On April 17, the conference at Olive Baptist Church was packed with over 600 Christians but there wasn't a single guitar in sight. The attendees at the Love Won Out Conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family, weren't there to sing and dance but to learn about the simple truth--about homosexuality that is.
The one-day event, held on April 17 in Pensacola, Florida, was geared toward educating the Christian community about an issue that has been ignored for far too long. Christians who longed for a deeper understanding of homosexuality, many uncertain about how they should deal with a child or co-worker is attracted to the same sex, flocked to the conference to learn that homosexuality is not only treatable, it's preventable.
Experts on the issue such as Dr. Jospeh Nicolosi, principal research investigator for the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), presented the theory behind the root of male homosexuality. He demystified male homosexuality as being genetic by identifying factors such as family dynamics, sexual abuse and peer labeling that create an environment where an individual believes he is inherently gay.
While explaining family dynamics, Dr. Nicolosi, author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, explained how the relationship of a young boy with his father is crucial to his masculine development. However, if the father figure is absent in the young boy's life in the event of a divorce or if their personalities differ such as the father being more athletic and the boy being more artistic, then what the boy resorts to what Nicolosi terms "defensive detachment", according to Mike Haley, manager of Gender Issues for Focus on the Family, who was also a speaker at the event.
Haley reflected on Dr. Nicolosi's lecture and said there is a period of developmental change from the feminine to the masculine in a young boy's life, where a relationship with a father is needed. If something were to hinder that relationship, "a healthy transition isn't going to take place," said Haley and "'Gender Identity Deficit' compounded with peer labeling on campus" would lead the boy to identify himself as a homosexual.
The same theory behind male homosexuality can also be used to understand female homosexuality. Haley noted that Dr. Nicolosi also mentioned curiosity of homosexuality among heterosexual individuals can result in them sexualizing people of the same sex.
What also may be an effective characteristic of the Love Won Out Conference is not just the sound scientific research to prove homosexuality is treatable but the event allowed Christians to hear from speakers who were formerly homosexuals themselves. After the first lecture was given by Dr. Nicolosi, Haley stepped on stage to give his testimony.
"It's very balanced," said Haley, formerly a homosexual for 12 years. "We present the theory and then we present the reality."
"I grew up in the church and I never even heard any of this. I was told that by my high school counselor that it was genetic," Haley told The Christian Post. "I hated Christians, hated the church."
Then one day, a man, didn't judge Haley but challenged him to research about homosexuality including the root causes.
After understanding about the root of his feelings through examining the relationship he had with his father, Haley changed. He is now married to his wife Angie and has two sons.
"It comes down to the fact that homosexuality is an unhealthy way of getting rid of that unmet emotional need in an inappropriate way," he said, adding that homosexuality is like a "coping mechanism".
What the conference tries to offer for those overcoming homosexuality is "we address the feelings to help them understand where they are coming from." The conference also gets "people the practical tools they need" to reach the homosexual with a caring perspective, said Haley.
Conference speakers also included former homosexual Jane Boyer, who was a board member of the North American-based Exodus International, ministry for helping people overcome homosexuality. Once President of North American-based Exodus International Joe Dallas, currently a Christian counselor in Tustin, Ca., equipped the attendees on how to answer pro-gay theology. FOTF’s Homosexuality and Gender Analyst Melissa Fryrear and university professor Dr. Dick M. Carpenter II also presented to edify the participants' understanding of homosexuality.
Although Haley believes homosexuality against God's original intention and a sin that is "very, very clear" in such passages found in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Leviticus, he believes more firmly that "we have a very powerful Savior that can redeem people" from any sin.
"All sin is a result as the fall of man and certainty homosexuality is one of those sins," told Gary Schneeberger, manager of Issues Response for Focus on the Family, to The Christian Post.
"The Church and Christians need to deal with the person not as a problem to be solved but a person to be loved."
"God's love is not sloppy," reminded Haley. "There is the discipline."
"Love cares enough to discipline," he said. "It's not a whole lot different to what I'm trying to teach my kids."
Haley, who led one of the two Q & A sessions during the conference, doesn't think the Christian community has been good about educating themselves on this issue. The culture, he said, has distorted many facts about how people should approach homosexuality, causing people to "tolerate everything and stand for nothing".
Schneeberger said the conference teaches the Christian community how to "stand for the values this country was founded on" by speaking to the homosexuals at the level of the heart instead of always quoting scripture.
"It's always rewarding to see the way God ministers to people in an event like this," he said. "God has here the people who needs to be here."
Participants who wanted further help or information on the issue were referred to one of the eight local ex-gay ministries such as Exodus International.
The next Love Won Out Conference will take place on June 12, 2004 at Crossroads Fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Regarding the recent homosexual movement, Haley agreed that Christians can no longer deny it's a reality. We are being held accountable to not allow His way and Truth to be trampled upon, he said.
"We have the responsibility of being the truth and light in the culture."