Medford pauses funding for church after allegedly being tied to ‘gay conversion therapy’

MEDFORD, Ore. — The City of Medford has paused funding for a church in the city after allegations were made that one of its leaders is tied to what’s commonly called gay conversion therapy.

A report from Siskiyou Abolition Project and Siskiyou Rising Tide claims Rogue Retreat’s Executive Director, Pastor Chad McComas and his church, Set Free Ministries, previously operated a program called Celebrate Recovery that does conversion therapy. That’s an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Rogue Retreat, a nonprofit that helps the homeless, has worked extensively with Medford in recent years. It already gets taxpayer money for “Hope Village” and the “Urban Campground.” Rogue Retreat and McComas said Thursday it welcomes everyone and the nonprofit has no religious affiliation and is separate from Set Free Ministries.

But the allegations still shocked many in the community, especially leaders in the LGBTQ+ community.

McComas said, “I know a lot of men who like other men, I know a lot of women who like other women, I know a lot of transgenders, at our housing programs we’ve had everyone, and we accept them, when they walk in the door, we don’t try to change them we don’t try to tell them what’s wrong we just try to help them get a roof over their head and the support services they want.”

McComas told us in the interview he doesn’t know what conversion therapy is.

In a statement, Rogue Retreat said it is not a faith-based organization and it is separate from Set Free Ministries, and it “does not promote or support conversion therapy.”

Below is Rogue Retreat’s official statement published on June 9, followed by Medford’s statement issued on June 10:

Rogue Retreat is a non-profit community service organization whose mission is to create opportunities for the homeless to have hope. Our Goal is to help people restore
their lives and move forward out of homelessness. We are working together to equip those experiencing homelessness with the tools and support they need to move into a life with stability, health, and hope. Rogue Retreat is not a faith-based organization and does not promote or support conversion therapy nor do we require any religion affiliation for services. Rogue Retreat is separate from Set Free Ministries and is not associated with the leadership of Celebrate Recovery in any way. Rogue Retreat meets participants as they are (many with addiction and/or mental health challenges) and provides creative and temporary housing for them — a place to call home. With community partners and supportive services staff, Rogue Retreat wraps itself around program participants to help them achieve their highest potential. Rogue Retreat staff come from all walks of life and our services are open to anyone regardless of age, color, disability, gender, sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation (LGBTQ+), national origin, race, religion, or veteran status. Rogue Retreat is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. To Rogue Retreat, equity means creating conditions that enable everyone to reach their full potential.

Statement from the City of Medford:

The recent allegations connected to Set Free Ministries has prompted the City to reiterate its commitment to non-discrimination. We do not support discrimination in any form and we value all members of our community regardless of LGBTQIA+ identity, race, gender, religion, and all other protected classes.

We are aware of recent concerns that have been raised about materials that were made available at Set Free Ministries in 2018. The City of Medford provided a general fund grant to Set Free Ministries in 2021 for services such as the food pantry and showers. The City has paused that funding pending an investigation of Set Free Ministries.

Set Free Ministries shares some personnel with Rogue Retreat, but the two organizations are legally and functionally separate entities. Rogue Retreat offers several programs supported by City resources (including land, funding, and/or facilities), specifically Hope Village, the Urban Campground, and the soon-to-open Navigation Center. All of these programs are established through Operational Agreements that contain non-discrimination provisions in an effort to ensure that all community members have access to these services.

For all of these programs, the City expects that no person shall be turned away based upon LGBTQIA+ identity, race, gender, religion, and all other protected classes, and no person shall be required to participate in religious services.

The City has asked the Rogue Retreat Board to conduct a full and objective investigation of these allegations.

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