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Baptist Body Says Gays Can Turn Straight

June 18, 2003|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — The Southern Baptist Convention announced a new initiative Tuesday to convince gays that they can become heterosexual if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their "sinful, destructive lifestyle."

At the denomination's annual meeting, leaders urged their more than 42,000 churches nationwide to reach out compassionately to gays with a message about how Christianity can save them.

"Homosexuals can find freedom from this sinful, destructive lifestyle," said Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptists' public policy arm. "They can be redeemed. They can be liberated."

There are several Christian groups in the U.S. that try to convince gays to become heterosexual. But David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group in Washington, said the ministries generally are attached to smaller or more "obscure" churches. The Southern Baptist Convention is the biggest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with 16 million members.

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