In late September, University of Minnesota LGBTQ+ student groups raised questions about the owner of West Bank’s Seven Corners Coffee, Wooddale Church, and its suspected ties to conversion therapy.
OutLaw — the University Law School’s LGBTQ+ student association — sent an email to inform students about Seven Corners Coffee’s background and affiliation with Wooddale Church, an evangelical Christian megachurch.
“The concerns expressed to us with regards to Seven Corners Coffee surround Wooddale Church’s stance on homosexuality, given that the coffee shop is financially linked to the Church,” the OutLaw email reads. The organization sent the email to those in the OutLaw community to “allow everyone to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to patronize Seven Corners Coffee.”
The email said although Wooddale Church did not have a public statement about its stance on homosexuality on its website, it listed various counseling groups, including Outpost Ministries. Outpost Ministries was stated to provide counseling to “those who struggle with same-sex attractions,” or what some characterize as conversion therapy.
This was the main source of OutLaw’s concerns, said Morgan Alexander, the then-president of the group.
However, the Church does not support conversion therapy, according to Kyle Robinson, the executive pastor at Wooddale. After hearing about students' concerns, the Church removed the list of counseling groups from the website, he said.
“When we heard there was a concern, we thought that we really need to take a good, long look at who’s on that list,” Robinson said. “So, I asked our team to do that — to do a full review on all the organizations … that were listed on there.”
Robinson said it is important to “treat people in a really honoring way.”
“We never want to advocate for people to feel like they’re ever in an environment where they’re being tricked or coerced into something or anything along those lines.”
When asked how Outpost Ministries ended up on Wooddale Church’s list of resources, Robinson said he did not know.
University graduate student Lindsay Sacco went to Seven Corners Coffee almost every day since its opening in September. But after reading the information in OutLaw’s email and seeing Outpost Ministries listed as a resource, she decided to take her business elsewhere.
The Church’s reevaluation of the counseling list is an important step, Sacco said, after learning they removed the list of counseling resources. She added that the Church’s leadership needs to be aware of what kinds of resources they are listing for people who might need them, and that she thinks they should provide a statement about their stance on conversion therapy on their website.
“I think the reputation of some churches and the LGBTQ community — there’s some turmoil there from long-standing persecution. So I think it's hard when you're a member of the LGBTQ community, to know that there could be a conflict, but not to necessarily hear it outright,” she said.