She’s not interested in "praying the gay away."
A Lake Country woman is speaking out after joining a church she thought was accepting and affirming to the LGBTQ+ community.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Castanet she started looking for an inclusive church more than a year ago and saw a social media post from a pastor. She asked if the church was LGBTQ+ affirming and she says he told her "you will be loved here."
“He didn’t specifically say, 'yes you’ll be affirmed here.' [But he did say] 'Absolutely, we are welcoming, you will be loved here,'' the woman told Castanet. She assumed that meant yes.
It was later, as she was going through the process of becoming a full-fledged member at Lake Country Alliance that she became suspicious the church wasn’t as welcoming as it claimed.
Another member of the congregation started sending her links to videos, including one by the American Family Association, which counsels against homosexuality, and another from Rosaria Butterfield, who does not think same-sex-attracted Christians should identify as gay Christians.
“Once we have our foot in the door, what is he saying to us? If you want to be included in the flock, in the fold, you have to repent of your sin of homosexuality? So, for me that means divorcing my wife of 17 years, it means trying to become someone I’m not. It means being told you can pray the gay away if you try hard enough.”
She wants places of worship to just be upfront about where they stand so members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t waste their time.
“Either saying, yes we are, please come to us, or no we’re not, please go elsewhere,” she said, adding that maybe they need to post a statement right on the front page of their websites.
The pastor of Lake Country Alliance, Sandy Colero, sent Castanet a statement. In part, it says he is sorry the woman felt harmed by certain materials she received and he’s disheartened he wasn’t informed of this sooner.
He goes on to say they are a compassionate and caring church. "We recognize that none of us is perfect and that all of us have fallen short of God’s standards. Rather than a safe haven for those who may feel put together, our church is a good place of healing for the broken and needy."
Colero has offered to further engage with the woman to find out more about the situation.
Former Kelowna Pride president Wilbur Turner has fought against conversion therapy and believes the woman was misled. “In terms of their not-so-subtle ways in trying to direct her into a certain direction in terms of becoming a full member in the church, by kind of letting them know it’s possible to change your sexual orientation.”
He explains there is a difference between an accepting church and an affirming church.
“Affirming means they go through a process where the members are all on board and they are trained,” he points to the United Church in downtown Kelowna as one of the only affirming congregations in the region.
Turner has done extensive research on what’s happening in the Okanagan and across Canada and says most evangelicals follow the doctrine of marriage being exclusively between a man and woman as written in the Bible. He has found evidence that members of the LGBTQ+ community are being targeted.
“They’re not calling it conversion therapy, but it's converting to Christianity in the way they believe the Bible teaches,” said Turner.