The Harrison Center and Anti-Gay Religious Groups

This is extremely disturbing, and not a hoax, despite today’s date. An “Ex-Gay” event will take place in Marion, Indiana, planned and sponsored by a church in our downtown neighborhood — the Redeemer Presbyterian Church at 1505 North Delaware, Indianapolis, IN., which is also home of the The Harrison Center art gallery, run by our neighbor Joanna Taft, who appears to be a member of the board of the church.

According to the Indy Star:

Ministry says it helps gays become straight
Indianapolis Star April 1, 2006

Brad Grammer says he gets 120 calls a year from people asking for help in shaking their attraction to people of the same gender.

As director of Hope and New Life Ministries, a small Downtown operation based in Redeemer Presbyterian Church, he helps the callers find counselors or directs them to churches with support groups.

Grammer’s work is part of a network of “ex-gay” ministries affiliated with Exodus International, a 30-year-old Christian organization built on the premise that gay and lesbian people can change their sexual orientation.

For one week this summer, Exodus will make Indiana Wesleyan University the hub of the ex-gay movement when it brings its 31st Annual Exodus Freedom Conference to the university’s campus in Marion. The event is billed as the largest gathering of ex-gays anywhere in the world.

Exodus says the gathering, which starts June 27, will feature personal stories from people who consider themselves to be ex-gays.

“We are not trying to shove this on someone that is not ready,” said Julie Neils, a spokeswoman for Exodus International, which is based in Orlando, Fla. “We are here to say that change is possible because we have evidence of that, with hundreds of thousands of ex-gays that have come out of homosexuality.”

Leaders in Indianapolis’ gay community are wary of Exodus and its claims. They question whether anyone can turn from an orientation they were born with.

And they say perpetuating the idea that change is possible makes family members and public policy makers insensitive to the real needs of gays and lesbians.

“In my congregation, there are any number of people who had been part of the ex-gay movement,” said the Rev. Jeff Miner, senior pastor at Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, a Northeastside congregation that believes committed gay relationships are not contrary to the Bible. “The stories they tell me is that it was an excruciating time in their life when they were trying to be something they could never be.”

Religious leaders and gay rights groups have for years been locked in highly public battles over same-sex marriage.

Grammer said Christians who believe homosexuality is contrary to the Bible have frequently failed to show love and compassion toward gay individuals.

Exodus International President Alan Chambers agrees. He said Christian groups have spent too much energy pointing fingers at gays and making hostile arguments in the public square.

“The truth is that Christ died for all of us or he died for none of us,” Chambers said. “The way you win the battle is that people are changed when you reach their hearts.”

Some mainstream church denominations have opened their doors to gays and lesbians without challenging their lifestyles. Now, there are tentative signs that churches that don’t condone homosexuality are seeing the need to take a softer tone — not on their doctrine, but in how they welcome gay individuals.

Grammer said at least four such churches in the Indianapolis area have established ministries aimed at helping people who say they want to leave homosexuality. He is trying to develop more.

Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, a self-described pro-family lobbying group, said churches with traditional beliefs on homosexuality have been slow to get involved in ex-gay ministries. But more are getting interested.

“As homosexuality is becoming more and more acceptable in the culture, even to the point of being hip or chic — particularly among teenagers — churches are realizing that this may be a growing problem that they need to address,” said Clark, whose organization is among those telling churches about the conference.

The conference includes sessions for married couples in which one spouse struggles with being attracted to people of the same sex.

A youth-day event will point conflicted kids toward the path of heterosexuality. And there will be support groups and educational sessions for parents with gay children.

Miner, with Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, said he feels only a “deep sense of sadness” for the people who will attend.

He says few — those with an ambiguous sexuality — ever change, and many more will find only heartache.

“The message I try to give to people in the ex-gay movement is that if this doesn’t work for you, remember it is not your only option,” he said. “You can be both gay and Christian.”

But Chambers, the president of Exodus, says he is a former gay man who is now married with children.

He says hearing the stories of other ex-gays helped him find a way out.

He expects many who come to Indiana Wesleyan’s campus this summer will find it also.

“I had been told prior to that by people in the gay community that I couldn’t change, that there was no hope for overcoming that,” he said.

“The truth, in our opinion, is that people come out of homosexuality.”

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