From Staff Reports

 

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, has been named as the recipient of the Black Tie Dinner’s 2017 Kuchling Humanitarian Award, dinner officials announced Friday, Aug. 25, during the annual BTD Sneak Peek Event.

Dinner officials also announced playwright Terrance McNally as this year’s Ally for Equality Award winner, and former Secretary of the Navy Eric Fanning as contributing speaker at the dinner in November. Robbie Gordy, associate vice president and auctioneer at Christie’s New York, will be the auctioneer for the live auction of luxury items.

“Every year, the board has the difficult task of selecting a recipient for the Kuchling Award from a list of accomplished and well-deserving community leaders,” Black Tie Dinner Co-Chair Nathan Robbins said. “This year, we are honored to recognize Eric Folkerth for his many years of support, activism and leadership in support of the LGBTQ community. As an ally in the religious community, he has taken great personal risk in standing up and fighting for equality.

Folkerth said he is “so humbled and honored” to receive the Kuchling Award, and “blessed not only by it, but also by the strength, organization, creativity and spirit of the Dallas LGBTQ community that this award represents.”

“One of the great honors of my life is being in ministry alongside the LGBTQ community,” Folkerth continued, adding that he and his wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, “both learned so much from [the LGBT community] about commitment, love, passion and seeking justice. It’s been my privilege to stand with the LGBTQ community in great struggles for justice in our time.”

Dinner officials said in a press release that Folkerth has been an ally and a leader, and “whether it is LGBTQ issues, interfaith issues and acceptance and understanding of other faiths, race relations, immigration reform or helping the poor and less fortunate in our own community and elsewhere, Rev. Folkerth embodies the spirit and intent of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award. He has spent a career demonstrating his ‘dedicated courage and exemplary courage to secure individual freedoms and guarantee humanity its inalienable rights.’”

The statement noted: “Eric’s support of the church’s marriage journey and vote, the celebration of same- sex marriages at Northaven while he is senior pastor, and his officiating of same-sex marriage ceremonies make him susceptible to a formal charge under UMC discipline and a potential church trial.

A charge and any adjudication of a charge by the bishop of the UMC North Texas Conference could lead to Eric’s temporary or permanent suspension.

“He has literally put his Methodist calling and his livelihood on the line in support of marriage equality. Through grassroots activism, dialogue with area leaders and legislators, and the occasional march, Eric is trying to effect change, whether it be with respect to interfaith understanding, immigration, racism, or poverty, just to name a few.”

The Ally for Equality Award, established in 2016, recognizes a distinguished ally who has made a significant, positive impact, through personal and professional activities, on the LGBTQ community. This year’s Ally Award recipient has won four Tony Awards for his plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class and his musical books for Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime.

McNally’s play Lips Together, Teeth Apart, about two married couples who spend a weekend on Fire Island, is a landmark play about AIDS. He also explores gay themes in the book for the musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman, for which he won his first Tony Award. Love! Valour! Compassion! earned him another Tony Award for its portrayal of eight gay men facing issues of fidelity, love and happiness.

His controversial play Corpus Christi depicts a modern-day Jesus as a homosexual. The Manhattan Theater Club, the first company to consider staging the play, received death threats and temporarily canceled the production before enjoying a successful run. Mothers and Sons, which opened on

Broadway in 2014, explores the relationship between a mother and her dead son’s former gay partner. It revisits McNally’s 1900 television movie, Andre’s Mother, for which he won an Emmy Award.

McNally was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1996.

David Gifford-Robinson, BTD co-chair, said, “Black Tie Dinner is thrilled to recognize the positive light Terrence McNally has shone on the LGBTQ community through his over-60-year career. He is known for writing provocative works that transcend the boundaries of sexual orientation, race and gender, and he encourages conversation and people coming together through shedding light on humanity in all its forms.”

Eric Fanning was the 22nd Secretary of the Army, appointed by President Obama on May 18, 2016. He is the first person to have held senior presidential appointments in all three military departments and the first openly gay man confirmed to lead any branch of the military.

Black Tie Dinner is set for Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. For information, raffle tickets and sponsorship tables, visit BlackTie.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 1, 2017.