Workshops Will Continue at Metro City Church in Riverview Despite Backlash, Planned Protests
Metro City Church pastor Jeremy Schossau told BTL he’s still in support of a workshop offered by his church that many are denouncing as conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.
“These are folks who are seeking us out,” Schossau explained in an email. “These are folks who are questioning their sexual identity or are maybe in the gay or lesbian community and they are just not comfortable there. They think that maybe they don’t want to be there, and they are seeking out conversation and potentially help and guidance.”
A storm of public backlash erupted over the weekend when the church advertised an “Unashamed Identity Workshop” for girls (by birth) ages 12-16 struggling with the thoughts that they are “Trans – Bi – Gay or other.” The post was met with thousands of comments on social media condemning the church as anti-LGBTQ.
Schossau denies that the workshop is conversion therapy as it’s “traditionally known.” He insists the workshops are instead a “conversation without condemnation,” where conversion is “totally up to the person.”
“Again, nobody is forcing or demanding them to be there,” he said. “These are people who are already in our church. Let me ask a question – who would seek out a counsel or mentoring from somebody that hated them or forced them to change? That’s silly. People don’t do that.”
Schossau is a traditional Christian in his belief that homosexuality is morally wrong.
“So yes, we do not believe that homosexuality, in a broad sense, is God’s desire for people,” he said. “But we believe that people have a choice.”
“This is the irony of the whole thing – the gay community says they are all about choice. For example, when a heterosexual feels like they want to move toward the homosexual community they are all about that choice. It is celebrated. But when somebody who is in the homosexual community feels they want to move back toward the heterosexual community it is met with such disdain and hatred. They say it is not possible. We don’t understand this. We are for the people’s choice.”
Dr. Stephanie Williams, the owner of Transcendence Behavioral Health with offices in both Livonia and Royal Oak, is one of many psychological experts who oppose conversion therapy.
She explained what the church is doing will prove to be harmful if people who are questioning feel pressured to choose one way or the other.
“The message the church is sending is there’s something wrong with identifying as LGBTQ and it has to be fixed,” she said, noting that the right way to have the conversation is to present both sides and give people the option to decide for themselves.
“Young people deserve the opportunity to live authentically and be the person they were created to be,” she said. But they will not benefit from a biased workshop, which Dr. Williams said she thinks can be “horribly detrimental” for youth between the ages of 12-16.
“I absolutely think it’s too young,” she said about attending these classes. “If someone well into adulthood thinks this is something that’s good for them, then to each their own.”
Heather McBride, a former member of the Metro City Church, stopped attending years back after hearing a sermon by Schossau on the dangers of homosexuality. She said the recent social media post was upsetting, but not surprising.
“When I saw this on social media I was sick to my stomach,” McBride said. “It brought me back to my childhood. Listening to people use the Bible to teach hate, and hearing Christians bash homosexual and calling them vulgar names while inside I knew they were referring to me.”
In the final sermon she ever attended at the church, McBride said Schossau brought up a middle-aged man who claimed he converted from homosexuality to heterosexuality.
“This man talked about a life of addiction where he was forced to prostitute himself with men and women for money,” McBride said, describing the sermon. “He further explained how he went to prison and engaged in sex with men on the inside. He was basically gay for the stay.”
“His whole story was about sex,” she continued. “To a true homosexual it isn’t about sex, it is about love and attraction. Never once did this man speak of this. This man was never gay but everyone in the audience applauded him for being married to a woman now.”
McBride said she also remembers Schossau showcasing statistics to prove domestic violence is higher among lesbian couples than heterosexual couples, and that STDs are higher among homosexuals.
Members of the community plan to hold a peaceful protest – organized by the Metro Detroit Political Action Network – outside the Metro City Church Riverview campus during its first “Unashamed Identity Workshop” beginning at 6 p.m.
“I think it is very sad that people are willing to yell and scream and be profane at people but never actually talk to us to find out what we’re doing,” Schossau said about the planned protest. “People have the legal right to stand on a public sidewalk and we support that right – we will not oppose anyone’s right to peacefully protest.”
The protest is to be peaceful, inspiring and encouraging to the children forced to have these workshops, according to MDPAN’s Facebook event page. Protestors are encouraged to share their stories to the crowd and bring posters highlighting state resources, pride and/or empowerment messages. MDPAN plans to have a pride festival outside every Thursday.
Schossau adds that there are no plans to cancel the workshops so long as people are signing up. The workshop costs $200 to attend and is scheduled every Thursday at 6 p.m. from Feb. 8-April 18.
Visit MDPAN’s Facebook event page for more information.