Homosexuality, Depression and the Church by Stephen Long


 

It’s Not About Being Happy

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015


It’s Not About Being Happy, Caitlyn Jenner!


must be happySo many people believe that we have to be happy in order to represent a successful life. Is life all about pursuing happiness? Is God’s first priority to give us a happy life? Many years ago I let go of that expectation. I’m not necessarily pursuing a happy life.


Caitlyn Jenner’s story has certainly brought out many diverse reactions and comments. Something that stood out to me yesterday was from someone who said that it’s not likely Caitlyn will be any happier now. He said that none of the transgender people he’d known of were happier after transitioning.


I hope Caitlyn isn’t expecting to live a happy life. That could be a very disappointing thing to pursue. I’ve read stories of transgender people who got depressed after their transition, which doesn’t surprise me, really. There isn’t a one size fits all result of someone choosing to make such a huge life transition. Maybe they didn’t find happiness in the end. Did they miss the real benefit of coming out while they were pursuing happiness? Was their depression due to external realities?


For me, the transition from being ExGay to being an out gay man and marrying my husband hasn’t made me happier! I can’t say I get up each morning with a huge smile on my face and say, “Oh, happy day!” I have days when I am happier. I also have days where I question my transition and feel some pain and discouragement. I don’t think I’d be human if this weren’t true.


I’ve heard from men who go through tremendous struggles after they come out publically. I know women who face many daily emotions that are unhappy after they admit they’re lesbian. There are many consequences that stem from moving into a fuller gay experience. Loss of friends, rejection from family members, job changes, and guilt coming from religious convictions and experiences all become a reality.


I’m sure that Caitlyn will go through tons of feelings stemming from reading the comments on line from people who think she’s done a terrible thing. Not all of Caitlyn’s family is supportive of her transition which no doubt brings about lots of discomfort and pain. So, what’s in it for Caitlyn? What was in it for me to come out after living in such a public ExGay story for so many years? Was I looking for a happier life? Have I found a happier life?


No, I haven’t found a happier life.


But one thing I have found is a deeper inner peace. I’ve experienced a greater sense of integrity and personal truth. I wake up each day with less angst, less fear of the deception that I lived in for so many years. I no longer worry about lying to someone, or hiding parts of my life from friends and family. I wake up knowing that today, I am honest and have integrity. That’s worth it’s weight in gold.


For so many years I felt like I was two people, the public story, ravaged by the inner turmoil of a life by trying to be someone I couldn’t be. I think this is what Caitlyn has been through too. I think her experience will be like mine. I think she will find many days when she is very unhappy, or even grief stricken. I believe she will discover rejection at a very deep level that will be very painful and will produce unhappiness. But from what I have seen and heard from her in her interviews is that she has found a life experience with a deeper level of integrity. I think she will wake up most days with less angst of the double existence. Think this was her motivation and hopefully she will find that to be significant to her new life. In her potential unhappiness, it is my hope she will discover a deeper peace that will smooth all of this out.


I believe in time Caitlyn will find more happiness but if she doesn’t, I trust that she will find more peace, just as I have.


Does God want us to be happy?


’ve heard many times that living a life with God isn’t about God wanting us to be happier. It is my belief that God does want us to live in integrity and honesty. The TRUTH does set us free. My personal truth has set me free from years and years of anxiety. Well, maybe sometimes I am happier. But when I’m not, I do have that deep inner peace of living in truth today.



 

My Response to Anne Paulk

Friday, December 5th, 2014


After the announcement came out that I had married my partner this last month, Restored Hope Network’s Executive Director posted the following on their very public FaceBook page.

Quoted:

Restored Hope Network“Sad news to report, John Smid just got married to a man. His former wife was my roommate before they were married over 25 years ago.


When I think of John Smid’s life story, I do think there are several things we can learn from him.”


“1. Compromises in one’s walk with God matter. Sin will be found out and small compromises in thinking lead to misbeliefs and then to sin. Eventually, sin becomes solidified and justified. Take away for all of us: confess your sins to one another that you may be healed. Get sinful thinking out of the darkness and exposed to the light and accountability of the people of God.”


“2. Rigorous legalism and pride lead to collapse. Instead of his massive to do lists, or “to not do” lists, gracious, loving and firm boundaries are powerful and persuasive when employed by leaders of families, companies, ministries, organizations, and nations…”


“3. The version of powerless grace that Whitten, Chambers, Paulk, and Smid ended up employing helped those heading into sin get there and justify it. Jude 3 & 4 have something to say about that. They attempted to sever Jesus, the Son of God, from His own words and that will not stand. Everything He said will be accomplished. Matthew 24:34-36″


“4. Do not raise up leaders too quickly. They need to be tested through experience and time.”


“5. Beware ego-driven and “above the rules” leaders. That attitude is called narcissism in clinical terms. It is called self-centeredness in normal human usage. We are not above accountability to one another and to God.”


“And lastly, as one of our leaders wrote, “It’s not over until it’s over.” Keep praying for friends and loved ones who are walking outside of God’s clearly communicated will. It is by God’s kindness that anyone comes to repentance.”


Most sincerely,

Anne Paulk


JohnSmidReflectiveShotB&WFantasyBackgroundMy response:

She’s connecting my life situation with her comments even though we have not had so much as a conversation in many, many years. She’s made the statement and implication that I have been compromised in my moral, ethical, and religious life and that has led me to live today as an authentic gay man.


Honestly, I was legalistic in my own life as well as in the way I responded to others. Legalism has taken its toll on my personal and public life. I have spent years now reconciling with people who have been impacted by my struggle with legalism. I’m not quite sure how she’s connecting living in legalism with her comments on boundaries, but when I was trapped in deep legalism, I wrapped it up in a kinder word, “healthy boundaries.” I believed that in order to please God, I had to pursue perfection. I also believed that if I forsook any association with homosexuality that my chances were greater I’d be delivered from it. So, my obedience to God translated into being legalistic with myself. In my belief system, I also became legalistic with others hoping they may find their deliverance as well.


It is the uncompromising grace of God that I experienced which led me to love others, and to love myself more fully. It is through the grace of God that I’ve seen amazing restoration in my personal life and wonderful reconciliation with others whom I’ve wounded. Grace is powerful, restorative, and redemptive far beyond what I’ve known ever before. Freedom from legalism has brought me to enjoy the true nature of God like never before.


As to her comments that some may have fallen back because they were put into leadership too early, I doubt that was the case for me.


I was involved in Singles Ministry for two and a half years while attending leadership conferences and training along with mentorship by the Singles Pastor. While in Singles Ministry I developed and led a pantomime clown ministry with twelve participants. We worked intensively to develop ministry presentations and personal ministry approach within our outreach.


When I began my season within ExGay ministry I worked as an assistant house leader for one year while working as an office attendant in the ministry offices. That was followed by three years in various leadership positions within Love In Action under the supervision and mentorship of Frank and Anita Worthen, the former directors of Love In Action.


After four years of intensive experience and training I became the Executive Director for Love In Action and I became a board member for Exodus International where I served eleven years in a board position. I attended 35 Love Won Out conferences, and over twenty Exodus International conferences not to mention the regional events as well.


I worked in ExGay ministry for twenty-two years overall. For some reason I don’t think my life fits Anne’s suggestion that my life became compromised due to being put into ministry too early. As a matter of fact, it was after twenty-two years that I took a much needed sabbatical where I spent time with a life coach and counselor to realize that it was time for me to move on to a new season of my life.


It was after that when I realized that I had not known the true grace of God and that my ministry had become an exercise of my own will and legalism. For some reason, I don’t think my leadership was premature. My seasoned leadership and subsequent maturity has actually taught me how to be honest with myself and freed me to live an authentic life.


I have always been known as someone who wore their hearts on their sleeves. My life has been an open book everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve never hidden any struggle or battle with sinful temptations. As a matter of fact, I was one of the first Exodus leaders to speak honestly about my ongoing same sex attractions at an Exodus conference general session.


In my tenure as an ExGay ministry leader I taught many things that I believed were necessary to adhere to, or to forsake in order to maintain our walk with Christ and find freedom from homosexuality. As far as I was able, I never compromised anything that I taught. I knew I could not teach something and not obey it myself. I don’t believe Anne’s assessment here is accurate.


Frankly, with the kind of false assumptions about my personal life and potential judgment I see in Anne’s statement, I’m not sure I want her praying for me for she may be praying amiss.


Sadly, her words sound so very familiar from when I was involved in ExGay ministry and being a common way we assessed  anyone who had “fallen” or “gone back to the lifestyle” as we’d call it.


When I would hear of someone going back, I had to figure out why it happened. I most often did so without any conversation with the person themselves. I used what I believed to be spiritual principles that we taught to come to some forgone conclusion about the situation. This method denied the real life experiences of those we were bringing to our judgment seat. We minimized the reality that much of what we were teaching was not really working to truly free the individual of their unwanted homosexuality.


It wasn’t until way after I left Love In Action that I began to listen to others. When I now got  in contact with of one of the people we previously judged for going back, I finally heard their heart. It’s those conversations that led me to apologize and to extend mercy and grace to them.


Well, this is certainly not what is written above. And, I believe that in any event if Anne and I were to connect, I would not feel heard, and likely would not be heard in reality.

 

Why Did I Get Married?

Friday, December 5th, 2014


first-christian-churchLarry and I go to a local Disciples of Christ church in Paris, TX. Our church is a place where I find peace, loving connection, and a lack of imposed theology. I don’t hear things that promote legalism or churchy expectations. We are loved and accepted there. Larry and I attend only a few times a month due to our heavy work schedule as Sunday mornings are our only relaxed time at home. We try to go to evening social events to get to know the people better and we sing in the choir.


This last Sunday, we were totally caught off guard and surprised. We had not officially spoken of our relationship with most people there. We understand they assume we are gay and that we are connected to one another. But Sunday, during the announcements the pastor said, “Larry and John are with us today! Two weeks ago, they went to Oklahoma and got married!” The congregation began to applaud in unison. After the service, many of those in attendance surrounded us, hugged us, and congratulated us.


I cannot tell you what this has meant to me and to Larry. Our relationship was not only recognized, but it was supported and our friends at church see us as a legitimate married couple. We are normal.


The pastor chose to uncover the pink elephant that was looming and spoke of our marriage in the normal fashion. He freed the members of our church to embrace their feelings about our relationship as seen by their affectionate response to us afterwards.


We went to supper with one of the elders and his wife recently and they said, “And as it should be, Larry and John. If you can’t serve communion right next to me at my church, then I’ll never serve communion there again. How are you any different than I am?”


I believe more people get it than one would think. We have found a wonderful, accepting, and loving community here in our Paris community. We’ve not had ANY kickback from anyone here. I’ve not felt any fear, or discomfort in any situation I’ve been in and Larry has been completely accepted at work, and with family.


Why did we get married in the first place? Well in some ways, our reasons were initially different. But after being married now, my heart is changing.


As I formed a relationship with Larry, I knew something was very different about it. I really wanted to invest my heart and soul into what was developing but I had some hesitations. I didn’t want to say “until death do us part.” I’ve been married twice before and felt insecure about making a vow that was permanent. It was just a reality check for me. I did, however, make a vow to him that was something like, as long as there is life breathed into our relationship.


I didn’t see much reason for getting legally married. It wasn’t something that had any romance to it. Our commitment service on November 16th, 2013, was romantic for me. Our friends and family gathered together with us to confirm our love for one another. That was enough for me.


But we continued to talk about legal marriage. Larry believed it was a very important step to make. I was willing to agree because I didn’t see anything negative about it.


After being in this relationship, we both realize there is a definite investment that each of us have made. We have merged every aspect of our lives, financial and personal. There should be some way to protect those investments. We’ve spoken with lawyers about what it would take to do so and it seemed the mountains of legal forms and such were insurmountable. There was also a sense of indignation that one would have to do that when a simple marriage certificate would take the place of most of those forms.


I began to realize that with a legal marriage, there would be certain financial benefits that I believed we needed to take advantage of. There were also some protections that were significant. So, I became convicted that we should get married and that it was a legitimate decision to do so.


As we saw more states opening up for same sex marriage, we realized Texas was a little way off. We began to search flights and travel arrangements to go to a state where we could get married. Literally when we were just about ready to reserve a flight to California, we heard that Oklahoma had opened up for us. That was sure convenient! We decided to make it the same date as our commitment ceremony and the plans to go to Tulsa were made. Pastor Chuck Breckenridge from Diversity Christian Fellowship agreed to marry us. I have a niece that lives in Tulsa so she and her family came to take pictures for us. John Brooks and Robyn Whyte, long time friends, came along to witness the legal forms.


IMG_2158I had no idea what would happen in our hearts after we pursued legal marriage. I didn’t expect that it would take us to the deeper levels of life and relationship that it has.


I’ve gained further security in the love that we have for one another. We have now made a legal commitment to merge our lives even more. As a person, Larry McQueen has decided to invest his life into mine totally and completely. That means a tremendous amount to me at a very deep personal level.


Last week Larry contacted the human resources department at the headquarters of his employer. He said he had married his same sex partner and asked if they offered employee benefits to the spouse. Without any hesitation, the answer was yes! I am now going to be covered with insurance policies offered through them.


I have now experienced some of the benefits of what so many who have gone before us have paid the price for. The sacrifice of those passionate about equality in marriage have made, have given us and so many others the freedom to marry the one we love, just like the heterosexual population has been able to do throughout history.


I can now hold the hand of my husband while we are praying in church with the freedom and recognition that our relationship is not lingering in the shadows of uncertainty, but it is real and acknowledged for something positive. I am a legitimate spouse of someone with whom we’ve made serious and deep investments in relationship, finances, and personal relationships. We’re not “friends” or “roommates.” We are a married couple.


Wow, that’s profound. We are a married couple.


Yes, there are times when my cultural history comes up and says, you’re weird, or this is strange and attempts to disallow the reality of our relationship. My religious history stares back at me saying I’m deceived, I’m living in sin, I’m losing my salvation and God is far from me. But when I’m with Larry in love and life, it isn’t weird or strange at all. When I look at my faith and my experience with God throughout all these forty years, I see my Creator more than ever and my faith is far richer and deeper than ever. We are two human souls that love each other deeply and have made the decision to live as one and to forsake all others. We embrace God together in and through our lives while we constantly seek further depth and understanding in our faith.  The unity and peace that I experience is something I truly cherish, spiritually, physically, and intimately.

 

Texas GOP and Reparative Therapy

Monday, June 9th, 2014


TexasHaving spent 22 years of my life working with counselors, leaders, and clients who have been subjected to “Reparative Therapy”, as well as having utilized forms of it in counseling individuals and being subjected to this myself, I think this is inexcusable for a government platform to include this in their agenda.


Reparative Therapy is a specific model of treatment that is based on theories that it is the family system. parental relationships and childhood damage that causes one to become homosexual. This model teaches that with repentance, healing damaged childhood abuse and realigning one’s social experiences to their birth gender norms, there will be a change in the sexual orientation. There has not been any evidence that this model of therapy has changed anyones sexual orientation. The therapy causes damage to the client as well as never ending guilt for parents and family members as they live underneath the idea that they have caused their child to “suffer” from homosexuality.


There is NO treatment available that provides healing or wholeness from homosexuality. This is deceptive and gives false hope for people who are at their lowest point of hopelessness and despair. Every ExGay leader I’ve known clearly knows they have never seen a person’s orientation change from gay to straight. It is akin to a doctor saying he can cure illness for which there has never been a proven cure and taking in susceptible and naive people to their care while knowing they will never cure their illness.


There are now state laws enacted that have made Reparative Therapy illegal to practice on minors due to the evidence there is harm done by utilizing this inappropriate therapeutic model.


There is, however, hope for gay people to come to accept themselves as they are and to shed the shame of believing that because they are gay, they are broken goods and damaged people. it is only within these realities that gay people find wholeness and healthy relationships. Any message that says they need healing and that they are not whole people is deceptive and harmful. This only exacerbates their sense of being created damaged and broken and the outcome can often be negative choices based on an unhealthy sense of being.


Understand that my statement is not addressing how one choses to live within their sexuality. This is an entirely different matter regarding ones sexual and relational choices. Each individual must have the freedom to make those choices for themselves based on a healthy acceptance of their innate sexual orientation and not be subjected to false theories of change.


Their statement also refers to “healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.” This statement is extremely offensive to people who are gay. What is the homosexual lifestyle? Ironically, no one can effectively define what that means. There are gay people who experience many diverse lifestyles, careers, hobbies, ministries. Gay people are married, single and have families. Vegans, meat eaters, and many of us enjoy ice cream as often as we can have it!


To say there there is healing and wholeness offered for gay people who are lawyers, doctors, dentists, grocery store clerks, is ridiculous! There are no common lifestyles among gay people any more than there are common lifestyles among heterosexual people.


For a GOP platform to make a statement like they have made here is offensive, minimizing of the lives of all gay people as well as those who love them.