A Colorado southern Baptist pastor has ignited controversy in the small town of Del Norte after a video went viral showing him performing a cleansing prayer on his church in response to a gay man sharing his coming out story in the building a few days prior.
The local LGBTQ community was horrified and demanded an apology from Pastor Greg Schaffer. Protests formed outside Gateway Church. Unfortunately, some of the outrage skewed towards threats. Several Facebook posts against Schaffer’s actions were removed as they were deemed to be violent threats.
So how did this happen exactly?
Days before the pastor performed the objectively insulting “cleansing prayer,” the San Luis Valley Rural Philanthropy Days conference stopped by Del Norte and held an event at the church. According to the Denver Post, the conference is “a twice-a-year program that brings together local nonprofits, grant-makers and community leaders. The goal of the three-day gathering is to give the opportunity for smaller, rural nonprofits to get much-needed face time with donors and to expand professional networks.”
Justin Garoutte, a gay 29-year-old who grew up in a small town near the New Mexico border, was chosen to give a keynote speech.
Garoutte chose to use his time at the mic to share his coming out story publicly for the first time in his life. He spoke of how coming to terms with his orientation clashed with his religious upbringing, and how he would recite hundreds of Hail Marys and Our Fathers hoping for a miracle.
Then in the middle of his speech, his mic cut out.
Schaffer, watching from the back of the church, yelled for Garoutte to watch what he was saying. It was later determined that the pastor had intentionally switched off the microphone.
When the mic was finally turned back on (at a much lower level), Garoutte finished his story and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I was very emotional,” Garoutte told the Denver Post. “I was teared up. It was really touching to share.”
During a church service just a few days later, Schaffer told his congregation they “do not endorse homosexuality in the church.” He then instructed everyone to bow their heads so he could perform the “prayer cleansing.” Video of the moment spread rapidly across social media.
“If you go on social media, you get one side,” Schaffer told the Post. “If you think you know me from listening to a three-minute clip with no back story — even I look at it and say, ‘That’s pretty heavy. That’s rough.’ ”
Later, after many conversations with local activists and with the aim of deescalating the public outcry, he wrote:
“I understand now that the impact of my words were deeply hurtful, especially to the LGBTQ community and for that, I am truly sorry.”
Unfortunately for Schaffer, things tend to have a long shelf life on YouTube, and the sermon is likely to follow him for quite some time.
You can watch it below: