Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Western NC Mountains become hotbed of debate concerning gays and religion

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According to an article in the Asheville, North Carolina Citizen-Times (article), two separate and "diametrically opposed" groups will hold conferences in the next two months in the Western North Carolina Mountains. Exodus International, a group which seeks to convert gays to being straight, is holding their conference this week. Reconciling Ministries Network, an LGBT Methodist Church group will hold their conference September 2-5, 2005. Exodus is meeting this week at the Southern Baptist Convention-owned Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain. The Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and the Moral Majority, is scheduled to speak, as well as Dr. Nancy Heche, mother of Anne Heche, who was in a public relationship with actress Ellen DeGeneres. About 800 people have registered for the Exodus International "Freedom Conference." Reconciling Ministries Network, a United Methodist group, will be meeting September 2-5, 2005 at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference Center at Lake Junaluska, a center owned by the United Methodist Church. The group focuses on acceptance of all, no matter our differences in sexual orientation. Debate has erupted within the United Methodist Church over the allowance of the gay group to meet on church property. The Executive Director of the Center, Jimmy L. Carr, defended the Center's decision to allow Reconciling Ministries to meet saying, "They are United Methodists. They asked for the space. We had it available. There will be some people who will not agree with what they stand for, but they are trying to bring some reconciliation around a very difficult matter in the life of the church. We don’t think that Lake Junaluska by hosting them either approves or disapproves of what they’re doing or of their program. We’ll host them as we do other programs as graciously as we can.” In months past, a group of LGBT and LGBT-friendly people from various universities and colleges in North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee had tried to organize some type of protest of Exodus International's conference. Word even reached UNCG through the internet. I haven't heard anything mroe about it and it is unclear as to whether there will be any protests held. For more about Exodus International's Conference: For more about the Reconciling Ministries Conference: