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After affirming LGBTQ people, a Christian school lost donors and will shut down
Urban Christian Academy in Kansas City, MO doesn't have enough support to keep its doors open next year
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Urban Christian Academy in Kansas City, Missouri will be shutting down at the end of the school year all because donors balked when administrators began defending LGBTQ people in the name of Jesus.
This isn’t a story about a faith-based school that closes due to a massive drop in enrollment or pandemic-related stress. If anything, they were getting larger. Last fall, they went from being a K-7th grade school to one that serves 8th graders as well. All of those students have their tuition paid for by donors. UCA currently has about 100 students in the building, most of whom are “low-income students of color.”
Now, those students will have to find a new school.
This school’s closure comes after its “wildly inclusive” mission statement was revised last year to live up to that description. Executive director and co-founder Kalie Callaway-George no longer wanted to remain quiet on the matter, saying, “our silence was contributing to the hurt and pain our queer community members were experiencing.”
The mission statement now includes this passage:
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. The first time the Bible talks of humanity it does so from the assertion that we are all made in the image of God. This claim provides dignity for all people and is our starting point with every person we meet. We believe God exists in gray and multitudes. We want all people who are part of the UCA family to feel free to explore and express who they are. We don’t put people in boxes. We don’t believe in being spiritual gatekeepers who say who’s in and who's out.
In the six months after that statement was revised, according to Sarah Ritter of the Kansas City Star, the school began bleeding money it had come to rely on from donors. They went from taking in $334,000 in December of 2021 to taking in $14,800 in December of 2023.
… In the following six months, Callaway-George said, the school lost 42% of its funding — donations from churches and congregation members that keep the school running and pay for students’ tuition.
By the end of 2022, the school lost 80% of its funding. And now, officials say the school is forced to close this spring.
“We find ourselves in a season where we are running on very few resources and each time attention is brought to the issue we are bombarded by hate which further distracts from our ability to care for the scholars we have in our care,” Callaway-George said.
Callaway-George received letters from parents and donors that said Christian compassion “doesn’t mean universalism” and that they were spreading a “false Gospel.” You see, God loves people unconditionally… except for all the conditions.
It’s not just Christian fundamentalists who stopping giving. The institutions ran away too:
All eight churches that helped fund the school withdrew their support, “citing a disagreement of values based on the inclusion of the LGBTQ community,” Callaway-George said.
And for what? Who knows. The school wasn’t promoting LGBTQ anything. They didn’t really even talk about it. The bigots ran away for no reason other than the school made clear their faith commanded them to love everyone, including LGBTQ people. They weren’t going to deny the existence of trans people. They weren’t going to try and turn gay people straight. They just wanted to accept people as they were and try and bring them closer to God.
The donors decided that wasn’t worth supporting. They didn’t see a way to reconcile the acceptance of LGBTQ people with the idea of a school that is built on Christian principles. Their faith requires bigotry.
While the school reached out to LGBTQ-inclusive churches in the area, those ministries just didn’t have enough money to support the school’s continued existence.
Consider how this school’s closure compares to what other Christian schools have done in recent years:
In 2022, Grace Christian School, in Valrico, Florida, asked all gay, transgender and non-binary students to “leave immediately” in a message to parents.
That same year, Canada’s Saskatoon Christian Centre Academy was accused of multiple incidents of abuse, including performing an exorcism on a student to cast out “gay demons”.
And in 2021, Covenant Christian School in Sydney fired a teacher for coming out as gay under Australian law.
The irony is that this whole ordeal is giving those kids a real-life lesson about what Christianity often looks like in practice. For many conservatives, faith-based hate always takes precedence over Christian love.
It’s especially appalling because UCA didn’t even go out of its way to welcome LGBTQ students. They just altered the mission statement to say LGBTQ people are also covered by God’s grace. In many Christian communities, that’s not a controversial statement!
But it provoked enough people that the revised mission statement was effectively a death sentence for the school. Those donors would rather see their religion used to harm gay people than support students who get a free faith-based education. It tells you exactly what those donors’ priorities are.