For the last few years, EQUAL, Kansas City’s gay-straight alliance network, has protested the post-Christmas Onething Young Adult Conference, which is presented by the International House of Prayer (IHOP). Plans are being finalized for this year’s action at the Kansas City Convention Center, where conference planners for the Dec. 28-31 conference expect up to 25,000 attendees.

Formed in 2007, EQUAL (Empowering Queer Activists and Leaders) is a youth-founded, youth-led and youth-focused organization that brings together young activists by networking individual gay-straight alliances in the greater Kansas City area.

Recent long-serving EQUAL president Wick Thomas said the annual Onething protests were intended to raise awareness of the presence of anti-gay ministries that spiritually demean LGBTQ people, as well as to engage conference participants in conversation on topics such as the existence of queer Christians. Thomas said that many people continue to be ignorant of the presence of such powerful anti-LGBTQ voices in our own community. Others cannot reconcile the fact that queer people can be faithful followers of Jesus.

The International House of Prayer is a fast-growing presence in south Kansas City and Grandview, Mo. Its members operate a prayer room where the worship services continue 24 hours a day. The local congregation is in league with the reparative therapy group Desert Stream Ministries. Reparative therapists purport to have the ability to alter a person’s sexual orientation. This practice has been discredited and even condemned by leading mental health and medical societies. Being subjected to such treatment has been shown to cause harm to individuals, including suicide. As a result, California and New Jersey have outlawed reparative therapy for minors.

Lou Engle, whose ministry is The Call, has been part of IHOP’s ministry to youth. Readers may remember Engle as the gravel-voiced entity behind a 2008 pro-Prop 8 Qualcomm Stadium event in San Diego meant to rally those opposed to marriage equality. Engle also appears in the 2013 film God Loves Uganda, where he is seen as an exporter of anti-LGBTQ hatred to the African country. Filmmakers went undercover at IHOP’s Kansas City headquarters to capture some of the vitriol.

Engle and Scott Lively are two of the U.S. pastors responsible for the so-called Kill the Gays bill in the Ugandan legislature. If passed, it would allow for state-sponsored genocide of gay people. Lively is set to stand trial in federal court in a lawsuit accusing him of crimes against humanity, i.e., “fomenting an atmosphere of harsh and frightening repression against LGBTI people in Uganda.” Lively also claims partial credit for Russia’s controversial law barring pro-gay propaganda.

IHOP has come under increased scrutiny over the last year after Bethany Deaton, the wife of IHOP group leader Tyler Deaton, was found dead in October 2012. IHOP University student Micah Moore confessed to her murder and alleged that a cadre of men under the guidance of Tyler Deaton engaged in cultic sexual practices, which ultimately led to the murder. The church has disavowed any responsibility or link to the criminal activity. Still, many remain leery of the group and its influence on the southern Kansas City metro area and beyond.

While more and more families, churches and denominations become reconciling to LGBTQ people, emulating Jesus by welcoming queer Christians as members, IHOP and Onething continue to rigidly indoctrinate youth to eschew their gay peers. A 2011 poll, however, showed that 44 percent of evangelicals 18-29 years of age favored marriage equality. If trends among evangelicals have kept pace with the wider populace on this issue, that percentage is now likely even higher.

In February 2011, Soulforce and the Human Rights Campaign joined EQUAL in prayer and protest at the IHOP campus. During its annual Onething protests, EQUAL members have lain down in symbolic death, as the names of queer genocide victims are read aloud.

EQUAL expand=1]IHOP Protest
Monday 7 p.m. Dec. 30, 2013
Barney Allis Plaza
Kansas City, Mo.
EQUAL Youth Center —
2010 EQUAL protest —
God Loves Uganda —"

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