17 June 2018 | Canada’s Maritime Conference of the Adventist Church is being pressured to cancel a camp meeting due to feature two speakers that are deemed controversial by LGBTQ advocacy groups.
The Halifax Pride Festival and the Youth Project (a group supporting queer and transgender youth) object to two scheduled speakers from Coming Out Ministries. Danielle Harrison and Michael Carducci are scheduled to present at a conference-sponsored July 20-28 camp meeting based at Adventist-owned Camp Pugwash in rural Nova Scotia.
The advocacy groups say that the speakers will encourage LGBTQ individuals to adopt a heterosexual lifestyle despite their feelings and identities and that this approach mirrors conversion therapy without using the term itself.
Coming Out Ministries describes itself as “a ministry which unites three individuals in sharing their testimonies of freedom from sexual sin and same-sex relationships.” The organization made a presentation to Annual Council 2017 at the General Conference headquarters of the Adventist Church.
The StarMetro notes that Carducci rejects the term “conversion therapy” and claims that the presentations will cause no harm.
“I think that conversion therapies — many of them — were very destructive,” said Carducci. “I don’t promote them.”
He defended the approach of Coming Out Ministries saying that condemning the practice of homosexuality is not the same as condemning the person. He claimed that the ministry does not provide counseling and he is not trying to “coerce or pressure anyone.”
Carducci said that the organization’s speakers “just tell our experience of how we want to live according to God’s word. We don’t tell people how to live. We allow people to make up their own mind.”
Katie Shewan, executive director of the Youth Project was not impressed: “Whether it’s called conversion therapy, a discussion, or a ministry, the issue is the harm that is caused by cultivating shame, guilt, and self-hatred in (LGBTQ) youth.”
She said that she felt it was “horrific this is still happening today,” and stressed that there was evidence that such an approach was “extremely harmful, and ineffective as well.”
Stan Jensen, spokesperson for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada told the StarMetro that the two speakers in question are not really “youth speakers” as described in their event bios, and that they are not the main features of the 10-day camp meeting.
Jensen expressed concern about any connection to conversion therapy.
“My fear is this: If this gets a lot of publicity, those who are gay haters will come out in droves,” Jensen said via email. “Instead our Church needs more conversation.”
Despite these concerns the camp meeting is set to proceed as planned with the Coming Out Ministries speakers.