Speakers & Panelists

Dr. Mel White is the founder of Soulforce, a LGBT organization seeking nonviolent dialogue with Christian leaders.  Before coming out, Dr. White was a ghostwriter for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson.  Dr. White’s journey is recounted in his autobiography, Stranger at the Gate (1994).  His most recent book, Religion Gone Bad (2007), is an expose of the Christian Right.  During the past twenty five years, the Rev. Dr. Mel White and his partner, Gary Nixon, have traveled across the country, speaking on university campuses, teaching the “soul force” principles of Gandhi and King, organizing people of faith to do justice, and confronting religious leaders whose anti-gay rhetoric White believes, “leads to the suffering and death of God’s lesbian and gay children.”  You can read more about Dr. White’s amazing life story and his dedication to bring justice to the LGBT population here.

Wayne Besen founded the nonprofit Truth Wins Out (TWO) in 2006, which was instrumental in convincing Apple Computers to drop its ‘gay cure’ iPhone app.  He has written two books on the ex-gay movement: Anything but Straight (2003); and Bashing Back (2007) and has appeared on The NBC Nightly News, Fox’s O’Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes, MSNBC News, PAX’s Faith Under Fire, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.In 2006, Besen was recognized in the Advocate Magazine’s  “People of the Year” issue.  In 2010, Besen was awarded the “Visionary Award” at the Out Music Awards for organizing the American Prayer Hour, an event  which shined a spotlight on the role American evangelicals played in the introduction of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Rev Linda Veltheim is an ex-gay survivor and a minister.  Linda attended South-Eastern University of the Assemblies of God in Florida and holds a BA in Bible Studies and Administration of Christian Education. She ministered in French Quebec for 12 years with the Home Missions Dept of Les Assemblee de Pentecote du Canada, both French and English Conferences. She was a founding member and teacher of Formation Timothee, a French Bible College, with an emphasis on ministry and outreach.  Linda was ordained with the International Christian Community Church denomination in 2004 and is currently serving the congregation at New Creation as associate minister.

Cecil Bothwell is an Asheville City Councilman and author of several books including Prince of War, an expose on Billy Graham.  He has owned and operated Brave Ulysses Books, a micro-publishing company, since 2000.  Cecil made news in 2009 when he won his bid for a seat on city council due to his bold profession that he was a nontheist, and remains one of the few nontheists serving in public office in the country.  Cecil is an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville and a regular volunteer in the community.   He is a champion of LGBT rights and a supporter of the LGBT community.  Cecil recently announced on his blog, cecilbothwell.com, his run for Congress in the upcoming 2012 elections to represent the 11th District of North Carolina.

Rev. Bill Johnson  is a former Southern Baptist pastor who is currently retired and living with his partner Rick.  Bill and Rick have been together twenty years and just celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Bill is an active member of New Creation and has served the last four years on the steering committee of LOVE WELCOMES ALLHe is also administrator of the on-line social network for LOVE WELCOMES ALL where members are welcomed worldwide.

Angel Chandler is the North Carolina State Organizer for GetEQUAL NCthe North Carolina chapter of the national LGBT civil rights group GetEQUAL.  Angel and her partner, Mary Counce, made news in 2010 when the ACLU represented them when a family court judge in Gibson County Tennessee banned Angel’s partner from overnight stays their home when Angel’s minor children were present due to what the judge referred to as moral concerns regarding the couple’s same-sex relationship.  The ACLU took the case to the Tennessee appellate court twice, overturning the family court judge’s ruling both times. The case, Chandler v. Barker, set precedent in Tennessee law.  Angel is also an ex-gay survivor who spent one year with Restoration, the Memphis, TN women’s chapter of Exodus International.

Jessica Carter is an ex-gay survivor who was removed from her senior year of high school to be admitted to Mercy Ministries of America, a residential treatment facility for wayward girls, to help “cure” her homosexuality.  At Mercy she was grouped in with young women facing serious life issues such as drug addiction, eating disorders and unplanned pregnancies. After leaving Mercy, she was a part of Restoration, the Memphis, TN women’s chapter of Exodus International, for several months before coming to terms with her sexuality and relocating to Phoenix, AZ.  There she became active in the local gay community, volunteering with her church, the Phoenix chapter of PFLAG,and sharing her story with businesses as part of their corporate diversity training programs.

Rabbi Philip J.Bentley is retired from the Agudas Israel Congregation in Hendersonville. He holds a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters (BHL) and a Master ofArts in Hebrew Letters (MAHL) from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.  A Doctorate of Divinity was conferred on him after twenty-five years of rabbinic service.  Phil has served congregations in Massachusetts, New York, and the Netherlands Antilles, has been a Hillel Director at the University of Denver, a rabbinic school administrator, and a college instructor, and has been active in many Jewish and interfaith organizations, working for human rights, the environment, and peace.  He and his wife Phyllis have two grown sons and make their home in Hendersonville.

Rev. Joe Hoffman is the senior pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville.  He has an MA in Christian education from Scarritt Graduate School in Nashville, TN, and a master’s of divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Joe decided in 2006 that he would no longer legalize heterosexual marriages until he could do the same for all people partnered in mutual, loving, and just relationships.  He and his spouse, Noel Nickle, are founding members of People of Faith for Just Relationships (PFJR).

Rev. Victor Mansfield is a Raleigh native, ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1982. He has served parishes in central North Carolina and southwestern Virginia and has been rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher since 2000. He describes coming out—to himself, God, his family, and parish—as his most profound spiritual journey.



More panelists possible:  stay tuned!

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