The leaders of a Gainesville church say they are holding a conference this weekend to educate pastors, parents, and teens on how to love and accept everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The Ignite Life Center’s “Unbound” event is taking place Friday and Saturday at the church at 404 NW 14th Ave. The event caught the attention of some members of Gainesville’s LGBTQ community because of concerns over its similarity to conversion therapy.
Those concerns have led to a planned rally, “March on Gainesville: Free2BU” that will compete with the conference.
Mark Vega, senior pastor of Ignite, said the church has not done an adequate job of expressing the love of Jesus Christ to the entire community.
“It’s not about being gay or straight,” he said. “It’s not conversion therapy. It’s none of that. It’s just showing the love of Jesus Christ. Those that maybe have a problem with it is because they don’t understand it or understand us.”
Jose Vega, no relation to the pastor, voluntarily underwent conversion therapy when he was 17 because he was taught to believe that being gay wasn’t acceptable.
“It’s not called conversion therapy,” he said. “They’re going to put it in the nicest way possible.”
Jose Vega will be speaking at the rally on Friday to share his story.
“People need to know the symptoms — the dangers — that these types of therapies can do,” he said.
The march and rally will take place between Northwest 2nd Avenue and North Main Street during the convention on Friday and Saturday.
Both events will feature guest speakers.