Source: Arizona State University Press, 1997-MAR-10; article in
Echo Magazine by Jeff Ofstedahl.
The initial meeting of the Hope '97 Tour was held in the Palmcroft
Baptist Church in Phoenix AZ. 40 conference attendees prayed for those who
"live in the sin of homosexuality." Half of them were gays and
lesbians that the keynote speaker had coaxed into the meeting. Meanwhile,
more than 100 gays, lesbians, human rights activists and followers of many
religions conducted a candlelight vigil to praise an inclusive God who loves
heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals alike.
The tour is sponsored by Americans For Decency and the American Family
Association. Executive director, T.C. Bundy, said "We are here to
spread love and compassion for those who don't understand that homosexuality
is a sin...We don't hate homosexuals...We want to educate them about
what the Bible says about homosexuality."
Cheri Stalmann, a 30 year old sociology student from Arizona State University
said: "Homosexuality is not a sin..."I believe in God and I'm here to show
my religious tolerance." Steve Wichard, 38 and gay agreed: "I believe in
God very much...But I don't believe that God loves people because of their sexual
The keynote speaker was Michael Johnston, president of Kerusso Ministers said
that God loves all, but homosexuality is a sin. "It's against God's will." He
claims to have been actively homosexual for 11 years. But then in response to prayer,
"One night I spent several hours on a beach crying and begging him to take the
homosexual desires away from me." Johnson said that he was "cured." Hatti
a 22-year-old University of Arizona sociology student, said that this type of transformation
is impossible: "You are born with your homosexuality...You cannot change it; it is who
Kris Ward, a graduate student in public affairs and member of the Interfaith Coalition
for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights, said that all people should affirm the
right to express love: "Different communities gathered tonight to protest the intolerance
that is being spread inside the church...We united here holding candles as our symbol of hope
As a result of his article in the Arizona State University Press, Joshua Solovskoy
was fired. He allegedly plagiarizing information directly from AFA literature.
Following the Friday night talk, there was a series of workshops to train local religious
activists in combating "the homosexual agenda." About 30 to 35
people attended. Workshop topics were: "Local Activism and the Homosexual Agenda,"
"Exposing and Countering the Homosexual Agenda," "Ministering to the Homosexual," and
"Faithful and True Groups-Christian Fellowship for Sexual Purity."
Former P-FLAG president, Bunny Tarquinio, said: "It was really hard to sit through
the seminars...Their problem is that they are looking at life through such a limited
view; a view we all don't share. There is no room for anything else in the world except
what they believe."
Johnson's Beliefs about Sexual Orientation
Johnson believes that everyone is born heterosexual; but some engage in
homosexual acts. He may represent an emerging belief in conservative Christian
belief about homosexuality: that homosexual orientation is fixed, but that a gay
or lesbian should be encouraged to deny or suppress their feelings and remain celibate.
When interviewed by Echo magazine, he said: "In my experience, it [his
rejection of homosexual behavior] was about denying sinful feelings, whether the
feelings ever went away or not, denying them and saying I am going to bring my life
in accordance with the word of God, regardless of how I feel."
He appears to promote the "virus" theory of sexual orientation: he believes "that
homosexuality is sin...that it is something that people get involved in because they
are exposed to it...I think that everyone would agree that corporations have some
sense of public responsibility. Part of that public responsibility is not to promote
behavior that we believe to be immoral."
He described the goals of the Hope 97 tour as:
"There are three things I want to talk about:
The very real consequences, spiritual and otherwise, if our society continues to
move towards the acceptance of homosexuality-which clearly the world is going in.
I want to talk about why I believe it is happening at this time. Two, I want to talk to
Christians who are involved in the 'pro-family' movement. Many of them are
getting frustrated because they are sensing despair because they see us as
losing the so-called battles. Frankly, we are losing more of the legislative
and court battles. This doesn't surprise me. Again, I think this is foretelling
of where we are in human history.
And I think sometimes that Christians forget what their primary purpose for
being here on this planet is. We need to take a public stand, but our goal is not
to win. Our goal is to take a stand and proclaim a biblical perspective on these
issues. I think the fact that we are not winning a lot of these foretells possibly
one of the greatest opportunities the body of Christ has ever had to proclaim the
Gospel of Christ. I think that out of these bad public policies is going to come
broken families, broken hearts, broken bodies, and really, those are the kinds of
people my savior specializes in.
And finally, to give a message of hope to people involved in homosexuality
and their friends and family members, that there is a way out. There is hope
Dates, Locations and Information
The Hope '97 tour plans talks and workshops in Dallas, March 21-22;
San Francisco, April 11-12; St. Louis, April 25-26; Chicago, May 9-10; Ft. Lauderdale,
May 23-24; New Orleans, June 6-7; Memphis, June 20-21; Minneapolis, July 11-12;
Kansas City, Aug. 1-2; Denver, Aug. 15-16; Seattle, Aug. 29-30; Los Angeles, Sept.
12-13; Atlanta, Sept. 26-27; and Washington, DC, Oct. 10-11.
Information can be obtained from the AFA at (601) 844-5036, or Kerusso Ministries at
We are encouraged that Michael Johnston is taking a more realistic view
towards sexual orientation: that it is a fixed condition
that cannot be changed, only suppressed and denied. If all of the
"ex-gay ministries" followed this belief system,
then they would not hold out false hope to gays and lesbians who approach
them, wanting to change their orientation.
A nationally advertised tour which attracts an audience of 25 people
from a city with 1 million population fits our definition of failure.