Love in Action Reactionary Service (LIARS)
(This is a desperate comeback for the failed “ex-gay for pay” organization Love in Action, through the AFA)
Changed by Christ,
called by compassion
by Randall Murphree
“There’s no such thing as an ex-gay!” is the strident rallying cry of today’s homosexual activist agenda. The dishonesty in that declaration often creates a dilemma for the evangelical church, making the church less confident and less bold in its ministry to those who feel trapped in a homosexual lifestyle but who desire to be free.
“The world is bombarding us with the lie that [homosexuals] should not change, cannot change, that it’s harmful to change,” said John Smid of Love in Action (LIA). “The media is bombarding people with those lies.” Smid made the remarks when AFA Journal recently visited the Memphis, Tennessee-based ministry which helps men and women find freedom from the bondage of homosexuality.
Smid’s charges against the media were spoken with passion and conviction, but without a hint of bitterness – as if it’s something he’s said a hundred times before. Just a matter of fact, a fact that LIA and similar ministries confront routinely as they employ Biblical principles to refute the cry of gay activists and their endless list of politically correct friends in high places.
LIA was founded in 1973 by Frank Worthen, who himself had struggled with homosexual tendencies. His compassion for others who needed help to escape homosexuality made him an ideal candidate for God’s call to just such a ministry. It is the oldest ministry of its kind in the world, and its mission statement defines it first as a discipleship ministry. That’s a distinction Smid carefully emphasizes.
In reality, LIA tries to avoid common labels such as “ex-gay” and “former homosexual,” believing those labels reflect a defeatist attitude, a negative mind-set. LIA rejects the disease model to define homosexual behavior, choosing instead to say that some men and women struggle with homosexual attractions.
It’s critical – discipleship
The ministry today is little different from what Worthen set out to do 33 years ago. Personnel have changed, the structure and framework of ministry components have been fine-tuned. But LIA is still committed each day to helping men and women find freedom in Christ.
“Discipleship best describes what we do,” Smid said. “We bring the Word of God and Biblical principles into everything we do. We help our clients apply Scripture to their lives.” He has been on the LIA staff since 1986, and served as executive director from 1990 until his recent move to president/CEO.
Like Worthen, Smid had once fallen victim to his struggles with homosexuality. His experience validates LIA’s discipleship approach to ministry. Smid’s unhealthy sexual lifestyle had left in its wake a failed marriage, two young daughters and a number of homosexual relationships in which he was still empty and unsatisfied.
“I had already come to acknowledge that Jesus was my Savior and that the Bible was true,” he said, “but my identity was still completely tied to homosexuality.” Misled by the lies of the enemy, Smid even tried to find Christian homosexual partners, but that too failed to satisfy.
Then, in a new church, he found acceptance, compassion and friendships in the context of an authentic discipleship process that helped him leave the lifestyle behind. In 1986, he discovered “ex-gay” ministries and subsequently contacted LIA and Exodus International, a network which connects ministries and individuals with resources and support.
In December that same year, Smid took a position as house manager at LIA. Initially, he came as a one-year volunteer but soon sensed God’s call to settle in at LIA.
It’s central – program
For more than a decade, LIA’s primary structure for ministry was a two-year residential program. Clients came, lived in LIA facilities, worked a job away from the campus and proceeded through the LIA curriculum in the evenings.
In 2000, however, ministry leaders felt led to center their approach around a shorter program which would allow them to reach more clients. The treatment structures now include options of a 28-day program and a three-month program. Clients no longer work jobs away from the campus, so the ministry can be more intensive.
“I guess we had right around 200 clients who had gone through our program from 1987 to 2000,” Smid said. “We have dramatically increased that number. We have had 75 clients just this year.”
When they made the change to shorter residential sessions, Smid admits that some questioned whether the program would be as effective for clients. But any fears disappeared long ago. He said, “In our short-term program, they get the same number of sessions because it’s every day, five days a week instead of twice weekly. And they’re able to process it more effectively because they are not distracted by a job or outside involvements.”
In fact, LIA leaders have concluded that the current programs are even more efficient and more productive than the previous one. Add to that the additional clients they serve and it’s a win-win situation.
About three years ago, LIA added a ministry called Refuge to reach teens and their families. When families encounter a young one who’s struggling with homosexuality, LIA is ready and eager to undergird them and support them with a Biblical approach to their struggles. Thirty-five youth have participated in Refuge so far.
“We’ve had a tremendous surge this year of clients in the age range from 18 to 22,” Smid said. “These young people are so moldable. Its amazing to see these issues eradicated from their lives. We try to meet people’s needs where they are.”
In addition, LIA offers a four-day intensive workshop with counselor David Jones for men and a comparable intensive program for women with a female leader. Once a client has studied through any LIA curriculum and is ready to return home, he or she establishes an accountability relationship with LIA’s follow-up coordinator. Each graduate sets some specific goals to work toward in a continuing recovery program.
In the future, Smid envisions increasing the ministry’s impact at a number of levels. First, he is committed to showcasing their ministry to women, not only family members of male clients, but women clients as well.
Another plan is to see LIA enhance national visibility as a resource for ministry leaders and professionals. This will include two avenues – to help church leaders minister to their own church families whose lives are touched by homosexuality, and to minister to ministry leaders who struggle with the homosexual issue.
“In the past year, we’ve had five to ten men church leaders who have gone through our program, “Smid said. “Many of them are married and we have to walk through this with them and their wives. I want to see their marriages restored, their lives restored.”
It’s crucial – family
In 1988, two years after coming to LIA, Smid married Vileen, whom he had met in his church singles ministry. Together they continued to work through his healing and restoration from his past.
Smid says family involvement is crucial to give the client the best shot at restoration in his or her life. Many other ministries have used LIA’s materials to start their own outreach, notable among them Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conferences. Not only did Focus on the Family adopt LIA materials and resources, but the ministry was pioneered by LIA graduates.
“I go to every Love Won Out conference,” Smid said, “and 60% of those who attend are parents. It’s primarily a ministry to parents, that’s their goal.” He said parents want to know how to build a respectful relationship with their children, which is necessary before they can help their children escape the tentacles of a homosexual lifestyle.
“Healing from the causes of homosexuality takes time,” Smid said. Again, his own experience brings a poignant focus on the needs he still faces in his restoration process. One of his deepest prayers is to reach reconciliation with his daughters. Those dysfunctional family relationships – consequences of his own poor choices – now fuel his passion for LIA to serve the whole family.
Clients have come from Hungary, England, Japan, Brazil, Belize, Germany and many other nations. Still, the vision of Smid and his staff of 15 is that LIA will continue to have longer reach and deeper impact around the world to individuals, their families and the Body of Christ.
LIA wins suit against state of Tennessee
In 2005, Love in Action was informed by the state of Tennessee that the ministry must be licensed as a psychiatric facility. Two days before the state so advised LIA, executive director John Smid received a phone call from the Washington Blade, a homosexual newspaper, asking for comment.
“They were calling us for a comment on Monday,” Smid said. “We didn’t even get the letter until Wednesday! Someone … clearly had an agenda. They were attempting to close us down.”
LIA decided to fight it and Alliance Defense Fund represented the ministry. Last October, the state accepted a settlement amount proposed by LIA, paying about $70,000 to cover LIA attorneys’ fees and expenses.
LIA victory stories
Nic – As a 15 year-old, Nic was torn apart by years of his father’s rage and anger. Homosexuality held him tightly to the whipping post of life. At 17, Nic came to LIA for help. At 18, he pursued residential recovery from his life of sexual sin. Now, at 21, he has a restored relationship with his father, and is a successful college student.
Susan – Sexual promiscuity, emotional dependency, and church were Susan’s life. But, how do these fit together? God’s Word says that His truth will set us free. Susan found honesty through LIA, through stringent work, and structure. She found freedom from what she had once believed was a hopeless bond to her mask.
Gabe – An intelligent, accomplished young man, Gabe was angry and frustrated about seeing a double standard within the Christian community after revealing his own double life. Gabe’s self-awareness grew when he found that he finally fit in among other young men. His discovery of manhood put to rest his false identity based on homosexual relationships.
1. Jon Paulk…enough said.
2. I thought LIA lost against the state of Tennessee regarding the “psychiatric clinic” issues. And I thought LIA folded. Maybe LIA is now existing in the mind of John Smid.
3. In the midst of the Mark Foley and Ted Haggard scandals, the “ex-gays” are still desperately trying to wipe out the LGBT population through evangelical bondage.
Any more you want to add to this? If Wayne Besen is reading this (I assume he will), he will be laughing his ass off.