Lawsuit accuses St. Luke pastor of homosexual harassment

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

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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

What’s Brewing: Obama may nominate 1st openly gay cabinet member; Lady Gaga censored

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Two openly gay men have emerged as potential nominees for U.S. commerce secretary. It would mark the first time a gay person has been nominated for a position in the president’s cabinet. Among the other potential nominees is former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who’s currently a U.S. trade representative.

2. A Seton Hall University junior is suing the school after he was allegedly kicked out of his dorm room when his roommate complained that he’s gay. Jesse Cruz, 20, has since returned to his room but seeks compensation for being forced to sleep on a friend’s floor for more than two weeks, and for emotional and psychological trauma.

3. Malaysian radio stations are using indecipherable garble to replace pro-gay lyrics in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” due to government restrictions on “offensive content” in the Muslim-majority country. That’s too bad because it was already hard enough to distinguish the pro-gay lyrics from the rest of the indecipherable garble in the song. Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but here I’ll make up for it: If you didn’t get a chance to ask Lady Gaga a question while she was on the gay strip in Dallas this week, she’s taking them here. Watch the video above for an explanation. Happy now?

—  John Wright

Rainbow World Fund raises money from LGBT community for Japan earthquake/tsunami relief

The Rainbow World Fund, an all-volunteer LGBT international humanitarian service agency, has created a Japan earthquake fund.

Among the hardest hit cities is Sendai, Japan. In 1997, Mayor Ron Kirk signed a friendship agreement with that city. No word yet on whether Dallas will mount a separate relief effort for Sendai.

From the Rainbow Fund Japan relief page:

A 8.9 earthquake followed by a tsunami stuck northern Japan on March 11, 2011. Nearly 1,000 have died and thousands still remain unaccounted for. Thousands have been injured, hundreds of thousands are now homeless. Millions are without water, food and power. Several nuclear power plants were impacted, radiation has escaped and there is a threat of a meltdown. Many aftershocks above magnitude 6.0 have occurred.

At the request of our generous donors, RWF has set up a fund to help the Japanese people recover. RWF has many direct ties with Japan through our annual World Tree of Hope project which is a collaboration between RWF and members of the Japanese American community.

To make a donation, click here and specify “Japan.”

To make a donation by check, mail to Rainbow World Fund, P.O. Box 14480, San Francisco, CA 94114-2336.

Rainbow World Fund helps people who suffer from hunger, poverty, disease, oppression and war by raising awareness and funds to support relief efforts around the world. They bundle LGBT dollars “to change perceptions of the LGBT community by putting our truest humanitarian beliefs and values into action which demonstrates our compassion and caring for the world,” according to their website.

UPDATE:

JASDFW Establishes Relief Fund for Tsunami Victims

The Japan America Society of Dallas Fort Worth has launched an emergency relief fund that will be used to aid relief and recovery efforts in Sendai, Japan.   Sendai and Dallas have been International Friendship Cities since 1997.

Those wishing to contribute to the fund may do so by sending their contributions to Japan-America of Dallas /Fort Worth, 11615 Forest Central Drive, Suite 26, Dallas, Texas 75243.

“The fund was established in response to the many inquiries our organization has received from people wishing to help,” said Anna McFarland.

Money raised through the JASDFW fund will be sent to organizations involved directly with relief efforts in Sendai, which was one of the cities hardest hit by the disaster.

“We are just now realizing the depth of the destruction and loss of human life in Japan as a result of the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11,” said David Schnetzer, president of the JASDFW.

Reports now estimate the death toll may exceed tens of thousands.

As Friendship or Sister Cities, Dallas and Sendai have worked together to establish cross cultural understanding, educational and sports exchange programs and to promote business and economic relationships between the United States and Japan.

For more information about JASDFW’s Sendai Relief Fund or the city of Sendai, contact Anna McFarland, JASDFW Executive Director at 214-342-2022.

—  David Taffet

History isn’t on Leppert’s side

Mayor Henry Ervay is buried in Oakland Cemetery near Fair Park.

The following Dallas mayors have run for governor or senator and won:

• ______________

That’s right. None.

Mayor Ron Kirk (1995-2002) is actually the only Dallas mayor ever to receive his party’s nomination for Senate, but he lost the general election. None has ever run for governor. However, a few Dallas mayors have gone on to serve in other offices.

John McClannahan Crockett, Dallas’ second mayor who served from 1857-58, became lieutenant governor from 1861-63 after Texas joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, he served as mayor again in 1866-67.

But that’s the highest office a former Dallas mayor has ever held — lieutenant governor of a seceded state, something Mayor Tom Leppert could still achieve if Gov. Rick Perry gets his way.

Mayor John William Lane (1866) became a state representative and then a state senator.

Mayor Henry Schley Ervay (1870-72) went on to serve as a city alderman (councilman) from 1873-82. By the way, the reason one of the city’s main streets is named after him isn’t his 12 years of service. He became a Dallas hero because after becoming mayor, Ervay was considered not loyal enough to the Union (even though the guy was from New York) and thrown in jail in 1870 by the military governor. The state supreme court ordered Ervay released and he was allowed to serve.

Mayor Earle Cabell (1961-64) was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The only other mayor to run for the House was Mayor Wes Wise (1971-76) but he lost that race. Mayor Steve Bartlett was already a congressman when he became mayor (1991-95).

Houston’s mayors have fared even worse. Mayor Joseph Chappell Hutcheson Jr. (1917-18) became a federal judge. Mayor John Browne (1892-96) later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Bill White (2004-10) was the first to run for governor and, like Kirk who ran for Senate, he lost. In fact, none of Texas’ governors or senators has ever been a mayor of any Texas city.

So if Mayor Tom Leppert resigned to run for Senate, good luck. History’s not on his side.

—  David Taffet

Business Week on Annise Parker, lesbian

Annise Parker at Dallas Pride.

Business Week ran a story this week about Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

She told the magazine that when she first started running for office, it was as if “lesbian” was her last name.

When Craig McDaniel sat on the Dallas city council, he used to jokingly refer to himself as Craig McDaniel, F.O.G. Those initials, which stood for First Openly Gay, came from every reference to him by the Dallas Morning News, even when the story was about something completely unrelated. If the story was about the opening of the State Fair, it would have read, “Mayor Ron Kirk, council member Chris Luna and First Openly Gay Councilman Craig McDaniel were at the State Fair today….”

Parker’s office forwarded me a link to the story from Business Week. After rereading my own story about Parker from last week, I noticed I used the word “lesbian” 10 times. Once was referring to Christine Quinn, who heads the New York City Council, so that doesn’t count; and once referred to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, so neither does that one. The others were mostly quoting her, though. And I never called her “Annise Parker, Lesbian.”

But during our conversation, I did ask about some of the issues she’s passionate about — like fixing the flooding problems in South Houston and other infrastructure problems. And we talked about her trade mission to China.

I think I was clearer about why she actually won — most people in Houston got past the whole lesbian thing and voted for the person they thought would do the best job. Her opponent in the runoff was a good guy who would have made a decent mayor but she had a lot more experience than anyone else running and people just like her. Her approval rating has soared since the election.

I’m surprised Business Week missed one important business piece of the story — she’s the only big city mayor who hasn’t had to lay anyone off, mostly because she’s been good at managing the budget.

She’s advanced the image of gays and lesbians as being hard-working average Americans. In my talk with her she said her family and friends were surprised when she ended up running for public office because she was more of a nerdy policy wonk.

She told Business Week, “I’m a middle-aged soccer mom and I appear in public with my spouse of 20 years and my kids. It’s hard to make me scary.”

But the line I really love is, “I take a lot of credit for raising Houston’s coolness factor.”

She’s right. We love Houston’s mayor, but Dallas has always been much cooler.

—  David Taffet