Chamber, diversity council denounce pastor's homophobic remarks
Hosts of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast are distancing themselves from controversial remarks made by one of the event's speakers.
Pastor Sidney Frye from the Word of Life Church in Rochester was invited to give the opening invocation at Monday morning's event. According to the Diversity Council, which co-sponsored the event with the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, the speech was intended to be “three minutes of non-denominational praise and gratitude."
Instead, Pastor Frye gave an impassioned lecture on the issues facing black Americans, as well as the government's role in legalizing gay marriage.
Here's an excerpt from a story by the Post-Bulletin:
"The very foundations of our country are crumbling right before our very eyes," Frye said, "and no one seems to know what to do." He said the country has "greatly forsaken" its Christian principles and "our families are being eroded and destroyed." He referred to same-sex marriage as part of that crisis.
The remarks left many of the 500-plus people in the audience shocked and offended, according to multiple accounts from those who attended.
In an email sent out on Tuesday, Chamber President Rob Miller thanked attendees for participating in the event, and without mentioning Frye by name, acknowledged that "some less than inclusive messaging was presented during the event."
"We understand that to be a truly inclusive community, space must be provided for everyone to express their viewpoint," Miller said. "However, this kind of messaging is not appropriate at an event that is intended to promote diversity and inclusion."
Around the same time, the Diversity Council issued a statement on its Facebook page saying Frye's speech "turned everything upside down" and pointed the event in a "disturbing direction."
For staff and guests alike, one of the uncomfortable aspects of diversity had made its way into the room: a disparate and divisive voice. But part of coming together is providing space for every viewpoint. Rev. Frye’s uncensored and unsolicited remarks were heartfelt, giving voice to his frustration and fears. While this was perhaps not the appropriate venue, the heart of the MLK celebration is stepping up and voicing what troubles us.
The remarks were a low point in an otherwise positive and uplifting event, which featured Rochester native Mike Sherels as the keynote speaker. Sherels is now the linebackers coach for the University of Minnesota football team.
In an effort to make this year's event more inclusive, organizers dropped the price of admission, changed the venue, provided free transportation and even gave away tickets to less-fortunate families.
As a result, a record number of people attended the breakfast.
(Cover graphic: World of Life Church)