A major national conference for graphic designers and illustrators has disinvited a Christian speaker, apparently because he serves at a well-known church that affirms the Bible’s teaching on sexuality.
The Circles Conference announced this week that David Roark, the communications and resources director at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, would not be speaking at its conference Sept. 18-20 in Richardson, Texas.
The move came after the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) released an open letter saying it would not participate in the conference because the speaker roster included an employee of The Village Church, an organization “that does not meet our standards of inclusion because of openly discriminatory policies and practices towards women and the LGBTQ+ community.”
The Village Church is a Southern Baptist Convention and Acts 29 congregation. Its pastor, Matt Chandler, is an author and one of the more well-known evangelical ministers in the United States. He and Roark wrote the book Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief.
“Since the beginning, one goal of Circles Conference has been to bring people of different world views and creative backgrounds together,” the Circles Conference’s Ismael Burciaga wrote in the letter to members. “While cultivating a collaborative and creative culture is our top priority, we also respect the concerns of our fellow creatives and we will always be open to dialogue and transparency.
“After serious consideration, we have made a speaker change. We respect the concerns of the design community and aim to create a safe space for everyone who attends Circles Conference, regardless of their individual world views or beliefs.”
The three-day conference brings together designers from around the U.S. and the world.
The Village Church’s statement of belief about humanity reads: “Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union in the covenant of marriage that establishes the only God-ordained pattern of sexual relations for men and women.”
The Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of AIGA said it was “pleased to learn that Circles has made a speaker change.”
“We welcome their willingness to respect the concerns of the design community and create a safe space for everyone who attends Circles Conference,” a statement said.
Roark, on Twitter, remained gracious.
“I have no hard feelings toward AIGA or Circles, only love,” Roark wrote. “I understand this was a complex situation, and the last thing that I would want to do is cause a problem or be a distraction. I believe that to end division and pursue unity in our world, we must be willing to listen well, enter into dialogue and understand that we can show love, honor and dignity to one another while still disagreeing.
2/3 I believe that to end division and pursue unity in our world, we must be willing to listen well, enter into dialogue and understand that we can show love, honor and dignity to one another while still disagreeing.— David Roark (@DavidRoark) July 3, 2019
“I don’t think that happened here,” he added, “but I have hope that it can happen. I want the creative community to be a place where individuals of all backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles can learn from one another, regardless of differences, not a place where we shut each other out.”
3/3 I don’t think that happened here, but I have hope that it can happen. I want the creative community to be a place where individuals of all backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles can learn from one another, regardless of differences, not a place where we shut each other out.— David Roark (@DavidRoark) July 3, 2019
Dana Loesch, a conservative social commentator, criticized the conference for disinviting Roark.
“It isn’t enough for Christians to keep their faith out of the workplace, as we’ve seen in uproars over Chick-Fil-A or Masterpiece Cake Shop, now Christians are punished for simply having faith,” she wrote. “... Dislike of Roark’s views seemingly comes from a refusal to understand his faith. Excluding him from a design conference is deliberate bigotry not just against Roark, but a clear statement that Christians are unwelcome, period.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Product School/Unsplash, this is a stock photo
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.