The Rev. Jeff Hood

The Rev. Jeff Hood is using Ash Wednesday this year as a way to reach out to Denton churches and help them become accepting of LGBT members.

Hood, who runs a small house church in Denton, said there are only three churches that welcome gays in the area. So he wrote a letter about being an accepting place and taped it to the doors of about 60 churches last night. He said he included all denominations to start a dialogue about how churches can be open and affirming to everyone in their community.

“The goal was for pastors to get to the church on Ash Wednesday and be faced with the question of equality,” he said. “With Ash Wednesday being a time of deep repentance and mourning of sins of the past, I thought that would be a good time to say this is what you did in the past and this is what is needed in the future.”

Hood, profiled recently by Religion Dispatches, moved to the area about a year ago. He said he was raised Southern Baptist and wasn’t accepting of gay people until his mentor pastor came out to him in 2007 before he passed away. Hood is now an LGBT advocate.

Hood started a Committee to Queer Denton Churches, an informal group to work with churches on being accepting of LGBT people. He is collaborating with Keep Denton Queer on this project and hopes to publish a list of churches that respond to the letter.

He gave them a week to reach out to him with their views and said he’s already heard back from several today that want to start a dialogue.

“You can’t say that you love the community and love your neighbor and keep your doors closed. There’s a need for accountability,” Hood said. “I think there’s a real need for people in Denton to know where they can go to church.”

Read his letter below.

A Plea for Open Doors

Ash Wednesday 2013

Today, many of us will mark this Ash Wednesday with ashes on our foreheads.  These ashes remind us of our own mortality and are a stark symbol of mourning and repentance to God.

Here in Denton, there is much to be repentant of regarding our lack of concern for and treatment of our Queer neighbors. 

Here in Denton, the oppression of our Queer neighbors is real.  Establishments often turn a blind eye to the homophobic behaviors and actions of their employees and patrons.  Shame is used to pressure normalization in the midst of diverse orientations and identities, which are a gift of God.  Bullying and violence work together to present impossible options for the victims of hateful speech and action. Our consistent teachings that encourage our Queer neighbors to hate their own bodies encourages suicide, a tragic decision made by far too many.  

Here in Denton, these children of God have sought the help of the church.  Our response is to close our doors tighter and call that which we do not know sinful. While our neighbors die, internally and externally, of the shame we parse out, we sing one more song about a love we have for the world that is not actualized.

On this holy day of repentance, let us mourn and repent our lack of love for our Queer neighbors; let us open our hearts and doors to all of God’s children; and let us declare ourselves dedicated to the task of loving our neighbors as our self.

On behalf of the Committee to Queer Denton Churches, I remind you of Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 25:40, “…as you did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto me.”  It is our prayer that you will refuse to allow hardened hearts and misinterpretations of the Bible to blind you to the presence of Jesus in our lives and in our community. 

On this holy day, in the spirit of repentance and reconciliation, the Committee to Queer Denton Churches invites you to send a message to declaring your support and desire to be included in a list of open churches in Denton to be published at a future date.  For our known allies, we invite you to check in and reaffirm your support.  If you do not respond within one week, the Committee to Queer Denton Churches will assume it is your desire to not be included in the published list and that the doors of your church are closed to the Queer community.

Lastly, this document is written for all of the past and present gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other identified persons that we include in the broad word Queer that have known the shame and oppression that have too often flowed from the churches of Denton.

On this holy day of repentance, we repent.  

Rev. Jeff Hood

Moderator, Committee to Queer Denton Churches