Pastor Apologizes to Congregation and “Cleanses” Church After Gay Man’s Speech

The pastor said he himself has been in a "wrestling match" with homosexuality.

A pastor apologized to congregants and led them in a "cleansing prayer" because a gay man spoke at the church before during a nonreligious philanthropy event.

The event, held earlier this month, called Rural Philanthropy Days, featured hundreds of non-profit leaders, as well as state and local officials, who met at Gateway Church, in Del Norte, Colorado, Patheos reports. The venue was selected for its size.

One of the speakers was Justin Garoutte, a research associate for the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) on the Reducing LGBTQ Adolescent Suicide study, who reportedly told his coming out story as part of the opening remarks and keynote local storytellers portion of the session.

According to Garoutte (below), Pastor Greg Schaffer, who was in the sound room, cut his mic and said he needed to watch what he said. When the pastor was convinced to turn the mic back on, Garouette said it seemed to be at a much lower level.

"Despite all of this, the hundreds of folks in attendance gave me a standing ovation," he told Patheos.

That weekend, on September 22, the church's pastor, Greg Schaffer, addressed Garoutte speaking there, as well as claiming another, unnamed individual also made remarks to which he objected.

"You ever get in a moment where you’re like, Okay, this isn’t happening right now, where this guy’s getting up and saying, ‘I’ve embraced my homosexuality, and I’ve given up on God and God can’t help me. He’s a hindrance and a person that makes me feel guilty, and so did the priest, and so I walked away,' and everybody said, 'Yay! Hey! All right!' Everybody claps."

He said he felt like he was in a biblical moment, left wondering what to do. He went on to call homosexuality a sin, saying that he personally has been in a "wrestling match" with the issue himself. He then claimed there was a "push out there that’s going into our school systems...our churches, into our communities, and more than that, into our families."

"I’m going to ask that you bow your heads with me and we just do a one-prayer cleansing of this sanctuary. This is God’s place," he told the congregation.

"So let’s put our hands together: Father, we recognize the call this morning. We recognize the privilege, the responsibility. And Lord, we pray for those that would have a different mindset, a different way, a different lifestyle. And Lord, we don’t condone that whatsoever here this morning. We pray that you will use us to be light that would shine in the darkness. And Lord, we pray for those that wrestle with all sin, not just one in particular. May we not be tolerant of one and intolerant of another."

His remarks can be seen in full below.

"Professionally and privately, I work to build health equity for LGBTQ youth throughout the region, and I know firsthand how homophobic remarks like Pastor Greg’s increase the fear and negative health outcomes (i.e., increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance use, among others) through minority stress for our LGBTQ family," Garoutte told the publication via email.

"That is why SLV Pride and the inaugural Pride Day and March this year in Alamosa were so important!"

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