To members of H2O Church and the greater Bowling Green community,
As you may have heard or seen online, our church has recently been targeted by a handful of individuals who have used online social media platforms and shown up in person at our worship service to protest our church.
Our initial posture was to not engage with these false allegations because we believed there was no need to defend ourselves. We have worked diligently as a church to be a blessing to both the campus and the community of Bowling Green for the last 36 years and we felt our reputation needed no defense. Sadly, however, the actions of these individuals have reached a point where we now feel the need to respond. The false accusations are now harming our church family and forcing people to ask the question, "What happened to initiate all of this?"
First, let us start with the claim that we are unwelcoming to the LGBTQ+ community or, in our accusers’ words, "homophobic and transphobic." We feel the need to provide context as to where some of these claims may be originating. Around the middle of August, one of our church members publicly shared that he was leaving the LGBTQ+ community and identifying with his biological gender. He wrote on Facebook, "In middle school I came out as a gay young man, and later on in my senior year of high school, I came out as a transgender woman. Due to the trauma I experienced growing up unrelated to my past identity, my depression became worse and worse until I found the Gospel. It has taken years for me to become bold enough to speak of my truth freely, and I still struggle with it. But I know the Lord is working. The point I'm making is I no longer identify as a gay man or as a transgender woman...The work that God has done in my life is too great to understand, and while I still wrestle with temptation, I will no longer be pursuing relationships of the same sex. I pray that all who come to meet me can learn about God's work in my life..."
As he expressed in his post, he suspected there would be consequences for sharing his experience of accepting Christ and finding his identity in Him. We believe we are now seeing those consequences play out. Shortly after his post, there were a number of social media posts claiming that H2O is homophobic and transphobic. There were also accusations that the pastors of our church performed conversion therapy on this individual. We chose not to respond because these claims are incredibly preposterous and clearly false. We have never practiced conversion therapy, an approach that utilizes psychological and physical interventions in an attempt to change one’s sexual orientation. We join with the vast majority of churches in opposing this practice and take strong offense to the claim that we would engage in this harmful practice.
So let us be clear: we are deeply saddened by the claims of a few individuals that our church is homophobic and transphobic, as this could not be further from the truth. We love and invite anyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identification, to worship with us. Scripture compels us to treat all people with dignity and respect regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification. It also compels us to uphold a view of sexuality that is consistent with the Church’s historic position, namely that God designed human sexuality to be experienced in the context of a covenant commitment between a man and a woman. We arrive at our conviction by Scripture and that same Scripture teaches us to love and grant dignity to all people. We reject the claim that holding to a historic, biblical view of marriage makes us hateful or phobic.
The second accusation brought against our church occurred at the same time by the same individual who made many of the claims about our alleged homophobia. The substance of this claim is that we mishandled an accusation of sexual assault involving a student leader of our church. It absolutely pains us that this claim is being made. We take any and all accusations of sexual assault extremely seriously. We had previously refrained from commenting on this issue because of its sensitive nature and out of respect to all parties involved. But given the public nature of the claims being made against us, we will respectfully share these details.
In the fall of 2018 when our church leaders learned of a sexual assault claim involving a student leader, we immediately submitted a Title IX report to BGSU, at which point the University took the lead in responding to the report. We were involved throughout the process and willing to assist in any way possible. This has been confirmed by both the University and those involved. The BGSU student volunteer was immediately removed from all leadership roles in the church for an extended period of time.
Let us be clear: we would never place or retain a person that has been shown to commit a sexual crime in a position of leadership. We certainly admit these situations can be complex and often contain two perspectives, yet we handled this situation with the urgency, care, and complexity it deserved. Sadly, we have walked alongside many who have experienced sexual abuse and misconduct in their lives during our work with college students over the years. Our hearts break to hear their stories and we know the trauma they experience and relive. This is why we cannot remain silent when continuous false and inconsistent claims are being made about our handling of an accusation of this type. The facts of how we handled this situation speak for themselves, and we respectfully point you towards them.
In closing, we ask you to join us in praying for those who are making accusations about us. We know they are hurting, and we have no ill feelings towards them. We can say as a staff team that we have continually been praying for them over the past few weeks. We want them to experience the truth and love that Jesus has to offer.
We hope this statement helps answer some of the questions you might have. Thank you to so many of you who have encouraged us and prayed for us during this trying time. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to our leadership team directly.
The H2O Pastoral and Leadership Team