As the 10th most religious state in the country, Oklahoma has a variety of churches. You have the small town fish fry churches, the big city mega churches, the rural old gospel churches, and the new-age hipster millennial churches with gluten-free communion crackers. Unfortunately, our state also appears to have the dangerous “pray away the gay” hate churches.
BLACKWELL, Okla. – A church’s actions are under investigation after a man said he was held down by congregants as they tried to pray away his homosexuality.
Sean Cormie, 23, came out as gay in the spring. Since then, he said his family has asked him to go to church and bring his partner, Gary Gardner…
The service was normal but at the end, something unexpected happened. Cormie said as 12 to 15 congregants circled around Gardner and himself, their prayer growing louder. Meanwhile, they said the pastor began making statements against homosexuality.
“‘It’s a sin, it’s an abomination, you need to realize, wake up, and see it for a sin,’” Cormie said.
The prayer got louder and louder until the two men felt so humiliated, they got up to leave. But Gardner was shuffled out of the building alone.
“They hold me down, pin me down, and I’m crying, and the Holy Spirit just comes through me, and they keep speaking in tongues, praying over me.” Cormie said he was even punched in the face. “I was just crying ‘mercy, mercy.'”
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Wow, what an archaic and back-ass-wards practice! Though I’m sure this doesn’t happen that often in Oklahoma.” But unfortunately, it does. It doesn’t matter that the American Psychiatric Association has spoken out against the harmful practice of conversion for decades, research suggests that “transformational ministries” like this Blackwell church only increase risk of harm and harassment for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, that sexual orientation is not something that can be “changed,” or that conversion practices only increase risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide in its victims. The truth is such ministry practices are still common in Oklahoma.
In fact, there are even church leaders in the metro that use conversion techniques like prayer and “therapy” techniques to try to coerce people to change their sexual orientation. I wouldn’t blame someone who survived such atrocities if they were full of hate toward the people who harmed them. But Sean Cormie seems to be showing more Christian love than his church’s leaders.
Now, Cormie said he’s getting threats from strangers telling him to drop the issue. He said even family members he believes are behind the ordeal are asking him to let it go.
“I couldn’t believe it, a church of all places would show hate and not love,” Cormie said…
“I love the pastors with all my heart,” Cormie said, “but what they did was totally wrong, and I want some kind of consequences out of it. I want it to be heard and known because it really saddens my heart.”
Identifying as Christian and identifying as gay does not have to be mutually exclusive. Christians and others who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community are not “confused.” In fact, it seems like the truly confused ones in this situation are the pastors themselves. Because I don’t think traumatizing and harming youth through conversion practices is what Jesus would do.