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

Nearly 100 gather on Cedar Springs to celebrate Obama’s marriage support, protest NC vote

After devastating blows Tuesday with a failed civil unions bill in Colorado and the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One, the Dallas LGBT community celebrated President Barack Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage at a rally Wednesday night.

Nearly 80 people gathered at the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn to protest the passage of North Carolina’s marriage ban, but also to rejoice in the victory of the first president to come out in favor of marriage equality.

The rally had been organized after the North Carolina vote to spur the LGBT community to action by calling on Obama and Mayor Mike Rawlings to end their silence on marriage equality, but became a celebratory gathering in light of Obama’s historic announcement.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, organized the rally. He opened the remarks to the crowd by quoting from Harvey Milk’s famous “Hope Speech” and encouraging the crowd to come out to everyone they know to bring attention to the number of LGBT people who deserve equality.

“Harvey Milk was right then and Harvey Milk is right today,” Cates said after reading the speech. “We must come out for what we believe and we must ask those that support us to come out.”

—  Dallasvoice

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

Steve Sprinkle honored by Queerty

Steve Sprinkle

Steve Sprinkle has been honored by the website Queerty as one of six LGBT seniors you should know.

Spinkle is on the faculty of Brite Divinity School, located on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. He also preaches at Cathedral of Hope quite often.

He is the author of Unfinished Lives, a book that tells the stories of hate crime victims. He was the victim of  gay-related hate crime himself.

Queerty wrote:

“Today is the last day of LGBT History Month, but instead of pulling out some factoid from the past, we decided to honor some older LGBT activists who not only witnessed gay history — they continue to help make it. Even as a new generation of LGBTs  gets its feet wet in the activist waters, it’s important we celebrate those vital individuals who have been breaking down barriers for decades.”

The others listed in the “6 LGBT Seniors You Should Know” are Don Kilhefner, West Hollywood; Vernita Gray, Chicago; Jay Kallio, New York City; and Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, Davis, Calif.

—  David Taffet

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

Equality March returns to downtown

ON THE MOVE | The 2010 Equality March LGBT rights on display in downtown Dallas. Saturday’s march returns to downtown. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Governor’s new alliance with a hate group is expected to draw attention to 3rd annual Dallas rally

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Gov. Rick Perry’s planned event in Houston with the hate group American Family Association in August has gotten many LGBT allies energized, according to Daniel Cates. And he and other organizers for the third annual Equality March said they hope that new energy helps turn out more participants for the march happening Saturday, June 25, in downtown Dallas.

Cates, who recently became North Texas regional director of GetEQUAL, said that the march is a demand for full legal equality for LGBT people and an end to religious-based persecution.

But he made it clear that organizers are not bashing religion.

“We’re calling on lawmakers to make good on the promises in the Constitution,” he said. “And we’ve had an amazing response from our allies — especially in the Christian community.”

He said many people see the discrimination against the LGBT community as a violation of the separation of church and state.

“I’ve heard from the Unitarians and from other liberal churches and even from some Methodist churches,” he said.

AFA has confirmed that anti-gay themes will be part of the event with Perry.

March co-organizer Nonnie Ouch said the Perry event is partially state-funded.

“Fellow activists from around the state are very angry about what Perry’s doing right now,” she said. “Using state funds to produce such an exclusive event is wrong.”

Ouch will also be one of the speakers at the rally following the march.

“I’ll be doing spoken-word poetry about my experiences through public school and bullying,” she said.

Ouch is a senior at Texas Tech in Lubbock and is spending her summer as an intern at Resource Center Dallas.

March for Equality begins at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza at 6 p.m. Cates urged those attending to “bring signs, flags, banners, bull horns, drums or any means of expression.”

C.D. Kirven will emcee the rally. Among other speakers and march sponsors are Jesse Garcia with LULAC Rainbow Chapter and Brittany Rayson-Stubblefeild, a member of Students for a Democratic Society.

Resource Center Dallas, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and International Socialist Organization Denton and Dallas Branches are also endorsing the march.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle with TCU’s Brite Divinity School, student and recent Mount Pleasant mayoral candidate  Kooper Caraway and  I Am Equal Project founder Jason Beckett are also among the speakers.

Beckett will be at the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Dallas throughout the day with fashion photographer Matt Spencer to collect pictures for his I Am Equal project.

“We’re expecting more people to participate in this year,” Cates said. “We’ve had more promotional opportunities including Razzle Dazzle Dallas. Our Facebook response has been stronger this year as well.”

The first Equality March in Dallas happened on Sunday afternoon, June 29, 2009, just hours after Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage commission raided the Rainbow Lounge, a gay bar in Fort Worth, setting off a controversy that generated headlines around the country.

Many of those participating in the Dallas march heard about the raid during the march and afterwards headed to Fort Worth to take part in a protest rally on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse.

The Equality March moved to downtown Dallas last year in response to criticisms by some that holding the event in the Oak Lawn gayborhood was like preaching to the choir. By holding the march downtown, organizers hoped to reach a broader audience with their message of equality.

North Texas March for Equality, 646 Main St., June 25 at 6 p.m.

—  John Wright

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

WATCH: ‘It Gets Better’ — even in Texas

Looks like some local folks are among those who’ve put together videos for writer Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project on YouTube. The project, launched in response to the recent rash of suicides by gay teens, is aimed at LGBT youth and features adults explaining that no matter how bad things may seem, they really do get better. Those who’ve recorded messages for the project include Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell and Bret Camp, and the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth. Do you know of other local folks who’ve recorded these? If so, feel free to put the link in the comments.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Asher Brown’s memorial service

Over the weekend we shared a report from the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Dallas, who attended Saturday’s memorial service in Houston for 13-year-old Asher Brown. Here are a few TV news reports.

UPDATE: Looks like a demonstration and vigil is planned for Tuesday’s outside Asher’s school in Cypress.

—  John Wright