RIVERVIEW, Mich. (WJBK) - A Downriver pastor is responding after several have accused the church of promoting conversion therapy in a social media post.
The post in question was on Metro City Church's Facebook page, promoting one of their workshops called Unashamed Identity Workshop. The post said the class is for "girls only (by birth), 12-16 years old, for those struggling with the thoughts that they are Trans - Bi - Gay or other. It doesn't have to be this way." Many, after reading the post, say they believe the workshop is conversion therapy in disguise.
Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation through prayer and counseling, and is opposed by several psychological experts.
"Through thoughtful, relevant and biblical counsel we will help your girl be unashamed of her true sexual identity given to her by God at birth," the post continued.
The post, which has since been taken down, was flooded with disapproving comments.
Metro City Church's head pastor Jeremy Schossau believes the church and the workshop have been misunderstood, and doesn't understand where all the hate is coming from.
"My understanding of conversion therapy, is, when somebody's being dragged into a counselor's office, therapist's office, or a pastor's office, and they're beat over the head with the Bible. There's shaming; there's guilt. If that's conversion therapy -- we want none of that; that couldn't be further from the truth. We want to love people," he says.
But he doesn't dispute the stated goals of the program: "Help your girl be unashamed of her true sexual identity given to her by God at birth."
"There's a lot of brokenness that leads to these major sexual decisions in life and we want to engage those. We do believe God has a direction for man, that he created men and women to love the opposite sex and to marry, and stay in a monogamous, lasting relationship. I understand the world has all kinds of other views, but that's what we believe. We are sexually traditionally-minded Christians," he says. He adds that several kids come to talk to the church on their own volition.
One former member of the church spoke to FOX 2 about his experience with the church and the workshop.
"Our last therapy session there, and they said they were going to call me Seth, and refer to "he" and my male pronouns and everything, and they called me Olivia," Seth Tooley remembers, shaking his head. "I just want people to understand it's not for attention; we really feel this way, and to just let people be people."
Tooley is a transgender teen, meaning he has a gender identity that differs from his assigned sex at birth.
"I have a lot of LGBTQ friends and they hate God, because of conversion therapy and churches saying how wrong they are; the whole love the sinner hate the sin thing," he adds.
Roz Gould Keith has a transgender child, and is an advocate in the LGBTQ community. She thinks the church's post and its attitude about sexual identity are not only wrong, but also harmful.
"If a child is questioning [their sexual orientation], then follow their lead. Provide them with resources and tools so they can figure it out. You can't someone talk someone out of being gay, or out of being transgender. All that does is create low self-esteem, poor mental health," Gould Keith says.
Pastor Schossau says he wishes they would've posted the promotional material for the workshop in a different way. He adds that he and his staff members have gotten numerous threats over the post. He says they decided to take it down because it was flooded with "evil and vulgar posts."
A demonstration is planned outside of Metro City Church's Riverview campus later this week for Thursday at 6 p.m.