- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2019

The graphic design Circles Conference in Texas announced this week that it’s pulling a church leader from its list of speakers after people complained he might make others feel unsafe.

David Roark, the communications and resources director for The Village Church, a megachurch based in Flower Mound, Texas, was uninvited from the three-day conference to take place in September after the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) refused to participate because of his inclusion.

The group claimed that The Village Church “does not meet our standards of inclusion because of openly discriminatory policies and practices towards women and the LGBTQ+ community.”

The Circles Conference ultimately agreed with the group and scrubbed Mr. Roark’s profile from their website.

“When you walk through the doors of Circles Conference, we want you to feel welcome,” Circles Conference founder Ismael Burciaga said in a statement announcing the change, Fox News first reported. “It’s important for us to create a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable sharing their creative experience. The Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of AIGA voiced their concerns about one of our conference speakers.

“After serious consideration, we have made a speaker change,” the statement continued. “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 AIGA local chapter said it was “pleased” with the decision.

“We welcome their willingness to respect the concerns of the design community and create a safe space for everyone who attends Circles Conference,” the group said.

Mr. Roark issued a series of tweets Wednesday saying that while he holds “no hard feelings” over the move, he doesn’t think it was handled properly.

“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,” he wrote.

“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. I don’t think that happened here, but I have hope that it can happen,” he added. “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.”

The decision to remove Mr. Roark as a speaker confused some social media users, who pointed out that the conference is still slated to include Jay Argaèt, the global arts and communications director at Hillsong Church, which has also been accused of discriminatory practices toward LGBTQ people.

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