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"I came under the conviction that I didn't need it, and I gave my life back to the Lord. A year later, I met a man and had several kids," Allard said. After she moved to Asheville she started a small ministry focused on the children of gays and lesbians.
Carmichael rejects the idea that a person can change sexual orientation. "Sexual behavior can be altered, but it does not change that sexual identity," she said.
Exodus International's International Freedom Conference begins Tuesday afternoon at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest.
"When people will be exposed to claims that group support can help change one's sexual orientation, another perspective needs to be seen," said Catherine Carmichael, president of the Asheville PFLAG.
Christian conference message mobilizes gay
The arrival in WNC of as many as 1,000 people who support Exodus's ministry has many local gay rights activists and Christian pastors planning to issue a competing message. Under the banner of Equality Asheville, they're sponsoring a series of events called "You're Fine Just the Way You Are"
As many as 80 percent of those who attend Exodus conferences were sexually abused, Chambers said. Workshops at this week's gathering will focus on recovering from sexual abuse, as well as faith based strategies to overcoming same sex attraction, and support for spouses of those dealing with such feelings.
"There are a lot of children of adult homosexuals who are in need of help, and there are not a lot of people out there that want to help," she said. "This is an opportunity for them to talk freely."
being gay was wrong within the church from wonderful loving people, but that's what they had been taught," Hoffman said. "I had to rethink that. One Exodus participant added that the conference itself is a choice some people want to make. "I think what we are seeing is an entire generation of people not letting temptations define them because the message that society sends is that if you have same sex feelings that you're gay."
"For people who identify as GLBTQ, I think it's very emotionally stressful (to be told they need to change)," Carmichael said. "It's invalidating their orientation. It's also hard to hear from anyone that what they are doing is wrong in the face of God especially for Christian GLBTQ members."
It may take time to come to an understanding of God's love for GLBT people, he said. "I grew up being taught that Adidas Rose Gold Superstars Womens
Jaye Thomas walked away from what he calls "a life of secret Adidas Originals Sl Loop Runner Independent Currency homosexuality." Today he lives his life as a heterosexual man, an accomplishment for which he gives much credit to Exodus International, a Christian organization that ministers to people struggling with homosexuality.
Exodus International's president, Alan Chambers, said the conference is about choice and support. "There is a right to choose one's passage in life," said Chambers, who, like Thomas, says he turned away from homosexuality. "I didn't choose those feelings (of same sex attraction), but when I was old enough, I did choose my behavior."
A victim of sexual molestation for 12 years, Thomas said he fought his sexual feelings for other men and found support through Exodus. He will share his story at the group's annual International Freedom Conference, Tuesday Sunday at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest. Through Exodus, he said, "I found that I was not alone and there were other men like me that struggled."
You're Fine Just the Way You Are events run Tuesday Saturday. Tuesday at Firestorm Caf Books, 48 Commerce St. Wednesday. Friday. Thursday at the Henderson County Library, 301 Washington St., Hendersonville. Saturday in Recreation Park at 69 Gashes Creek Road, near the WNC Nature Center.
"The truth is that homosexuality does not send people to hell. Gay people live in heaven. Members of the Asheville chapter of Parents, Family Friends of Lesbians and Gays are part of the Equality Asheville coalition formed to oppose Exodus. They've come together to host a series of events to counter the message that God wants gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning people to live straight lives.
"I think (Exodus's) intentions are harmful, because it's cloaked in the message of love," said Equality Asheville organizer Noel Nickel. "We're trying to make Adidas Y-3
One person who rejected her gay identity is Asheville resident Maleah Allard, director of Truth WNC, an Exodus affiliated ministry. She said she started seeing her lesbian relationship of a decade as unhealthy when her daughter's classmates started picking on her for having two mothers.
sure that there is a full spectrum of educational aspects. People who are coming to this community need to know the whole spectrum."
Joe Hoffman, pastor of Asheville's First Congregational Church of Christ and one of several Christian ministers working with Equality Asheville, said many local congregations disagree with Exodus's argument that God wants gay people to change.
"If you are GLBT, you're OK the way you are," he said, "and you are welcome in churches throughout Asheville."
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