Lease of Kelowna arts center to Praxis Church draws criticism – Okanagan

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The policies of a performing arts center in Kelowna, B.C., are under scrutiny following its decision to rent space to Praxis Church, an ultra-conservative church that publicly denounces the LGBTQ2 community.

“The concern is about the doctrine that the church has, which is based on their beliefs around homosexuality and gender identity,” said Wilbur Turner, president of Advocacy Canada, an organization that advocates for the LGBTQ2 community that relies on the Rotary Center to reevaluate his policies.

Members of the Praxis Church believe, among other things, that divorce and adultery violate God’s purpose for marriage as set forth in the Bible, according to its website.

“Additionally, we believe that God created men and women as two separate sexual beings and that living in accordance with God’s created design and one’s biological sex is essential to the discipleship of Jesus,” the website says.

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It is an updated version of the mission statement that sparked protests in 2021. At the time, the website claimed that members “do not condone gay marriage or a homosexual lifestyle.”

Turner said the church’s vision conflicts with the Rotary Center for the Arts’ mission: inclusivity.

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“The mission of the Rotary Center for the Arts is to serve as a dynamic hub where artists and communities come together and find empowerment and inspiration through the inclusive and transformative power of creative expression,” the website says.

The combination of Praxis Church and this vision offers a “mixed message,” Turner said.

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“The Rotary Center for the Arts has a very large Pride flag in their atrium, and the people who come in see that as a symbol of inclusivity. And when you have an organization where hundreds of people come every Sunday for their event, taking up space and promoting the ideas that homosexuality is a sin… that’s really transphobic and homophobic.”

People are influenced by the presence of the church, Turner said.

For his part, Praxis Church pastor Josh Dool said inclusivity means welcoming people of all faiths.

“The Rotary Center itself strives to be a place that is welcoming and inclusive to all, and it is a place where a diversity of groups come together,” Dool said.

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“Churches have been meeting there for more than twenty years. I think we just got on Advocacy Canada’s radar because we are one of the fastest growing churches in Canada. And we are the largest church in Kelowna that has our doctrinal statement on these types of issues right on our website.”

He went on to say that the church is inclusive.

“For everyone who comes through the practice, we have a great diversity of people from different backgrounds, people who don’t yet share our thoughts with those who do share our thoughts, and that’s all fine,” he said.

However, Turner will continue to push for the RCA to take a closer look at its policies.

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“We believe the RCA can further strengthen its commitment to inclusivity by developing clear policies and practices that promote a safe and welcoming environment for all,” said Turner.

He calls on the RCA to engage in dialogue with the community and develop concrete steps to ensure the arts center remains a space free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“By implementing clear policies and practices, the RCA can ensure it remains a welcoming space for all members of our diverse community,” he said.

The RCA declined the opportunity to comment.

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