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Church Youth Leader Uses Grindr To Reach Out To Gay Christians: VIDEO

Gay Youth Leader Szalapski

Hey, man. You looking...for a church to go to this Sunday? 

A lot of gay men may laugh when they hear that another guy only uses the smartphone app Grindr "just to chat". Perhaps that's how photographer and filmmaker Christian Hendricks felt when he encountered Michael James Alexander Szalapski, an openly gay methodist youth leader from Clarksville, Tennessee, who uses the app to reach out to gay Christians in his area.  

ChurchHendricks encountered Szalapski as part of a project called "South of Ohio", in which the filmmaker travels throughout the American South, documenting various interesting aspects of queer culture that he stumbles upon. Previously, Hendricks visited a Creation Museum and attended a PFLAG meeting in Kentucky. Upon discovering Szalapski and his unusual recruiting method, he set up his camera and sat him down for a video interview. 

Szalapski discussed a number of things during the interview, including his own struggles with acceptance in the Christian church, as well as his work as a youth leader in his current church in Clarksville. Towards the end, he finally brought up his unorthodox recruiting tool:

"Since I've been coming to the church, I've brought a number of people here who are also gay, usually on Grindr, because I'm quite clear on Grindr that I'm a Christian, and my real main purpose to be there is to be a Christian influence on Grindr, honestly. Because a lot of people think that God hates them, and he doesn't. And any little way that I can help let people know that he loves them is a good one. So people will message me and say, 'hey, you're a Christian? Me too.' And I'm like, 'hey, I've got a cool church that you can come to.'"

Szalapski didn't discuss whether he also used the app for dating or recreational purposes. Then again, the fact that we now have evidence of a church (in Tennessee, no less) that allows an openly gay man to work with young people, despite being open about the fact that he uses Grindr, is likely pretty groundbreaking for those of us familiar with anti-gay "Christians" such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Westboro Baptist Church

"It's just amazing to see what difference a little sentence on an online profile can make for someone," said Szalapski. "Just that little glimmer of hope that the God that they knew as a kid, that they thought was a loving God and they were told was a hating God...and that one little sentence can give them hope." 

Watch the video interview AFTER THE JUMP. Szalapski starts discussing Grindr at around the 3:00 mark. 

(via HuffPost Gay Voices)


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  1. Please stop! The Christian faith has imploded on itself. No self-respecting gay person would ever believe in such a bigoted faith.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Aug 22, 2013 2:49:38 PM

  2. This is actually a nice story.

    Can't wait to see the vitriolic queens like LittleKiwi tear it apart.

    Posted by: Sammie | Aug 22, 2013 2:49:43 PM

  3. Oh Jesus, yes Jesus!

    Posted by: J. Alan | Aug 22, 2013 2:53:14 PM

  4. Key word : Methodist
    Do you think there will be a open gay leader in southern baptist church and Mormon Church?

    Posted by: Neal | Aug 22, 2013 2:59:30 PM

  5. I don't use grindr, but if I did and someone used it to lure me into some sort of Christian sales pitch, I would be less than receptive.

    @sammie "a lot of people think God hates them" and you think this is a nice story? And anyone who disagrees is a vitriolic queen?

    No very few people actually believe that God hates them, and those that do aren't on Grindr, they are luring in GOPround and airport restrooms.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 22, 2013 3:03:51 PM

  6. I wonder who will get more converts -- them or us?

    Posted by: Liam | Aug 22, 2013 3:04:22 PM

  7. I like what he says, but I wonder what his church teaches? He seems well-intentioned, but pretty naive.

    Posted by: Jack M | Aug 22, 2013 3:05:06 PM

  8. Of course God doesn't hate you. He doesn't exist.

    Posted by: Rick in Cincinnati | Aug 22, 2013 3:08:25 PM

  9. He's preying on lonely men in order to indoctrinate them into a cult of lies. Charming.

    Is the new Towleroad's idea of a feel-good story for gay men?

    Posted by: oncemorewithfeeling | Aug 22, 2013 3:14:29 PM

  10. Folks, enough with the "Christians are evil homophobes" stuff. Yes, some Christians are homophobic. So are some atheists.

    Check out and you'll see that there are a lot of churches out there (and not all are listed on this site) that are very welcoming of gay people.

    Posted by: Sam | Aug 22, 2013 3:16:00 PM

  11. grindr seems an odd choice as a ministry outreach tool, but at least the outreach isn't to get them into ex-gay therapy. I guess that's improvement. Methodists seem to be pretty chill and more about community and helping others and not much about guilt and shame and other typical abuses of Christianity.

    Posted by: Houndentenor | Aug 22, 2013 3:23:06 PM

  12. God doesn't hate, the man-made, political construct of "religion" does. That's the difference. Religion is a club and political organization that accepts 'members' (you pay dues of titheing) and if you don't follow their by-laws they boot you out. Religion is basically worthless and unholy--if you believe in God, you don't need a church. "Fellowship" is really the quintessential "Preaching to the Choir". And while the Methodists are probably a little more benign than those other satanic cults of hate, it's still pretty much anti-gay.

    With that anger spouted, this kid is cute as a button.

    Posted by: woodroad34 | Aug 22, 2013 3:34:39 PM

  13. I think this guy is great! I go to church every Sunday and feel good about it. A belief in a Higher Power is SO beneficial in life. So helpful. I'm glad this young man has a positive outreach to other gays and lets them know that they are accepted and that God doesn't hate them. Quite the opposite. He's a very positive, caring person and I wish him all the best.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Aug 22, 2013 3:37:33 PM

  14. So another guy on Grindr who doesn't put out? Shocking news.

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Aug 22, 2013 3:42:41 PM

  15. @Sam
    "Yes, some Christians are homophobic. So are some atheists."

    That's disgusting whitewashing of Christianity's past and present. Anti-gay Christians didn't just "happen to be" Christians - it was and still is part of the religion.

    Posted by: Eugene | Aug 22, 2013 3:44:17 PM

  16. I am a Gay Lutheran Christian and I am proud of it!!!

    Posted by: Mark | Aug 22, 2013 3:45:16 PM

  17. @Sam
    "Yes, some Christians are homophobic. So are some atheists."

    That's disgusting whitewashing of Christianity's past and present. Anti-gay Christians didn't just "happen to be" Christians. It was (and still is) part of the religion.

    Posted by: Eugene | Aug 22, 2013 3:46:57 PM

  18. Gay Christians annoy the sh-t out of me! seriously the most over the top "God loves you!" sh-t ever. Go sit down.

    Posted by: cortez | Aug 22, 2013 3:51:55 PM

  19. Gay Christians are some of the most judgmental, prudish, militant people you'll ever meet. In their quest to not be like every other gay (whatever that is) they over compensate and turn into the most over bearing, in your face conservative. I truly can't stand being in most of their presence. And this is after years of dealing with the gay Christian complex.

    Posted by: Duration & Convexity | Aug 22, 2013 3:53:52 PM

  20. I generally tend to keep my distance from religious LGBT as a whole; not just christians. Spiritual, I'm fine with. But there's something about the religious LGBT where they are a little more pearl clutching and preachy than even the average church-goer. I have my own theories why that is but I find it exhausting to be around, much less date. To each their own.

    Posted by: C.J | Aug 22, 2013 3:55:10 PM

  21. It's not enough for these people to believe in fairies in the sky. They demand everyone else does too. They demand to stalk you, find you, and make sure you adopt their beliefs. They demand to knock on your door on weekend mornings and sell you a man made book.


    Posted by: Dallas Dude | Aug 22, 2013 3:56:18 PM

  22. Organized religion in western countries has become moot. The highest rate of youth in this country are rejecting religion, and church attendance is at an all time low, with church leaders having no clue what to do. This ploy with grindr is not out of being hip & tech savvy. It's sheer desperation.

    Posted by: Michelle | Aug 22, 2013 3:57:55 PM

  23. Here's the problem with religious homos....

    Even if they and their cult...grrr..."church" accept gays, they'll still find another demographic to judge and hate. That may be gays who choose not to marry. It may be gays who don't believe in committed monogamous relationships. It may be straight woman who choose to have abortions. It may be straight people in open relationships.

    Just because a church has a gay person in it's doors doesn't make them less intolerable.

    Church and religion are ALL about confines, rules, laws, and NOT being free thinking. The disable the human soul from being true, real, and inherent. NO THANK YOU!

    Posted by: Alejandro | Aug 22, 2013 4:01:57 PM

  24. Why is it if I say I believe in mythical dragons, society would demand I be medicated after seeing a mental health professional. But if I say a virgin gave birth to a man who will come back from the dead, after walking on water, and turning water into wine, and a million other laughable stories from the bible, I'm not deemed certifiable?

    Seriously, what separates The Little Mermaid from The Bible? sorry, but the little mermaid gave just as many people a source of inspiration. One's classified as a fable, and the other is what some demand our government should base our human laws on. Gimme a break.

    Posted by: Scott Johansen | Aug 22, 2013 4:09:40 PM

  25. Let's not be a bunch of grumpy old queens. Yes, being a "gay Christian" is a bit of an oxymoron. But I think this young guy probably needs the very possiblity of being a "gay Christian" to bridge the reality of who he is with the reality of what those around him believe. Gay Christians are still a step in the right direction. Maybe he'll influence some homophobes to be less homophobic. At this point we need as many people being honest with who they are as possible.
    BTW in a state like Tennessee, most UMC congregations would still be pretty conservative. I've known individual southern Baptists who were more liberal than some Methodists.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Aug 22, 2013 4:09:58 PM

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