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Former Ex-Gay Head Now Says Change In Orientation Is Impossible And Change In Relationships Are Unnecessary

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2011

The former head of one of the nation’s most prominent ex-gay ministries now says that homosexuality is something that cannot be “repented,” because “repentance from something means it has to be something you can control, like actions.” John Smid, the former director of Memphis-based Love In Action, the country’s largest ex-gay residential program, now says that homosexuality is “an intrinsic part of their being or personally, my being. One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable.” He also says that in all of his years in ex-gay ministries, he never met a gay man who became heterosexual, and that he now considers himself homosexual “and yet in a marriage to a woman.”

Smid had been the director of Love In Action for nearly two decades when it became the focus of international attention in June 2005. That’s when sixteen-year-old Zach Stark announced on his MySpace blog that his parents were sending him away to an ex-gay non-residential youth program after he came out to them. Zach also posted the program’s rules that he would be forced to live under while enrolled in the program. Advocates protested for several days outside the main offices of Love In Action. That incident has become the basis for Jon Morgan Fox’s documentary film, This is What Love In Action Looks Like. Love In Action announced they had shut down their youth program in 2007.  

Smid stepped down from Love In Action in 2008 after twenty-two year at the helm. He then established a different ministry, “Grace Rivers,” while continuing to cooperate with Fox’s film, all of which coincides wtih what appears to have been a period of introspection over his role in the ex-gay movement. In 2010, Smid reportedly wrote several letters of apology to some of his former clients, and disclosed on Andrew Marin’s blog that he still experiences “erotic attractions to those of the same gender (male).” Smid’s latest blog post on his own web site continues on those themes:

I have gone through a tremendous amount of grief over the many years that I spoke of change, repentance, reorientation and such, when, barring some kind of miracle, none of this can occur with homosexuality. The article today is a great example of how we as Christians pervert the gospel as it relates to homosexuality as though homosexuals aren’t welcome in the kingdom unless they repent (which many interpret to change). But since homosexuality is not “repentable” then we put homosexuals into an impossible bind.

Smid contines bywriting of what he sees as the greater theological imperative, which is for all people to “turn our lives to God’s kingdom and away from the kingdom of the world,” and what that kind of transformation brought about by a religious conversion would mean for gay people:

Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people.  But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.

Smid wrote that he has met gay Christians who have gone on to lead celibate lives, and otheers who have entered into heterosexual marriages. He then added, “But, I’ve also met some who experience transformation from sexual promiscuity to  a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience,  a great blessing to their relationship with Christ. Oh, I understand the controversy in all of this.”

Past postings on Smid’s blog reveal an ongoing evolution in his thinking about gay people, starting a conversation he had with Michael Bussee, a co-founder of Exodus International who left the ministry to come out with a gay man and become a strong critic of the ex-gay movement. That conversation took place in 2008, at around the time of Smid’s resignation from Love In Action. Smid’s description of that visit with Bussee sheds considerable light on Smid’s frame of mind when he stepped down. Smid’s reconsideration of his previous work in the ex-gay movement continued with a conference for gay Christians he attended in 2010, where he met a number of couples who shattered his preconceived notions about gay people. In Smid’s latest reflection, he realizes that his own understanding of his faith was clouded by those misconceptions:

My dear friend, this is a very tough issue and I am trudging through some very deep waters trying to better understand God’s heart on this matter. I have now gone around the world listening to Him, listening to the stories, seeing the tears of rejection in some, and the peace of God’s love in others. This is so different than I always thought in my small world of ex-gay ministry. And yes, it was a small world because I made it small. I was completely unwilling to hear anything that didn’t fit my paradigm. I blocked out anyone’s life story or biblical teaching that didn’t match up with what I believed.

When I was at LiA I never taught a session on the scriptures regarding homosexuality that I understood. I know that sounds strange but it is true. I didn’t teach them because I really had never studied them for myself. I merely quoted what I saw that others had written on the issue. I felt an obligation to at least teach something on what the Bible said, but every time I attempted to study it for myself it made no sense to me and I just went back to the writings of others within the ex-gay subculture.

Smid now says that the example of gay people remaining honest with themselves while exploring their spirituality in an orthodox Christian context can lead to an “authentic relationship with Christ”:

In traditional homosexuality it appears that it is intrinsic to a person’s fabric of life. Nature or nurture, it is far to complicated to have a definitive answer for the origin of homosexuality.  However, I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.

As for whether Smid ever really changed his own sexuality in all of the years he devoted himself to ex-gay ministry, he now says:

I am homosexual, my wife is heterosexual. This creates a unique marriage experience that many do not understand.  For many years I tried to fit into the box of heterosexuality.  I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement.  Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.

There is no question, I love my wife. God has worked powerfully in and through our relationship.  The fact that she married me in the first place knowing of my past homosexual promiscuity said something quite profound about her love for me. Which, by the way, was not an enabling, “I can fix him” kind of relationship.  My wife has never tried to fix me or change me in that area of our relationship. She truly unconditionally loves me. But this doesn’t change the fact that I am who I am and she is who she is.

[via Ex-Gay Watch]

Comments

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William
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

It is gratifying that John Smid has now publicly confirmed on his website what he said last year in conversations with Michael Bussee and Warren Throckmorton.

This morning, on BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day”, the Rev. John Bell of the Iona Community in Scotland said, in reply to the argument that homosexuality is “contrary to the order of nature”, that “The natural order has always produced exceptions.” It is pretty clear that if there are indeed men whose orientation has gone from homosexual to heterosexual – and a universal denial would be a reckless statement to make and an impossible one to prove – then they are very definitely an exceptional category within an exceptional category.

TampaZeke
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

I would think that he would now be a very visible and vocal advocate for marriage equality to encourage commitment and fidelity within natural, healthy, honest relationships of gay couples.

Ben in Oakland in Hawaii
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

I have often said the so called christian view of gaypeople creates two classes of sinner…gay people and everyone else.

Gay people are damned by god unless they completely toe…or pretend to… the antigay line. And even then, they have an intrinsic tendEncy to grave Moral evil, unlike anyother sin EVER.

Everyone else is “we’re all sinners but WE get a get out of hell free card”.

I even had a good xtian tell me they dont allow homosexuals in their church, just the btterclass of sinners.

Oh, ye scribes, pharisees, hypocrtes.

Terry T
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

And they wonder why I walked away from Christianity so many years ago.

BlackDog
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

Yeah, exactly, I’ve never understood why those kind of Christians hold gay people to a standard in effect so high that no human being could ever live like that…while doing what they damn well please in most cases.

I guess that’s why I could never make it as a Fundamentalist. I couldn’t tell someone “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Hypocrites.

Aaron
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

As a “graduate” of Love In Action, it has given me closure to read that even the former head of that facility has repented of his ex-gay teachings.

TampaZeke
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

I honestly don’t know how these people live with themselves knowing that BECAUSE OF THEM others COULDN’T live with themselves.

Timothy Kincaid
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

I know that John will now face rejection from those whom he considers friends. They will not angrily denounce him but, worse, will be sad that he has ” lost his faith” and will “pray for him” before forgetting him completely.

I commend his honesty, mostly with himself. Like many in that movement, he always seemed to be lying primarily to himself and only to others as a consequence. I guess after decades of faithful believing, he finally realized that regardless of whether you tell yourself that God said the wall is blue, it still remains yellow.

I wish him well.

I don’t know what John will do after this. His branch of Christianity isn’t very receptive to this message. But I hope he can continue in this field. The ex-gay world could use a ministry that sees heterosexual marriage, celibacy, or same-sex relationship as acceptable and good and a blessing.

Some may think it odd that I include the first two. But people need to be able to go where the feel that their goal does not exclude them and with reflection, discussion, pray, and counseling find the path that leads to their own happiness.

Timothy Kincaid
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

Oh, and guys…

Have you ever done something stupid and then apologized only to have them spend the next half hour berating you? At some point you start think ‘I may have been wrong, but at least I wasnt an ahole like this guy’.

He has said that he was wrong. Let’s not make him regret saying so.

Hating on Smid may feel good but it serves no purpose and only discourages the next ex-gay from going public with his discovery of reality.

justme
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

Nobody in the history of the world has ever changed their sexual orientation. Not one single person.

There’s not a parent who has ever lived who would be happy to see their child marry an “ex-gay”, because everyone knows that there’s no such thing.

Some of the most easily identifiably gay men — beyond stereotypical, crossing the border into cartoonish — are men who claim not to be gay anymore.

And yet we’re still having this conversation? And still debating what a fictional man in the sky really wants?

Glad to see this insanity is dying off in the States, if not nearly fast enough.

Steve
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

His is still deep into the religious woo. He still completely crazy, just nicer about it. It’s his religion that led him to behave immorally and cause all that harm. Yet he still desperately clings to it.

Christopher
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

Great day in the morning! Now, let’s talk about how science and the power of simple observation can educate the masses!

The Truth shall set you free!!!!

mark miner
October 10th, 2011 | LINK

Wow! This makes me cry. Christians actually being honest and talking about who they really are and how they feel, instead of buying into the “Jesus gives you a perfect little life” mythology.
I’m amazed and impressed, John Smid!
–mrm

Jerry Sloan
October 11th, 2011 | LINK

I saw John Smid and Love in Action staff at a local Baptist church in Sacramento many years ago I wanted to say to him the same thing I said to John Paulik at a Love Won Out conference in Sacramento, “If God has cured you how come He left you with so many symptoms?”

I am glad Smid has come to realize who he really is but he has left so much havoc in his wake to arrive at this conclusion. He now should be just as enthusiatic to to proclaim his homosexuality from the rooftops and help young people who are struggling with their sexuality especially those in evangelical/fundamentalist churches.

Now maybe Joe Dallas will the next to come clean.

Jimcracky
October 11th, 2011 | LINK

As I always said in my pastoral days: It is none of the sheep’s business who The Shepherd places into his fold.

Priya Lynn
October 11th, 2011 | LINK

Jimcracky, even if the shepherd places a wolf into his fold?

Marlena Machol
October 11th, 2011 | LINK

Being gay is not a neutral attribute. There seems to be a tendency to proclaim either that it is bad or that it doesn’t make any difference to who a person is, but it does.

Years ago, my son, Tony, called me from college and excitedly told me, “Mom, I think I figured out why little gay boys are so fucking smart!” I asked him, “Really? Why?”, and he said, “I think it’s because they have to learn to think with both sides of their brains!” Made sense then…still does. Most of the gay people I’ve met have been extraordinary.

I’m so glad Tony understands his being gay is a positive thing and that anyone who doesn’t get that is not worthy of his attention.

Some years later, Tony asked me one time if, in all the years I’ve known he is gay, I’d ever thought that if I could just push a button and make him straight, I would. I told him, “Of course not. I would push the button that would make the rest of the world understand what a remarkable and perfect person you are.”

Take away the gay and you change something fundamental about who a person is. I would not change a single thing about him; Tony really is perfect. There are a lot of other GLBT people out there who are trying to be straight and killing a precious part of themselves to try to please a bunch of myopic fools.

Reed Boyer
October 11th, 2011 | LINK

Oh, this IS good news. And I say, if he’s a homosexual happily married to a heterosexual woman, then God bless ‘em both.
One person’s “unique situation” is simply another person’s “queer.”
Welcome, Smid! As the examples of Louis Marinelli and Roy Ashburn show, you have an opportunity to do much good.
Now, go forth and testify unto the mass media, for NOM needs a reality check.
Perseverance.
Love to the Mrs.
Yr. Bro,
JRB

Ezam
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

GCMwatch is probably crying right now.

Peterson Toscano
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

I believe there is an important difference between “hating on John Smid” and critically considering his transformation, what he has said, what he has not said, and his entry into spaces among the very people he previously reviled. It is more than a simple matter of someone “doing something stupid,” offering an apology, and then being berated. There is history that cannot be ignored. There are people who have been harmed who are “in the room.”

These are big changes for Smid, perhaps part of an on-going evolution in his beliefs, perhaps first steps before many, but after years of devising and practicing psychological torture to the many men and women who suffered under his treatments and theories, he should not be just given a free pass and a full, cheerful welcome into LGBT spaces and particularly “gay Christian” spaces inhabited by many people directly harmed by ex-gay treatment. Thoughtfulness for the victims needs to be considered.

It is a complicated and delicate matter when a former abuser admits wrong and seeks to rebuild relationship.

John Smid and his staff are responsible for the pain and suffering of hundreds if not thousands of people. For over two decades he has spoken passionately in public, in the media, at conferences and churches, spreading harmful and inaccurate teaching that has set parents against children and fueled the self-hatred of LGBT people.

As a former client, I understand that John Smid provided me with weapons to go to war against my sexuality and personality. His program was abusive, cruel, and damaging to me and others. People have suffered and still suffer and have needed to spend time and money seeking recovery from the treatment Love in Action inflicted upon us. Many of us went to John Smid and LIA seeking help. We ended up harmed. Some were even forced against their will to endure these treatments.

John Smid, like all of us, needs community, and it is likely that his former friends and colleagues in the ex-gay world and conservative anti-gay church will want nothing to do with him. But his entry into the LGBT world is complicated for some ex-gay survivors.

And while his statement is yet another brick to fall off the crumbling ex-gay edifice, I believe he needs to do much more to demonstrate his regret and new found understanding. It is proper justice for John Smid to acknowledge what many of us already discovered for ourselves. It is proper justice for John Smid to begin to set the record straight. It is proper justice for John Smid to seriously and deeply consider the harm he has caused. And before people forgive John Smid and welcome him into the fold on the behalf of all of us, I believe it is essential to ask critical questions and expect much much more from someone who has done much much harm.

What will that much much more look like? How can John, if he is willing, begin to make amends for his destructive actions?

Chris
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

I’m concerned that this guy is STILL playing games with the vulnerable. His March 2010 (http://www.gracerivers.com/apology/) letter says…

“So, while I do not hold to a belief that homosexual relationships are blessed by God, neither are the many things in my own life that aren’t blessed by Him.”

Everything I’m seeing so far (and, admittedly, I don’t have the stomach to read it all) seems like he’s still splitting hairs with “love the sinner, hate the sin”…

But NOW trying to do it in personal relationship with the very people he has spent decades abusing? And using it as an avenue to self-promote his forthcoming book?

That all seems REALLY dangerous to me.

iDavid
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

Though I am not an ex-gay, I believe it is tantamount to express that has not only John Smid’s type affected “ex-gays”, but the entire human race, as we are all aware, some to the point of suicide. Pitting parents against children, government against religion, seculars against religiots, and people in general against God, is horrifying for humanity. I also understand that John has had an epiphany that has caused him much much grief about how he himself was hypnotized by his beliefs. So much so, that he denied his very core reality as a sexual being and projected irresponsibly his inner war, to the point of destroying others. It is time he project inner peace to offset negation, and heal not only himself, but the masses involved within his machinations.

Judeo-Christianity is for many, psychologically genetic, and the drift away from eons of manipulation is not an easy feat. For that I applaud him. As a strong gay male in my sexuality, I can’t tell you the amount of energy I had to use to completely rewire my entire take on my own inner bewildered “Christian”, mainly from the attack exacted by those like John that soothed and coddled such deeply ingrained sexual insanity ruled by “God”. For that I am truly thankful. It eventually gave me a perspective I had never had to entertain, and a new life in reality that I never would have encountered without this horrifying push. I never questioned being gay or tried to change any part of my expression, that was set in stone. But the endless sexually abusive attack on my core self by false religious teachings hurt deeply, caused acute depression, and was entirely devastating. It made me rethink my entire take on God Jesus and the entire religious “model”. It took me harshly to task watching religious structures massively bury people in emotional graves who did not think within this hypnotic sexual fantasy replacing rational thought with evil intent to confuse and derail. This is the definition of “God’s soldiers” set to destroy anything in it’s path regardless of rational thought and human fallout. These are the Dark Ages resurrected. I deduced this is the way of the “good Christian soldier”.

I personally would like to see John Smid publicly denounce the use of the word “Change” regarding sexual orientation. Change is not applicable in the crude form intended. The word “Change” used in the advertising of Ex-gay programs is manipulative dismissive coercive and false. It is the first attractive hook used to seduce and coerce mentally weak gays and bisexuals, into rabid self doubt depression and sometimes suicide. I would like to see his public forum move onto national news programs, and start a world wide discussion so badly needed at this horrible helm of a ship filled with religious sexual irresponsibility. I would also like to see this media blitz followed by a book, though to put off immediate media forums for a book deal would not bode well. I feel his curtain call, is now. I would also like to hear him speak that some biblical teachings are flat out wrong and never should have been exacted as “truth”. For Catholics, it used to be a “sin” to eat meat on Friday. That is no longer the “belief” and this is where all “God Speak” about homosexuality in the Bible needs to land. I would also like to hear him publicly recommend that the word “change” be used for changing ones personal belief that we are somehow defective for being gay or bisexual, and use “change” through i.e. therapy, religion etc, to accept rather than reject the sexual self. I’d like to see him take that negative connotation of the word “change” and make it positive. I would also like to see him drive home, that sexuality is NOT a “choice”.

I believe John’s honesty work has just begun. I feel his negative drama has leached into the bowels of humanity and produced a sexual emotional cancer that he must now attempt to remove, with his entire being, with his entire life, for the rest of his natural born days. I feel this to be a worthy “sentence” for sexual bludgeoning, of which all, including himself, will gain greatly. I believe he owes this via fierce public disclosure, by becoming an international public beacon of light for a world sexually gone wrong. Falling short of this possibility would be but a travesty. He has a chance now to call sexuality into the the true light it holds, a beautiful loving creation and nothing less. I feel such forward movement into the bright lights of pubic domain, will further if not complete, his personal redemption.

I support you in this John Smid. It all boils down to love. Help the world love itself more John. Speak your truth, and don’t hold back. Anything short of this could only serve to haunt you. We don’t need your partial voice. We need your full voice.

Tag.

Your it.

Ben in Oakland
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

Bravo, peterson.
An apolgy is one thing.

Repentance,quite another

And atonement? Well, that is in a Class all by itself,and its abseNce renders the frst two meaningless.

Ben in Oakland
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

Idavid…
What yousaid is what l Said, but with far more emotional urgency.

Also bravo

Priya Lynn
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

Idavid said “Judeo-Christianity is for many, psychologically genetic”.

Apart from the religious beliefs themselves that’s the wildest claim I’ve ever heard any christian make.

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