Lawsuit accuses St. Luke pastor of homosexual harassment

Minister at iconic black Methodist church in Dallas steps down amid allegations he coerced young men

gordon.tyrone

The Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon

DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com

A lawsuit filed against St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas and its former senior pastor, the Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, portrays the pastoral office of the predominantly African-American church in Southeast Dallas as a hotbed of homosexual harassment.

St. Luke, with 5,000 members, is one of the largest African-American churches in the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. St. Luke isn’t one of the six gay-affirming Methodist churches in the Dallas area, but its congregation includes some LGBT members.

The Rev. Zan Holmes, who preceded Gordon’s appointment in 2002 as senior pastor at St. Luke, is a respected civil rights leader. The church is known as a center for community activism, and it has attracted prominent members such as Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a U.S. trade representative appointed by President Barack Obama.

Thus far, church leaders at St. Luke and the North Texas Conference have remained silent about the lawsuit, as has Gordon, who announced his resignation as senior pastor from St. Luke in January to take effect on Wednesday, Feb. 15. On that date Holmes, who has also kept silent, will return as interim minister.

W. Earl Bledsoe, the bishop of the North Texas Conference, released a statement at the time of the resignation noting Gordon gave up his credentials during the investigation of complaints lodged against him by St. Luke church members.

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of the gay-affirmative Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, said in a telephone interview this week that his reaction to the news of the lawsuit was one of “deep sadness and sorrow.” Folkerth said he hopes the controversy will be viewed as a “sexual abuse of authority,” rather than in terms of the sexual orientation involved.

“I am hoping, praying and trusting that hopefully all of this will be dealt with appropriately in the church and in the legal system,” Folkerth said.

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The Rev. Cameron Greer

The Rev. Cameron Jerrod Greer, 26, who is a graduate student at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and a pastor ministering at Cockrell Hill United Methodist Church, alleges in the lawsuit, filed on Feb. 3 in 101st District Court in Dallas, that Gordon, 53, sexually harassed him and several other young male members of the church for at least seven years.

In the petition filed by Dallas attorney and St. Luke church member Marilynn Mayse, Greer alleges that in 2003 and 2004, beginning when Greer was 18, Gordon rubbed his penis up against Greer’s buttocks on more than one occasion in front of four other young men who appeared to regard the activity as “normal behavior.”

In another instance, Greer alleges he observed a young man wiping sweat off of Gordon’s body as the pastor stood in his underwear with his pants lowered. Greer, who worked as an audiovisual technician at St. Luke, alleges in the lawsuit that he observed numerous instances of inappropriate behavior by Gordon involving young men.

The incidents often occurred in Gordon’s church office and sometimes between two Sunday services, according to the lawsuit.

Greer also alleges that Gordon invited him to his home in August 2004 when the pastor’s wife was out of town to discuss the young man’s plans to become a Methodist minister. Gordon allegedly prepared one of Greer’s favorite meals, spaghetti, and invited the young man to watch a movie with him. While sitting on the sofa Gordon allegedly moved closer to Greer but was interrupted by the arrival of one of Gordon’s two daughters.

In two other alleged incidents in 2009 and 2010, Greer claims in the lawsuit that, while he was serving as a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Seagoville, he visited Gordon at St. Luke, where Gordon insisted on hugging him and rubbed his penis against him. Greer adds in the petition that he asked Gordon to be a guest preacher at the Seagoville church, and Gordon implied that Greer would have to do “something” for him in return.

The lawsuit alleges that St. Luke church leaders had been informed about complaints of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment made by church employees and members against Gordon as early as 2006, but they took no action. It also claims that church leaders failed to protect Greer and other young men from Gordon’s alleged harassment.

In the lawsuit, Greer explains his delay in lodging complaints against Gordon as part of a process that was required to address the “issues” and to begin a “quest toward healing.”

The lawsuit, which accuses church officials of breach of duties, claims Greer has suffered “severe emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, and adverse physical consequences, physical pain and suffering.” It seeks unspecified punitive damages.

The lawsuit describes Gordon as a “predator” who used his spiritual authority to “coerce certain young male members and employees” into “sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.”

Gordon, who was born in Los Angeles, received a bachelor’s degree from Bishop College in Dallas, and he did his graduate work at Fuller

Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He came to St. Luke as senior pastor after serving as senior pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dems seek supermajority on Commissioners Court

LGBT ally Theresa Daniel among those vying for Dickey’s seat

Going-after-Gay-vote1

GOING AFTER THE GAY VOTE | Cecile Fernandez, left, speaks to Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Texas Land & Cattle in Uptown. Fernandez is one of two Republicans who’ve filed to replace retiring GOP Commissioner Maurine Dickey. On the Democratic side, longtime LGBT ally Theresa Daniel, above right, and Daniel Clayton are two of the three candidates running for Dickey’s District 1 seat.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thinks Democrats have an excellent chance of picking up a fourth seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court since newly drawn lines extend a district into Oak Lawn.

District 1 Republican incumbent Maureen Dickey — who voted against transgender nondiscrimination protections for county employees last year — isn’t seeking re-election. Two Republicans and three Democrats have filed to run for the seat Dickey has held since 2004.

Narvaez said two of the three Democratic candidates are members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — Theresa Daniel and Gloria Levario.

The redrawn district, he said, will be harder for a Republican to retain. Cedar Springs Road is the dividing line. The northeast side of the street will be part of the new District 1. The southwest side of the street will be represented by District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia.

District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price, also up for re-election, lost the Oak Lawn portion of his district but picked up more of Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill. Parts of South Dallas between Interstate 30 and US Highway 175 also shifted from Price to the new District 1.

Usually the filing period ends on Jan. 1 for the November race. Because of legal challenges to redistricting maps, Narvaez said the filing period will be reopened. Candidates whose districts have changed may decide to change races or may pull out of the running and receive a refund.

“And that’s extremely unusual,” Narvaez said.

So he said that the field of candidates — even for the Commissioners Court races where boundary lines haven’t been challenged — isn’t necessarily set. Although the primary is still tentatively scheduled for April 3, a firm date cannot be set until new maps are approved.

“I wonder how long this marathon is going to be,” said Daniel, one of the Democratic candidates for the District 1 seat.

Daniel was a staff member for Democratic Congressman Martin Frost. She has served on the State Democratic Executive Committee since 1996 and as chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party Advisory Committee for four years. Currently, she works with the Dallas Independent School District in program evaluation and accountability and is an adjunct professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Daniel said she’s been a member of Stonewall Democrats for 10 to 15 years. As a member of the SDEC she helped add two seats to the state body for Stonewall Denocrats leaders.

“With their activity level, both locally and at a state level, they were a model,” she said.

In 2004, Daniel received Stonewall’s Democrat of the Year award.

Daniel said she’s glad sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy last year and called health benefits for the domestic partners of county employees a “civil right.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins has said he supports DP benefits but didn’t bring the proposal forward last year due to budget constraints.

On healthcare issues, Daniel said she needs to take a look at how agencies are funded but said, “I’d work to keep funding on track.”

She called the new Parkland hospital “absolutely wonderful.”

“When you have an 80-year-old building we’re going to have problems,” she said, adding that the new hospital shows Dallas County’s commitment to public health.

Daniel Clayton is the third Democrat running for the District 1 seat. He has worked for state Sen. Royce West for five years and currently serves as his political director.
Before joining West’s office, he worked on a number of campaigns. In 2001, he campaigned for Jim McGreevey, who became New

Jersey’s “gay-American” governor. Clayton served as deputy field director for former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk’s Senate campaign.
Since 2007, Clayton has served as president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

In 2004, he was executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. That year, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and other Democrats swept into office, which began a run of Democrats who were elected to county-wide office.

“How do we make county government more efficient?” Clayton said when asked about his top concern.

He said continued funding for AIDS programs was a priority.

“Dallas County’s rate of HIV is so high,” he said. “It’s affecting the minority community terribly.”

On partnership benefits, he said the idea sounds fair and he needs to study the economic impact.

On the Republican side, Dickey has endorsed Cecile Fernandez, a former Dickey’s Barbecue executive vice president who helped create the franchise program and take the company national. District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell has endorsed Fernandez’s opponent, attorney Larry Miller.

Fernandez attended the kick-off event this week for the new Dallas Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

“I was impressed with the turnout,” she said of the meeting, adding that she attended because several of the founders “are longtime personal friends.”

She said that although the new boundaries of District 1 give Democrats a slight edge, her connections in the Hispanic community and position as vice chair of the Dallas chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly will make the difference.

“I think I’m the Republican who can win that seat,” she said.

She expressed support for LGBT issues. She backs partnership benefits for county employees, but worried that in the new budget year everyone’s benefits will have to be cut.

She said that funding for HIV and AIDS treatment must remain in place and added she sees no room for discrimination.

“It’s not the ’80s,” she said. “Everyone knows someone who’s died of AIDS.”

She said she supports Parkland Hospital and has had people in her family use the facility.

“The people at Parkland are so caring,” she said. Despite being overworked in a rundown facility, “they must really love their jobs.”

Miller and Levario did not return messages before press time.

Levario, the sister of Dallas County’s 204th District Court Judge Lena Levario, works for Baylor’s physician network to manage their medical practices. She’s also a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Narvaez said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Top 10: County, DISD, FWISD added trans protections

TransProtections

STRIKING A POSE | LGBT activists celebrate outside the Dallas County Administration Building in April, after the Commissioners Court voted to add transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 6

Although transgender rights continue to be the last frontier in the ongoing battle for LGBT equality, the trans community made significant progress in North Texas in 2011.

The all-too-familiar scenario of transgender being left out of laws protecting lesbians and gays played out in March when the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted in favor of adding sexual orientation — but not gender identity and  expression — to the nondiscrimination policy covering the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two Democrats who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, said they had not been aware of the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

But after Dallas Voice reported on the oversight, LGBT advocates went back to the court to insist that commissioners correct the omission.

Republican Commissioner Maureen Dickey added insult to injury during an April Commissioners Court meeting when she not only announced she would vote against trans protections, but also compared being transgender to being overweight.

But on April 26 — after activists spoke at several consecutive meetings in an effort coordinated by Resource Center Dallas — the court voted 3-2 along party lines to add trans protections. Jenkins, Garcia and Commissioner John Wiley Price voted in favor of trans protections, while Dickey and fellow Republican Mike Cantrell voted against them.

Dallas County is the only county in the state with a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy — and momentum from the decision appeared to spread as the year went forward.

In late June, the Fort Worth school board added gender identity and expression to the district’s anti-bullying policy. And in early August, shortly before the start of a new school year, came news that the Dallas school board would consider a series of policy changes intended to protect transgender students, faculty and other employees from discrimination and harassment. The vote to add the protections came on Aug. 25.

The wave of transgender victories hit a small snag in November, when the Dallas County Community College District initially refused to add trans protections, insisting that the district’s protections based on sexual orientation covered trans people. But after another effort coordinated by the Resource Center, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter announced in November that an amendment to the district’s nondiscrimination policy to specifically protect transgender people is on the agenda for the board’s January meeting.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas County adds sexual orientation — but not gender identity — to nondiscrimination policy

Clay Jenkins

The Dallas County Commissioners Court voted earlier today to add sexual orientation to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy.

However, the amendment adding “sexual orientation” to the policy does not include gender identity/expression, meaning it covers gay and lesbian employees but not transgender workers.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, and Commissioner Elba Garcia told Instant Tea they were under the impression that sexual orientation includes gender identity/expression, which it does not. Jenkins and Garcia, both Democrats who took office in January, spearheaded the proposal to add sexual orientation to the policy.

Jenkins and Garcia said there was no debate on or opposition to the amendment adding sexual orientation to the policy, which first appeared on the court’s briefing agenda a month ago. The policy covers the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

“Dr. Garcia and I talked about this before we were elected, and it was a campaign promise,” Jenkins said. “This is something we wanted to do as quickly as possible. We wanted to send a message by doing this as quickly as we did that it was long overdue.”

The city of Dallas’ employment nondiscrimination policy has included sexual orientation since 1995. However, a Republican majority on the Commissioners Court reportedly has prevented Dallas County from enacting similar protections. Jenkins and Garcia, along with Commissioner John Wiley Price, comprise a Democratic majority on the Commissioners Court for the first time in three decades.

Jenkins and Garcia said they also want to add domestic partner benefits for county employees, but first they must determine what the fiscal impact would be. The county is facing a $33 million budget shortfall this year.

Jenkins said he’s asked the county’s budget director to determine how much offering domestic partner benefits would cost, adding that he believes the county-owned Parkland hospital is at a “huge competitive disadvantage” without them.

“I think it’s very important that we send a message as an employer that we will be competitive with the rest of the marketplace,” he said.

Jenkins also said that while he thought it was covered by sexual orientation, he’d be willing to revisit the issue of adding gender identity/expression to the nondiscrimination policy.

“It was our intent in adding sexual orientation to broaden that to include all members of the GLBT community,” he said.

—  John Wright

Disorder in the court — again

Last week, all hell broke loose in the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting when some folks angry over what was, in effect, the firing of County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbert decided to express that anger to the person they considered primarily responsible for something they saw as unfair: Commissioner John Wiley Price.

One speaker, Dallas lawyer Jeff Turner, a white man, used the term “chief mullah” in referring to Price, who is black. Price said he heard Turner say, “chief moolah” and considered it a racist term. Price, in term, noted that all the speakers criticizing him were white and suggested they all “Go to hell.”  He reportedly told the speakers to go to hell several times, and even said, “You too, fat boy,” to another speaker.

Today, though, County Judge Clay Jenkins was determined not to let things get out of hand. But some folks, according to this report by Dallas Morning News, went a little too far. DMN says Jenkins refused to allow any speaker to say anything at all critical about the court as a whole or any of the commissioners — something that those who got gaveled down by Jenkins considered to be downright unconstitutional.

What did Commissioner Price think? His comment was, “You wanted decorum, you got decorum.”

The Morning News also reports that the court has passed a new code of conduct for themselves, but didn’t say what the new conduct requires.

My favorite part of the whole thing though was this comment posted on the DMN story by a reader: “I miss [openly gay former County] Judge [Jim] Foster already.”

—  admin

Why is John Wiley Price trying to get rid of gay Parkland hospital board member Chris Luna?

Chris Luna

We’ve been trying to get in touch with openly gay former Dallas City Councilman Chris Luna, who’s reportedly being targeted by Commissioner John Wiley Price for ouster from Parkland hospital’s Board of Managers.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Price called an executive session this past Tuesday to discuss with other commissioners his proposal to oust Luna, who was appointed by openly gay County Judge Jim Foster late last year. Price has not said publicly why he wants Luna off the board:

Luna, a former Dallas City Council member, said Monday that he didn’t understand Price’s action.

“No one on the Commissioners Court has expressed any concern or dissatisfaction to me,” Luna said.

County Judge Jim Foster, who appointed Luna late last year, said Price didn’t talk to him before making a last-minute addition to the agenda of the regularly scheduled commissioners meeting.

“He has not shown me the common courtesy of picking up the phone and calling,” Foster said.

The DMN later reported that commissioners had met in executive session and opted to delay their decision about removing Luna from the board for a week, until next Tuesday.

When Luna was appointed to the board, he told Dallas Voice he was looking forward to the assignment and hoped to revive a proposal for Parkland to offer domestic partner benefits.

In response to our messages, Luna sent us an e-mail late Wednesday saying only that he would be at a professional conference Wednesday and Thursday.

We spoke Thursday morning with openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, a friend of Luna’s. Fitzsimmons noted that because Tuesday’s discussion was in a closed executive session, he doesn’t know what commissioners talked about.

“All I know is there had been some accusations made which are currently being investigated,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s a mystery.”

—  John Wright

County to partner with community ASOs

Forums planned to gather ideas from community will focus on strategies to prevent HIV infection

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Dr. Steven Harris, left, and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price
EXTENDING THE FIGHT | Dallas County Health and Human Services Medical Director Dr. Steven Harris, left, and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price discuss new efforts to fight the rising HIV infection rate in the county during a press conference on Thursday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Dallas County Health and Human Services Department officials announced Thursday, Sept. 16, that they are forming a new partnership with AIDS Arms and Resource Center Dallas to begin new HIV awareness and prevention programs.

“We’ve seen a resurgence of numbers,” said DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson.

Among the initiatives announced were community forums to find new ways to create awareness and spread the message of prevention.

“The key is resident input,” Thompson said.

The county will also open a new testing clinic in far North Dallas, an area with increasing HIV rates and a lack of HIV services.

“If money could have cured this, probably we wouldn’t be here today,” said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

He said that an estimated one in five people infected with HIV in Dallas County do not know their status, adding that “HIV disproportionately affects certain populations.”

Among the groups with a recent increased infection rate are people age 50 and older. Saturday, Sept. 18 has been named National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. AIDS Arms has coordinated a number of testing locations around the county. Those locations are listed on the Dallas Voice website.

Dr. Steve Wilson, Dallas County’s STD/HIV medical director, said that early in the decade the area saw a decrease in the HIV infection rate. By 2006, there was a leveling off.
He attributed that, in part, to increased testing efforts by the county. He also said that current testing detects the virus earlier. At least 30 of the 850 to 900 people diagnosed locally last year would not have been detected with traditional testing methods.

Wilson said that three areas with most of the increase in infection rates are Oak Lawn, Oak Cliff and North Dallas. He said that to address the needs in those areas, the county was partnering with community-based organizations.

Bret Camp, associate executive director of Resource Center Dallas, said that early intervention produces the best clinical outcome.

“With the recent advances in HIV treatment, it is now a chronic, manageable disease,” Camp said. “Testing and education are our best weapons to fight the spread of HIV.”

He said that on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m., Resource Center Dallas would host the first community forum on strategies to join together “to create a successful plan that will reduce HIV transmission and give us healthier communities.”

Camp said they are looking from input from people who are HIV negative and positive and HIV infected and affected.

AIDS Arms Behavioral Intervention Specialist Ed Jones said a second forum would be held in South Dallas at the Urban League, 4315 S. Lancaster Road, on Oct. 28.

Jones said that because on an increased need for HIV clinical services, AIDS Arms would be opening a clinic in Oak Cliff in addition to its South Dallas Peabody Clinic.

One group that has seen a significant rise in HIV infection in Dallas County is younger people age 13 to 24. In 2006, two 13-year-olds were diagnosed. In 2008, a 14-year-old, a 15-year-old and two 16-year-olds tested positive in Dallas County.

Rubin Ramirez
Rubin Ramirez

Price said that until recently, Dallas County was the largest in the country where condoms were not available to younger people because of an abstinence-only sex education mandate.

“In 1992, there was basically a ban by the court,” he said. “Let me say that I am very glad to stand here today and say that has been repealed.”

He said that purchasing condoms was not an issue. Condoms are available at the county health department for distribution.

“They are available as a protection mechanism,” he said. “It is available in your toolbox in Dallas County.”

Dallas County’s Chief Epidemiologist Wendy Chung said that the infection rate among 13-to-24-year-olds is 54 per 100,000. She said that represents a 30 percent increase in recent years.

Rubin Ramirez of Resource Center Dallas said that one of reasons for the increase in infections is apathy.

“People are immune to the message because of treatments available,” he said. “They think things are OK.”

He said the goal was to bring HIV awareness back to the forefront.

Price agreed and said that was a big problem in the African-American community.

“Magic made it. It can’t be that bad,” Price said referring to basketball player Magic Johnson who was first diagnosed with HIV 19 years ago. “There wasn’t anything magic about Magic, and we need to bring urgency to this issue.”

Currently, about 14,000 people in Dallas County are living with HIV. That is a 30 percent increase over the past six years. The growing number is partially due to longer life expectancies for persons receiving medications.

Of that amount, 67 percent of cases are among gay men and others identified as men who have sex with men. Women represent just 22 percent of the cases in Dallas County.
A disproportionately high percentage of HIV infections in Dallas County are among minorities. Hispanics account for 23 percent of the cases and blacks 48 percent.

While Dallas is the third largest city in Texas, it has the highest infection rate, according to AIDS Arms. Since 1981, 15,000 people have died of AIDS-related illnesses in North Texas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens