Click Here for Recent Books
do not recommend very many books. Few books on issues related to
the Bible and homosexuality are carefully researched and well
written. I recommend the following:
See an important new book that has been published by THE JESUS SEMINAR:
The Once and Future Jesus: Polbridge Press, 2000. Contains
an overview of the history of the Jesus Seminar since its beginning in
1985 in Berkeley and includes important articles on Jesus by Robert W.
Funk, Marcus J. Borg, John S. Spong, John Dominic Crossan, Walter Wink,
and several others.
Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality:
Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to
the Fourteenth Century. University of Chicago Press, 1980.
The most thoroughly researched of any treatment of the subject of
church history and homosexuality along with the Bible and homosexuality
printed so far. See also Boswell's last book, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. New York: Villard Books, 1994.
Aarons, Leroy, Prayers for Bobby:
A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son. HarperSan
Francisco, 1995. A powerful and deeply moving true story that is being
planned as a movie.
Adams, Marc, The Preacher's Son
. Window Books, 1996. See web site of Marc Adams and his partner Todd Tuttle: HeartStrong, Inc.
Babinski, Edward T.(Editor), Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former
Publications, 1995. Personal testimonies of recovery from abusive
religion by some famous people, such as Robert Ingersoll. A very
Bawer, Bruce. Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. Crown Publishers, Inc., 1997. Also by Bruce Bawer, A Place at the Table:
The Gay Individual in American Society. Poseidon Press, 1993.
Booth, Father Leo. When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction & Abuse. G. P. Putnam's Sons,
De la Huerta, Christian. Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999. This very popular book takes a look at the major
world religions and their teachings and attitudes toward homosexuality. Christian is host of "SPIRIT WAVE" Internet radio program heard weekly on GAYBC.com.
Enroth, Ronald M. Churches that Abuse. Zondervan: A Division of
HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.
Glaser, Chris. Come Home!
Reclaiming Spirituality and Community as Gay Men and Lesbians.
(Published in 1990 by Harper) This book is now available in a
completely revised and expanded (5 new chapters) edition published 1998
by Chi Rho Press. See also Glasser's
Uncommon Calling: A Gay Man's Struggle to Serve the Church. Harper, 1988; Coming Out as Sacrament. Westminster John Knox, 1998; Coming Out to God:
Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends. Westminster John Knox, 1991; The Word is Out: Daily Meditations on "The Bible Reclaimed for Lesbians and Gay Men". Harper 1994.
Gomes, Peter J. The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1996.
Johnson, David and Jeff VanVonderen.
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse:
Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual
Authority Within the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers,
Jordan, Mark D.
The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997. This recent study is
carefully and thoroughly researched. The material is even harder
to read than Boswell, but it is worth the time and effort to learn a
lot of things you don't already know.
Hartman, Keith. Congregations in Conflict: The Battle Over Homosexuality.
New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1996. A
lively telling of the stories of Rev. Jimmy Creech, Dr. Mahan Siler,
and others who have led their churches to affirm and celebrate gay and
lesbian holy unions.
Haugk, Kenneth C. Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988.
Can Homophobia Be Cured? Abingdon Press, 1992. A clear and well informed brief treatment of issues related to homosexuality and the church.
Helminiak, Daniel A.
What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.
San Francisco: Alamo Square Press, 1994. A well written overview
of the main issues related to the Bible and Homosexuality. Use
your browser to search for "Helmiliak" to find many sites that contain
interviews with Dr. Helminiak.
McNeill, John. The Church And The Homosexual, 1976, revised and enlarged 1988, Taking A Chance On God, 1988, and Freedom, Glorious Freedom!,
1994. All from Beacon Press, Boston. Practical and reliable work. Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998
Oates, Wayne E.
When Religion Gets Sick. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970. This excellent study of sick and abusive religion is still of great value.
Scanzoni, Letha and
Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Another
Christian View. HarperSanFrancisco, 1978, 1994. Revised and
Updated. The first and still one of the best treatments of the
problems created by the use of the Bible as a weapon against
Stuart, Elizabeth. Religion is a Queer Thing: A Guide to the Christian Faith for Lesbian, Gay, bisexual and Transgendered People
. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 1997.
Spong, John Shelby. Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile. HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.
Weinberg, Dr. George. Society and the Healthy Homosexual. St. Martin's Press, 1972, 1983. Recently Revised. This book invented the term "homophobia."
Leaving the Fold (1993):
New Harbinger Publications. Careful clinical research and
practical help related to the personal problems faced by anyone who
attempts to leave the Fundamentalist Religion and become free.
GREAT CLASSIC BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ:
books have helped me personally to shape my views on God, Jesus, and my
call to ministry. They have special relevance to the material in
this web site. All of them are well worth your time.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together (helpful in understanding the dynamics of small group and individual ministry), The Cost of Discipleship, and his most influential work:
Letters and Papers from Prison.
Brother Lawrence. The Practice of the Presence of God.
Howe, Ruel L. The Miracle of Dialogue.
Kierkegaard, Soren. Attack Upon Christendom, Edifying Discourses, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing and other books and writings by the "first Christian existentialist".
Powell, John,S.J.. why am i afraid to tell you who i am? and Why Am I Afraid to Love? (I used these two exciting and creative brief books in most of my college ministerial courses at Baptist College.)
Robinson, John A. T. Honest to God (1963) and The Honest To God Debate,
edited by David L. Edwards (1963). These books were a bombshell in the
field of theology when they first came out. Robinson was already
Bishop of Woolwich and a famous and respected biblical scholar when he
wrote Honest to God.
Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited (1949).
brief book by a great African American scolar and teacher had a
profound effect on my thinking when Rev. Carolyn Mobley gave me a copy
in 1981 in Atlanta. Read it with great profit.
Tillich, Paul. Dynamics of Faith, Biblical Religion and the Search for Ultimate Reality, The Shaking of the Foundations, and many other books, lectures, and a 3 vol. Systematic Theology.
Don't miss out on the life and work of this great American thinker and
theological pioneer. Tillich, Bonhoeffer, and Kierkegaard
profoundly influenced Bishop John A. T. Robinson in his brave new
approach to spirituality in Honest to God.
VALUABLE LINKS FOR YOU TO CHECK OUT:
Rik Isensee of San Francisco is a powerfully effective Gay Psychotherapist and writer. See his WEB SITE.
See a new UK search site for GLBT information:
PINKLINKS. Contains a great wealth of up-to-date links including a link to "Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse."
For a helpful list of resources and web links for LGBT Christians, see the web site for GAY CHARLOTTE.
The Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Web Site is worth exploring. PFLAG is a world wide organization
of support and encouragement for Lesbians and Gays and their families
and friends. Local groups of PFLAG give support directly to
people who are struggling with accepting themselves, their families,
and their friends as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual. PFLAG
provides a much needed corrective to such anti-gay programs as
"Homosexuals Anonymous" and PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays),
which are controlled and financed by the religious right and Exodus
International, the largest of the "Ex-Gay" ministries that claims to
change gays to straight. Very helpful with relevant medical and
psychological information about recovery is The Healing Circle.
See how many gay and straight people have responded to AIDS in the Names Project AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT
links for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth are beginning
to show up on the Internet. See a good site for GAY YOUTH at "The Cool Page for Queer
Teens". This site has great links to other relevant sites. Gay Dads
is a helpful site with good links and many resources for gay and
lesbian parents; with "A Coming Out Guide for Gay Dads." Along
the same line, see FURMAN'S FOLIES
for resources and links for Gay Parents.
See a new "WEBSITE DEDICATED TO GAY EQUALITY"
by my friend Tom Edwards.
See a new web by Scott Christian Bauer of Salt Lake City, Utah: "GAY CHRISTIAN UNITED IN CHRIST"
Two movies available on video cassette are relevant to this material: One Nation Under God, a video documentary on the "Ex-Gay" movement that appeared on National Public Television, and Priest
, which set the Fundamentalists against Disney for distributing it. Available at Tower.
Also I recommend a book that has helped me: Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color
, by Iyanla Vanzant, Published by Simon & Schuster, 1993.
Metropolitan Community Church programs and information, individual MCC church web sites,
and MCC clergy e-mail addresses are available at UNIVERSAL FELLOWSHIP of MCC.
The UFMCC Headquarters site is frequently expanded. If you have
problems accessing it, try UFMCCHQ on your browser.
See also Mel White's SOULFORCE. or the largest Gay and
Lesbian Christian Church in the world, see MCC Dallas: Cathedral of Hope
: See also the Pastor Rev. Michael
Piazza's material on "Christianity and Homosexuality".
See AFFIRMATION GAY AND LESBIAN MORMONS
for information and resources and for list of local organizations.
Click on MCC San Francisco
for information and programs. For support and affirmation of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, see web site for DignityUSA.
For daily newspaper stories about gay and lesbian religious issues see IWG, Interfaith Working Group, web site and subscribe to receive their daily e-mail. See SPIRITSONG MINISTRIES
for Christian gay and lesbian music. Also see a music group of
GLT multi-ethnic and multi-cultural musicians out of MCC-Washington,
DC, called "David North and The Gospel Celebration. For a very strongly evangelical gay positive
church, see Casa De Cristo
in Phoenix, which has been in ministry for 28 years. See
Suite101: Gay and Lesbian Spirituality for useful links and articles, edited by Barb Chandler.
See also GAY CHRISTIANS web site and
GAYS FOR GOD. For
affirming and accepting ministry and great links, see the work of Rev. Dr. James E. Bilbrey at "The Care Page".
For links to sites that give information on religious gay bashing, see the "Know Your Enemy"
site of Religious Right and Fascist Links.
See "The Jesus Seminar"
web site for creative scholarly Bible research and cutting edge
discoveries and studies on The Gospels and a "New Quest for the
Historical Jesus." Robert W. Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar,
has written an account of his own personal experiences and what he has
learned in his search for the real Jesus in Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium:
HarperSanFrancisco, 1996. Dr. Funk says a lot of the same things
that I do in this web site about the problems of translating Bible
languages and culture into modern English.
See also the web site for Public Broadcasting System documentary From Jesus
which was shown during Easter Week, 1998. See also a curious
twist in recent Gospel studies related to sexual orientation and Jesus:
"The Strange Case of the Secret Gospel According to Mark".
Gay and Lesbian support groups for non-Christian religions are listed in "Gay Religion Links" on Yahoo! See web sites for Gay Buddhists, Moslems, Jews, Pagans, Unitarian-Universalists, "Gay Spirit Visions
," and White Crane:
"A Journal of Gay Men's Spirituality." See a new site: "BAPTIST WATCH".
TRANSSEXUAL CHRISTIANS can find help at EMERGENCE
. For information about UFMCC ministries for and by Transgendered People, contact
The Rev. Justin Tanis, Director of Clergy Development at UFMCC
See Christian Science Gays and Lesbians.
For gay affirming Catholics:
Ecumenical Catholic Church. For lesbian and gay Seventh Day Adventists: God's Rainbow and SDA Kinship, International, Inc. New Resource:
Gnosis: "A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions" on paganism and
related subjects. For a fresh look at Christianity without "Church", see Bil Aulenbach's
"Christianity for the 21st Century."
See "The Healing Circle"
site for a thorough look at psychological and medical (psychiatric)
statements and articles related to "causes" of homosexuality and
"reparative therapy" and other recent fads and religious abuses against
gays and lesbians, such as the "Ex-Gay Movement". See other
resources and information in the Ex-Gay Fraud
. Read the latest announcements of the American Psychiatric Association about gay "therapies".
See a new site by a friend of mine at Ex-Gay Nomad.
The author of the site, who has been through the "ex-gay" ministries
himself, wants to hear the stories of other people who also have
survived "ex-gay" therapies and affirmed their homosexuality as a gift
from God. Look at this site and e-mail the author with your story.
A careful well-researched study of "Calculated Compassion: How the Ex-Gay Movement Serves the
Right's Attack on Democracy" was published October, 1998, and can be read at Political Research
Associates. The project was shared by The Policy Institute of the National Gay
and Lesbian Task Force, and Equal Partners in Faith. Check out the web sites of these three organizations.
The book is also available from Different Light Book Store.
is a site that will help people who have decided to leave fundmentalist
religion and seek new spiritual directions.
Please write to The Author
and suggest other books and web sites that have been of special help to
you. Give reasons for your suggestions. Thank you.
See a recently published web site by John Shannonhouse giving an
analysis of the Bible passages used against GLBT people: "Analysis of
Religious Verses Relating to Homosexuality."
(Update added February 3, 2000)
I received e-mail from a 14-year-old lesbian who is struggling with
rejection from her parents and her fundamentalist church. Where
do GLBT teenagers turn for spiritual help when their own parents and
churches turn against them?
Where do you turn for spiritual resources that you can trust and that you can rely on for genuine help?
SPIRITUAL HELP IN THE BIBLE
Gospel of John is still my first choice for reliable spiritual help
that can be found in the Bible. Start with the Fourth Gospel, and
sometimes it might be best to end with it also! The Gospel of
Luke also gives practical help that is relevant and personal.
Four Gospels are the logical source for Christian spiritual support
that is practical and reliable. Mark is the shortest and can be
read with great benefit in one sitting. Matthew is long and
detailed and assumes a lot of knowledge of the Jewish religion and
traditions at the time of Jesus.
I taught college courses in the Gospel of John, I memorized the whole
book and found it to be well worth the effort. Filling your mind
and your memory with the material in the Gospel of John can provide you
with a vast spiritual resource that will keep you focused on the truth
that Jesus promised would set you free.
SPIRITUAL HELP WITHIN YOURSELF
let go of the spiritual resources that don't work for you. Your
own experience is your best teacher. If abusive legalistic
religion has hurt you, abandon it and look somewhere else for spiritual
your own sense of what is right for you. You have learned a lot
from your own spiritual journey. Think through and write down the
spiritual resources that have already been helpful to you. What
has helped you may not have been helpful to your family or
friends. Your spiritual life is uniquely yours. Listen to
what God is telling you through your own mind and heart.
of the e-mail responses to my web site come from people who have
learned to trust their own feelings and to accept themselves in spite
of religious abuse and rejection from their own families and
churches. A lot of GLBT people are making great personal
spiritual progress on their own.
LEARN WHO YOU CAN TRUST
can learn a lot that is helpful from other people in your life, but you
have to be selective. Nobody has all the answers, and no other
person really sees you and your life exactly the way it is. Find
and select your friends with intelligence and care. Jesus did,
and even Jesus selected a Judas.
we are attracted to other people because of their good looks or other
superficial characteristics. Don't let attractive people seduce
you into self-destructive ways of thinking that don't really fit
you. You can learn from the successes and the mistakes of others
without letting them control you. This is true of your parents,
family, close friends and others who have emotional ties with you.
of our most difficult developmental tasks in life is learning to be
objective and realistic about other people. We want to love and
be loved. Unhealthy codependency is not love, however, and can
even be a subtle form of self-hate and self-rejection that grows from
the polluted soil of low self-esteem.
LET GOD HELP YOU
is the world's expert on spiritual resources that really work for
you. When all else fails, and it will, turn to God. But
that's the real problem, isn't it? Who is God and what is God
really like for you? The hateful vengeful "god" of much
traditional religion is false and misleading. God is not
discovered at the end of an argument. God is experienced as a
spiritual event in your own life.
saying of Jesus in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life,
and nobody comes to God except through me," does not mean that people
could not experience God unless the knew about Jesus or followed the
traditional church interpretation of Jesus. It simply means that
the way to experience God is the way Jesus experienced God: through
radical trust and obedience.
made it perfectly clear that God is not "out there somewhere" but that
God is within you and surrounds you at all times. God is your
most reliable and available spiritual resource. Don't let others
take that away from you because of their ignorance or bad judgment.
TEST THE SPIRITS
teachers, writers, parents and friends often try to build their own
sense of self worth by criticizing and rejecting people who are
different from them. Jesus had to deal with this throughout his
life. Read Matthew 23 for the scathing response of Jesus to
unhealthy judgmental self-serving religion. Learn to avoid the
spiritual mess created by sick religion. Then read 1 John chapter
4 for the positive side of discovering yourself in the light of God's
love and your own personal experience of love and life.
God is love. We also love, because God is within us."
(This is the message of 1 John 4:1-21 and of John 13:34-35)
"GOD IS IN"
Update for October 18, 2001
is in everything that happens. Do you have a lively sense of the
presence of God with you at all times and in all things? God is
the creator and sustainer of all energy, matter and order.
Nothing exists without God. You cannot escape God. You can
only decide to ignore God and fall flat on your face! God is with
you now, whether you recognize God or not, whether you believe in God
or not. You would not exist without God. The bottom line is
that God is.
GOD IS IN YOU
image of God is in you by the act of God in creation. If you are
having trouble finding God out there somewhere, look within. God
is already within you. Sometimes we realize that God is in the
most difficult and discouraging experiences of our lives, working
things out for us that we could never handle for ourselves. As I
look back on my own life, I realize every day that the very worst
things that have happened to me have been the experiences that best
prepared me for my present ministry and that most forcefully propelled
me to develop my web site, write and publish my book, and travel to
speak and lead workshops on spiritual recovery.
GOD ARRANGES THINGS
arranges things by closing doors and even slamming some of them!
Then new doors open. People leave us and new people come into our
lives. Every person comes into your life for a reason. It
may be for a brief time or a longer time or for a lifetime, but people
come into your life to teach you something and to learn something from
you. God is in you and in every person you meet. People may
come and go, but God never abandons you or ignores you.
are surrounded by God, sustained by God, loved, encouraged and
protected by God, who made you and called you by your name as a child
of God. All visions of God are not the same. Some people
have been convinced to believe in a terrible destructive unpredictable
God of violence and torment, but the God of Jesus is not that God.
is your vision of God? How did you learn what God is like to
you? What part of your life do you still think is out of touch
with God? Can anything real in your life actually be out of touch
with the ultimate reality of God?
YOUR CHANGING VISION OF GOD
you view God is constantly changing, for you are constantly
changing. Since your life is dynamic, growing and changing and
you are learning and developing into a new person every day, your
understanding of God is also growing and developing. What most
helps you to sort out your spiritual options and make progress in your
relationship with God? Do you have to be intentional about
growing and learning from God? Or does it just happen?
usually do not spend much time thinking about the questions that I have
been asking you today. But why not? You and I take God for
granted. We believe in some kind of sovereign spiritual reality
above and over all things, yet taking some time just to think about God
through prayer, meditation, reflection, introspection, observation, and
imagination can bring surprising insights and emotional
stability. Spiritual growth requires a degree of letting go of
other interests and distractions in order for us to concentrate on God
for even a brief time.
HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF
view of God determines how you see everything else. Your view of
God can lead you to see "nature red in tooth and claw" or "earth's
crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God." You
can see yourself as hopeless and abandoned or you can see yourself as a
child of God always under the protection and guidance of God. You
can catch a glimpse of God in other people or you can see others as
threatening and alien to you. Developing a God oriented point of
view alters the way you see everything else in the world and in
PURPOSE AND DESIGN
the presence of God gives you a sense of purpose in life and a lively
hope for design instead of chaos in what is happening all around you.
you name God is up to you. Your name for God will depend on your
experiences and on how you recognize or ignore the active presence of
God in your life and in all of your relationships. Whether you
see God or not, God is always with you and within you.
Take a look at "Special Study F" on "How Do You Name God?" beginning on page 515 in my book.
pray for me as I travel to MCC Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this
weekend to lead a Saturday workshop, meet with church home group
leaders, and preach at the two Sunday worship services. For
information about these events see my web site material on "Contact Us"
or call Rev. Ken Hull, Pastor of MCC Winston-Salem at the church office
at (336) 784-8009 or at home at (336) 785-1138.
See November plans for Soulforce.
This update on Southern Baptist Convention was added on November 3,
TEXAS BAPTISTS REDUCE SBC FUNDING
Texas Baptists ratify reduced SBC funding
October 30, 2000 - Volume: 00-99
Associated Baptist Press
By Greg Warner and Bob Allen
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (ABP) -- Texas
Baptists agreed Oct. 30 to cut $4.3 million from six Southern Baptist seminaries
they say have abandoned some traditional Baptist beliefs and forced
doctrinal conformity on their faculties and trustees. Instead the money
will be spent on three theological schools in Texas.
report of a special study committee was "overwhelmingly" approved, said
convention officers who observed the show-of-hands vote from the
platform. Other observers said the vote margin was 4-to-1 or greater.
report had been the source of contentious debate, in Texas and beyond,
for months. Supporters said the change was necessary because of a
restrictive theological direction taken by the national Southern
Baptist Convention. Opponents said the plan destroys the relationship
of trust and cooperation that has existed between the national SBC and
the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1925.
BGCT is still studying its relationship to the SBC mission agencies,
with a report due next year, which some believe will further distance
Texas Baptists from those who control the national convention.
Before approving the report, messengers easily defeated an
amendment that would have phased in the funding cuts over three years.
messengers, who numbered 6,475 at the time of the vote, said they were
attempting to make other motions when debate was called off. A later
vote to de-fund the SBC Executive Committee and the Ethics and
Religious Liberty Commission was the subject of a ballot vote, which
was not immediately available.
decades of infighting between conservative and moderate SBC factions
have led to previous denominational realignments. Two states, for
example -- Texas and Virginia -- have separate state conventions for
moderate churches nationwide, meanwhile, have voted to sever ties with
the SBC over its recent conservative stands. And former President Jimmy
Carter, one of the most identifiable Southern Baptists, recently
announced that he no longer wants to be associated with the
1,800 SBC churches that are dissatisfied with the denomination's
rightward shift already work together at the national level through the
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group which supports its own
missionaries and offers churches alternative programs to the SBC.
the Atlanta-based Fellowship has voted not to declare itself a
convention or denomination, it is currently involved in a developing a
strategic plan that leaders hope will more clearly identify it as an
organization that is separate from the SBC.
one of every six Southern Baptists living in Texas, however, and 13
percent of the SBC's funding coming from the state, Texas Baptists'
decision to redefine their relationship to the 41,000-church national
body could be the most far-reaching to date.
Texas funding cuts culminate several years of disagreement between
conservative leaders of the SBC and the moderate-led BGCT, the largest
SBC affiliate with some 2.7 million members.
dispute came to a head this summer when the SBC approved a rewrite of
its "Baptist Faith and Message." Texas Baptist leaders have been
critical of the rewrite and say it is un-Baptist to use it as a creed.
disputed changes in the faith statement are a ban on women preachers, a
family article that says wives should submit to their husbands and the
deletion of a phrase in the earlier edition that said Jesus Christ is
the criterion for interpreting Scripture.
special committee conducted a six-month study of SBC seminaries before
recommending the funding cut in September. The BGCT's 200-member
Executive Board voted overwhelmingly Sept. 26 to pass the committee's
report on to the state convention.
recommending the seminary plan, study committee chairman Bob Crawford
said the new faith statement is called "an instrument of doctrinal
accountability" and is being used to "demand creedal adherence" from
those who teach in SBC seminaries.
said it is inaccurate to say Texas Baptists are breaking off a 92-year
relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention abruptly. "It has
been decided over 21 years," he said, referring to the two-decade
dominance of conservatives and fundamentalists in the SBC.
"Let us leave behind the constant battle with other Baptists," Crawford said. "We can
no longer be embroiled with those who want to teach rigid creedalism."
Stahl of Boerne made the motion to phase in the de-funding. "The change
should be made gradually rather than suddenly, which is always the
better way," he said.
Rick Davis of Midlothian, a study committee member, said students at
Texas seminaries already are suffering by having to pay higher tuition
than at SBC seminaries. And, he added, funding available to the SBC
means "there is no reason for anyone to suffer if they use the money
Bob Dixon of Dallas, former head of Texas Baptist Men, argued against the de-funding,
saying, "It sounds to me like God's hand is on the graduates of the Southern Baptist seminaries."
Judy Battles of Arlington said the defunding was necessary so the BGCT can support schools that do not
require teachers to sign "an un-Baptistic statement."
the discussion, Charles Wade, executive director of the Texas
convention, said it was necessary to approve the plan to get the
attention of Southern Baptist leaders.
need to do this because Southern Baptist leaders have shown greater
willingness to talk with Texas Baptists in the last six weeks than ever
before," Wade said. "If we vote to do this today and the churches
heartily follow the recommendations adopted, the I believe we may have
some influence with Southern Baptist leaders."
said he hoped the Southern Baptist Convention would be persuaded to
consider changes to the newly adopted "Baptist Faith and Message"
statement to allow more differences of opinion and freedom of
Mohler, president of one of the de-funded schools, said there is no
provision in the plan for further discussion. "They didn't say 'We want
a hearing.' They said, 'This is how we will fund the seminaries,'" said
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
time will tell whether any fruitful discussion between the SBC and BGCT
leaders can take place," he continued. "The right conversation needs to
take place with the right people. It would be wrong to try to close the
door. But I don't see any openness."
said he is "profoundly disappointed" in the vote but not surprised,
given the direction of the BGCT. He said Southern Seminary "will
continue serving Southern Baptist churches" despite the defunding.
"We're talking about a significant amount of money. It will take time
to assess the impact … but I am convinced Southern Baptists will
generously support the six SBC seminaries."
Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill
Valley, Calif., said the action meant "not only a significant loss of
money -- and some will be more affected than others -- but it is also a
loss of partnership."
Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Fort Worth, Texas, said he wished there had been an opportunity to
respond to some of the charges by the BGCT committee. "Many of the
points we made [to the study committee] were ignored" in the final
report, he said.
said the revised "Baptist Faith and Message" is "an excellent document"
and that Southwestern Seminary gladly "stands accountable to the
Southern Baptist Convention."
Three schools in
Texas stand to benefit from the funding change. Baylor University's
George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco and Hardin-Simmons
University's Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, which both opened
in 1996, will each receive a share of the $4.3 funding cut from SBC
schools, along with Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio.
weeks prior to the BGCT annual meeting, SBC leaders launched an
unprecedented effort to urge Texas Baptists to attend their state
convention and defeat the proposal. The SBC Executive Committee started
a special Web site and mass mailed material to Texas Baptist churches
countering criticism leveled by Texas Baptist leaders.
separate recommendation considered Oct. 30 would eliminate $345,000 in
funding for the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and reduces
an allocation to the SBC Executive Committee from $746,000 to $10,000.
leaders say they have been routinely criticized and "slandered" by the
Executive Committee and its news service, Baptist Press, and that the
SBC's social-concerns agency has turned into a partisan political
organization instead of educating churches about moral and ethical
final vote on the BGCT budget, which includes new funding figures for
both the seminaries and the other two SBC entities, was taken by secret
ballot. The vote count had not been reported when this story was
budget leaves intact Texas funding for the SBC International Mission
and North American Mission boards, two entities that combined receive
nearly 73 cents out of every dollar given at the national level to the
Cooperative Program unified budget.
BGCT is also considering this year changes to its constitution that
would allow churches from outside Texas as members of the state group.
Some say the change opens the door for the Texas convention to become a
national body rivaling the SBC. Other observers, however, say it is
unlikely that large numbers of churches from other states will join the
BGCT. The stated intent for the change is to allow moderate churches in
overwhelmingly conservative states, such as Oklahoma, to participate in
a state convention where they feel more at home.
©Associated Baptist Press
Phone: 800-340-6626 ∑ Fax: 904-262-7745
P.O. Box 23769 Jacksonville, FL 32241-3769
This Update added November 6, 2000:
STRUGGLES OF A BLACK GAY MINISTER
All God's Children (Except Some)
Rev. Tommie Watkins knocked on the church door but no one answered
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
be black and gay in America is difficult enough. But to be a gay black
clergyman seeking official sanction from one of the spiritual
cornerstones of African-American life is beyond difficult. As Rev.
Tommie Watkins discovered recently, it's impossible --at least for now.
preaches at the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church,
where he leads a gay and lesbian congregation he calls the Ministry of
Reconciliation. He made his disappointing discovery October 3 in
Melbourne, where he traveled in hopes the 213-year-old religious
institution's South Florida chapter would ordain him as a deacon at its
annual conference. If ordained Watkins would become the first openly
gay member of the AME hierarchy.
arrived at Melbourne's Greater Allen Chapel AME Church during a break
in a heavy downpour. Inside the sanctuary elegantly dressed women
cooled themselves with fans that advertised a local funeral home, while
men in dark suits shook hands and joked with one another. As the air
conditioning quietly succumbed to the heat and humidity rising from the
crowd, elderly ladies wearing white gloves busily set up folding chairs
in the narrow aisles and urged those sitting in the pews to make room
for late arrivals.
were gathered for the AME's Eleventh Episcopal District annual
conference, at which hundreds of congregants, from Melbourne to Key
West, would set policy, select new leaders, and chart a course for the
coming year. Though few realized it, this year's conference held the
possibility of marking a new era for the historic church, which was
established in Philadelphia in 1787 by freed slaves who'd been
prohibited from worshipping in white churches.
supreme leader of Florida's six AME regions, Bishop John Hurst Adams,
told the assembly to prepare for a socially progressive millennium. The
church already had broken tradition earlier this year, when Rev. Vashti
Murphy McKenzie was ordained as its first female bishop. "We're going
to be sensitive to issues and calls of support before us," Bishop Adams
declared from a table in front of the altar. "Leadership is expanding
the definition of what is possible where issues like justice, fairness,
and opportunity are concerned."
a pulpit to the bishop's left, about fifteen church elders were
gathered. One by one they approached a microphone and read the names
and brief biographies of those who would lead the church into the 21st
Century. New officers with titles such as licentiates, deacons, and
elders were nominated for Bishop Adams's approval.
into the last row of pews, Watkins sat expectantly. Two years of
ecumenical study, which he completed this past summer, had qualified
him for ordination as a deacon, and finally, almost two hours into the
seemingly interminable roll call, his name was due to be announced. But
the elders' alphabetical list jumped from "Thomas" to "Williams."
Watkins got up and quietly walked out of the church.
Adams's pronouncement that the AME Church was ready to break new ground
evidently contained unspoken limits. Watkins and his gay and lesbian
brethren, it seemed, stood outside those limits. Though crestfallen,
Watkins claimed he wasn't really surprised. "This tells me it's just
going to take some time," he conceded shortly after the meeting. His
personal struggle to forge a new path for the church would continue,
though as this official rejection made obvious, it was not going to be
easy. But then, doing the easy thing has not been the 25-year-old
coming out of the closet three years ago, Watkins has waged several
battles, publicly and privately, against homophobia. He was pressured
to resign from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1997, when a
fellow midshipman with whom he claims to have had a relationship
accused him of sexual harassment. (Watkins has denied the harassment
allegation.) He sued the navy this past June after the service sought
to charge him nearly $90,000 in tuition for the three years Watkins
attended the academy. (The navy seeks such reimbursement when a
midshipman leaves the academy voluntarily or because of misconduct.
Watkins claims he was unfairly forced to resign. His lawsuit is pending
before a federal judge in Baltimore.)
Following his breach
with the navy, Watkins finished his degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University in Daytona Beach and then moved to Miami in 1998. The
following year he began teaching mathematics at Christopher Columbus
High, a private Catholic school. This past June Watkins filed a
complaint under the county's human-rights ordinance after the school
declined to renew his contract following publication of an article in
the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel describing his gay and lesbian
ministry at Greater Bethel, located at 245 NW Eighth St. (After an
investigation the county closed the case, because the human-rights
ordinance does not apply to religious organizations.)
public conflicts, however, do not compare with his most personal one.
Watkins's parents, devout Southern Baptists from Birmingham, Alabama,
have distanced themselves from their son since he revealed his
sexuality. He hasn't spoken with them since he filed the lawsuit
against the navy.
family ostracism, he says today, has only strengthened his religious
faith and motivated him to help others who are rebuffed because they
are gay. His Ministry of Reconciliation strives to aid in healing the
emotional wounds suffered by those whose sexual orientation has led to
them being abandoned by church and family. "If certain people can't
come to God's house and serve, where are they going to go?" Watkins
to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, apparently. At least not if
they want to serve God while acknowledging their homosexuality. "The
church position is clear," Bishop Adams asserts. "If a person is openly
practicing homosexuality, we are unlikely to ordain them, because
[homosexuality] is not consistent with creation; it's not consistent
with Scripture and the church." While Adams could not identify a
Scriptural passage specifically condemning homosexuality, he is
confident the church board of examiners' decision to deny ordination to
Watkins stands on firm moral ground. "In my opinion the homosexual
lifestyle is not the same type of issue as racial discrimination," he
says. "It is not the same, and I do not accept putting the two
all AME church officials support Bishop Adams's hard line against gays
and lesbians; Rev. Marilyn Usher, an elder at Miami's Greater Bethel,
is one who doesn't. She is working to nurture acceptance within the
Overtown church, which is 104 years old, and believes Watkins's
rejection at the Melbourne conference was the result of ignorance and a
sort of "old-boys network" that rules the church's nineteen districts
in the United States and Africa. "I don't think it's the church," Usher
explains. "It's the people who are the head of the church now. There
are many people who are less threatened by gays and lesbians who say
it's time to deal with the issue. It's a guy thing. [AME leaders] just
to black scholar Marvin Dunn, the "guy thing" can be traced to the
roots of black American culture and poses a huge obstacle to the
acceptance of black gays and lesbians in their community. Dunn is a
professor of psychology at Florida International University and author
of Black Miami in the Twentieth Century. Homosexuality, he says, is not
easily discussed, much less accepted, in black America. It is widely
perceived as a symbol of weakness that dates from the days of slavery,
when black men were stripped of their ability to protect their
families. Which may help explain what Dunn describes as a great need
among black men to establish and maintain their masculinity. Anything
less is viewed as an embarrassment. "[AME's] excluding openly gay
clergy is more than the old-boys network trying to protect power," Dunn
asserts. "Their own sense of maleness, masculinity, and history is
wound up in this. That's why there is more resistance to homosexuality
in the black church than in the white -- the psychodynamics involved
analysis resonates with another member of Miami's religious community.
Bishop S.F. Irons-Mahee, a friend of Tommie Watkins and founder of the
Fellowship Tabernacle Church in Miami, established her church in 1997
in response to the oppressively homophobic Southern Baptist Pentecostal
Church of her youth. An openly lesbian African American, Irons-Mahee's
own congregation is a veritable rainbow of humanity: straight, gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender from all races, denominations, and
ethnicities. "My contention will always be if the places we need to be
spiritually fed and nurtured do not exist, then we need to build them,"
she says. "[AME's] findings do more than devastate the individual; they
annihilate the hope and drive of progressive-thinking people in the
church. They told the denomination: "Don't you dare to be innovative,
don't dare to change the tide, there's no room here for progressive
thought.' And the message wasn't just for Tommie. It was for the entire
heard that message, but vows it will not turn him away from the African
Methodist Episcopal Church and the ministry to which he devotes
himself. "More likely than not, I will remain [at Greater Bethel], and
eventually the church will have to deal with it," he predicts. "If I
reapply and go through [the ordination] process again, they will face
the issue again. And I don't think I will be the only one. There are
other gays and lesbians who were [ordained]. I'm hoping they'll start
Originally published by Miami New Times October 26, 2000
¬©2000 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.