Plaque in Tyler park to honor Nicholas West, murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in 1993

Nicholas West

On Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays) and Tyler AIDS Services will unveil a plaque in Bergfeld Park honoring the memory of Nicholas West.

West was kidnapped from Bergfeld Park on Oct.  31, 1993. He was tortured, shot and left for dead. He was targeted because his three assailants presumed he was gay. At their trial, they confessed that they wanted to kill a homosexual.

West’s two murderers received the death penalty in the case.

The story was featured recently in the Investigation Discovery channel series Hardcover Mysteries. Dallas Voice senior editor Tammye Nash, who interviewed one of West’s killers on death row, is portrayed in the show by a svelte brunette whom we all agree is perfect for the part. The story of West’s murder was also featured in Arthur Dong’s 1997 documentary Licensed to Kill.

This summer’s production of The Laramie Project was in West’s memory.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez will attend the unveiling of the plaque for West with her Smith County counterpart, J.B. Smith. So will Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass.

Following the dedication at 6 p.m., a World AIDS Day remembrance will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 230 West Rusk St. in Tyler at 6:30 p.m. followed by a candlelight vigil.

—  David Taffet

FW church leaves BGCT

Broadway Baptist wants to move beyond ‘distractions’ caused by denomination’s response to congregation’s welcome of gays

Tammye Nash and John Wright  |  Dallas Voice editor@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Saying that the church doesn’t want any further “distractions” over its position on homosexuality, Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist has officially ended its 125-year affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Broadway Baptist officials on Monday, Sept. 13, hand-delivered a letter — written by Pastor Brent Beasley and approved by the congregation on Wednesday, Sept. 8 — to BGCT offices in Dallas, informing BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett that the congregation will no longer contribute or send messengers to the convention’s annual meeting or publicly claim affiliation with the state convention, according to a report published online by The Baptist Standard.

The move was the latest development in an ongoing battle between Broadway and the Southern Baptist denomination that began in 2008 when the Fort Worth congregation voted to include photos of its openly LGBT members in the directory commemorating the church’s 125th anniversary.

Scott Green, an openly gay member of Broadway Baptist, responded to the decision Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, in an e-mail sent exclusively to Dallas Voice.

“It is indeed unfortunate that Broadway has once again been put into the situation of having to make choices that, in the end, benefit no one,” Green said.

Green added that Broadway Baptist “has always stood as a beacon of hope for the entire community. We also stand firm in the knowledge that God is gracious and loving, welcoming all of us.

“Each and every week, I am surrounded by this marvelous community of believers,” he continued. “They seek God’s guidance for their individual lives, and corporately live out their faith. They wrap their arms around those who are in need. I challenge anyone to stand and say that Broadway Baptist should not be a vital part of Christ’s mission.”

Green also had praise for Broadway’s pastor, Brent Beasley, saying the minister has “led us mightily” since becoming pastor in July 2009.

“We have rebounded in every way imaginable. Whether or not we are part of the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention], the BGCT, or any other denominational entity, I am both humbled and honored to be a member of this fine church,” Green said.

According to the letter from Broadway Baptist to BGCT, the Fort Worth church is leaving because of “distracting complications we encountered in our attempt to participate in last year’s annual meeting and the prospect of future unwanted and unneeded discord.”

Those “complications” were threats by some representatives to the state convention in the fall of 2009 that they would challenge the seating of messengers from Broadway Baptist over the church’s policy of welcoming openly gay and lesbian members.

According to the Baptist Standard, the letter also said one of Broadway’s commitments is “welcoming all persons into our church, including the outcast, those on the margins of society, and those who have not found that welcome in many other places, including, unfortunately, many churches,” and that thanks to that policy, Broadway Baptist has “become a vital and diverse community of faith, coming from many different backgrounds and representing many different perspectives, but united in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.”

In 2008, an internal dispute broke out at Broadway Baptist over plans to include same-sex couples in the photo directory. That led to an effort by some of the congregation’s more conservative members to oust then-Pastor Brett Younger.

That effort eventually failed when the congregation voted to keep him on. But a month later, Younger announced he was leaving to take a teaching position at Mercer University in Georgia.

In June of 2009, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to sever its ties with Broadway Baptist because of the congregation’s policy of welcoming LGBT members.

Earlier this year, the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to expel Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas over the congregation’s acceptance of gays.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

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

—  Michael Stephens