Church event gets se­ri­ous flak from LGBTQ ad­vo­cates

Re­search shows con­ver­sion ther­apy can heighten risk of home­less­ness, de­pres­sion and sui­cide among LGBTQ youth

StarMetro Halifax - - COVER STORY - FOR STARMETRO

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

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