Rev. Jo Hudson joins Brite faculty

The Rev. Jo Hudson

The Rev. Jo Hudson

Joretta Marshall, dean of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, announced that the school has hired the Rev. Jo Hudson, former pastor of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, as an adjunct faculty member. Brite is on the campus of Texas Christian University.

Hudson, who resigned from COH after nine years in April, will be part of the Carpenter Initiative in Gender, Sexuality and Justice, which produces “programs that promote a critical engagement with issues of gender and sexual justice” and promotes attention to these issues in church and culture. Marshall directs the Carpenter Initiative.

Marshall said Hudson will teach part time, working with the school’s United Church of Christ students, lecturing, conducting workshops and preaching in chapel this fall. She said she hopes some of the programs will be open to the public and plans are still being formed.

“We extremely excited to have her on staff,” Marshall said.

Hudson will not be the first LGBT staff member at Brite. Both Marshall and the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle are also gay.

Marshall said Hudson is also working as the gathering pastor of Extravagance UCC, described on the website as, “a web-based spiritual community that gathers in a new way of defining church in the 21st century.”

—  David Taffet

Brite holds ‘Bible, Politics and Sexuality’ panel

Shelly Matthews, from left, Stephen Sprinkle and Joretta Marshall

Brite Divinity School and The Carpenter Initiative in Gender, Sexuality and Justice present a panel discussing “Bible, Politics and Sexuality” on Monday night.

Speakers include Joretta Marshall, executive vice president and dean, professor of pastoral theology and pastoral care and counseling director of the carpenter initiative; Shelly Matthews, associate professor of New Testament; and Stephen Sprinkle, professor of practical theology and director of field education and supervised ministry.

On this evening when the third presidential debate takes place, Sprinkle and Matthews will discuss how the Bible is used in conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation in the highly charged political arena.

The Carpenter Initiative began in this 2011-12 academic year with a $250,000 grant to Brite to promote a critical engagement with issues of gender and sexual justice.

Brite Divinity School, Bass Conference Center, Harrison Building, 2925 Princeton St., Fort Worth. Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.

 

—  David Taffet

Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School holds vigil for teen lesbian couple shot in S. Texas

Participants bow their heads during the vigil on June 29.

Oak Lawn wasn’t the only place in the DFW area where a vigil was held for the teenage lesbian couple who were shot in a park near Corpus Christi on June 23. Mollie Olgin, 18, was killed, and Kristene Chapa, 19, remains hospitalized.

Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth held a vigil on its campus Friday. The vigil was led by Brite’s Executive Vice President and Dean Joretta Marshall and professor Stephen Sprinkle. Both are openly gay.

Sprinkle said he believed it was the only vigil for Olgin and Chapa held on the campus of a divinity school. Brite President Newell Williams issued a pastoral response that was read at the vigil. The full text is after the jump.

—  David Taffet

Sprinkle wins IPPY Award

Stephen Sprinkle

Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims by Rev. Stephen V. Sprinkle has been awarded the national silver medal from the Independent Book Awards for outstanding excellence in Gay/Lesbian Non-Fiction. The award is known as the IPPY.

Sprinkle teaches at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth and was promoted last month to professor of practical theology and director of field education and supervised ministry. He has been at the school since 1994 and held the position of associate professor before his recent promotion. He was involved in the reaction to the Rainbow Lounge raid and is featured in the film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge. He is a frequent speaker at Cathedral of Hope.

In his book Unfinished Lives, Sprinkle tells the stories of 14 LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims throughout the U.S. More than 13,000 women, men and youth who have lost their lives to unreasoning hatred since 1980.

“I set out to change the conversation on hate crimes in this country, to put a human face on the outrage of homophobia and transphobia robbing us of so many so brutally,” Sprinkle said.

—  David Taffet

LOCAL BRIEFS: Brite hosts therapy discussion, RCD unveils new website

Brite hosts therapy discussion

FORT WORTH — Brite Divinity School will host an evening conversation addressing practices of therapy for the LGBT community on Monday, Feb. 27.

Marshall.Joretta

Joretta Marshall

Speakers will discuss “reparative therapy” as well as “factors that contribute to a helpful experience of affirming therapy for LGBTQI persons.”

Speakers include Dr. David Jenkins from Brite’s School of Social Work who will share some of his research on what makes for good and helpful therapeutic work. Brite’s newly appointed dean, Joretta Marshall, and Cody Sanders will also serve on the panel.

The discussion, which is free and open to the public, runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brite Divinity School, Bass Conference Center, 2925 Princeton St., Fort Worth.

RCD unveils new website

Resource Center Dallas has redesigned its website to provide easier access to its assortment of services and events.

One of the new features on the website is “Share Your Story,” and RCD wants to hear from people in the community. Drawings will be held April 15, Aug. 15 and Dec. 15 to win tickets to GayBingo. To enter, go to www.rcdallas.org/about-the-center/share-your-story.

“How has Resource Center Dallas changed your life? Perhaps our education and advocacy made things better in your workplace. Maybe volunteering with one of our programs reinforced your reasons for giving back to the community. Did our services help improve or restore your health? Or, maybe the Center’s staff and volunteers went above and beyond to assist you.”

Lone Star Ride kick-off party

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS hosts its first fundraiser of the season on Wednesday, Feb. 29.

Simpson.Danny

Danny Simpson

LSR will receive 10 percent of alcohol sales. Complimentary food will be served. Get a wristband at the door.

The happy hour is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sangria, 4524 Cole Ave., Dallas. To attend, email LRS co-chair Danny Simpson at danny@77nmotion.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

IMG_5132

CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay couple attacked at church by pastor, deacons — who also happened to be one of the gay men’s father and uncle

Jerry Pittman Jr., left, and Dustin Lee

It never ceases to amaze me what people who call themselves “Christian” will do “in the name of God.”

Take, for instance, this story I found on the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle‘s “Unfinished Lives” blog:

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend, Dustin Lee, drove up to Grace Fellowship Church near Humbolt, Tenn., to attend Wednesday night services. Pittman’s father, Jerry Pittman Sr., is the pastor at Grace Fellowship, and his uncle, Patrick Flatt, is a deacon there. The two young men knew that the church folks at Grace Fellowship didn’t approve of their relationship, and that the elder Pittman had even preached anti-gay sermons during services when his son and Lee were not there.

But Pittman Jr. and Lee had attended services there before without any problems, and Lee had even been asked to sing at the church before.

So it caught them off guard that Wednesday evening when, as they arrived and started to get out of the car to go into the church, they heard Pastor Pittman yell out, “Sic ’em!” And Deacon Flatt and two other church deacons ran to the car and began to beat up the two young men. Pittman Jr. and Lee said that even after a Gibson County sheriff’s deputy arrived, the pastor and deacons continued to yell anti-gay slurs and insults.

And to add insult to injury, the sheriff’s deputy refused to allow Pittman Jr. and Lee to press charges against their attackers. Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold later told reporters that it would have been “out of character” for the deputy to refuse to allow the gay couple to press charges “unless they were causing a problem themselves.” Arnold, however, decided later to temper his remarks in subsequent interviews, the Unfinished Lives blog reports.

Rev. Sprinkle, by the way, is an openly gay minister and a professor at TCU’s Brite Divinity School. Unfinished Lives is also the name of the book he has written about LGBT people killed in hate crimes.

“Would Jesus condone anti-gay violence?” the Unfinished LIves blog asks. “If not, then why is such prejudice overtly and covertly incubated in the nation’s communities of faith, like Grace Fellowship? While it may be simple for many Christians to dismiss the Grace Fellowship hate crime as an aberration in an embarrassing, Pentecostal byway, the silence from every other church in the surrounding area is deafening.”

—  admin

Mary Jo Kaska joins Hope 4 Peace and Justice

Mary Jo Kaska

Mary Jo Kaska is the new director of programming for Hope 4 Peace and Justice. Kaska is described as a passionate advocate with impressive credentials in ministry, social justice, intercultural travel and education.

Kaska expects to complete her doctorate in biblical interpretation at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in December. She holds a master’s in religious education from Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans, and a bachelor’s in religious studies from Loyola University of New Orleans, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Kaska has been honored with the Nokia Research Award from the Texas Christian University Institute on Women and Gender in 2007, and recognized as the Nolan Catholic High School Teacher of the Year in 1993-94.

The Rev. Michael Piazza, who moved to Atlanta earlier this year, remains president of H4PJ, the organization that was created by Cathedral of Hope in 2004. Kaska will be the local program director. Before he left, Piazza said he expected the organization’s events to continue to be Dallas-based.

“Hope for Peace & Justice was founded to be a prophetic voice for inclusion, justice, and peace, so it is fitting to have a Hebrew scholar who is familiar with the tradition of the ancient prophets as its new program director,” Piazza said in a press release.

—  David Taffet

Texans of faith storm Capitol for human rights

From Staff Reports

The largest delegation of fair-minded Texas faith leaders since the conception of the LGBT equality movement is on its way to the nation’s capital to participate in the third Human Rights Campaign’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality, today through Tuesday.

Twenty-two clergy, theologians, and seminarians from across the Lone Star State are registered for this year’s lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.

Every two years, the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program mobilizes people of faith to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Among the important items on the agenda will be the full implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, anti-bullying efforts across the nation and passage of the Dream Act.

Texans have a particularly tall order as grassroots citizen lobbyists — since both Republican Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have consistently voted against human rights initiatives during their legislative careers in Washington. At the core of the Texas delegation are 15 students, faculty, and alumni of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, the largest from any seminary or divinity school in the state.

Brite, founded in 1914 by an endowment from Marfa rancher Luke Brite, is on the campus of Texas Christian University. Brite once was conservative on the issue of LGBTQ-inclusion, but now is the only accredited institution of theological higher education in Texas to extend welcome status to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons by action of its Board of Trustees.

Among the faculty are two openly gay and lesbian professors, and the number of LGBTQ students in the Fort Worth school is growing.

“Students are learning how to take a stand for justice by becoming clergy for whom all people matter, and are eager to work for equality in public forums like Clergy Call. Our students are taking their roles as public theologians seriously,” said Stephen V. Sprinkle, associate professor of practical theology at the Divinity School, and theologian in residence at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. “Each of the students who have traveled to Washington chose voluntarily to participate in Clergy Call because they believe faith calls them to be here.”

Billed as the largest interfaith gathering of LGBTQ and allied clergy and faith leaders in the United States, Clergy Call will bring representatives of faith communities from all 50 states to the Capitol for training in faith messaging, skill-building for advocacy with legislators, interfaith worship, and person-to-person lobbying of senators and congresspeople.

This year’s headline speakers include Rabbi Denise Egger, the Rev. Harry Knox, Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Rabbi David Saperstein, the Rev. Nancy Wilson, and Bishop Carlton Pearson.

For more info on Clergy Call, go here.

—  John Wright

Steve ‘Santa Claus’ Sprinkle’s message to gay youth goes national: No, God doesn’t hate you

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle’s “It Gets Better” video has been viewed almost 12,000 times.

The other day we shared with you the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s “It Gets Better” YouTube message to LGBT youth. Sprinkle, a gay 58-year-old assistant professor at TCU’s Brite Divinity School, may lack the celebrity appeal of some others who’ve recorded these messages in recent days, such as Chris Colfer, Tim Gunn or Ke$ha (also, $prinkle doesn’t usually spell his name with a dollar sign). But out of more than 1,000 videos submitted to the “It Gets Better” YouTube channel, Sprinkle’s is among a handful featured in a national story about the campaign from the Associated Press. That’s because, according to AP, Sprinkle is like the gay Santa Claus. And after all, for the average LGBT youth who’s not going to become a celebrity, a grandfather figure who’s a man of the cloth probably has a lot more cred than Perez Hilton. At least we’d like to think so. Here’s the excerpt about Sprinkle from the AP story:

It’s been 40 years since Stephen Sprinkle was in high school. At 58, he rocks gently in an office chair, his trim gray beard and gentle smile offering a touch of Santa Claus in his video. He describes his Christian upbringing in rural North Carolina and his decision to deny himself an “affectional life” as a gay man when he received his call to the ministry in his 20s.

“It made me lonely for a lot of years,” he tells his viewers, as he constantly looked over his shoulder and lived in fear he would slip up and reveal his secret.

It wasn’t until he was hired as an assistant professor at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, that he decided to come out “utterly, fully and completely,” surviving attempts to have him fired and earning tenure, Sprinkle said in an interview.

Since posting the video, he’s heard from several young people, including one so upset that Sprinkle tracked down professional help.

“He’s 18. He’s a closeted religious person and he told me he was afraid he was going to explode,” Sprinkle said. “He kept asking over and over, `Does God hate me?’ I said ‘Heavens, no. God created you beautiful and complete. God makes no mistakes like that.’”

—  John Wright