"This was an opportunity for as a church to help the people who attend our church and those in the community to learn more about unwanted same sex attraction," said Sheryl Busby with The Bridge Church.
The president of Exodus believes people can choose not to participate in homosexuality. Alan Chambers said leaving that lifestyle was the best decision of his life. "For so many people they grow up feeling these struggles and they never hear that there is an alternative. They hear that once you're gay you're always gay. And yet the truth of it is there are thousands of people who are just like me who have chosen a different way to live. They've chosen to leave homosexuality behind," said Chambers.
Wednesday night, as people at The Bridge Church prepared for the conference, a group at another Fresno Church painted signs to demonstrate. Christa Lisbon with Wesley Celebration said, "We do believe that it's okay to for you to be gay and be a Christian."
Members of Wesley Celebration at Wesley United Methodist Church want people to know about another alternative, a church that welcomes them regardless of what their sexual orientation may be. They're afraid programs like exodus promote self hate. "Right after college I went through a program hoping to break away from those feelings and basically all it taught me was how to hide from myself, hide from other people and block myself off from the world," said Wendy Slack, also with Wesley Celebration.
Jeffrey Robinson, a licensed marriage and family therapist who also works with a Fresno gay and lesbian advocacy group, says most in the mental health community feel programs like Exodus can actually do more harm than good. Robinson said, "They try to conform to something that's not them. It's like trying to put a square peg in a round hole it doesn't work."
Exodus says research proves otherwise. This weekend, people will be able to find out for themselves. "We may not choose our feelings but we can choose how we live out our lives," said Chambers.
One of the keynote speakers at this week's conference is Dr. Nancy Heche, the mother of actress Anne Heche, who will talk about the spiritual effects homosexuality can have on a family. Demonstrators will be outside the church Saturday, the final day of the conference. Exodus organizers said they're welcome.