ASHEVILLE, N.C. — North Carolina organizations confronted issues of homosexuality, “ex-gay” reparative therapies and religion recently. Exodus International’s “Reality of Grace” conference was June 8-11 near Black Mountain. In Asheville, organizers with the No Exodus Project hosted national and local speakers to counter the “ex-gay” comference and discuss the harm of religion-based discrimination, the “ex-gay” industry and more.

Asheville’s “The Reality of Will and Grace: a Refutation of the Exgay Movement,” was held June 8-11 and included panel discussions, special guest speakers and exhibits at a downtown jazz and blues bar and at First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Speakers at the events included keynote speaker Dr. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, and Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out.

Soulforce is an LGBT organization seeking nonviolent dialogue with Christian leaders.

Besen founded the nonprofit Truth Wins Out (TWO) in 2006, which was instrumental in convincing Apple Computers to drop its “gay cure” iPhone app.

Other speakers included Asheville City Councilmember Cecil Bothwell, Rev. Linda Veltheim, Rabbi Philip J. Bentley, Angel Chandler of GetEqual North Carolina, Rev. Joe Hoffman, ex-gay survivor Jessica Carter and Rev. Victor Mansfield.

The conference’s opening night gala featured a presentation by Cecil Bothwell on the Religious Right’s campaign against the LGBT community.

On June 14 in Phoenix, Ariz., a coalition of LGBT leaders and allies met with Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright. They demanded apologies from Wright and the SBC who had refused to budge over the SBC and Wright’s stance on biblical beliefs on “LGBT lifestyle,” reported the Baptist Press.

A “teach-in” by the coalition preceded the convention, where it “asked…for an apology for the harm caused by church teaching that justifies and promotes prejudice and condemnation toward LGBT individuals,” Believe Out Loud added.

Believe Out Loud added that those in attendance at the meeting were: Faith in America’s Mitchell Gold and Bret Childers; Robin Lunn, Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists; Truth Wins Out’s Besen; Ben Alley, an 18-year-old who was kicked out of his home by his Baptist minister father when he came out, but managed, with the help of others, to survive and thrive afterward; Dr. Jack McKinney, a former Southern Baptist minister; Rev. Dr. Anthony Spearman, an AME pastor and chair of the religious affairs committee of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP; Brad Wishon and Jimmie Gruender, both with the Phoenix chapter of Human Equal Rights Organizer (HERO), which coordinated volunteers and assisted in setting up the meeting with Wright.

“I was proud to be a part of this historic meeting,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “This was a rare opportunity to give a first-hand account of the harm the Southern Baptist Convention’s teachings have caused LGBT people, particularity youth. I was also able to look Bryant Wright directly in the eyes and tell him that his ‘ex-gay’ ministries don’t work and are shattering lives.”

— compiled from releases