LIBERTY, MO. Paul Smith says he's the only openly gay Southern Baptist pastor that he knows of, and God created him that way.
As Smith, the pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Kansas City, and other gay rights supporters quietly protested Saturday outside Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, another message was being presented inside.
Conservative Christian group Focus on the Family said its "Love Won Out" conference was meant to help people understand what causes homosexuality and how to prevent it.
But some protesters said people are born gay, and that can't be prevented.
"This is not a choice. It is not an illness," said Terry Norman, a Methodist minister from Kansas City and one of about 30 protesters.
Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family tells people to suppress their most natural inclinations, Norman said.
"To marry and have children doesn't make a person straight," Norman said.
However, conference organizer John Paulk said the symposium wasn't an attempt to force a cure on anyone.
"We're speaking to men and women who have unwanted homosexual feelings," he said.
Paulk said he is former homosexual who is now married with children. He admits, however, that one doesn't get rid of all homosexual desires overnight.
One of the most vocal critics of Paulk and Focus on the Family is Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. Phelps and about 10 protesters showed up outside the conference Saturday.
Phelps promotes the message that God hates gays and has criticized Focus on the Family for its message that they can change.
Paulk, however, said that God loves everyone.
"What we're trying to do is say you have to embrace homosexuals," Paulk said. But homosexuals "do not have to embrace this message that you are gay and that's the way God made you."