Protesters at Rock of Ages Church seminar

Protesters were already marching outside the Lutheran Rock of Ages church by 9:30 a.m., ahead of a lunchtime talk by local speaker Wilna Van Beek. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Dozens of protesters rallied outside of a Saskatoon church on Tuesday, demonstrating against an event they say was homophobic. 

Protesters were already marching outside the Lutheran Rock of Ages church by 9:30 a.m., ahead of a lunchtime talk by local speaker Wilna Van Beek.

Van Beek's message is that she's gay, but chooses to remain celibate because she feels her sexual orientation goes against her Christian values. 

According to her website, she aims to help friends and family members of homosexuals, in part by telling people about how she has chosen to remain celibate. She also claims she has been "redeemed from living the gay lifestyle."

Her talk, called "When Gay Comes Home," was sponsored by the faith-based non-profit group Christian Counselling Services. 

One of the protest organizers said he takes issue with Van Beek's message, but not her personal choices. 

"We respect Wilna's decision to be celibate in her life and have her idea of faith over her sexuality," said Ryan Willey. "But the message she's projecting, that everybody should be like that, that's harmful I think."

Willey has said before he worries talks like Van Beek's can make LGBT people and their families fearful. 

Another protester, Meisha Virtue, worries her message could have dangerous effects.  

"This is aimed at parents, and there are youth that could be affected by this, that are told that there is something wrong with them," said Virtue. "That mentality has a strong correlation with LGBT suicide."

Rock of Ages' Lead Pastor Brian Tysdale said he believes the speech could spark a meaningful conversation. 

"I do believe that we have the capacity to embrace a dialogue that is meaningful — and still disagree on some fundamental things — so I would hope that we are not homophobic," he said. 

Some people connected with the church have told CBC they do not condone gay and lesbian lifestyles. They have also said the event was not intended to provoke judgment against anyone.

Church officials invited some protesters inside, but most of them declined. However, people from both groups spoke peacefully outside of the church.