Former reality star Derick Dillard surprised many social media followers on Sunday by inviting LGBTQ people to his church. Dillard responded to many questions on the social media site, assuring fans that there was no ulterior motive. Whatever Derick’s motive, viewers wondered how accepting his church would really be of LGBTQ visitors. Then his church’s college campus made an announcement: they’re hosting a program on “same-sex attraction” the same week.
Of course, churches and religious denominations have a wide range of views on sexuality and gender, and some churches have actually fought for LGBT rights — in 2014, the United Church of Christ even sued the state of North Carolina, saying that a same-sex marriage ban violated their religious freedom to recognize LGBT individuals equally, according to Time. What about Derick’s church and the connected school, where Dillard is involved in the missionary program?
The announcement, made on the Cross Church College Facebook page hours after Derick Dillard issued his invitation, describes the event only briefly, naming the speaker, Rickey Chelette, and promising a talk on same-sex attraction.
Rickey Chelette is an executive director of Live Hope Ministries, an organization that describes itself as “[s]upport and resources for leaving homosexuality.” After the mass murder at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016, the man who will speak at Derick Dillard’s church campus published an article decrying the “love is love” motto of marriage equality.
“…decorated actor Lin-Manuel Miranda shared a sonnet in which he proclaimed that “love is love, is love, is love, is love…” to the uproarious applause of the audience. His words may have acted as a salve to the audience’s raw and wounded hearts, but in reality, his statement was a lie!”
While Derick Dillard maintained that he had no underlying motive in the invitation, he sidestepped questions that specifically asked whether his church hoped to “convert” any LGBTQ people who might attend.
Aside from inviting a speaker whose organization promotes “conversion” of gay people, the same week Dillard’s invited LGBTQ visitors, Derick’s church has been quite clear about their position on LGBTQ rights, and there’s no sign it has changed.
In 2004, Derick’s pastor, Ronnie Floyd, published a book titled The Gay Agenda. It urges the church to fight against an “agenda” that allows LGBTQ people to be seen as normal and acceptable in society. In 2015, as America waited to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on laws that forbade same-sex couples to wed, Floyd penned a missive, urging churches to stand against same-sex marriage, no matter what the ruling. In 2016, he called the marriage equality movement a “brazen attack” on the “most fundamental truth.”
It’s clear where Derick Dillard’s pastor stands. Dillard’s church is hosting a speech from someone whose website boasts of “converting” people to heterosexuality, concurrent with an invitation to LGBTQ visitors. Derick himself has expressed the opinion that the Boy Scouts accepting transgender members is “sad” and that the notion of being trans is a myth.
Whatever Derick Dillard’s intentions may be, viewers are skeptical, and Dillard’s own stated position, and that of his church and pastor, have potential visitors wondering what kind of welcome they’d really receive.