Church event gets serious flak from LGBTQ advocates
Research shows conversion therapy can heighten risk of homelessness, depression and suicide among LGBTQ youth
Two LGBTQ advocacy groups are urging a church to cancel an event taking place at a religious camp in rural Nova Scotia next month, warning it is teaching principles that could put lives at risk.
Both the Halifax Pride Festival and the Youth Project, a Halifax group that supports queer and transgender youth, are cautioning that two guest speakers booked to appear at the conference apparently encourage LGBTQ people to adopt a heterosexual lifestyle and cisgender presentation, regardless of their feelings and identity.
The event is being hosted by the Maritime Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on a campground property owned by local church members in Pugwash, N.S., in northwestern Nova Scotia on the Northumberland Strait.
Danielle Harrison and Michael Carducci from Ohiobased Coming Out Ministries are scheduled to present at the event.
The organization describes itself as “a ministry which unites three individuals in sharing their testimonies of freedom from sexual sin and same-sex relationships.”
Carducci said in an interview that he rejects the term “conversion therapy,” and asserted that he will cause no harm.
Adam Reid, executive director of the Halifax Pride Festival, said he was alarmed when he read the bios of two speakers being flown in for the conference.
“They used terms and language that sort of hides what they’re up to,” he said.
Kate Shewan, executive director of the Youth Project, said “I just think it’s horrific this is still happening today.”
“There’s so much evidence that this ... is extremely harmful, and ineffective as well.”
The two organizations cosigned a letter addressed to the Seventh- day Adventist Church and asked them to consider cancelling the event.
Shewan said she also called
the leader of the Maritime conference of Seventh- day Adventist church, Paul Llweellyn, urging him to cancel.
Llweellyn referred all of Starmetro’s questions to Stan Jensen, spokesperson for the Seventh- day Adventist Church in Canada.
Jensen said the two guest speakers — who he said are not really “youth speakers” as they are named in the bios — are not the main features of the 10-day conference, which draws Seventh-day Adventists from across the Maritime provinces.
Additionally, Jensen said he is concerned about the impression any association with conversion therapy could wrongly provide.
“My fear is this: If this gets a lot of publicity, those who are gay haters will come out in droves,” Jensen wrote in an email. “Instead our Church needs more conversations.”
Carducci was resolute in his belief that his presentation will not cause harm.
“I think that conversion therapies — many of them — were very destructive,” he said. “I don’t promote them.”
Carducci said he will travel to Nova Scotia from Tennessee next month, to speak to a group of “families” who will attend the conference “voluntarily.”
“It’s not just a camp for kids,” he said. “It’s a camp for Seventh-day Adventist(s).”
Carducci said he was baptized as an Adventist in 2000. He said his presentation is all about sharing his personal experience leaving behind a life of “sexual addiction” and homosexuality, and finding God.
“That was a great discovery on my part,” he explained. “The love of God is for everyone.”
“I thought it was beautiful, in the Bible,” he went on to say. “It doesn’t condemn the homosexual, it just condemns the practice.”
Carducci rejects the interpretation that condemning the practice is akin to condemning the person. He said the ministry does not engage in counselling, and insists he himself is not trying to “coerce or pressure anyone.”
“WHETHER IT’S CALLED CONVERSION THERAPY, A DISCUSSION OR A MINISTRY, THE ISSUE IS THE HARM THAT IS CAUSED BY CULTIVATING SHAME, GUILT, AND SELF-HATRED IN (LGBTQ) YOUTH.” Kate Shewan
Incidents of youth suicide following attempts of religious-led conversion therapy have been widely reported. More at thestar.com