Grace Fellowship Member returns to campus as GSA hosts Inclusion Rally


Elligues, led by senior Daniel Williams, performing on Oct. 31, 2018 in the Lower Quad. Elligues, led by senior Daniel Williams, performing on Oct. 31, 2018 in the Lower Quad. Photo by Natalie McMillan.

Natalie McMillan

Tony Miano, a member of Grace Fellowship Church, returned to his spot on 7th Ave around 9 a.m. this Wednesday morning on Oct. 31 on the sidewalk by Old Main. However, this time with four other members, which include Miano’s sister and Grace Fellowship Church pastor, Mike Reid. Miano’s “Stop and Talk” cross was tied to one of the street lamp poles as he and the other members of the fellowship attempted to pass out two new pamphlets.
One pamphlet stated “Are you ready?” It overall stated how people will face God’s judgment one day and must account for sins. Some of the sins listed were stealing, disobeying or dishonoring our parents, and being sexually immoral, which includes having sex before marriage, homosexuality and pornography.
The other pamphlet was titled “The Gospel,” which contained gospel verses, definitions to words, such as sin, holy and repent, and had Grace Fellowship Church contact information.
Miano again had a GoPro strapped to his chest, but another member, Reid, did as well. Reid said, “People think we are just trying to get video, well it’s true. We do get videos to encourage other Christians, but also we’ve been assaulted. We’ve had false accusations against us.”
However, Miano’s video from last week, which was posted to YouTube, received plenty of controversy, especially with a student asking Miano not to post their testimony. Reid explained how he and two other elders of the Grace Fellowship Church, Nick Rolland and Tyler Bolkema, reviewed Miano’s original video and decided to take it down.
Reid said, “Some of the reactions in the video, some of the dialogue went on kind of digressed a little bit so it shut down the communication part of it. We actually changed a couple things in the video. The title of it and one of the portions of it where a young lady gave a testimony, that’s been taken out and put back up in a different way.”
Despite the reaction from last week, the members still returned to deliver their ministry. As Reid said, “We’re here to tell people about the forgiveness that can be found in Jesus Christ, and the fact that we have a holy God, who made us, gave us rules to live by, and that we don’t obey those rules. I don’t.You don’t. The bible says no one does.”
They were not the only ones to return to 7th Ave. Junior Jonathan Quigley was back, and he said, “I brought my Bluetooth speaker, made a playlist of some nice rap hits and started dancing around them. I also brought a lizard mask and a big old sign that said ‘is this your god,’ and I would occasionally put that mask on.” Quigley was accompanied again by senior Jaryd Whitmore.
Whitmore said, “I actually talked to them more today but I think the most important part was just the dancing, talking to people actually coming by, handing out stickers especially. I can’t remember who actually gave me the roll – some lady. I have actually never even met her before, but she just came up to me and was like ‘do you want to pass out these stickers’ and they were the rainbow ribbons and I was like ‘hell yeah.’”
Besides for the fact that it was finals week, there were other reasons why there was less of a crowd this week around both the street protesters and Quigley. Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) president and senior, Elise Campbell said, “We set up an alternate route, we decorated the Sorensen bridge, and we put up fliers all over campus saying “This guy is down on 7th, if you want to avoid him, take the Sorensen bridge, it’s decorated.” The decoration and organization of this was done by GSA’s publicist and senior, Bex Fernandez.
Even though there wasn’t a crowd, that didn’t stop the protest from being any less interesting. Miano tweeted, “These vile and wicked young men, students at Augustana College, are playing audio of what sounds like a male orgy, while standing behind my sister. Yes, Augustana needs the gospel.”
Quigley commented, “Miano’s sister was actually somewhat nice. Me and Jaryd were actually disagreeing very vehemently with what she said, but she had some interesting things to say. Anyway, no we were not playing a male orgy. It’s a YouTube video called The soothing sound of 14 pitched down crying babies.”
A couple hours pass and soon members of GSA came down to 7th Ave, beckoning students to join their Inclusion Rally in the lower quad by the Slough. Reid commented saying, “If they are having a rally to make people feel loved, I think that is great. One of the things about that is one of the definitions of love is one that I don’t know if there is a full understanding of, at least according to the Bible.”
Members of the Augustana community gathered around the two announcers, Campbell and sophomore Naomi Beckley. Both were decked out in flags and onesies.
Damascus Road, the community church and service group on campus, partnered with GSA for this event. According to Campbell, Pastor Tim Suddarth and the club’s president and senior, Allison Mikyska, came to the GSA meeting on this last Sunday offering help.
Campbell said, “Pastor Suddarth helped us to realize a lot of issues that we would have to get past and then helped us to get past those issues. They lent us their entire sound system, which made putting the rally together that much easier, and that was an incredible thing for them to do. They set up their beverage table just to make people feel more welcome.”
Campbell and Beckley introduced each performance and speaker at the rally. These included the Jenny Lind Choir, the Elegies Cast, senior Thomas Hand performing as Cindy Lux, Pastor Priggie, junior Kate Black, first-year Mary Sales, sophomore Meghan Gove, Pastor Suddarth, first year Ezekiel Jakubowski, junior Jonathan Quigley, senior Mikaylo Kelly, first-year Ariela Policastro, junior Caitlyn Lecour and sophomore Izzy Bartscher.
Each performance and speaker had something unique and moving to contribute to the rally.
Hand, who performed “Can’t Be Tamed” by Miley Cyrus and “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk in drag, said, “ It took me a while to choose because I don’t have much of a repertoire, this is the first time I performed in front of people outside of my friend group.”
Black read one of her original poems, “Funny People.” She said, “I wrote as a senior of high school about people who are concerned about the small things when ultimately we are concerned about our own worlds and not  each other. Then I added on a little piece toward the end about the preacher and his inability to preach a true message of love and that is what we should be concerned about.”
Priggie said, “I was just really angry that, once again, Christianity is portrayed as homophobic and mean.  I was trying to speak about what I think authentic Christianity is and what it isn’t. You don’t take the Bible and beat people over the head with it. First of all, who wants to be beaten over the head? But second of all, we all, in this world, need kindness and we need love for one another.”
Sales, who performed and original song “Balloon,” which spoke of feeling distant and not belonging, and “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur, said, “I forgot to mention this while I was up there, but I want to dedicate this to my friend, Connor, who took his life last year. He was transgender. I feel like especially right now with the political climate it is really hard to see people, like Mr. Miano, come to our campus and spread hate. There’s just… It’s just not acceptable, and I’m really glad all these people have come to show their support.”
Dr. John Hildreth, a professor of music and one of the professors that were in the crowd, commented on the rally saying, “The students really have to stand tall and support each other and reach out to as many people as they can and love. You really have to believe that love can trump hate, otherwise you’ll be just taken over by those who are so vocal and are just so unrelenting and their intolerance and so forth. I think that the poems are just wonderful and I’m so proud of these students that they can put into words, or at least try to articulate, so many things that are just sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to really articulate. But they’re giving it a shot.”
Looking around the rally, a large number of people crowded around the rally. “We also saw a lot more administration and staff involvement,” Whitmore said, “Like, we saw a lot of people voicing their support, especially President Bahls and his wife, and Lucas from the Reading and Writing Center. I saw him here again today too. Just seeing that kind of constant support from more than the student body is really encouraging because it needs to be more than just the students, it needs to be more than just GSA or you know, the free water people, God bless their hearts. It needs to be all of us ready to actually be here ready and waiting for them to show up, try and spread their hate and reject it with a message of love.”
Dr. Wes Brooks, Vice President and Dean of Student Life here at Augustana, was also present at the rally. Brooks said, “ I was really proud of the campus community. Just the sheer volume of the people that came out to support; it is a loving place and an inclusive place, and to celebrate one another in community was really powerful and honestly it was one of the most impressive displays of community that I’ve ever been a part of in higher education so I thought it was a beautiful event.”
According to Tom Phillis, the Chief of Police for Augustana College, Miano and the other members of the Grace Fellowship Church left around 11:00 a.m. Phillis stated, “They are here for a couple hours and then they finish their ministry and move on.”
But that is not what the rally was about. As Whitmore said. “ It’s not about some dude named Tony, showing up and telling us that we’re all gonna go to hell.
“It’s about making sure that everyone who came here today knows that there are plenty of people here who are going to support them and make sure that they are as safe as they can possibly be around here because his words aren’t just words. They need to be treated as seriously as they are. We can’t just write it off as someone saying what they believe. That’s one thing, but dehumanizing other people is a completely different matter.
“And I think it’s really, really encouraging to see so many people out here clearly being able to say, ‘hey, that’s not what we stand for, you can come here every single week, over and over again, and we’re not going to just sit down and put up with it.’”
Photo above: Elligues, led by senior Daniel Williams, performing on Oct. 31, 2018 in the Lower Quad. Elligues, led by senior Daniel Williams, performing on Oct. 31, 2018 in the Lower Quad. Photo by Natalie McMillan.