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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.


 

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!!!!!


 

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


 

A Letter of Apology

Thursday, March 4th, 2010


JohnSweater

For many years I have contemplated the times I have heard that some people have said they were harmed or wounded from their experience with Love In Action or Exodus International. More often than not my reactions have not been favorable. In my own mind I didn’t feel there was any merit to the accusations. After all, “I have given 22 years of my life sacrificially just to hear how we harmed you!”


Well I certainly know the sound of a defensive reaction when I hear one! I was it! I didn’t want to hear anything that was critical or negative. But, I believe in listening to the heart of others no matter how critical it may sound. I needed to check in on my own heart to see if there was any validation to their comments. Of course, there was.


Since I was in leadership with both organizations I have certainly have been at the center of many of the criticisms. The scripture challenges us to be careful with what we say and do as leaders because of the higher standard that is expected and deserved from those whom we care for.


In the last two years I have had a lot of time to ponder, pray, and sort through many facets of my vocational ministry history. Since I have had a lot of alone time my searching has been easier to handle.


I was recently contacted by David Roberts from the “Ex-gay Watch” and online blog for those following the ex-gay movement. David had seen a recent announcement of the new Grace Group that is being started by Grace Rivers and wanted me to write something. In our discussion we both felt it would be good for me to address some of the criticisms out there concerning my leadership in “ex-gay” ministry. I have taken the last week to write a letter and to that end, here it is.


It’s Time for Honesty!


From John J. Smid to the readers of Ex-gay Watch,


Just a little bit of history here. I became a Christian in 1982. My new faith created conflicts in my homosexual relationship and eventually we broke up. It was at that point and I decided to pursue my relationship with Jesus instead of looking for a new relationship right away.


When I had been celibate for several years I felt that I wanted be married to a woman. I had been married previously and in my heart wanted to give that a try again.


I met my wife Vileen in 1985 and we married in 1988. We have had a good, faithful marriage just as I had hoped. I told her about my homosexuality right after we had met. She has walked alongside me knowing that I have chosen her rather than to pursue a homosexual relationship. She is aware that my attractions haven’t changed in general towards men but that I love her deeply and make choices daily to remain faithful to our marriage and have not regretted that decision.


In 1986 I moved to San Rafael California to work as a volunteer for Love In Action. I am passionate about people and spent 22 years with Love In Action. Since Exodus International was in our same office most of those years I also became involved with them right away.


By 1995 I had been involved in Love In Action and Exodus for nine years and was asked to give a talk in a general session at the Exodus national conference. God had brought me to a point where I was willing to admit to myself that I still had homosexual attractions. As a result of my own internal process of disclosure I decided to give my talk on the topic of honesty. I spoke of my current homosexual attractions and challenged the audience to be honest with themselves. I have always been as intentional as I could to share freely about those things whenever I speak or meet with someone who can relate to homosexuality.


The Famous Protest

On June 6th of 2005, when the protestors showed up on the sidewalks in front of Love In Action to speak against the Refuge Program, my world was rocked. But within just a couple of days my heart was humbled by the gracious words coming from those who were outside such as “God Loves You”. The truth spoken from them caused me to think and began to soften my heart.


A lot has changed since then. God does love me and He loved me enough to continue to shave off some things in my life that have been wrong, offensive, calloused and judgmental. Through the humility of Morgan Fox, one of the leaders of the protest, I was humbled once again. His pursuit of a relationship with me, though I did not deserve it, has been another tool that God has used to break through parts of my heart that needed to be touched.


Morgan asked me to interview for a documentary he is producing about the protests. I resisted for a long time. After many meetings with Morgan I began to see his godly character and agreed to an interview because I trusted him. During our camera time the discussions involved things from the past that have been said about Love In Action or about me as the former leader. I had spent many hours and in some cases years, pondering these things and wondered how I could make amends for the things that had hurt or wounded others during my 22 years of leadership with Love In Action. Certainly there were many.


Please Forgive Me

In 1994 an article was written that said that I told a young man it would be better for him to commit suicide than for him to go into the gay lifestyle. I have been haunted by that article all through the years. I have felt defensive, reactionary and frustrated every time I have read it not knowing how I could in any way, clear it away. Maybe this will help.


I want to publically say to the young man, “I am very sorry for the conversation that I had with you that fateful day. I loved you very much as a brother and feel deeply grieved for the way that my words hurt you.” If I could, I would erase the conversation and start all over with ” I love you, and as you move on I will pray for God’s very best for you in your life. No matter what you do, Jesus deeply loves you.” “Please forgive me.”


Some people have spoken out about being wounded through their experience with Love In Action. ” I want to say I am very sorry for the things that have wounded you or hurt you by my hands of leadership at Love In Action or anything I have done personally that has harmed you.” “Please forgive me.”


Exodus International


I was a member of the board of directors of Exodus International for eleven years. I spoke on many occasions in general sessions and in workshops at the national conferences for most of the 22 years I was involved in Love In Action and Exodus. Thousands of men and women came to Exodus ministries and conferences looking for a hand, seeking hope, or for someone to hear their heart and understand.


I am a very verbal person and can speak at times without thoroughly thinking through what I might say before it comes out of my mouth. Without question I know I have said things that may have hurt someone or caused confusion or discouragement. Please forgive me for the things I have said that were not helpful or were further damaging of your tender heart.


As a board member of Exodus International I felt a strong sense of stewardship for the lives we hoped we would impact with the love of Jesus. I have learned a lot more over the last couple of years about how unconditional His love really is. I believe I could have done a better job of letting people know that Jesus loves them purely because He does, unconditionally. I am sorry for not being a better vessel of the Love of Christ to those who deeply need to know of His love. I realize I was often more concerned with telling people how to live than I was with imparting God’s grace so that they would want to live!


Refuge Program


Now, regarding the most highly publicized” Refuge Program” for teens that was held through Love In Action. If I could go back and do anything differently based on what I know today – it would be the Refuge Program. I have a hard time admitting it but the protests did bring about a season for me to reevaluate my life, my heart, and the Refuge Program. God did an amazing work in me through the challenges that resulted from the people who came to the streets in front of our ministry, morning and night, for two weeks.


I really wanted to help the young men in our program but in some cases the design of our program caused more harm for some of these kids that it did good. I am very sorry for the ways that Refuge further wounded teens that were already in a very delicate place in life. I am grateful for the way that God lovingly called us to revamp the methods for dealing with families with teens so that more teens weren’t hurt.


I have been a Christian for almost 30 years. There are myriads of things that I do or that go through my mind that aren’t biblically appropriate. There are many things that God wants me to change in my own life so that I can be a better person, love Him more and love others better.  I do not want a judgmental heart to separate me from people that I love dearly.


Leaving Love In Action


It has been almost two years since I left the ministry of Love In Action in May of 2008. I have had many days and hours alone to think and ponder the last 22 years. God has dug deep into my heart and caused me to see something very important that he wanted me to know. He loves me unconditionally. His grace is sufficient for me. I cannot do anything that He hasn’t forgiven, isn’t forgiving, and won’t forgive and it is up to Him to restore my soul, I can’t do that myself.


I am not the judge and jury of other people. I can’t see another person’s heart like He can. I cannot redeem anyone, only He can. I don’t know what someone might need today but he does.


If you have been wounded by me or harmed through the hands of my leadership; please come to me and allow an opportunity for me to personally apologize with the hope that we can both be released from the bondage of unforgiveness.


Grace Rivers


I am leading a new ministry called Grace Rivers. It’s primary focus isn’t to be an ex-gay ministry but within the context of offering grace and the Love of Jesus to our world we are starting grace groups for people impacted by homosexuality.


As a brand new start, Grace Rivers is an outpouring of the many of the changes in my own heart. I have based this work on nine core values starting with honesty, moving on to listening to others effectively, and in the end giving respect because God does. I have attempted to pursue these values in my own life to the best of my ability. God is still working on restoring me so I know He is doing the same with others. We are all on a road of life that is hopefully improving day by day. He says He will complete the work He has started so I trust Him fully with my life and with the lives of others who know Him.


Sincerely,



John J. Smid