Love in Action shuts down residential program

According to the Love in Action Website the Memphis-based ex-gay group no longer operates it residential program:

Love In Action’s Residential program has been suspended indefinitely. Simply put, there is a significant need to bring all of LIA under one location for it to be more cost effective. We continue to counsel and grow through our 4-Day Intensives, Hourly Counseling, Conferences, Support Groups, and Church Assistance Program.

I am thrilled that the sun has finally set on this part of the program–one that housed and harassed many of us these past 30 years. While they will continue to offer some limited services, it appears that they have begun to dismantle operations.

What better way to celebrate than you see the new documentary by LIA protester and filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox. This is What Love in Action Looks Like chronicles what happened when a 16 year old boy was forced to attend Love in Action and how his friends responded and ultimately help shut down the youth program back in 2007. Or pop in your DVD of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway Housse, now a HISTORICAL satire of the Love in Action program. =D


This post has 28 Comments

  1. forrestwife on September 2, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Amen! good news.
    Continuing to pray for healing for all.
    thanks for all you do for the community.

  2. James on September 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Good News!
    Hopefully they are finally learning that they have been doing the wrong things.

  3. Jim Decke on September 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I was at this horrible place for 2 full years. Cannot be more happy that they are finally done. Hopefully for good.

  4. Anthony Venn-Brown on September 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Peterson…..didn’t this happen during the first ex-gay survivor conference….or was that something else I am thinking of.

  5. p2son on September 3, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Hey Anthony,
    In 2007, after two years of protest and bad press, LIA shut down their Refuge program, which worked with youth as young as 15. This was a day program that lasted up to eight weeks. Parents dropped their queer kids off in the morning for ex-gay treatment then picked them up at the end of the day. It was never a residential program. (The protest are the subject of Morgan Jon Fox’s new film, “This is What Love in Action Looks Like.”

    The LIA residential program has been in existence for over 30 years. In fact, LIA was the first ex-gay program and has been Exodus International’s flagship program for years. The closure of the residential portion of LIA is HUGE news and signs that this program is at last on its last gasp.

  6. p2son on September 3, 2011 at 8:14 am


  7. William Fisher on September 3, 2011 at 8:42 am

    This is certainly good news, as far as it goes. First we had the staff cuts and other cutbacks at Exodus, and now this. I hope that this signifies the beginning of the end for “ex-gay” cults. The demise may be a slow, drawn out one, but it looks as though the writing is on the wall. I certainly hope so.

  8. Anthony Venn-Brown on September 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

    thanks for clarifying this Peterson……I remember celebrating the victory in the 2007 but wasn’t aware of the different programs. I join with you to celebrate the total closure of Love in Action. The end is near.

  9. Anthony Venn-Brown on September 3, 2011 at 10:14 am

    whilst there is still much to do…..I think that the closing of the residential program is a great step forward. having lived in a residential ex-gay program of all the things that can damage a person the most the residential program belongs up the top of the list………living with the torment for 24 hours a day with the insensitivity of this kind of ‘therapy’ is horrendous.

  10. Gail Dickert on September 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    As we forgive our enemies for the damage they have done, they will have no choice but to close their doors completely. When that happens, let it be clear that it wasn’t rage or being right that put them out of business… it will be our individual commitments to healing and wholeness. The energy we are stirring up by being open to forgiveness is the energy that will end the ex-gay genocide brought to us by the season known as Exodus International.

  11. Anthony Venn-Brown on September 3, 2011 at 10:17 am


    whilst there is still much to do…..I think that the closing of the residential program is a great step forward. having lived in a residential ex-gay program for 6 months …….of all the things that can damage a person the most………….. the residential program belongs up near the top of the list………living with the torment for 24 hours a day with the intensity of this kind of ‘therapy’ is horrendous.

  12. Anthony Venn-Brown (@gayambassador) on September 3, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Gail Dickert ….LIKE!

  13. p2son on September 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Gail, I really like you and admire your work a lot. I adore your humor and the creative ways you have processed your own experience with the ex-gays. But in regards to your comment, I can not disagree with you more.

    The closure of Love in Action has come after years of public witness, personal storytelling, sustained actions (including eight weeks in the summer of 2005), bad press, and most importantly financial problems ( in part as a result of the bad press and operating beyond their means.) John Smid, the force behind the program for 22 years, stepped down in 2008, and local church administration type people took over. They began to sell off LIA property earlier this year. It was not anyone’s forgiveness that motivated them. Personal testimony, satire, non-violent direct action, behind the scenes activism, the press reports, bad financial planning, and other factors led to the end of the Refuge youth program in 2007 and the residential program in 2011.

    As a Christian and a Quaker, I recognize the role of non-violent, direct action. As I wrote in a comment on your blog, I see forgiveness as a social tool to be used thoughtfully and even strategically. Personally I do not believe in offering forgiveness to people who are unapologetic as they continue on in their harmful deeds particularly when they will not listen to those harmed under their care and have not acknowledged their wrongs or asked for forgiveness.

    I recognize that for some people the personal need to forgive or to let go of resentment is helpful for moving on. I have had to let go of much resentment and bitterness, and this has helped me to live my life with joy as I move on in romance and personal development. Yet my sense of justice demands that I remind those who persist in their work to undermine the well-being of LGBT people through reparative therapy, gender policing, and demonizing of desire that they are wrong, abusive and that do damage to many people.

  14. Gail Dickert on September 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Peterson, thank you for shaping your feedback in love and support. As survivors, we are certainly going to all process our healing in different fashions and what we share is our satire of course, but also our tenacious commitment to moving forward while finding justice for those who are still being injured by this soul-rape.

    For me, forgiveness is crucial and yielding to my soul’s need for it was very difficult. I was a mess all morning after I made a public forgiveness statement on my blog (For Gail So Loved the World) wondering what it is that will fuel me now, since unforgiveness, for ME was such a powerful force. Demanding justice was linked to that. It reminds me of what holocaust survivors have to say about their experiences… I’m reading a lot about that right now and I guess it’s all coming together in a public way. Anyway, the point for me now and for ALWAYS will be that we all need to find wholeness in our own ways. I know you have labored hard to find it for yourself and I celebrate your story, brother. Even if our search for justice is fueled from different sources, it is the same search and when they stop the spiritual genoide of our people, we will celebrate just the same. It will end, IN OUR LIFETIME! :0)

  15. p2son on September 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Overall, I think it is important to be factual so as not to mislead others who hope to do effective activism. To say it was simply because of forgiveness invalidates all of hard, thoughtful, sustained efforts that had gone into the work. In that work our hearts need to be in the right place to be most effective. That is what I like in the new Love in Action documentary. These young activists saw the humanity in their oppressors. They were loving and thoughtful and effectively direct.

    It reminds me of when we stood outside of Love Won Out in Memphis as parents dragged their teen kids to attend a day of anti-gay teaching. We stood out there with signs saying, “We know you love your children,” along with the signs that said, “I was harmed by ex-gay treatment,” “Gay & Christian.” I see this demonstrated in Christine Bakke’s beautifully moving collages of various ex-gay survivors that we gave as gifts to ex-gay leaders so that they can learn what happens to many of us when we leave their ministries and as a result of our time there. These were loving, direct, hope filled actions designed to inspire change and thoughtfulness. Not simply slogans shouted in anger.

    The best activism I have seen has not been simply calling people out on their stuff, but appealing to their humanity, by offering vulnerable personal narratives, by attacking faulty harmful ideas without attacking people. Ultimately we want to bring peace and resolution, to decrease harm, and especially to give ex-gay leaders a way out into a new way of thinking and action.

    At the end of the day we can offer our friendship and we can see resolution and even forgiveness asked for and received. It is a process and requires change on the part of those who insist that we are “less than,” broken and sinful because of our orientation and gender differences. I know they will be enriched once they recognize the humanity of LGBT people. They will have to dismantle or radically change their ministries like Jeremy Marks did in the UK, but truth and justice will bring peace.

  16. Jacob Woods on September 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    This is fantastic news!

  17. Anthony Venn-Brown (@gayambassador) on September 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    like also

  18. Sue on September 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    This is news to be celebrated.
    I can only try to imagine the horrors of being in a residential program such as this, and after hearing stories about the damaging effects they have, I’m relieved and over-joyed at the news of this LIA closure.
    My prayers are with those who are still struggling to overcome the effects of being in a program like this, who are coming to terms with who they are and learning to love the person they were created to be.

  19. Gail Dickert on September 4, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I should clarify that I would never discredit the work that we’ve done in publishing our stories, standing up at events or participating in non-violent activism… I think that my writing/work specifically addresses the “soul damage” while others addresses the political damage, sexual damage, social damage and emotional damage of what is Exodus International. We are all healing a “portion” of the wound.

    I think what bothers me is when we start sounding as “right” and “righteous” as THEY do, so I’m moving my intention towards wholeness, personally and publically. If all I do is yell, I’ve not improved my argument, I’ve just raised my voice. (Tolle) This post may not have been the proper forum for this conversation but I sure do appreciate it. All of us are trying to heal wounds and follow our callings. Such a joy that we have so many who are willing to bear witness to the damage done but let us be sure that there are as many witnesses to the healing that has come! For example, I had a nice piece of ice cream cake yesterday to celebrate the closing of this soul-raping facility. Just me, in my apartment, full of joy and… cake. It’s not sexy, it’s not a rally, it’s not angry… it’s just one woman’s journey towards healing and I think that because healing is our ultimate goal, we would relish in those stories as well. Some people will never hold a sign or speak out or write a story but in the privacy of their own lives/families, when they celebrate, they are energetically just as much a part of the activism as those of us in the public forums. I encourage all survivors to keep telling their stories and relish in all victories. (And of course, check out to connect with other survivors. Such a supportive community and a place for process, no doubt!)

    Much love to you as always, Peterson!

  20. Gail Dickert on September 4, 2011 at 10:28 am

    There’s so much to like here ;0) It’s almost overwhelming!

  21. Michael Camp (@Michael_W_Camp) on September 27, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Peterson, Good news and hopefully an inevitable outcome for other programs. A new generation is understanding how the root of such programs is an extremely narrow view of the Bible and how the hollowness of this view is coming to light. Check out my latest post on The Root of the Anti-Gay Church ( and my critique of narrow biblicism. There’s a new book that addresses the literalist approach to the Bible and my forthcoming book, Confessions of a Bible Thumper, has a chapter on this issue. Cheers!

  22. Alex Haiken on October 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Former Ex-Gay Program Director Admits: I Never Met a Man Who Changed From Homosexual to Heterosexual

    In a blog article published this week, John Smid, former executive director of the well-known ex-gay program ‘Love in Action’ admits that after 22 years as executive director of the program, “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.” Pertaining to his own ‘change’, he says, “Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior.” He says, “This is a very tough issue” and admits, “I am trudging through some very deep waters trying to better understand God’s heart on this matter… 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.”


    -Alex Haiken

  23. p2son on October 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Alex, thanks for posting this. I read it myself. I was not completely surprised by John Smid’s statement concerning someone being ex-gay. Back in 1996 when I first entered Love in Action, one of the first things John Smid told us was that becoming a heterosexual is not a realistic goal, that likely we would struggle with our attractions the rest of our lives. This was openly shared in private spaces back then. Alan Chambers said as much in the LA Times back in 2007.

    What I do find heartening is that John is willing to listen to others he had previously shut out. I can imagine only good will come of this listening process. I imagine he has much to learn and unlearn after 22 years of receiving and providing misinformation. I hope he finds useful resources, perhaps takes some queer studies classes, listens to many voices within LGBTQ communities and that he reads a lot of helpful books on sexuality, gender, orientation, queer history, and theology. As he seeks to become a spokesperson again (which seems evident from his blog and the announcement of his book) I hope he can become an informed source this time. We do not need more confusion out there.

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