Nova Scotia

Anti-gay religious group will no longer speak at N.S. Bible camp

Coming Out Ministries won't make presentation, Seventh-day Adventist Church says

July 26, 2018

Speakers from a controversial Christian group that aims to free people from "the chains of homosexuality" will no longer speak at a Bible camp in Pugwash, N.S.

Ohio-based Coming Out Ministries had been invited to speak at Camp Pugwash, a Christian camp operated by the Maritime Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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But critics raised concerns that Coming Out Ministries spreads a homophobic message to youth. 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church confirmed on Thursday evening that the speakers will not make their scheduled presentation.

"There have been incorrect reports that a presentation on conversion therapy was going to be given, but the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada does not endorse such practices," reads an emailed statement from Dan Weber, the communications director of the church's North American division.

The statement did not explain whether the speakers cancelled their own appearance or if the camp organizers asked them not to attend.

Comparison to conversion therapy

Last month, the Halifax-based LGBTQ group Youth Project urged the church to "uninvite" the speakers from Coming Out Ministries, saying the religious group uses "strategies and approaches found within the harmful practice of conversion therapy."

Conversion therapy aims to convert people to heterosexuality.

In a blog post, Coming Out Ministries says it does not practise conversion therapy and "has never promised to change a person from gay to straight." 

However, its website does contain references to "healing for the sexually impure" and "God's redemptive process for gays/homosexuals."

'Praying them straight is not the answer'

Sheena Jamieson, the support services co-ordinator for the Youth Project, started an online petition to cancel the group's appearance. It garnered more than 25,000 signatures.

She said she was relieved that no one would have to go through the experience of hearing the speech.

"This is not something that creates happy heterosexual people. It creates miserable queer and trans people, and that's all it does," Jamieson said.

Jamieson said she hopes the Seventh-day Adventist Church makes changes and supports LGBTQ youth.

"Because praying them straight is not the answer," she said.

Floyd Poenitz, the vice-president of Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, a group that supports LGBTQ church members, echoed that sentiment.

"If the Adventist church learns anything from this experience, I hope it is that in the future they will consider, at the least, having all voices represented so people can hear from healthy and whole LGBTQ+ individuals as well," Poenitz wrote in a Facebook message to the CBC.

Divisive message

Halifax Pride's Ellen Davis said although Coming Out Ministries won't be speaking at Camp Pugwash, the group's message could still spread in other ways.

"It doesn't mean that it's gone from Nova Scotia, it just means that right now in this one specific instance that happened this week, we can chalk up a win, so to speak."

Davis said the practices of Coming Out Ministries can harm individuals and be divisive.

"The idea that faith and sexuality and gender identity can't intersect, it's very problematic because that hurts younger people of faith, it hurts older people of faith, it hurts the way our communities can come together and it's so problematic in so many ways."

In the wake of the controversy over the speakers, Nova Scotia's interim PC Leader Karla MacFarlane said she plans to introduce a bill this fall that would outlaw conversion therapy.

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