Youth in revolt

College kid-slash-performance artist John Michael Colgin hopes to make a splash — one awkward moment at a time

Profile

ABOUT FACES | John Michael Colgin goes from snobby private school gay-baiter to out-and-proud McDonald’s worker in his one-man show ‘Would You Like Guys With That?’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

For John Michael Colgin, homophobia is an easy term. Too easy. When people start using it as a label, Colgin sees it as losing its weight.

“It gets people off topic so easily,” he asserts. “That’s where the struggles begin.”

Colgin, just 22, is a ball of pent-up energy. He squirms in his chair trying to find that right comfort level and yet his enthusiasm when talking about his one-man show Would You Like Guys With That? keeps him on the edge of his seat. He punctuates his sentences with lively gestures and a multitude of facial expressions. He’s eccentric in personality, but passionate.

“The show is sometimes about transformation,” he says. “As a gay man, when you don’t have role models, the only thing you associate with ‘gay’ is what you’re shown. So from beginning to end in the show, the sexual identity thing is going on.”

In his piece, Colgin’s main character (himself, really) is a snobby kid, the product of private-schooling and a sense of entitlement; he becomes even more judgmental when he attends college in Stillwater, Okla. But then he goes to work at McDonald’s as a kind of social experiment, he begins to see the world anew: Just because he hates small-talk with his co-workers, he discovers that listening to different music doesn’t mean you’re not a human being.

“I did my research on people who seemed so different than me,” Colgin says. “After the first time I performed it, I learned that I could really reach people with my voice. Every thing is so authentically true in my head as in the show.”

He created the show while attending Oklahoma State, but had to convince the group there called SODA (Sexual Orientation Diversity Association) that he had a viable piece. In a shrewd move, he previewed what he said was a 70-minute show with a 10-minute micro-version. They were impressed, and he got a $500 grant.

Only he hadn’t actually created the remaining hour’s worth of material.  That’s when he got to writing.

Even now, he says, he doesn’t work from a fixed script, instead coming up with an outline and rehearsing it until the rhythm becomes second nature.

When he came home to Dallas, he had to start the process all over again.

“Going to theaters and spaces here, I was forced to convince people again that my work had value to it,” he says. “It was frustrating but part of my mission statement is to go to non-theater groups. My show doesn’t need perfection in lighting or stuff, it’s just about bringing the work to people who won’t get to see it.”

He performed Guys at Nouveau 47’s Theatre Appresh in November, a sort of guerrilla performance night. It got him some notice. One local critic called it “focused, fresh and engaging … with gritty humor, pathos and an honest, dark conviction fit to delight Lenny Bruce.” Someone from the Cathedral of Hope attended after reading Dallas Voice’s Instant Tea blog and liked it enough that Colgin was invited to perform there later this spring.

They were probably responding to the same charisma that makes Colgin a challenging interview. He bounces around so much — physically and narratively — that when he talks about coming out, it’s not always clear he’s talking about himself or his show … or whether there’s a difference. Maybe it doesn’t matter; for Colgin, performing is his reality.

“There is stuff that makes me ashamed and uncomfortable, but it’s worth telling onstage,” he says. “I learned the people who piss you off are usually the people who remind you about yourself. The self-realization is onstage.”

He even turns his breaks from the interview to do an impromptu segment from his play, he goes for it full-force. In a cramped office, as his character recounts the pleasure of sneaking a peek at his teacher’s breast (he hadn’t realized he was gay yet), Colgin simulates an orgasm.

“I’m freakin’ naked up there,” he exclaims. “I never felt more clear than right now.”

Still, Colgin’s performance isn’t just about coming out, but more a confession (he admits to being particularly hurtful to gay kids to mask his own feelings) and apology.

It’s about putting his young, confused life on display.

“You want other [gay] kids to see you can be happy,” he says. “I was ugly in the closet. I knew I was unbearable to some people. When I came out at 21, my writing started and now I can see the me I wanna be.”

Would You Like Guys with That? Davidson Auditorium — JSOM 1.118, 800 W. Campbell Road on the UTD Campus, Richardson. Jan 30. 5:30pm. Free. UTDallas.edu/womenscenter

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Leaders of gay student group at Baylor react to school’s decision to deny their charter

As we noted the other day, Baylor University has denied a charter for an LGBT student group called the Sexual Identity Forum. The university apparently doesn’t think college students are mature enough to talk about sexuality issues unless the discussion is “professionally facilitated,” whatever that means. Baylor has a policy prohibiting students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” The Sexual Identity Forum, which insists it isn’t an advocacy group, plans to appeal the denial of its charter and will continue to meet informally in the meantime — at least until the administration tries to shut it down completely. Openly gay and extremely brave Baylor senior Samantha Jones, the president of the Sexual Identity Forum, tells News Channel 25 that she decided to launch the group after the school’s administration failed to respond to the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, whose death was a wake-up call to gay students around the country: “We didn’t get an e-mail saying, ‘This is someone who you can approach if you’re struggling with this,’ …nothing,” Jones says.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Baylor U. denies charter for gay group, says forums should be ‘professionally facilitated’

Earlier today we told you about the new LGBT student group at Baylor University, called the Sexual Identity Forum. Shortly after our post went up, the group reported on its website that its charter has been denied by the school:

As of 1:53pm on March 2nd, 2011, we have been denied a charter. Student activities thinks that open forum discussion on sensitive topics such as those involving gender and sexuality are better handled by “professionally facilitated” organizations.

They don’t seem to realize that the frequency with which ”professionally facilitated” organizations host open forums is far less than the frequency with which students come up with questions about gender and sexuality or with which relevant politics develop. We are in the process of appealing this decision to Dr. Kevin Jackson.

Thank you for sticking with us through all of this–we won’t give up without a fight (and even then we won’t give up)! Remember, we are still meeting unofficially in the SUB Den on Thursday evenings, 8:30pm, without a charter.

 

—  John Wright

Students launch gay group at Baylor University

More than 50 students reportedly met last week to discuss forming an LGBT student group at Baylor University. (Baylor Lariat)

Patti Fink, a Baylor University alum who serves as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, alerted us to this story from the Baylor Lariat newspaper about a new group for LGBT students at the Baptist school in Waco:

The group, named the Sexual Identity Forum, is in the process of applying to be an officially chartered student organization at Baylor, and its founding members expect a final decision on the chartering to be made before the end of the month.

Alvarado senior Samantha Jones, the organization’s president who affirmed during the meeting that she is openly gay, said she was motivated to start a discussion group because she believes the administration has not always been accepting of students with alternative sexual identities.

“I feel as though the student body in and of itself is very welcoming,” Jones said. “Everyone I’ve come out to or approached has been very welcoming and very compassionate and tolerant. I feel as though the high administration … refuses to recognize that there are gay students on campus, and they refuse to allow a group like this to exist.”

The story goes on to say that Baylor prohibits students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” However, the university’s director of students services wouldn’t comment on whether the Sexual Identity Forum is likely to receive a charter.

This is a remarkable development at a school where Kenneth Starr is president and where, in the past, students have been expelled for being gay.

UPDATE: The group’s charter has been denied. Read more here.

—  John Wright

In midst of gay teen suicide crisis, Houston’s Kinkaid School removes Safe Space stickers

Texas Monthly‘s March issue features an interesting piece (already available online to subscribers) about the ideological battle that’s gripped Houston’s prestigious Kinkaid School since a parent — who also happened to be one of the highest-paid bankers on Wall Street — wrote an e-mail that went viral in 2009 complaining that the school had become too liberal.

Texas Monthly‘s John Spong concludes that in the aftermath of the e-mail, conservatives appear to have won the day at George W. Bush’s alma mater: At least three openly gay Kinkaid staffers have resigned their posts, sexual orientation is excluded from a new diversity policy at the school, and GLSEN Safe Space stickers were removed from classrooms and offices:

With gay suicides and bullying in national headlines, that move struck many as beyond tone-deaf. For them, the school’s reasoning—that the stickers implied that one group was more protected than others—showed greater concern for some people’s political views than for the welfare of vulnerable students. The same objection was raised when the board clarified its edict on “student exposure to issues relating to sexual orientation.” Faculty had pointed out that kids trying to understand their sexual identity often reach out to them; a gay Kinkaid alum I talked to credited one such teacher with saving his life. Could that conversation now get a teacher fired? The board stressed that the proper place for these sorts of conversations was at home or in a counselor’s office, adding that teachers were not to initiate those discussions. As one current faculty member put it, “We’re allowed to have those conversations; we’re just not allowed to tell the kids we’re allowed to have those conversations. That’s the thing that’s confusing.”

—  John Wright

Born this way

Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why by Simon LeVay Oxford University Press, 2010; $28; 412 pp.

We all have our quirky preferences: Some don’t like it when food touches other food on their plate, or when socks don’t match up. But are our selves shaped by outside influence, or did we enter the world this way? Was our behavior learned or innate? In Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why, you’ll find answers to similar questions of a more intimate sort.

Nearly two decades ago, Simon LeVay published a scientific paper asserting that gay men differed from straight men in their brain structures — specifically, a cluster of nerve cells controlling sex drive in gay men were the same size observed in straight women’s brains. Since publication of that paper, vast amounts of research have probed same-sex attraction and the nature/nurture debate. Here, LeVay takes a deeper look at some of the newer findings.

While some gays and lesbians are surprised later in life by feelings of same-sex attraction, LeVay says that sexual identity, while not always immediately apparent, is present at birth (although women, throughout life, appear to be more fluid). He points to several cases in which male infants were, for one reason or another, “assigned” to live as the opposite sex. In most cases, upon adulthood, the “assignment” turned out to be wrong.

Some theorize that childhood abuse has influenced gayness, but survivors deny it as a factor. Some theories claim that older siblings or domineering parents hold sway. And as for “choice,” LeVay cites several quasi-claims of “conversions” in which therapy reportedly changed sexual preference.

Overall, LeVay says, nothing is cut-and-dried, but the probable reason that someone is gay has to do with genetics, hormones and stress that individuals receive in utero. Studies show, for instance, that mice are influenced by chemicals secreted by their mothers and by littermates. Humans, likewise, are affected in similar ways, which could lay to rest many questions. And one of the hints may literally be at your fingertips.

While there’s no doubt Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why is an intriguing book that makes sense on several levels, there’s one big problem with it: you almost need a Ph.D. to follow much of what LeVay says. It’s steeped in medical lingo, and while LeVay includes a glossary and substantial notes to explain the scientific terms and acronyms, this book is a challenge.

But if you’re up for that challenge, you’ll be rewarded with a thought-provoking examination of a private subject that has a very public focus. LeVay leaves no hypothesis unexamined, which leaves readers satisfied that every corner of this argument has been thoroughly dusted off.

Give yourself some time if you decide to tackle this book, because it’s nowhere near light reading, but it is fascinating — and ultimately a plea for tolerance.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Elliott’s story: How 1 teen survived bullying, suicide attempt

When classmates beat him up for being gay, this Ennis teen and his mom reported it. But the principal told Elliott he brought it on himself

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

IN MEMORY OF ASHER  |  Brian Carter, left, and Sharon Ferranti stand on the corner with signs as the buses let out of school during a human rights demonstration outside of Hamilton Middle School in Cypress on Tuesday, Oct. 5, to protest the treatment of Asher Brown, a gay eighth-grader at the school who killed himself at home Sept. 23. Brown’s parents blamed his suicide on two years of anti-gay bullying they say he had suffered at the school. (Karen Warren/Associated Press-Houston Chronicle)
IN MEMORY OF ASHER | Brian Carter, left, and Sharon Ferranti stand on the corner with signs as the buses let out of school during a human rights demonstration outside of Hamilton Middle School in Cypress on Tuesday, Oct. 5, to protest the treatment of Asher Brown, a gay eighth-grader at the school who killed himself at home Sept. 23. Brown’s parents blamed his suicide on two years of anti-gay bullying they say he had suffered at the school. (Karen Warren/Associated Press-Houston Chronicle)

The suicides of as many as six LGBT youth over the past month have focused a spotlight on the issue of anti-LGBT bullying in schools and online, and the correlation between bullying and teen suicide.

According to a 2003 study by the National Crime Prevention Council, six out of 10 teens witness some form of bullying at least once a day. And much of that bullying is directed at teens who are — or who are perceived to be — LGBT.

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network has reported that students hear anti-LGBT epithets an average of 25 times a day, and that in 97 percent of the cases, teachers fail to respond to the comments.

Various studies have shown that LGBT teens are two to four times as likely as their non-LGBT counterparts to attempt suicide, and according to a report to the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, 30 percent of all completed youth suicides are related to sexual identity.

And GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey reported that more than 64 percent of LGBT students say they feel unsafe at their schools because of their sexual orientation.

The statistics are overwhelming. But for one North Texas gay teen, anti-gay bullying and suicide attempts are far more than just statistics.

Elliott, who lives in Ennis, is 17 now. But he almost did not live that long after enduring bullying that started, he said, when he was in first grade. After years of enduring the abuse, Elliott said, he tried to commit suicide at age 15.

“I live in a small town,” he said. “I’m a ballet dancer. I stuck out like a sore thumb.”

Elliott said he was on the only one in his school being bullied, a fact that left him feeling totally alone.

And the bullying didn’t stop at words. When he was a freshman, Elliott said, a classmate followed him into the restroom at school and beat him up.

Elliott told his mother what happened. She went to the school and spoke to the principal, who told her he would do something about it.

What the principal did was tell Elliott that he had brought it upon himself.

The bullying wasn’t just at school: “I was dealing with a lot of problems,” Elliott said.

His older brother was having drug problems and tormented him at home. He had an abusive stepfather who let his own two children get away with things that he grounded Elliott for.

“He’d ridicule me for being gay,” Elliott said of his stepfather, “and it turned out he was bi.”

So Elliott started cutting himself on his ankles and his wrists. He was never hospitalized, but a nurse noticed the cuts. He told her he injured himself when he fell out of a tree.

Elliott took what he called a “safe overdose,” of a prescription drug, but recovered. He said that was the last time he tried or even considered suicide. But he said he understands how the young suicide victims that have been in the news felt. And it scares him that he came close to meeting the same fate.

Elliott said things began to get better at home for him by the end of his freshman year. His mother finished her degree, started teaching and divorced his stepfather.

His older brother very recently became sober.

For his sophomore year, Elliott transferred to arts magnet Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. That’s where he first learned about Youth First Texas.

“I took a DART bus over [to Youth First] and I loved it,” he said, adding that for the first time in his life, he was with other people like him.

“It made me feel amazing,” he said. “Whenever I’m not in Ennis, I’m at Youth First Texas.”

Elliott joined a survivors group at Youth First in which LGBT youth discuss how they feel during times of distress. He worked with the fundraising committee and became a member of the Youth Board. He entertained with a YFT group at the Creating Change conference in February and the Gayla Prom in June.

Elliott also modeled in the annual YFT fashion show at the Rose Room and was a runway model for DIFFA.
Elliott began his activist career in April when he participated in Day of Silence in school and Breaking the Silence at Rosa Parks Square in Downtown Dallas. This summer he attended Activist Youth Camp at University of North Texas. An ACLU representative told him that had he reported the principal’s comment about bringing the beating on himself, they would have investigated.

“Just knowing I can do that is important,” he said. “I didn’t know I could do anything about it.”

His mother has become an active volunteer with YFT as well. He called her his biggest supporter.

“A lot of the others are neglected by their parents,” he said. “She acts as a mom to everyone. She gives everyone hugs. She talks to everyone and is there for everyone.”

He said he’d like to see more LGBT community involvement from other organizations.

For his senior year, Elliott is back at Ennis High School. He said the environment is different now, although it’s still difficult to walk down the halls and see other students who tormented him for years.

For protection in school, he said, “I’m starting to repopulate my girl-posse.”

Activist camp left Elliott feeling empowered and safer in school. He said he is not afraid to face the principal who told him he brought on his own beating.

Elliott said he has no personal life in Ennis, although he does teach ballet at a dance studio in town. His students are 6-to 8-year old girls.

“It intrigues them that there’s a male teacher,” he said.

A former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader owns the studio. He said she’s proud to have a male teacher on staff. Now when he goes to into a store and sees one of his students, he said, they call out, “Hi Mr. Elliott!”

After graduation, Elliott plans to attend Navarro County Community College to take his basic courses. Then he’d like to transfer to a school in Dallas to study dance and continue to be involved at YFT.

He said the recent suicides have affected him terribly. “I printed out the headlines,” he said. “It really bugs me.”

Elliott has advice for other teens who have considered suicide: “Whatever you’re going through, it just makes you a stronger person,” he said. “Whatever you go through makes you capable of doing things others can’t.”

And he wants school staff to know how much bullying hurts.

“Everything you say affects someone,” Elliott said. “I want teachers and staff to know it really hurts. Everything you say affects someone. Teachers and principals are ignorant to that. If you ignore it, it will fester.”

……………………………………………

Where to get help

• Youth First Texas
3918 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, Texas
214-879-0400
YouthFirstTexas.org

• The Trevor Project
866-488-7386
TheTrevorProject.org

• The Promise House
224 W. Page Ave.
Dallas, Texas
214-941-8578
or 214-941-8670
PromiseHouse.org

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK
SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

• Suicide Prevention Help
SuicidePreventionHelp.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

James Franco on cover of new trans magazine

For their second issue, Candy, the first magazine devoted to trans culture, dressed up James Franco in old school Joan Crawford-esque drag for the cover, shot by photographer Terry Richardson. This adds to the ever-increasingly-gay-friendly actor’s list of random moments in LGBT support. Jezebel mentioned the cover Wednesday with the following blurb about Franco.

James Franco has been exploring sexuality for sometime — his art show included lots of male genitalia; in his student film he “dashes” through the Louvre wearing a penis on his nose. He did an interview with The Advocate, the world’s leading gay news source. He’s played gay men, and directed movies about gay men. He says he’s not gay, but he certainly seems interested in sexual identity, gender and self-expression through performance art.

The magazine’s trailer for this issue says there are only 1,000 copies in print available worldwide, so we’re thinking that’s like one issue in one bookstore in Dallas? And somehow, I don’t think a used copy will be found at Half Price Books anytime soon. The magazine is scheduled for newsstands on Oct. 24.

Candy is the creation of Luis Venegas from Spain who is also behind the magazines Ey! Magateen and Fanzine137. With Candy, he touts it as “the first fashion magazine ever completely dedicated to celebrating transvestism, transexuality, cross dressing and androgyny, in all its manifestations. … Candy is a magazine for everybody. A space for individual freedom, and a publication that pushes people to take on the persona of what they always wanted to be.”

—  Rich Lopez

Thinking 2 steps ahead

Theologians, ministers gather at Brite for ‘Beyond Apologetics’ discussion on LGBTs’ future role in religious communities, efforts

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Joretta Marshall and Stephen Sprinkle
Joretta Marshall and Stephen Sprinkle

FORT WORTH — Where do we go from here? That’s the question at the heart of a project called “Beyond Apologetics: Sexual Identity, Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Practices,” an ongoing symposium with its next installment set for Thursday, Oct. 7, at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

The event will feature six scholars and pastors, representing five different schools, talking about new ways of thinking about ministry with LGBT people after the battle for acceptance is over.

“Originally, this project was organized to do two things,” explained the Rev. Joretta Marshall, openly lesbian pastor of theology and pastoral care and counseling at Brite and co-director of the project.

“The first thing was to bring scholar practitioners together for conversation to try and answer the question, ‘What would we be talking about if we didn’t always have to focus on gaining acceptance of TLGB people” in churches, Marshall said.

“We want to go beyond defending TLGB people in the churches and start figuring out what those next conversations will be about. For instance, I am hopelessly involved in the United Methodist Church. It is in my blood and in my bones. But there is still a debate within the UMC over whether we [LGBT people] should be welcomed into the church. We want to get past that so that we can work on transforming the world, on bringing justice to the larger community.”

The second piece of the equation, Marshall said, was equally important: “Educational institutions should make a difference in the places where they live. We wanted to invite the community in to participate in these discussions and to let them know that Brite is a place where we talk about these things.”

For the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, the openly gay associate professor of practical theology and director of field education and supervised ministry at Brite, the idea that a theology school in Fort Worth, Texas is host to such a discussion, is an amazing accomplishment.

“We’ve never had a gathering of LGBTQ scholars of faith in Texas before. Not like this,” said Sprinkle, one of the six speakers participating in the Oct. 7 discussion.

“This is the first meeting of its kind here, but it won’t be the last. That was the experience that we had in Oklahoma” last February when the first discussion in the project was held at Phillips Graduate Theological Seminary in Tulsa. He explained that the project was first conceived as a partnership between the two sister seminaries — Phillips and Brite — and six speakers participated in a public event held at Phillips that followed the same format to be used at Brite.

The whole idea, Sprinkle said, is to plan for the future and prepare pastors, churches and the public for the day when LGBT people are already part of the church and can truly give their own unique gifts to its efforts.

“We are thinking two steps on down the road. We’re thinking outside the box, to use the cliché. The question is, if we are not having to constantly think about creating space enough for the LGBT community to be accepted, then we can think about how to move the LGBTQ community into a richer, more whole position to contribute to the church’s work.”

The term “apologetics” refers to advocacy, Sprinkle explained. In thinking “beyond apologetics,” he continued, “what we are saying, as LGBT scholars, is that congregations and nonprofits already have everything they need in order to include LGBT people. They already have the know-how, the theology. We believe the arguments for inclusion have already been made, and made very well. The question now is, what do we do to take things to the next stage of development?”

In his part of the discussion, Sprinkle will focus on his work in documenting anti-LGBT hate crimes and in advocating for the passage of hate crimes laws that include protections for LGBT people. He used his own work and its future direction as an example of the focus of the project overall.

“We argued for years and years for a hate crimes law. We’ve got that now. But the reality is, we are still being killed. So what are we, as an LGBT community, going to do to understand who those dead are to us? How will that shape our identity?” Sprinkle said.

“We have to move beyond being just a loose association of people with a variety of concerns on a variety of issues to become a real people that remember and honor our dead. That is what a community does,” he continued.

“African-Americans can list their people who died in lynchings. Jewish folk have never forgotten the 6 million lost in the Holocaust. Japanese-Americans remember those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But we as an LGBT community seem to have a hard time even acknowledging that members of our community are still being killed. So what I am trying to do is to think down the road about how we can strengthen this community by remembering the thousands who were murdered because they were just like us.”

Another member of the project — although one who won’t be at the discussion next month at Brite — is Darnell Moore with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He is, Sprinkle said, “one of the most dynamic and most original thinkers I have ever seen.”

Moore’s focus, Sprinkle said, is finding a new way to think about coming out.

“People are often afraid to come out because it compromises them and they are vulnerable. What Darnell says is that it is time that we begin to invite people in, really invite them in, and have something to invite them in to. What would it really mean to say to the majority culture all around us, ‘Stop being tourists in our lives. We will share with you what we have, but you have to come to us.’

“Now we’re talking! Now we’re really thinking!” Sprinkle continued. “From now one, there won’t be just one National Coming Out Day a year. There won’t be one day of silence in the schools. From now on, the LGBTQ community can be seen as a powerhouse of innovation and creative thinking. We approach that already in the arts and entertainment. But we don’t seem to be secure enough or understand ourselves well enough to be confident doing that in other spheres.”

For Marshall and Sprinkle, the idea that such new ways of thinking are being birthed here in Fort Worth is reason for celebration, and for hope.

“I came here in 1994, and I was open and out [as a gay man] from the time I first showed up,” Sprinkle said. “But it has been a fight. Then when we decided to invite Joretta [to join the faculty] and she accepted, I knew we were turning a corner.

“This project represents a new era at Brite. Fort Worth is the reddest of the red in a red state. And here we are, co-hosting this powerhouse event, this first-of-a-kind academic gathering of people of faith, right under the nose of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary!

“It’s unbelievable in a way,” he said. “I still have to pinch myself to believe it’s real. But it is real. And it is a sign that the time is right to take these next steps.”

……………………………

‘Beyond Apologetics’

The Beyond Apologetics Project will hold a public symposium Thursday, Oct. 7, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Robert Carr Chapel at Texas Christian University, 2855 S. University Drive in Fort Worth.

The event is free and open to the public.

Scholars and pastors presenting their preliminary work at the discussion will include Duane R. Bidwell of Claremont School of Theology and co-director of the project; Kathleen Greider of Claremont School of Theology; Benjamin Reynolds of Chicago Theological Seminary; Jeanne Hoeft of St. Paul School of Theology; David Mellott of Lancaster Theological Seminary and Stephen V. Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School.

Other participants in the Beyond Apologetics Project are John Blevins with Emory University; United Church of Christ minister Malcolm Himschoot; Joretta Marshall of Brite Divinity School; Darnell Moore of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Jason Hays of Brite Divinity School; Cody J. Sanders of Brite Divinity School; and Leanne Tigert of Andover Newton Theological School.

For more information e-mail j.marshall@tcu.edu or cody.j.sanders@tcu.edu, or go online to BeyondApologetics.wordpress.com.

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

—  Michael Stephens