KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The congregation at Kansas City United Church of Christ is responding to recent vandalism on its property with a message of love. A rainbow flag, symbolizing solidarity with the LGBTQIA community, was displayed on the church marquee for decades before it was spray-painted in early May.
Kansas City UCC has been an “open and affirming” church since 1997. It was one of the first in Kansas City to openly welcome the LGBTQIA community.
Curtis Filer — a long-time church member, building manager and president of the church's board — says as an openly gay man, he felt violated to see the flag erased.
“I felt sorry that somebody would feel that they needed to try to erase visibility of gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual people,” Filer said.
Finding a faith community that accepts him for who he is changed everything for Filer. He came out later in his life, after being in a heterosexual relationship and having kids.
Filer says he grew up in a denomination that believed fervent prayers to God could change his sexuality.
“I tried to pray the gay away for years and years, and it didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? Because God made me exactly who I was already, and I finally came to that realization,” Filer said. “When I knew that I was accepted by God, then I could open up myself to be accepted by others.”
Instead of responding to the vandalism with anger or frustration, the church decided to send a bigger and brighter message of inclusivity and love.
A few members of the church met Saturday morning to paint six doors in the colors of the rainbow. On it they wrote: God’s Doors Are Open To All.
“If they happen to be gay, LGBTQIA+, that it might give them a sense of, ‘Yes, I’m recognized.’ People who disagree, I would hope it would engender some questioning, some thoughts,” Filer said.
This year, state lawmakers have already proposed a record 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans. And according to 2020 hate crime statistics released by the FBI, reports of incidents motivated by gender-identity bias jumped by nearly 20% for the second year in a row.
Twelve-year-old Georgia Sluga helped paint the doors and hopes the artwork will encourage those who drive by to never judge those who are different.
“I feel that people should know that this place is a good place to come to and it accepts all,” Georgia said.