Nashville to host the 2010 Gay Christian Network Conference

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Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian NetworkOne might ask, "Doth my eyes deceive me?" Rest assured, you read the headline correctly.

The 2010 Gay Christian Network Conference is coming to the buckle of the Bible Belt Jan. 7-10, at the downtown Sheraton Nashville Hotel.

Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network, said it seemed a fitting time to bring the conference to Music City after previously holding it in Dallas, Orlando, Seattle, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.

“We’ve heard from many individuals in the music industry, particularly those in the Christian music industry who struggle with the intersection of their faith and sexuality," Lee said. "So Nashville just made sense.”

The theme of this year’s conference is “One Flock. One Shepherd,” which comes from John 10:16 — “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.”

Tony CampoloThroughout the course of the conference there will be a variety of workshops held to discuss topics such as “The Bible and Homosexuality,” “Support for Parents,” “Couples Communication” and “Responding to Homophobia.”

Additionally, three keynote speakers will be featured including international media commentator, author and ordained minister Tony Campolo and TEACH co-founder Mary Lou Wallner. Wallner and her husband founded the organization which strives to "To Educate About the Consequences of Homophobia" after losing their lesbian Christian daughter to suicide in February 1997.

Derek Webb, who is most likely known as a member of the award-winning Christian rock group Caedmon’s Call, will perform a concert on Friday. Webb is most recently recognized for his powerful work as a solo artist and his new album "Stockholm Syndrome" which has made waves in the Christian music world in part for a song decrying homophobia in the church.

Mary Lou WallnerRegistration is $149 for the full conference, $30 per day for Thursday or Sunday, and $60 per day for Friday or Saturday. Discounts and additional information are available at gaychristian.net.

In the late 90’s gaychristian.net began as a Web site for Lee to recount his beliefs and convictions of what it means to be a gay Christian. Since then, his website has taken him to numerous media outlets including the Dr. Phil show, The New York Times, OUT magazine, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

What he didn’t expect was the amount of e-mail he began to receive. On a daily basis, Lee began receiving e-mail from around the world from people who felt trapped, alone and confused because of their inability to reconcile their faith and their sexuality.

Derek Webb - photos providedAs he continued to minister to those who were writing, his email inbox continued to fill.

“I was literally getting thousands of e-mails," Lee said. "So my Web site continued to grow and I formed an online community.”

That online community would eventually lead to the formation of the first Gay Christian Network Conference held in Dallas in 2005. While approximately 40 people attended that event, the conference grew to have more than 300 in attendance just five years later.

The 2009 conference brought together more than 300 Christians from around the world for an unforgettable, life-changing experience. Lee said he hopes this year’s participants will be impacted just as much.

“I would like for people to come away with two things," he said. "First, that God loves them regardless of who they are or what they struggle with. And second, that there is an incredible network of Christians out there for support.”