Conference stresses love, help
Jerry Laster, a 56-year-old engineer from Woodinville, went to yesterday's Love Won Out conference in Bothell because he wanted to better...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jerry Laster, a 56-year-old engineer from Woodinville, went to yesterday's Love Won Out conference in Bothell because he wanted to better understand homosexuality and learn how he, an evangelical Baptist, "could better communicate with someone who might believe they're gay."
Joni Morris, a 50-year-old Bremerton foster-care worker, went because someone she cares about is homosexual and she wants to "find out how to love her better."
They were among the approximately 1,200 who attended the daylong series of workshops and presentations sponsored by James Dobson's Colorado Springs, Colo.-based evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family. The event, billed as "promoting the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable," was held at Northshore Baptist Church.
The talks included presentations on the causes of homosexuality; personal testimonials from those who say they've left their homosexual lifestyles; and public-policy-oriented lectures on issues such as gay marriage and "addressing the pro-gay agenda in your school."
Joseph Nicolosi, an Encino, Calif., clinical psychologist who focuses on treating unwanted homosexuality, contended that homosexual behavior is "an attempt to repair childhood hurts" such as those caused by sexual abuse, peer rejection or a distant father.
"We advise that if you don't hug your son, someone else will," he said.
Nicolosi said if gay men learn to form lifelong trusting friendships with straight men, "the homosexuality disappears, absolutely disappears."
Most mainstream health organizations — including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association — oppose or are critical of efforts to change a person's sexual orientation, saying to do so could be harmful. Such organizations — whom some at yesterday's Love Won Out conference accused of catering to their own gay members — have held for the past 30 years that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore does not need to be changed or cured.
Speakers emphasized differentiating gay individuals — whom, they said, Christians are commanded to love — from the gay movement, which, speakers said, is advancing an agenda that seeks to radically redefine society by normalizing homosexuality.
They are not forcing people to agree with them; rather, they're helping people "understand there's more than one side to this story," said Alan Chambers, a speaker and president of Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus International, a nationwide network of ex-gay ministries.
Exodus, in partnership with Focus on the Family, plans to bring its public-schools-geared conference, Groundswell, to Seattle in the fall.
The one-day conference, billed as training and equipping concerned "parents, youth workers and students to transform the public schools," includes presentations teaching students how to "reach out with Christ's love" to other students who think they might be gay, and teaching parents how to "answer gay activism" in local schools.
But while the underlying assumption of yesterday's conference was that homosexuality is wrong, the speakers said their goal was to teach attendees how to "balance truth and love" in dealing with gay people in their lives.
About half of the people who attend such conferences are family members of someone who is "living homosexually," said Melissa Fryrear, a Focus on the Family gender-issues analyst who told her own story about coming out of a lesbian lifestyle. The next-largest group is church leaders. "Christians don't know how to respond to this issue," she said.
Dave Irvin, a 51-year-old contracts manager from Sammamish, said he went to the conference to get better informed about "the problem and how to better present the solution.... They reinforced not getting in people's faces, but to show them compassion and love."
Not everyone agreed with the views of the speakers.
"They didn't represent everybody," said Dotti Berry, of Blaine, who attended the Love Won Out conference with her female partner of three years, Roby Sapp. "What's unfortunate is that they didn't present people like myself and Roby who are a happy, monogamous couple who are people of faith. They acted like we didn't exist."
Around 3 p.m. yesterday, a small group of protesters began demonstrating peacefully across the street from the church. They were there to "send a message of love and acceptance to the kids being taken to the event," said Meighan Doherty, 25, an office assistant in Seattle.
"We want them to know God loves and accepts them as they are and we accept them as they are as well."
Others who disagree with the Focus on the Family viewpoint on homosexuality — including some Christian groups and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) — will hold their own Love Welcomes All conference July 9 at Newport Presbyterian Church in Bellevue.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.