A Michigan church sparked outrage by offering identity counseling to sexually confused girls, which locals and the LGBT community alleged was conversion therapy in disguise.
Metro City Church in Riverview announced that it will begin a six-week course Thursday called the “Unashamed Identity Workshop” for girls ages 12 to 16 who “think they might be gay, bisexual, or transgender,” according to Detroit Free Press. The church removed advertisement for the course from its website, however, after locals sent thousands of emails to church leadership lambasting them for offering what some believed to be conversion therapy — a practice whereby minsters seek to turn people from gay to straight via prayer.
“Over the past week we have gotten thousands and thousands of emails and messages. The vast majority are filled with vulgarity, hate, and threats of all kinds,” pastor Jeremy Schossau told Detroit Metro Times via email. “What we find incredibly odd is there is no seeking to understand what we are truly doing. Only the assumption that we are practicing some sort of conversion therapy.”
“People have literally threatened to kill me and my family, to burn our house down, to burn our church down, to assault the people of our church and our staff,” Schossau said in a video response to the outrage.
“We find it incredibly odd that a community that has been so vocal about tolerance, about understanding somebody else’s perspective, about freedom, about choice – a community that has been so pro-choice – is seemingly very anti-choice when it comes to sexuality,” he added.
Sara Cunningham, an Oklahoma resident whose son identifies as gay, began a social media campaign against the church’s course after seeing a friend post about it on social media. Cunningham identifies as a Christian but said that she and her family were alienated from their church after her son came out as gay. Cunningham called on the LGBT community in Michigan to join her in protesting the course.
“Parents shouldn’t have to choose between their church and their children,” Cunningham told DMT.
Schossau argued that the church is not trying to force anyone to take the course, but is offering it to those who want to come, likely to those who are already in the church and are questioning their sexual identity. The course is not conversion therapy and does not involve shaming the attendees or attempting to convert them, according to Schossau, but will be based around conversations between the girls, their parents, and the church members running the course.
The church’s website said the intent of the course was to “help your girl be unashamed of her true sexual identity given to her by God at birth through thoughtful, relevant and biblical counsel,” according to DMT.
“It is pure hypocrisy in the gay community for folks to think that you can have a choice to move from heterosexuality into homosexuality but not homosexuality into heterosexuality,” Schossau said.
Schossau pointed out that the gay community regularly accepts heterosexual people who come to them questioning their sexuality and then make the decision to come out as gay. He said his church is offering a similarly welcoming community to those who are either in the LGBT community or are considering it but need someone to talk to because they feel that being gay, bisexual, or transgender may not be right for them.
“Why is it wrong for somebody to call us who is struggling and hurting and just looking for somebody to talk to?” Schossau said. “And if they move toward heterosexuality and we celebrate that, why is that wrong? It is no different.”
Schossau also stated that, should an attendee of the course ultimately decide that they are gay or bisexual or transgender, they will not be condemned or kicked out but will be welcomed in the church. The pastor said the church celebrates people capacity for and right to choice, but at the same time it is a church that holds a traditional view of marriage and human sexuality according to Christian scripture.
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