A Christian school that expressed support for the LGBTQ community was forced to close after its conservative donor base stopped giving it money.
Urban Christian Academy, a private K-8 school in Kansas City, Missouri, with an enrollment of 100 students, had long stressed inclusivity in general terms, noting in its mission statement that following Jesus “opens up doors and makes room at the table.”
Last year, however, the school added an additional paragraph to its website.
“We are an affirming school. We stand with the LGBTQIA+ community and believe in their holiness. We celebrate the diversity of God’s creation in all its varied and beautiful forms.”
School officials say that the updated paragraph — which did not endorse same-sex activity, but merely supported the dignity of LGBTQ individuals — prompted most of its donors to pull their financial support, citing their religious beliefs that homosexuality is sinful and supporting LGBTQ identity is incompatible with being “Christian.”
Kalie Callaway-George, UCA’s executive director and co-founder cited the new language as the chief reason for the decrease in donations. She said the school expected some backlash.
“It was just that we anticipated a 50% loss in funding and made adjustments for that,” she said. “We had an 80% loss in funding and that was too much to overcome.”
The drop-off in donations came after eight churches withdrew their support for the school in response to the affirming language.
Even though the institutions were only responsibly for 2% of the school’s funding, the members of those congregations were a larger donor base, and seemed to take their cues from the churches’ responses.
“In December of 2021, right before we publicly supported the LGBTQ community, we raised $333,985,” Callaway-George told ABC News. “One year later, after we had posted on our website and made a stance, [in] December of 2022 we raised $14,809.”
As a result, UCA has announced it will close its doors in May, at the end of the current school year.
The school shared several letters from churches and individual donors taking issue with the statement of support for the LGBTQ community with ABC News.
In one, a church that withdrew its support of UCA called the LGBTQ community “a diverse collection of behaviors,” adding, “Our greatest concern about the Accepting and Affirming stance is that it denies the Biblical definitions of sin and identity and thereby renders the grace of God meaningless.”
Other letters were harsher.
“Do not call yourself a Christian school if you are affirming sin,” one donor wrote. “Jesus died to set us free from sin, not so we can die in it. You abuse kids by telling them sin is good. You are wicked.”
“By teaching [students] tolerance & acceptance and even to celebrate the gay lifestyle, you are setting them on a course to embrace the world and anti-God philosophy,” wrote another.
Administrators argued that the school’s explicit support for the LGBTQ community was needed because as the school — which initially started as a kindergarten class in 2014, adding additional grades in subsequent years — grew and began accepting teenage students, who were more attuned to social media and larger societal trends, and would raise questions about such topics, including sexuality and inclusion.
“Society gave us lots of fodder for conversations around injustice and looking at marginalized communities,” Callaway-George said. “As our kids got older, they had access to phones [and] they’re just engaging with the world more.”
She defended including the paragraph on the school’s website to clarify for families and students “where we stood” on such issues and ensure that all students would feel accepted at the school.
“The essence of the Christian faith is promoting and offering love,” Callaway-George said, adding that she doesn’t regret the school’s actions, even if more Christians with more rigid views on homosexuality disagree.
Some parents with children at UCA were disheartened by the news of the pending closure.
Darnisha Harris had four children attending UCA. She later transferred her three oldest children to public schools after learning of the forthcoming closure, saying they were saddened by the decision.
“They wanted to not have Christmas and give up their Christmas gifts to pay for the funding of the school,” Harris told ABC News.
Another mother, Jamie Visser, who has five children enrolled at UCA, is sympathetic to conservatives who disagree with the school’s stance but says that the inevitable closure of UCA “feels like an injustice to me.”
“I am LGBTQ-affirming and I identify as Christian,” Visser said. “It’s unfortunate that children who have nothing to do with the argument are the ones that are going to suffer because of it.”
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