Co-pastor of The Crossing Church Keith Simon gave a sermon on October 13, 2019 that discussed gender roles in the bible. Though he began by emphasizing the church’s approach to inclusion and diversity, much of his conversaiton fixated on the church’s view that transgender people are living against God’s design. This sermon has been widely criticized by Columbia’s LGBTQ community for its inclusion of language and ideas frequently associated with transphobia and anti-trans violence.
Public response to the sermon also through The Crossing’s relationship with local arts organizations into the spotlight. Sager Braudis Gallery announced the end of its partnership with the church, and a petition circulated with thousands of signatures asking Ragtag Film Society and True/False Film Festival to do the same.
That Friday, five days after the initial sermon, Ragtag and True/False announced the end of their relationship with The Crossing. True/False co-founder David Wilson says the organizations’ shared board responded as quickly as it could.
“I think that though Pastor Simon’s heart may have been in the right place, his words were really hurtful,” Wilson said. “ And they were specifically really hurtful to our trans community who are a really vulnerable population.”
Wilson said the partnership with The Crossing has been controversial from the start.
“It was from the very beginning an unusual, and in fact, unique partnership,” Wilson said. “It was risky on both sides.”
The Crossing contributed about 1.5% of Ragtag Society’s annual budget Wilson said while it’s not a major part of the budget, every dollar counts.The effect of the dropped sponsorship remains to be seen.
“I think we’re in a moment of great cultural upheaval. Being an optimist I tend to hope and believe that upheaval leads to progress,” Wilson said. “I’m not sure where things go on a broader cultural scale, but I do believe that film can play a very important cultural dialogue and creating spaces for cultural conversation.”
This piece was originally aired on Off The Clock hosted by Emily Aiken. Ben Singson and Nathan Lawrence helped produce this story.