Shores, Dottley announce split

Shores and Dottley, in happier times

Del Shores announced via Facebook this weekend that he and husband Jason Dottley, his producing partner and one of the stars of his series Sordid Lives, have decided to divorce. They met 10 years ago and had a commitment ceremony seven years ago; they legally wed in 2008 in California before passage of Prop 8. No details were released about the reason for the breakup, though Shores expressed support for Dottley, who was step-father to Shores’ two daughters. He also stressed that splits like this are further evidence of the need for marriage equality — including divorce rights.

Shores has a deep connection to Texas and Dallas. He grew up in Winters, Texas, and has set several plays in North Texas, including Southern Baptist Sissies. They were last in Dallas this past June, with Dottley performing his music and Shores doing his one-man performance. Shores tells me he has not canceled a scheduled performance, scheduled to take place at the Rose Room in January, where he will film his show.

Shores’ next project, the film adaptation of The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, comes out next year.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Far from Brokeback

With ‘Hold Your Peace,’ SMU grad Wade McDonald adds his name to a budding local community of queer filmmakers

SO HAPPY TOGETHER | Soon-to-be-marrieds Max (Tyler Brockington, above left) and Forrest (Blair Dickens) trigger mixed feelings from Max’s ex in the new film from local filmmaker Wade McDonald, on set right, opposite page.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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HOLD YOUR PEACE
Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane. Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. Free (passes at Buli or Skivvies). HoldYourPeaceMovie.com.

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When Southern Methodist University alum Wade McDonald set out to make his debut feature film, the one thing he didn’t want to do was make a “typical” gay film: No naked boys as the selling point, no ridiculous gay-angst drama, no coming-out story. McDonald loves romantic comedies and wanted to make his own — just with men.

His plan worked. The result, Hold Your Peace, seems to have resonated with audiences.

“We finished in April 2011 and started applying to film festivals right away,” McDonald says. “We premiered in Philadelphia and it snowballed form there to San Diego and even a non-gay film fest in Rhode Island. We got a distributor before the film even premiered! It was crazy.”

Dallas audiences get their first chance to screen Hold Your Peace at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station on Tuesday — just in time for Pride.

“It hadn’t shown here yet, but a friend of our audio editor, Terry Thompkins, was kind enough to pay for a screening,” he says. “I’m so excited it’ll show at the Angelika because I love it there.”

McDonald describes Peace as a meditation on relationships where shenanigans ensue after Aiden is asked to be the best man at his ex Max’s commitment ceremony. Only Aiden isn’t too keen on going alone, much less going at all.

What McDonald strived for was not a “gay movie” per se, but a film where characters happen to be gay. Anyone gay or straight can identify with the situation of unexpressed love and torch-bearing. At the same time, it was important to create a fun and easy watch that fairly portrayed queer men.

“It’s a very human and very honest film. This is a portrayal of normalcy,” he says. “I’ve had straight people tell me they didn’t think they would like this film. It plays a bit safer and I think more people can relate to it.”

McDonald funded Peace mostly on his own, making it on a $200,000 budget. By Hollywood standards, that’s nothing, but it’s high for indies. But he knew he had to make the production high quality. As a cinematographer by day, he had both the know-how and the equipment to shoot a film that looked polished. But he holds the entire cast and crew responsible for putting out a quality product. Don’t call him the film’s auteur — this was completely a team effort.

McDonald is intent on making his mark in queer cinema. Hollywood can take care of itself, he says, but he feels at home in Dallas. A burgeoning community of local gay filmmakers has left him with the sense there’s something special going on around here. He joins Israel Luna, Shawn Ewert, Robert Camina, Yen Tan and Mehul Shah as current or recent Dallasites forming a budding cinema community, turning Dallas into a Mecca of queer film. Hey, it could happen.

“I think it’s something that’s unique to Dallas,” he says. “We are starting something here and if we begin producing enough content here then we can create an industry. Something that can let people quit their day jobs to work on something they love.”

McDonald has no intention of moving to Los Angeles or New York for his movie career. He grew up here, went to SMU for school and he now lives with his partner in Plano. McDonald is the local boy done good, but who hasn’t moved away. He prefers to keep it that way.

“I’m proof positive you can do it in Dallas,” he says. “I could move to L.A., but my personality doesn’t mesh there and that’s fine. It’s inexpensive to shoot here, we have a great support system and I’d love to continue making films right here.”

For now, McDonald is gearing up for his initial Dallas screening. He showed it to cast and crew already, but now the general public gets to see his finished product. For any filmmaker, putting his work out there is nerve-racking, but McDonald and team already see the film taking on a life of its own.

“It’s your baby in a way and you don’t wanna be told you have an ugly baby,” he says. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished with Hold Your Peace and everyone worked their butt off. We’re not setting out to make great literature, just a film that’s fun to watch. You’re just supposed to enjoy it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

New Lutheran group likely to rise from gay discord on Friday

PATRICK CONDON  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Richard Mahan and Anita Hill are both Lutheran pastors who were inside a Minneapolis convention hall last summer when delegates for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow non-celibate gay and lesbian pastors.

Afterward, each cried for different reasons.

Mahan, lead pastor at St. Timothy in Charleston, W.Va., said he cried because he realized he would likely leave the denomination in which he had invested 42 years of ministry. For Hill, the openly gay lead pastor at St. Paul-Reformation in St. Paul, they were tears of “joy and relief.”

A year later, the ELCA is moving gay pastors into its fold — it’s now the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. to allow noncelibate gays into its ranks — even as the most visible dissidents strike out on their own.

Mahan and other critics of the decision plan to gather this week in Columbus, Ohio, for another Lutheran convention. Leaders of 18 former ELCA churches were expected to vote Friday, Aug. 27 to create a brand new Lutheran denomination that they claim will follow the Scriptures more faithfully: the North American Lutheran Church.

“The issue is departure from the word of God,” Mahan said. His church has already voted twice to end its longtime identity as a ELCA church, also ending an annual $36,000 in tithing to the denomination.

Meanwhile, Hill will finally join the official roster of ELCA pastors. She was ordained in 2001, but she had been kept off the roster because she lived openly with her lesbian partner, with whom she’d shared a commitment ceremony in 1996. That meant she was not eligible for the full housing allowance and retirement benefits and could not be a voting delegate to churchwide assemblies.

Next month, Hill and two other lesbian pastors will gather to receive the ELCA’s newly designed Rite of Reception and officially join the roster of the St. Paul Synod. The St. Paul bishop will “lay on hands,” Hill said, in a ceremony that is becoming more frequent around the country. Seven gay and transgender pastors were received last month in San Francisco. Similar ceremonies are planned soon in Minneapolis and Chicago.

“At my church there is a sense of great celebration, of people being very happy that our work to make the ELCA a more inclusive place has come to fruition,” Hill said.

Her denomination will be slightly smaller: As of early August, 199 congregations had cleared the hurdles to leave the ELCA for good, while another 136 awaited the second vote needed to make it official. In all there are 10,239 ELCA churches with about 4.5 million members, making it still by far the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S.

And the breakaway members gathering in Ohio will face their own challenges if they vote to start another denomination at a time when attendance at mainline Protestant churches is falling and denominational distinctions appear irrelevant to a growing number of churchgoers.

But pastors in a few churches that plan to join the North American Lutheran Church say there are still good reasons to be part of a larger church body.

“For a lot of congregations and a lot of churchgoers, there is value in a larger Lutheran fellowship,” said the Rev. Mark Braaten, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Tyler, Texas, another charter member of the new denomination.

About 75 percent of the churches that already left the ELCA have affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ — another, smaller denomination. But the Rev. Mark Chavez, Lutheran CORE’s director, said some Lutherans found that denomination too loosely structured and wanted a choice that retained aspects of the ELCA identity.

Some ELCA refugees have a more bottom-line reason to join a new denomination. Under many church constitutions, congregations that leave the ELCA and try to strike out as a wholly independent church could actually see their ELCA synod council assert legal ownership of their property and church buildings. “People don’t see it as too likely, but it’s not a discussion too many want to have,” Braaten said.

So why go through the hassles — especially when even critics of the ELCA’s more liberalized policy admit that no congregations are likely to be compelled to install a gay pastor?

“I don’t think it’s the issue of whether someone is going to have a gay pastor forced upon their church, as much a question of what a straight pastor is going to be teaching,” said the Rev. David Baer, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Whitewood, S.D., another charter member of the new denomination. “What’s God’s intention for marriage, for sexuality? The concern is the ELCA is trading in its teaching and losing its grounding in scripture and no longer having a moral center.”

Organizers of the new denomination will reveal on Friday its 18 charter churches — a number they hope will grow to 200 or more within a year.

Earlier this month, the ELCA reported a nearly 3 percent drop in total receipts for its congregations from 2008 to 2009, and a decline in membership of 90,850 people. Three times since April 2009, the ELCA’s council cut the denomination’s budget by a total of $17.5 million and eliminated the equivalent of nearly 76 full-time jobs.

ELCA spokesman John Brooks said departures over the new clergy policy played a part in the picture but that the bad economy has also been a major factor in the denomination’s financial struggles.

Hill, who in her early days at the church helped found a ministry for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said she was disheartened by the departing churches.

“There are some who feel they must leave the ELCA over that,” she said. “I feel sad about that, it’s unfortunate. But to feel you have to leave over the inclusion of your brothers and sisters — that diminishes who we are as the body of Christ.”

—  John Wright