Champlain Students Hurt After Hate Speech Incident with Christian Fellowship

A church associated with the Christian Fellowship at Champlain told LGBTQ+ students that they don’t belong in a Christian church.


Screen shot of the Christian Fellowship portion of the Faith and Spirituality Club page.

Friday, Sept. 17, students reported feeling uncomfortable and attacked by members of a church visiting campus on behalf of the Christian Fellowship. The New King Church members made homophobic and transphobic comments towards students. The Fellowship has partnered with this church in the past, specifically with Pastor Aaron Clark. The Christian Fellowship technically did not have enough members to run officially this semester, and therefore are running unaffiliated with Champlain. 

A Champlain College club page for the Christian Fellowship is still posted. The first line reads: “Champlain Christian Fellowship welcomes both Christians and non-Christians to engage with us as we grow in deeper relationship with God and each other.” Later on the page, the Fellowship states: “We will be having regular outreach events where non-Christians on campus can feel welcome to engage with us without fear or hesitation.”

Phineas Nutting, Filmmaking ‘24, explained the discomfort his peers were having.

“There was frequent talks that the Christian Fellowship had brought in an outside church, and they were saying things about how adultery is a sin, they were also talking about how sex before marriage is a sin,” Nutting said. “A certain line I remember hearing, and this is a second-hand account from other students, is they were saying that if someone is gay they can go to the church, but they aren’t really accepted. To our students, flat out, in the atrium.”

The Fellowship and the church they invited were tabling outside the IDX Dining Hall. Nutting, a representative of the Student Government Association, felt it was his responsibility to do something about the situation.

“People literally left IDX crying that day, and the fact is the place they sat, right there in the atrium, was the most confrontational place that anyone could sit in the entire school because people need to see that to get food,” Nutting described. “It was a direct kind of attack, a lot of students felt, because whoever allowed them to come in gave them such a platform that they could hurt so many people at our school.”

The Student Affairs, Diversity, and Inclusion page on the Champlain College website says they are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. They also explain that they understand there is often tension around subjects such as diversity and inclusion due to discomfort, but the conversation is necessary and worth having. If a student is facing an instance where they feel uncomfortable or harassed, they can report sexual misconduct, a bias incident, discrimination and harassment, or a hate crime. 

Mollie Ingleston, Game Production Management ‘23, was previously involved in the Christian Fellowship. 

“I felt really welcomed at first. That welcoming feeling lasted for maybe a semester. I was just looking for more Christians on campus,” Ingleston said. “I stopped because in my spring semester, freshman year, I was in this thing called leaders-in-training. The person running it had given us an assignment to read this bible verse, and it made me think of something from a show called Queer Eye. I brought it up, and it was basically like this woman had a gay son, and she didn’t accept him at first, and then she realized ‘how can I say I love God if I don’t love those around me?’ So she accepted her son. And he looks at me and he says ‘Well I hope she’s not saying that being gay is okay, because it’s not.’”

Ingleston found this conversation to be offensive and inappropriate, so they went to another leader of the fellowship, looking for guidance.

“At the time, I was kind of struggling with my identity and I was thinking maybe I was bisexual, so I brought it to another one of the club leaders later, and she was like ‘Well we can talk about that.’ I ended up going over to her apartment; it was supposed to be a girls’ night with all of the other girls in the club but nobody else showed up,” Ingleston said. “So they started to try to give me resources. They were like ‘Here are these websites that can help you through this.’ That kind of upset me, but I didn’t leave yet.”

The final straw for Ingleston occurred in August 2020, in a conversation with the same fellowship leader.

“I didn’t really like the way it ended again because it was kind of like ‘oh I knew someone who went through that, you’ll get through it, you’ll be fine,’” Ingleston explained. “And then I had another conversation with her in the spring semester, last semester, about abortion. And that is what set me off and I cut ties with them.”

Ingleston was unaware of the happenings of Friday, Sept. 17. Nutting, however, plans to take action to prevent a future event from occurring. Nutting reflects on a similar instance that occurred before his time at Champlain. These events are highlighted in “Republican Club Sparks Outrage” and “The Republican Club Holds Their Second “Change my Mind” Event.”

“I’m may draft a resolution to SGA that prevents political and religious clubs from tabling in the atrium so no students can feel confronted like that again,” Nutting proposed. “I wasn’t here two years ago, but I heard about a somewhat similar instance happening with the Republican club on campus, tabling there and hurting people.”

Political and religious clubs that are currently running or have recently been on hold due to lack of staffing include: the Catholic Society, the Christian Fellowship, and the Republican Club. Nutting felt the Fellowship crossed a line with allowing representatives of their club to speak to students in this manner.

Nutting said, “When people felt uncomfortable after or walked out crying or felt like their entire existence was being attacked, that’s when things crossed the line from uncomfortable to being downright harmful towards how students feel.”

The Crossover was unable to get in contact with members of the Christian Fellowship for comment, after reaching out to several people.