Beliefnet
DENVER, July 4 (AP)--A day before the Episcopal Church's national convention opened with a focus on controversial homosexual-related issues, dozens of gay and lesbian advocates were arrested Tuesday during a protest and conservative members unveiled a campaign saying homosexuals can change their lifestyles.

At issue at the 10-day Episcopal General Convention, which begins Wednesday, is a proposal to codify the 2.4 million-member denomination's unofficial policy of letting each diocese decide the role of gays and lesbians in the church.

Conservatives complain the measure violates church and biblical teachings. Liberals say it doesn't go far enough.

Soulforce, a gay and lesbian advocacy group that protested on the steps of the Colorado Convention Center, just wants the debate to stop and homosexuals to be accepted.

``For 30 years they've been discussing this. We're asking them now to resolve it,'' said Mel White, a founder of Soulforce and a minister in the Metropolitan Community Churches.

The group protested at recent Presbyterian and United Methodist national conventions, where delegates opposed consecrating same-sex unions and ordaining gays.

In Denver, White led more than 100 protesters wearing T-shirts with the slogan ``Stop spiritual violence.'' After singing songs from the civil rights movement and listening to speakers, the activists held hands in front of the convention center and waited for police to handcuff and lead them away to be cited for trespassing and disobeying police.

Among the first arrested was Jimmy Creech of Raleigh, N.C., a United Methodist minister who was defrocked in November for blessing same-sex unions. A total of more than 70 protestors were taken into police custody.

Also yesterday, members of the American Anglican Council, a group of conservative Episcopal clergy and lay members, launched a campaign aimed at refocusing the church on traditional values.

The council acknowledged that the claim by some religious groups that homosexuals can be converted to heterosexuality is controversial.

But the Rev. David Anderson of Newport Beach, Calif., said the ``God's love changed me'' campaign is intended to reconcile Episcopalians, not drive them apart.

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