It’s not unusual anymore to see Christian groups at gay pride parades. Members of the Mormon Church have freely marched at Pride in Salt Lake City. Members of the Chicago-based Marin Foundation attend pride festivals every year with signs reading “I’m sorry” to apologize for Christians’ hateful actions against LGBT people. Gay-affirming churches attend by the dozens.
That’s why it wasn’t shocking for passersby at Twin Cities Pride in Minnesota last month to see a Christian group called Trinity Works talking with people at the parade. Most thought it was a sanctioned Pride activity.
Not so much.
Trinity Works is an Evangelical group that claims it can heal HIV/AIDS through Jesus. And when it set up a “corn feed” at Pride to offer people corn, water and conversation, they were actually setting up a bait-and-switch operation to try to shame LGBT people into “surrendering” to Jesus.
The “Humility Outreach,” as they called it, didn’t come out of nowhere. Word got out late last month that they were planning to “infiltrate” Twin Cities Pride believing they could “cure” people of HIV/AIDS. According to Andy Birkey at TheColu.mn, they went as far as to deliberately imitate Pride workers and medics to trick people into talking to them.
Some of the outreach workers posed as medics and evangelized to people who sought assistance.
The Trinity Works group created fliers to mimic those being handed out by OutFront to warn the community about the groups efforts to evangelize.
Outfront also notes that Trinity Works’ outreach workers appeared to have started wearing coral colored shirts to mimic OutFront Minnesota support team members in an attempt to confuse Pride attendees.
Trinity Works members coaxed Pridegoers into their corn feed station wearing shirts that read “What’s Your Story?” When people wandered in for food and small talk, outreach workers sat down with them and began interrogating them about Christianity and being LGBT.
Trinity Works held a corn feed at 11th Street and Hennepin Avenue along the Pride parade route. According to OutFront, the support team had to counsel dozens who mistakenly thought it was part of Pride activities. “Pride-goers who went in, assuming it was LGBTQ-friendly, were surrounded by Trinity works people who said they would burn in hell because of their sexual orientation,” OutFront’s Monica Meyer said in a statement. “Our support team counseled more than a dozen people who unknowingly went in and left the corn feed shaken, crying and traumatized.”
Members of the group have since bragged on Facebook and elsewhere about how many poor gay souls they “saved.” Josh Gillespie posted publicly, “80 people surrendered or recommitted their lives to Jesus!!!! 40 healings!! 14 baptized in the Holy Spirit!” Others posted pictures of the church members posing innocently with the people they’d preyed on.
Birkey went a step further and spoke to Trinity Works members to try to get them to come clean about their real intentions during Pride, and the resulting video is cringeworthy:
It goes without saying that this “church” did something despicable. Pride is meant to be a safe space. There are always angry proselytizers set up behind fences, yelling Bible verses that are hardly audible over music and cheering, but we’ve learned to ignore them (or, better yet, mock them). This stunt, though, is a whole new level of messed up.
On the role of religious or non-religious groups at Pride events, P.Z. Myers adds:
Every year, Minnesota Atheists participate in the gay pride event in Minneapolis — they don’t go in to make “conversions,” but to show support for our fellow citizens. There is no flaunting of trophies afterwards, no singling out of gay folk who Suddenly! Turned! Atheist! because of our godless proselytizing, because that’s not what it’s all about. In particular, the purpose isn’t to steal attention from the real goals of the event, which are all about equality and rights for same sex couples.
People like the members of Trinity Works are why the LGBT movement cannot bring itself to trust Christian allies. Nobody who was tricked into that corn feed will remember the pro-queer church groups who marched at Twin Cities Pride; they’ll remember this. I’d bet money that none of them will seek the arms of an affirming church to get over this experience; they’ll turn to their queer brothers and sisters and probably never set foot in a church again. (And with good reason!) Acts like this destroy the slow and barely perceptible progress that has been made in closing the gaps between LGBT people and the religious groups who systematically oppress, demean, and harass them.
I’m sorry, Twin Cities, that you had to go through this. And I’m sorrier for the countless LGBT Christians who feel just a little less safe now, just a little more hesitant to be themselves, knowing that some of their “brothers and sisters in Christ” would go to such great lengths to shame them.