Cleveland--Two Cleveland groups have withdrawn their connection to a prayer service after discovering the organizer�s belief that gays should �change� their sexual orientation.
Worried that the event might have a hidden goal of attempting to �convert� gays to heterosexuality, the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland have cut ties with �Seeds of Faith.� The event describes itself as a prayer service �in honor of the Black, Gay and Proud Celebration, People Living with HIV/AIDS and the African American Same Gender Loving Community.�
�Seeds of Faith,� to be presented on July 31 by 4 Real Church Ministries and All Nations Church, approached a number of community organizations asking for their affiliation.
These included the center and the taskforce, and also the Black, Gay and Proud Celebration committee, which did not affiliate with it.
�We as the Pride committee met with the 4 Real Church representatives and they wanted to be our church service,� said Deb Sharp, a member of the committee and coordinator of BlackOut Unlimited�s Sisters Circle. �As you know, we are running August 1 to 7 so they just didn�t fit in with what was already planned.�
�Plus the fact that what they presented to us sounded a little off. Now I see why,� Sharp added. She pointed to an interview in a Christian magazine with James Jones, the organizer of the event.
After over a dozen questions with seemingly contradictory answers, the final question in the Fellow-Ship interview asks, �Do you encourage homosexuals to change their lifestyles, and if so, why?�
�Yes, the plan is that not one soul be lost in the Kingdom of Heaven,� replies Jones, who claims to have turned his back on his homosexuality but not his gay friends. �In order for any of us to reach the place, we must repent of all of our sins and do everything that is edifying to God.�
He also told the interviewer, �The Black, Gay and Proud Celebration is an event that the 4 Real Church and Seeds of Faith is holding a prayer and healing service for.�
The AIDS Taskforce, in a release, said the interview �has caused intense speculation about whether Seeds of Faith is actually a covert attempt to convert homosexuals to a heterosexual orientation using conservative religious theology.�
Jones could not be reached for comment.
�When I talked to him,� said Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce, �I asked him point-blank questions. I didn�t want to give him any wiggle room, and he lied.�
�I asked him if his goal was to convert people from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and he said no,� Pike continued. �I asked him if his idea of theology was that God loves you and doesn�t want you to change, and he said yes.�
�The Taskforce has a long history of partnering with faith communities with whom we�ve a respectful disagreement on issues of sexuality,� he noted. �However, those groups were forthright on their stance. We feel Mr. Jones was not.�
The AIDS Taskforce�s new director of education, L. Michael Gipson, credited the Black, Gay and Proud committee with bringing the issue to their attention.
�We became suspicious after receiving news from the Black Pride Committee that Jones deceptively claimed that Seeds of Faith was allied with the official annual Black, Gay and Proud Celebration, even after it was made clear to Jones that the Pride committee had not sanctioned his event.�
Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center executive director Sue Doerfer also pulled her organization out of the event because of what she viewed as a disingenuous presentation from Jones.
�This individual not only deceived our organizations but the entire LGBT community as well,� she said. �All members of our community should feel betrayed.�
The Black, Gay and Proud Celebration does include a gospel service, but it will be held a week after the �Seeds of Faith� service. The �Raise the Roof� gospel service will be at Archwood United Church of Christ, 2800 Archwood Avenue, on August 7. It is presented by Cleveland Black Pride, and is a traditional part of the annual festivities.
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