Maybe I haven't been searching the right local news sites, but it seems Focus On the Family's ex-gay conference on Saturday attracted little media attention. It's been hard to find much information online about what happened at the ex-gay conference and the reaction to it.
Apparently, the conference did lead the 5:00 PM KATU newscast on Saturday. The short report merely skims the complex issues, but the reporter does attempt to have Exodus/Focus representatives answer some direct and basic questions:
ANNA SONG, ANCHOR: "They say homosexuality can be cured. A Christian organization called Focus on the Family is in town presenting a controversial seminar about converting gay people."
SUSAN HARDING, ANCHOR: "KATU's Brian Barker is here with more on this. And, Brian, you spoke with both sides about this today."
BRIAN BARKER, REPORTER: "I did, Anna. Focus on the Family used to be more aggressive about attempting to convert homosexuals, but they've toned-down their message a bit. Still, in a place like Portland, there is plenty of opposition."
[REPORT CLIP STARTS]
WOMAN YELLING AT PULPIT [MELISSA FRYREAR??]: "I knew that God was real and I knew that his word was true!"
Clip appear to show the stereotypical screaming evangelist sound bite. On one hand, I sympathize with Exodus/Focus in that the TV report seemed to exploit the setting by reducing the conference to a shrill woman preaching. On the other hand though, it's not an inaccurate portrayal.
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "Inside a church in Northeast Portland."
WOMAN: "A day came in my life where I knew that I knew that I knew that what I was doing was wrong."
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "A former lesbian tells a half-filled room about her conversion to being a heterosexual."
BARKER: "Are you gay or straight?"
Seems like a simple and basic question.
RANDY THOMAS, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: "I would say that I am a personal on journey."
So, neither gay or straight? Not even an inkling?
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "And outside, Randy Thomas explains the purpose of the Love Won Out seminar. Focus on the Family travels around the country and preaches about homosexuality and Christianity. Some homosexuals, they say, can have what they call an orientation shift and go from gay to straight."
BARKER: "Is that a healthy thing to do really?"
THOMAS: "Well, I -- we don't try to convert anyone anyway. Uh, it's people who determine for themselves what they want for their lives. And for me, its been the best decision -- one of the best decisions that I've ever made."
Wow. The Exodus representative is surprisingly tongue-tied in responding to a relatively simple question: Does your ministry promote something healthy? Seems like a basic question. Thomas's attempt to avoid answering a direct question and interject his personal experience seems like a cult-follower's answer.
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "But across town, at the Shanghai Lounge"
CUSTOMER (NOT SOBER LOOKING): "Ain't going to happen. Ain't going to happen. It's not."
Unbelievably, the reporter drove all across town past inclusive churches, MCC Portland, Basic Rights Oregon, Q Center, etc. and instead went to Old Town to interview a drunk guy. I really do hate it when TV news reporters attempt to get 'man on the street' responses by interviewing people at a bar. Fortunately, the reporter redeemed himself by tracking down someone associated with Love Welcomes All.
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "Many say the evangelical message just won't work. Up the street at the Ainsworth United Church of Christ other Christians preach tolerance."
TERI NOBLE, PFLAG: "Even if a message is couched in terms of love and reaching out, if the essence of what you're saying to someone is that you are not okay and you need to change who you really are to be acceptable to your family and your God. That's an incredibly threatening message. And it does a lot of damage to people."
Good, short, concise statement.
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "Back at the seminar."
BARKER: "Are you here to try to convert gay people?"
MIKE HALEY, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: "No, not at all. That's not our goal here today."
BARKER, VOICEOVER: "Organizers brought in police in case there were protesters. There often are at these events, but not today."
Gee, a little paranoid -- especially considering few people apparently even knew of the conference. Having the cops there must have added to the conference attendees' perception that they were persecuted believers in a godless, liberal city. Does the conference foot the bill for the police? Was there a police presence at Love Welcomes All?
BARKER: "And the conference ends tonight. A group of Christians who oppose Focus on the Family's message is holding a rally elsewhere this afternoon."
Interestingly, the only other news item I could find was a Salem-News.com article that focused mainly on the Love Welcomes All conference. I did see part of the KGW report, but it also focused on Love Welcomes All mostly. Maybe the ex-gay movement is becoming too fringe and discounted to be seriously covered anymore.
I felt a little guilty for not going to the Loving Welcomes All conference. I went to the conference in 2003, but I didn't feel a need to go this year. It's been over ten years since my ex-gay experience and I feel I've 'been there, done that' -- in terms of working through the ex-gay stuff. Of course, I still have an interest in the issue, but it doesn't go beyond browsing the web.
08/07/2007 11:45 AM UPDATE: Revised, added some thoughts, hopefully improved.