GV students ask questions, get answers from Rev. Doug Van Doren in Q&A sessions sponsored by GVSU’s LGBT Center

courtesy / mlive.com
Rev. Doug Van Doren

Courtesy photo

courtesy / mlive.com Rev. Doug Van Doren

Paige Platte

Grand Valley State University’s LGBT Resource Center hosted Rev. Doug Van Doren Wednesday night at 7 p.m. to tackle one of the most common barriers people build against the LGBT community, religion.

Rev. Doug Van Doren has been working with Plymouth United Church of Christ in Grand Rapids for 34 years and has supported an understanding view toward the LGBT community.

The atmosphere was comfortable and open and students were able to ask questions without stating their names and receive answers from Rev. Van Doren.

REV. VAN DOREN: When you respond, “But I’m a person of faith” in response to someone being LGBT, what is your initial reaction?

GVSU STUDENT: Ask why. Most often people only say what they’ve been told. Asking why forces them to think about it.

GVSU STUDENT: How would you say your tradition doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage without being offensive?
REV. VAN DOREN: I don’t think there is a way to say this without being offensive, sexual identity is core to one’s being.

GVSU STUDENT: What made you start advocating for equal treatment for the LGBT community?

REV. VAN DOREN: The church has really not in recent years, the last 50 years or so, put the weight behind any issue like it has with LGBT. The church needs to start reflecting on its own core values and not societies ideas. I see it as a huge injustice, because all people should have the same privileges, especially to get married.

GVSU STUDENT: In regard to mental conception, how do you rectify this when people act in a way of Christians against LGBT? Do you see this as a miscommunication? What do you see as the root cause?

REV. VAN DOREN: Cultural understanding shifting religion as aligned with culture. We use the Bible to hold up. Church has been on the forefront of women’s liberation movements, protestant movements, a huge asset in hands of folks who use it, a huge asset in changing things, if allowed it will speak for itself.

GVSU STUDENT: In response to the earlier question of how not to offend someone who is LGBT if you don’t agree with it, ask the person, how can I love you best?

REV. VAN DOREN: Love the sinner, not the sin. You must understand to accept is bologna. You must accept because you love and love because you accept even if you may struggle with it.

GVSU STUDENT: How has your congregation changed as it has been open to LGBT people?

REV. VAN DOREN: My experience, it’s a good ride. My congregation is about 30 percent LGBT folks and it’s a whole lot more fun. It’s more open and more diverse. The congregation gets a lot more out of the scriptures from the underside. Many LGBT folks are not welcome in church, being accepted for who they are is very important.

Rev. Van Doren wrapped up the question and answer session with a few final thoughts about his work and his experiences.

“Not a whole lot of people think I’m crazy, or maybe they just don’t let me know they think so,” Rev. Van Doren said. “With justice work I get phone threats and people often quote scripture to me as if I haven’t read it but there is a grand urgency of now.”

For more information about LGBT resources on campus or about LGBT and faith visit www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc.

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