An uproar over a controversial program at a Downriver church has the pastor pushing back on the backlash and the threats that’ve come with it.
It all started weeks ago when Metro City Church announced a workshop for teen girls struggling with “thoughts that are trans - bi - gay or other.”
The pastor of the church says the program is not conversion therapy, it's a conversation, not condemnation and there is no dragging or bible beatings.
Others aren’t viewing it that way and some have responded with threats of physical harm to the church and its pastor.
Jeremy Schossau says in his roughly two decades building metro city church, he hasn’t seen anything like the backlash to his “unashamed identity workshop.”
“This unbelievable vitriol that has come at us from around the world,” Schossau says. “The hate the vulgarity the pornography that has flooded all of our social media, all of our inboxes in every sort of way. Death threats to me, death threats to my family to my kids, wanting to burn down our church our homes. It is crazy. If a kid wants to talk to a loving reasonable adult, with their parent and with their parent’s permission. Why would that be a bad thing? We don’t understand. We think that parents ought to nurture their children in the right direction according to their family’s values.”
Schossau says the workshop is not conversation therapy.
“If people think conversion therapy as getting someone in a room, dragging somebody in a room, forcing a kid or an adult into a room and beating them over the head with a bible, or shaming them or guilting them, we want nothing to do with that. That is not what we’re talking about in any way,” he says.
A former member of his congregation says he walked away feeling it was.
“I feel horrible. I don’t want any other children to go through what I went through,” says Seth Tooley.
Tooley says he started transitioning to a male around 2 to 3-years-old and went to Pastor Schossau around 13.
“I was in the room with him alone and just praying laying hands on me,” he says. “Would refer to me as she and would not call me Seth or use male pronouns.”
Seth’s mother Kim says parents of kids struggling with identity - sexual or otherwise – shouldn’t look to church programs.
“It’s dangerous. It leads to high suicide rates. They need to let that child come to them and just be them and for them to find out for themselves what the truth is,” she says.
The Metro Detroit Political Action Committee is planning a protest at the church on Thursday, but are quick to say they are peaceful and any threats toward the church are way out of line.
Pastor Schossau says his church is inclusive, and if someone walks out of these sessions and are gay or trans, they are still welcome at church.