At the end of a lecture by an “ex-gay” couple about the irreconcilability of God and gays, the executive board of SHADES walked out frustrated, offended and wondering: why were we invited?
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship last week sent an email to SHADES, a student group that caters to people of color in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) community, inviting them to a discussion to “engage and explore different perspectives and questions” about what Christianity says about sexuality, “specifically homosexuality.”
The discussion, however, featured only Melissa and Gary Ingraham, a married couple that said they both used to be homosexual after suffering from sexual abuse, but suppressed their homosexual desires.
The members of the SHADES executive board said that the meeting was one-sided and that they were not offered an opportunity to contribute to the conversation.
“It wasn’t even a discussion, it was just a lecture with a one-sided perspective,” said the vice president of SHADES, who requested that his name be left out of print to protect his privacy. “Then the ‘discussion part’ was just a Q and A where they gave out pieces of paper, everyone wrote down their questions, and then they passed it to the speakers.”
SHADES Treasurer Anthony Parris said the members of the group expected diverse perspectives about Christianity and homosexuality to be discussed at the meeting.
“They said two people [were speaking], so we assumed that it was going to be two people with opposing views on the topic, but no — it was a complete lecture,” Parris said. “They didn’t give the audience any room to talk at all.”
Members of the SHADES executive board said they felt misinformed about how the meeting would be run.
“To be invited under these kind of false pretenses, thinking that this was going to be a safe environment for LGBT issues, was what really upset us and really hurt us,” the vice president of SHADES said.
Members of SHADES, Rainbow Pride Union (RPU) and InterVarsity met later in the weekend to discuss the LGBTQ groups’ reaction to Friday’s talk.
InterVarsity Outreach Coordinator Janell Salmon said that InterVarsity members were unsure at first why SHADES members were offended by the meeting.
“After hearing a little more about their perspective, we realize that they felt attacked,” Salmon said.
InterVarsity wrote in a statement to Pipe Dream that they apologized to SHADES and RPU after they became aware that the SHADES executive board felt misled by the invitation.
“Fortunately, SHADES and Rainbow Pride Union were open enough to share with us how our process hurt them,” the statement read. “We are grateful that they reached out to us, because as Christians, we do think it is important that we admit when we are in the wrong.”
InterVarsity President Lauren Kirst, however, said the group supported the speakers’ viewpoints.
“As far as what they said, we uphold the Bible as truth and we believe that everything they said was within the Biblical truths,” said Kirst, a junior majoring in mathematics.
Parris said SHADES did not expect to see eye to eye with InterVarsity on the topic of homosexuality, but was bothered by the lack of collaboration.
“Obviously we’re going to be offended by what they say, with how they feel, but for me that’s just religion and you can’t really argue religion,” Parris said. “We were just offended by the fact that they invited us.”
Executive board members of SHADES said the safety of their members, especially members questioning their sexuality, was also an issue.
“If they had went to this meeting they would just be even more confused. They could possibly hurt themselves,” Parris said. “The goal of SHADES, RPU [Rainbow Pride Union] and Equality Project is to create a safe space, and this meeting was the total opposite of that.”
The executive board reported the incident to Dean of Students April Thompson, who suggested that the groups meet to discuss possible solutions. Following their meeting with InterVarsity, SHADES decided not to pursue the matter further.
“They were wrong, they made a mistake, and we forgive them,” the vice president of SHADES said. “But at the same time, you only get a chance to make this type of mistake one time.”