Gay students hold ‘dissident’ exhibit at Harvard College’s Faith and Action event | New

Donning the colors of the rainbow, a group of LGBTQ+ undergraduate students attended a Harvard College Faith and Action event last Friday to counter a message portrayed by the speaker that many of them deemed homophobic.

Titled “What’s the Good News for My LGBTQ+ Neighbors?”, the HCFA worship event featured Tyler S. Parker ’17, a minister from the group who discussed his theological decision to remain celibate as someone drawn to people of the same sex. Disagreeing, more than 20 students attended the event and then held a panel to highlight divergent LGBTQ+ experiences from Parker’s.

Abby D. McElroy ’24, who helped organize the panel held after the event, said it was important to show that there are spaces that fully support LGBTQ+ Christians.

“This event purports to say it’s Christian good news. But in fact, there’s so much Christian good news that’s fully affirming and so many Christian traditions that are fully affirming and loving queer people, queer identities, and queer people. ‘queer love,” McElroy said. “We want to make sure people know that in fact, a majority of Christians have a very different point of view.”

In a statement to The Crimson, HCFA co-chairs Katherine Wang ’23 and Felix D. Perez Diener ’23 wrote that HCFA aims “to be a place where any student can become a disciple of Jesus.”

“We are not perfect, but we strive to love others as Jesus commands us in John 15:12-13: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Greater love has no one but this, someone lay down their life for their friends,” they wrote.

Elizabeth S. Propst ’23, another panel organizer, said the LGBTQ+ student exhibit was meant to be “loving and compassionate,” but also “dissident.”

“We did it with the intention of not being aggressive to disrupt their event, but to let them know we’re part of this campus,” Propst said. “Their actions have impacts on people and communities that can cause a great deal of pain for people they may not interact with on a regular basis.”

HCFA has been no stranger to controversy over the years.

In 2018, the group sparked protests for hosting an event with outspoken gay critic Jackie Hill-Perry. HCFA was placed on probation by the College less than a week later after expelling an executive who was in a same-sex relationship.

Sarika Chawla ’23, who earlier this month denounced HCFA on a Lowell House mailing list, criticized the group for “tokenizing” its speaker at Friday’s event.

“It’s a homophobic theology that HCFA is pushing,” Chawla said. “This [Parker] He was told, essentially, that to be gay he had to be celibate forever, and not acting on his homosexuality was particularly heartbreaking.

In a statement to The Crimson, Parker wrote that he “was careful to only encourage students to use scripture to discern what Jesus might call them to embrace.”

“One thing I said is that as a queer single, unmarried Christian, I am invited to explore all the ways to cultivate intimacy and chosen family with other humans beyond the norm. sex, romance and marriage,” Parker wrote. “For decades, queer writers have been urging queer people to expand their horizons for intimacy and family, and I’ve just translated that message for Christian audiences.”

“If the platform of queer ideas is ‘homophobic,’ I have a different definition of the word,” he added.

Parker also wrote that being labeled as a “token” is an example of how the “queer community often fails black people in their use of racialized language”.

After the HCFA worship, the students hosted a panel with four speakers who identify as LGBTQ+ and Christian.

“It was really important for us to raise the voices of – in this case – Christians who fully affirm homosexuality and religion, and in particular the intersections of homosexuality and Christianity,” McElroy said. “It was a community space where people could think together, and we really wanted to cultivate a space that would elevate joyful intersections.”

Still, some attendees have called on the College to place HCFA on probation again for spreading a message that they believe contradicts the ideals of an inclusive campus.

“The thing I think HCFA should face penalties for is the fact that it’s not a queer-friendly organization,” Kate H. Travis ’22 said. “There is a scenario in which I could have been part of HCFA if I had been welcomed into this community.”

Perez Diener and Wang wrote that sanctioning HCFA would be detrimental to religious freedom at Harvard.

“We would have to deny what we believe the Bible says about sexuality in order to avoid probation – a chilling precedent for freedom of religion and thought at Harvard,” they wrote.

College spokesman Aaron M. Goldman did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the possibility of sanctions from the Dean of Students’ office in light of recent criticism of HCFA.

While Brit G. Shrader ’24 disagreed with HCFA’s message, they said spaces for LGBTQ+ Christian students — beyond HCFA — do exist on campus.

“Your love is beautiful. It’s precious. And there are spaces on campus that are non-HCFA and off campus that are completely queer and Christian,” Schrader said. “There are so many queer-affirming Christian spaces – they’re on campus, and there’s room for you.”

—Editor Vivi E. Lu can be reached at vivi.lu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.

—Editor Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at leah.teichholtz@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.

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