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Click Here for Recent Books

I 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 Fundamentalists.  Prometheus Publications, 1995.  Personal testimonies of recovery from abusive religion by some famous people, such as Robert Ingersoll.  A very good collection.

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, 1991.

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, 1991.

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.

Hilton, Bruce 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 homosexuals.

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."

Winell, Marlene, 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.


These 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)This 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.


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 .

Good 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 to Christ, 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 headquarters. 

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."
"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 AssociatesThe 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.

WALK AWAY 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)

Yesterday 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?


The 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.

All 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. 

When 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.


First, 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 help.

Trust 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.

Many 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.


You 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. 

Sometimes 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.

One 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.


God 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.

The 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.

Jesus 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.


Preachers, 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)

Update for October 18, 2001

God 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.


The 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 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.

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.

What 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?


How 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?

We 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.


Your 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 yourself.


Recognizing 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.

How 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.

Please 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, 2000:


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.

The 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.

The 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.

he 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.

Other 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.

Two 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 conservatives.

Several 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 denomination.

About 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.

While 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.

With 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Among 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.

A 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.

In 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.

He 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."

Bubba 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.

But 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 correctly."

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."

Before 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.

"[W]e 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."

Wade 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 interpretation.

Albert 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 Louisville, Ky.

"Only 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."

Mohler 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."

William 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."

Ken 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.

Hemphill 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.

In 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.

A 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.

Texas 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 issues.

A 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 written.

The 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.

The 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
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P.O. Box 23769 Jacksonville, FL 32241-3769

This Update added November 6, 2000:

All God's Children (Except Some)

Rev. Tommie Watkins knocked on the church door but no one answered
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez

To 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.

Watkins 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.

He 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.

All 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.

The 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."

Behind 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.

Squeezing 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.

Bishop 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 minister's style.

Since 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.)

These 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.

The 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 asks.

Not 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 together."

Not 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 don't understand."

According 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 are greater."

Dunn's 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 [AME] congregation."

Watkins 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 coming out."

from miaminewtimes.com
Originally published by Miami New Times October 26, 2000
©2000 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2000-10-26/metro2.html


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