LGBT activists in Canada who are demanding that a Christian camp meeting scheduled for later this summer disinvite a pair of American ex-gay speakers do not understand the intentions of the event, according to a representative of the church overseeing the event.
Camp Pugwash, a Nova Scotia-based nonprofit owned and operated by the Maritime Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has garnered controversy and many headlines for its decision to invite two speakers from the Ohio-based "Coming Out" Ministries.
Mike Carducci and Danielle Harrison from "Coming Out" Ministries are scheduled to speak at the annual camp meeting, a multiday event happening in July.
An LGBT group in Halifax known as the Youth Project has a petition online demanding that the Maritime Conference disinvite the speakers, claiming that they support harmful "conversion" therapy practices.
"We now must reach out to our community for their support in reinforcing the reality that 'praying away the gay' will create inaccurate beliefs among youth, their parents and friends around ability to change sexual orientation or gender identity through dedication to faith, creating a sense of failure when this doesn't occur, and increasing the stigma and shame felt by LGBTQ2+ youth," read the petition in part.
"There is significant risk to causing anxiety, distress and mental health challenges including the possibility of suicidal thoughts or actions."
A spokesperson for the Maritime Conference, who talked with The Christian Post on the condition of anonymity, took issue with the portrayal of the camp meeting event, especially as it has been presented in the media.
"The press has not given a fair understanding of who they are," said the spokesperson, noting that "our churches have invited them many times" and that "'Coming Out' Ministries has trained our pastors on how to love and reach the LGBT community."
The spokesperson added that neither the camp nor the speakers support or offer sexual orientation "conversion" therapy, explaining to CP that the purpose of their remarks is to talk about their experiences with sexual identity and church welcome.
"Our speakers that are coming this summer to speak are speaking on their experience when they came to church, how it was difficult, and still is a difficult time for people in the LGBT community to come into church," said the spokesperson.
"There's still tension there and that's what they're coming to teach, to present, is how can we be a more loving church to people that come into our church."
"They come and talk about their experience with Jesus Christ, living fully in Him and that's what we want. We want to know how we can be a church that can reach all communities and all groups," the spokesperson added.
Based in Ohio, according to its website, "Coming Out" Ministries seeks to minister to "individuals struggling with their sexuality." Carducci and Harrison are on the leadership team and both formerly lived as members of the LGBT community.
"No greater joy has been experienced in our lives than that which has freed us from the chains of homosexuality," states the group.
"We uplift Jesus in presenting our unified ministry; 'Coming Out' Ministries. God called us out of the darkness into the light and it is because of this blessed experience that we celebrate 'Coming Out.'"