An Ohio megachurch has apologized after a guest speaker from a socially conservative advocacy organization drew backlash and protests from the LGBT community and its supporters.
Demonstrators gathered on Sunday for a protest at the Crossroads Church campus in the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinatti following a speech made by David Mahan, the director of policy with Center for Christian Virtue, Ohio's largest Christian public policy organization, on Sunday, July 18.
With several campuses, the church is the largest church in the tristate area.
Mahan was invited as part of a series of guest speakers and spoke to the audience about gender identity and gender transitioning.
During his speech, Mahan touched on the effects of puberty blockers on trans-identified children and families.
According to The Enquirer, Mahan argued that trans individuals should be viewed similar to anorexic individuals who are suicidal because they think they are fat.
Mahan reportedly asked the congregation what they would do if an anorexic teen came before them saying she was suicidal because she was fat.
"What is your response? Affirmation, or do you try to get her distorted mentality of herself to line up with her biological reality? What do we do? And if we do the latter, why wouldn't we do it with the same dysphoric condition of transgender?" Mahan said.
The church's auditorium was reportedly filled with applause. Mahan concluded the talk by citing data from a study attributed to the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Mahan reportedly called it the "best science we have on this topic to date."
“We are hosting a demonstration as a response to the Crossroads sermon from last Sunday, which was primarily talking towards transgender people and transgender youth in which they made a lot of hurtful comments about transgender youth and transgender people,” co-organizer of the protest Jack Crofts told Fox Now 19. “We came out here to show our support for the LGBTQ community and also to hold Crossroads to account to what they’ve said and get them to solidify their viewpoints.”
In response to the backlash last week, Crossroads Church released a statement to WCPO offering an apology.
"This past weekend, Crossroads hosted a guest speaker who broached the subject of children seeking to transition to a different gender. Unfortunately, there are many who have been hurt and are looking for clarity," the statement reads.
"Regardless of a person’s sexual or gender identity, we love them and welcome them, as does God. What was shared this weekend was never meant to hurt anyone, and we deeply regret that it did. This is a topic that warrants increased care and empathy and we’re sorry that didn’t happen this weekend. Crossroads also does not financially or otherwise support any political organizations and their platforms including the Center for Christian Virtue, where this weekend’s speaker is employed. We have no intention of being activistic in this or any other political space. Our main goal has and will always be to bring people to Christ."
Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that the invitation for Mahan came after Crossroads staff saw a video of him preaching at Columbus Christian Center in May on the "medical and political movement to put children on dangerous cross-sex hormones and sterilizing puberty blockers."
"I was blessed to attend all three services, and was deeply moved by the response of the congregation — there were standing ovations for David’s message and his conversation with Senior Pastor Brian Tome at the end of every service," Baer explained.
"However, as with all conversations around sensitive topics such as the effects of puberty blockers being forced on families and children, there were some in attendance and online that were offended by David, and condemned Crossroads for giving his message a platform."
"In the wake of the backlash, Crossroads released this statement, apologizing for causing harm to people. They also removed any mention of David, CCV, or his message from their website and social media," Baer added.
Baer argued that it is "essential churches continue to press into this very urgent issue."
"In today’s culture, any discussion of gender identity is going to spark harsh backlash. Yet few speakers in the country understand the real-life impact of the transgender movement like David Mahan," Baer stressed. "He’s personally witnessed the pressure children are under today, and has sat with parents who have been bullied and intimidated by doctors to put their children on dangerous experimental procedures for the purpose of 'gender transitioning.'”
Baer stated that at least five "gender clinics" in Ohio are "pushing cross-sex hormones and puberty-blocking drugs on children."
"Cincinnati Children’s Hospital attested under oath that for 100% of the children that enter their clinic, they recommend cross-sex hormone therapy," Baer said. "These treatments have not been approved by the FDA, and cause permanent bodily damage."
In response to the many who took to social media to express distaste for the guest speaker, Mahan told WCPO Cinncanati that he loved the congregation and that he wanted to help steer kids suffering from gender dysphoria away from suicide.
A shocked and devastated congregant, Ashli Kurzhals, who attended the service, told The Enquirer that it felt like the rug was being ripped out from underneath her because she once thought the church was affirming and accepting.
"It felt like the rug was being ripped out from underneath me. I came here thinking it truly was an affirming, accepting church," Kurzhals was quoted as saying. "And sitting inside that service last week, I was appalled, disgusted, and then devastated to see how many people stood up in ovation to the message."
Brian Webb, a former worship leader at Crossroads, talked to news outlets to address his concerns about Mahan's comments.
"I was shocked," Webb was quoted as saying. "He was saying we need to keep transgender people and activists out of the church. That causes so much pain to a group that's already very vulnerable and marginalized."
Fox Now 19 reported that Lead Pastor Brian Tome addressed the controversy during this past Sunday's service.
“This past week we have heard from a wide range of people who are hurt. Those from the LGBTQIA+ community, those who have friends in the LGBTQIA+ community, teachers who didn’t feel supported, and last but not least, those who are upset that we seem to be apologizing for everything that was said and being weak and afraid of ‘cancel culture,'" Tome said.
"As you know, our community’s unique, and that we go to the scriptures for how life is best lived. We do this in a transparent and respectful way. Of all the mistakes I made last week, the biggest was I didn’t say this, ‘We love people in the LGBTQIA community, and that wasn’t clear last week. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. That is on me. God loves all people.”