The 12PM shift of the protest of the Exodus International Conference drew about 20 people here in Fresno on Saturday, April 5th, along with a multitude of well wishing vehicles, who honked horns in support as they passed. The conference is a gay conversion program, offering speakers and guidance about “overcoming homosexuality”. I spoke to Christa Lisbon, one of the protest organizers from Wesley Celebration , an LGBT service at Wesley United Methodist Church
Chris Jarvis: How long have you been organizing this protest?
Christa Lisbon: We’ve been working on this protest for a week. We were notified about two weeks ago that Exodus was coming to town so we started to mobilize.
CJ: And Wesley Celebration is specifically geared toward the LGBT community here in Fresno?
CL: Yes, it’s a worship service offered on the first and third Sunday of every month at Wesley United Methodist Church.
CJ: Have you had any contact with the Bridge Church or the people involved with the conference?
CL: Yes, actually Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus, came out this morning and shook our hands. He said we’re welcome to come inside and speak to people.
CJ: Really? You’re welcome to come inside? Did he ask you to pay a registration fee?
CL: (laughs) No, he said we’d be allowed to come in for free, just to let them know at the door that he had invited us in, and we could come in and ask questions and attend any meetings we were interested in.
CJ: Do you have any plans to do that? Or do you fear for your life? (laughs)
CL: (laughs) At this point we don’t have any intention to. My wife, Wendy and I, who have organized this event, we’ve actually attended a program similar to this, so we’re quite familiar as to what we would hear.
CJ: Do you have any idea how many attendees they have here today?
CL: I heard they’d registered about 150 people.
CJ: Is it true they were having children come in here too?
CL: Yes. As long as you were an adult you could register kids all the way down to 13.
CJ: How do you at Wesley Celebration deal with all this. Do you, at your services, get a lot of people coming in who are questioning themselves?
CL: We do. That would be the majority of people who come to our group at Wesley Celebration. Most of them are just starting out their journey to reconcile with their faith and they want to know, how are you saying that this is okay when everyone else is saying that I’m wrong and I’m going to hell?
CJ: And has it been pretty successful on your part?
CL: I believe it has been. We’ve got a consistent crowd coming back and people are feeling, you know, this is the one time during the week that I get to feel loved and accepted, and I can be open with who I am. We have some who have to sneak out the back door when they leave because they can’t be open anywhere else, but at least twice a month they’re able to come and be accepted.
CJ: And what type of service do you have?
CL: Actually we have a very contemporary service. We have live worships and music and my wife is the one who normally speaks.
CJ: How many do you normally get?
CL: Around 20-30.
GayFresno thanks Christa Lisbon for this interview, and Christa and her wife Wendy for their organization of this protest, as well as all those who participated and continue to stand up for LGBT rights and equality in America.
Photos Courtesy of Chris Jarvis & Jim Daggs