John Smid was the director of Exodus member ministry Love in Action (LIA), a residential ex-gay program in Memphis, Tennessee, for 22 years. This included the Refuge youth program which gained notoriety in 2005 when a teen, Zach Stark, created what became a plea for help on his MySpace page.
This event and the protests that followed were a significant turning point in the effort to shine a light on the actions of such ministries. But we should not forget that most of those who would later recognize harm from their time at LIA had already been through the program by the time the events of 2005 unfolded.
In 2007, three former Exodus leaders offered a public apology to those “who believed our message that there is something inherently wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” Today we find that Smid is offering his own apology.
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.
Concerning Exodus International he writes:
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!
Concerning the Refuge program responsible for the ordeal over Zach:
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.
And Smid asks those who were hurt by or through him to contact him.
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.
These are just snippets and the entire thing should be read in order to properly evaluate a response, should you have one. There is also a section addressed directly to Ex-Gay Watch readers. Obviously, those who have been hurt through LIA will be most interested in what Smid has to say, but there can be no doubt that it is important.
Readers will have to determine for themselves what this means exactly. Smid is involved in a new ministry, one he says will have no part of the old “change is possible” mission. While his goals seem similar at this point to those of Andrew Marin, the latter does not have the baggage of the former. But making such a public apology would seem an important start.
One more piece of the puzzle is illustrated by the short video below from Smid’s website. It was produced by Morgan Fox, organizer of the Zach Stark protests. Fox also appears in the clip, apparently at a place of reconciliation with Smid.[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/9357788[/vimeo]
What do you think?