A one-day conference on homosexuality that offers a message of hope that change is possible recently celebrated its 10th year and may broadcast its anniversary celebration globally in the near future.
During the past decade, Focus on the Family estimated that over 50,000 have attended its Love Won Out Conference geared toward those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. If Christian network God TV, which offered to film the 10th anniversary conference, does broadcast the event as planned, Focus will reach over 125 million homes across the U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia.
"The platform God TV provides us is a dream come true and an answered prayer," commented Melissa Fryrear, director of Focus' gender issues department.
"Homosexuality affects men and women from different countries and cultures," Fryrear added in a press release. "Yet the Bible's message to them remains the same: change is possible for those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction."
Focus' conference on Saturday – the ministry's 52nd – was hosted at its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., at a time when issues relating to homosexuality, including gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy, have generated much controversy in politics and in churches.
On Nov. 4, California, Arizona and Florida will vote on constitutional marriage amendments that would define marriage to be between one man and one woman. In Connecticut, pro-family activists are urging the people of the state to vote "yes" for a constitution convention in hopes of overturning the 4-3 split decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court earlier this month that effectively redefined marriage in the state.
While Focus's Action arm has been active in speaking out against gay marriage throughout the country, the ministry sought to address the issue of homosexuality in a compassionate and respectable manner through the Love Won Out conferences.
At each conference, speakers talk about the family dynamics that can lead to the development of same-sex desires, the biased portrayal of homosexuality in the media and culture, and share their own personal testimonies.
Focus' Fryrear, who is a former lesbian, says she is a testament that the love of Jesus Christ does truly win over feelings of same-sex attraction. She now speaks at Love Won Out conferences and shares her struggles and triumph to an audience that is usually comprised of families of friends of gay loved ones.
According to Fryrear, the three goals of the meeting are to (1) help families to respond to someone struggling sexually, (2) offer hope to men and women struggling with same-sex attraction, and (3) equip Christians on how to engage the culture with regards to homosexuality.
Over the years, however, the suggestion made by Love Won Out speakers that same-sex attraction can be "overcome" has drawn fire by gay activists, who claim sexuality is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
In response to the 10th Anniversary of Love Won Out, local gay activists on Saturday met nearby at the Colorado College campus for a counter "Love Came Out" conference. The program attempted to warn against faith-based reparative programs.
Despite what critics may think, Focus has denied that they are trying to "pray away the gay" or "cure" gays and lesbians through the conferences.
"Such glib characterizations ignore the complex series of factors that can lead to same-sex attractions; they also mischaracterize our mission," states the Love Won Out Web site.
Focus maintains that sexual orientation is not "innate" or "fixed" but is developed across a person's lifetime. The ministry takes the American Psychological Association's position that homosexuality is likely developmental in nature and caused by a "complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors."
"We exist to help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome," Love Won Out organizers state. "It is not easy, but it is possible, as evidenced by the thousands of men and women who have walked this difficult road successfully."
With no end in sight for the Love Won Out conferences, the one-day events will continue trekking across the nation, speaking of the freedom that can be found in Christ. The next meeting will take place on Feb. 21, 2009, at Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C.