Written by John Smid, Co-Written by LA Jamison
Edited by LA Jamison
This is the second part of a three part series featuring the answers of John Smid from the famed Love in Action ex-gay ministry to three questions :
What brought you into Ex-Ministry? What brought you to the conviction of leaving your positions behind within Ex-Gay Ministry? Finally, what advice would give to those who are involved in Ex-Gay ministry and are struggling with being involved? Today, he answers the second question.
This is also in conjunction with the recent publication of my book available in the Book Space Store, "Discoveries in the Closet" (click here to get details) .
2. What convicted you to leave your positions with Ex-Gay Ministry?
I wholeheartedly believed the teachings and theories I learned through Love in Action and Exodus. I became a nationally known leader within the Ex-Gay movement. However, I could see that we weren’t having the success that I’d hoped we would with our clients. Yes, people were gaining reconciliation with their families and finding freedom from sexual addiction. Men and women were discovering strengths and courage they didn’t know they had. Nevertheless, I didn’t see anyone who found freedom from their homosexual desires. What we held onto was the belief that at the very least we were helping people to develop a better relationship with God through our Christian discipleship program.
Over the years, I would hear about people who were leaving the program to live openly in homosexual relationships. I didn’t know what to do about such stories. I just hoped God would allow them to see the errors of their ways and come back to God. Throughout the years, I searched and searched for a better way, a more successful way to lead people out of homosexuality. If God didn’t want people to be gay, God certainly had to provide a way, but I didn’t seem to know what that would be.
During my last couple of years with Love in Action, there was a significant protest of our ministry by pro-gay advocates, which led to serious staff division and internal ministry struggles that seemed to be insurmountable to me. I finally decided to resign from the ministry. I was tired and extremely burned out from all of the problems that were present.
After I left my position I was unemployed and had no idea what was next for me. One day a friend called me that I had met several years earlier. She began to talk with me about people she knew that had now reconciled their faith and their homosexuality. She asked me if I were willing to have a conversation with one of her gay friends. I was deeply challenged by the conversation with her because I didn’t believe that was possible. I had nothing to lose in talking with her friend and actually was curious to hear his story. So an appointment was made for a telephone conversation with Michael Bussee, interestingly he was a co-founder of Exodus International but many years ago had accepted his homosexuality and reconciled that with his faith. At the time, we were not friends of mutual understanding.
I left that conversation with Mr. Bussee both surprised and challenged. I could see that he was a good man, a man with morals and spiritual convictions. I also saw that he was a humble man who was very willing to admit his mistakes. Where I had once seen him as an enemy because of our different beliefs about spirituality and homosexuality, I now felt something deep within my heart began to shift that was undeniable.
I was soon meeting more gay Christians. I was invited to attend a conference specifically for gay Christians. This was a huge mind blowing experience. Seeing over one hundred people who loved God and were LGBT was something that resonated with my soul and was deeply encouraging. Hearing their stories inspired me to further study and thoughts on the matter.
Over the next couple of years, I came to see how I’d believed some things wrongly. I had accepted interpretations of the Bible that I now felt could no longer be seen as being so black and white. I learned that there were diverse opinions on homosexuality in the scriptures by people that are equally convicted and conservative in other areas of belief.
I had to settle this in my own heart and finally came to believe that someone could be gay, and could be a deeply believing Christian. This changed everything, and I had to begin to deconstruct over two decades of Ex-Gay ministry and a certain way of thinking.
My first step was to write a generic apology for the things that I now came to believe were wrong and harmful about my teachings and involvement within the Ex-Gay movement. This led to the beginning of making amends to people person to person, face to face. Powerful reconciliation occurred. I had never seen God’s principles of forgiveness and restoration like I’ve seen in the last several years. Humble dialogue, owning mistakes, and allowing the past to go to the past has been amazing.
As I’ve opened my ears to listen more clearly to the stories of those who’ve been involved in Ex-Gay ministries, I’ve also heard more pain. I am finally seeing the harm done from well-intentioned people to those in their care who have believed homosexuality to be sinful and an abomination. I was one of the passionate communicators who conveyed that God could never be happy with someone who is gay.
I’m discovering more and more Ex-Gay ministers are rethinking their positions on the matter. I’ve connected with many men and women who used to be Ex-Gay leaders and have now changed their views. It’s a difficult path to walk. Many of us invested our entire faith, our hope for a specific future, and our relationships in the Ex-Gay message. We believed in a hope beyond hope that would bring us to freedom from homosexuality.
What I learned is that I had a choice; I could go back into a closet of deception (I cannot unlearn what I know today); or I could continue to move forward no matter what the cost.