Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, previously a member of Park Cities Baptist Church, has joined First Baptist Church of Dallas, primarily because he thinks anti-gay Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress is a “good guy,” according to The Dallas Morning News. First Baptist on Sunday unveiled a $130 million building program, and Leppert was on hand to lead the congregation in prayer. From The DMN story:
Leppert recently became a member of First Baptist Dallas. He said Sunday that Jeffress was the main reason and described the pastor as a “good guy.”
First Baptist Dallas has long been a bastion of conservative theology and social views, and Jeffress has continued the tradition, drawing protesters last year when he preached a sermon titled “Why Gay Is Not O.K.”
Leppert said Sunday that he would continue to work with gay rights groups, as well as with religious congregations across the spectrum.
“I’m real clear. I’m reaching out to every group in the community,” he said. “People know my faith.”
I’m not sure what Leppert’s quote means, but here’s my take: When Leppert was in a runoff for mayor in 2007 against openly gay City Councilman Ed Oakley, major questions were raised about Leppert’s support for the LGBT community, in part because he was known to be both Republican and Southern Baptist. Since then, however, LGBT advocates have been pleasantly surprised. Leppert hired an openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, and he’s made a habit of appearing at events like the Black Tie Dinner and the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Still, you had to wonder how much of this “outreach” was politically motivated, and his disappointing-but-not-surprising decision to join First Baptist would seem to confirm that most of it was. Many believe Leppert is planning to run for U.S. Senate if and when Kay Bailey Hutchison steps down to run for governor, and a membership at First Baptist will come in handy in a statewide race. I’ve left messages for Heinbaugh seeking further explanation, and I’ll let you know when I receive his response.