COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The memorial outside Club Q now has a team of people watching over it every day. People there say it’s needed after a well-known evangelical ministry group with anti-LGBTQ beliefs deployed to Colorado Springs following the shooting last week.
In response, a group of local queer-affirming clergy members took it upon themselves to make sure everyone feels welcome at the memorial.
"It’s a trigger here in Colorado Springs. Evangelicalism has done a lot of harm," Rev. Mallory Everhart, a Pastor at Vista Grande Community Church United Church of Christ, said. "So even if they were truly trying to do something good and their hearts were in the right place, it brings up so much of the extra trauma on top of what we’re already going through."
Everhart is a Pastor at the Vista Grande United Church of Christ in Colorado Springs. She's leading that group of queer-affirming clergy standing watch to make sure everyone feels welcome and has someone to talk to who understands their pain.
Her idea was born after she heard people came to the memorial to mourn and were met by members of an evangelical ministry group with anti-LGBTQ beliefs.
"I am a member of the LGBTQ community, and I am also an ordained Christian Pastor. Lots of times people think that those two things are antithetical, and I am here living proof that they’re not," Everhart said. "Some of the folks who have come out here and are trying to do ministry really don’t have that cultural humility that’s needed to really meet the needs that area actually here. In their desire to help, they’ve actually caused a lot of spiritual harm."
Members of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team were seen at the memorial last week and sparked some research.
It didn’t take long to find a page on their website that says homosexuality is a “sin.” Before people can volunteer as chaplains to deploy to natural disasters and mass casualty events, the application asks them to affirm that “marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”
While the association put out a press release saying its rapid response team was deploying to the shooting at a nightclub in Colorado Springs, it did not make any mention that it was an LGBTQ club.
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released the following statement to 9NEWS:
"The shooting that killed 5 people and wounded dozens of others at the LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs was horrifying and heartbreaking. This evil act has shaken the entire community, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) deployed crisis-trained Rapid Response Team chaplains to comfort and pray with those who are mourning, just like the international Christian evangelism organization has done in hundreds of other hurting communities around the world. When our chaplains deploy, there are often many people who ask for prayer, and interaction with our chaplains is always completely voluntary. The chaplains are simply there to offer hope and comfort during times of crisis, providing a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on for people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Since 2001, The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT) has responded to over 680 crises. From hurricanes and floods, to shootings including the recent incidents in Uvalde, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri, chaplains have provided emotional and spiritual support to those who are suffering. This year alone, BG-RRT has deployed to 31 disasters. While chaplains were in Colorado Springs, they were able to listen, comfort and pray with many people who were hurting. This is what we do."
The association did not respond to questions from 9NEWS regarding the organization's anti-LGBTQ beliefs.
Different evangelical groups in the 1990s started a movement in Colorado Springs to pass an amendment to the state constitution. Amendment 2 made it illegal to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people based on sexual orientation. It was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1994.
"Club Q was one of the only places for queer people to congregate here in Colorado Springs, a place that was uniquely ours that we could go to and be ourselves," Everhart said.
She said she has queer affirming clergy coming to help her at the memorial from as far as Cheyenne, Wyoming. They have a rotation going to have someone out there from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
"If you’re not for the queer community and you’re not out and loud and saying, ‘we’re on your side,’ then you’re not a safe person," Everhart said. "You can’t be wishy washy about this in this very politicized moment."
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