DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Scott Jones was a minister at Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City, but he was ordained a Southern Baptist minister who first served at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas. But this isn’t a story of a minister who came out and lost his family and his job in one fell swoop. It’s a story of a pastor coming out and finding the right congregation with supportive help along the way.
Jones has told his story in a new book, Open, and he will be at Cathedral of Hope on Sunday, Oct. 21 to sign copies of the book. He will return later to do the same at Royal Lane Baptist.
“I grew up in Oklahoma,” Jones said. “I didn’t come to a full understanding of myself until I was in my late 20s.” He said he always knew he was attracted to men. But he wanted to be a minister, so he decided he’d try to make it work with women.
“I was dating women and wasn’t very good at it,” he admitted. In fact, he had been engaged to a woman in college, but she ended the relationship.
So it was while serving as the youth minister at Royal Lane Baptist Church from 2003 to 2005 that he began coming out.
At the time the church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conference but had a number of LGBT members who served as deacons and in other positions of responsibility within the church. Then in 2010, Royal Lane was kicked out of the Southern Baptist Conference because they posted on their website that everyone was welcome at their church.
“I’d like to think my personal story helped them come to their decision,” Jones said.
He said when he came out to the church’s senior pastor, rather than banish him, the pastor simply asked Jones not to rush things. “So,” he said, “I spent that time slowly exploring my identity and sexuality.”
While he was still at Royal Lane Baptist, Jones spoke to Cathedral of Hope’s youth minister, who let him know the Rev. Jo Hudson was looking for someone to fill the position of pastor at Cathedral of Hope Oklahoma City.
“I found it really liberating,” Jones said. “After years of lying and worrying about being out and what would happen, I was fully myself and accepted. Church members joked with sexual innuendo in a free, open environment.”
Jones met his husband in Oklahoma City. Michael was an Oklahoma State University student participating in the Soulforce Equality Ride, and Jones was coordinating a visit to Oklahoma Baptist University.
“This really handsome guy came through the door,” Jones said. “Lightening struck.”
They were married in a religious ceremony in Oklahoma City presided over by Harry Wooten, Royal Lane Baptist’s minister of music.
From Oklahoma City, Jones thought his ministry would take him to a big city on the east or west coast. Instead, he said, “I left Oklahoma City for First Central Congregational in Omaha.”
He said the 162-year-old mainstream downtown UCC church, one of the oldest in the city, is the perfect fit for him. “We’re this weird post-gay congregation,” he said.
“They like that I read a lot. My personality. My husband.”
Because he was openly gay as he was looking for a new church, many churches passed him over. First Congregational narrowed its choice of pastors to the gay candidates, he said, because “this highly-qualified pool was being overlooked.”
Jones said he and Michael had their legal wedding on a foot bridge over the Missouri River that connects Omaha with Iowa. He said a line was drawn on the bridge marking the state line. Iowa was the second state to legalize same-sex marriage, so couples from Nebraska would step over the line and marry on the bridge on the Iowa side.
Jones said early in his tenure, he began attending the men’s group that met on Thursday mornings, but the group wasn’t sure what to do with Michael. “Spouses come once a month, but couldn’t he come to the breakfast?” members of the group debated. (They finally agreed he could).
Jones and his husband wanted to have a child, and for five years they attempted to adopt through the state. When they finally decided that wasn’t going to work, they went another route.
“Make sure everyone you know knows you want to adopt,” Jones advised. The best man at his wedding used to work with a woman whose sister was pregnant and who wanted to give her baby up for adoption. The adoption took place in Kansas in 2015, where the state had recently made adoptions easier and Kansas had already legalized same-sex marriage through a court ruling before the Obergefell decision settled the question nationwide.
“We were there when he was born in a small-town Catholic hospital,” Jones said of his son.
And his church’s reaction? They were ecstatic. In fact, the church threw a gigantic baby shower and opened a college fund for their son.
“At that point, we felt we joined a club we didn’t know existed,” he said. “A woman we barely knew said, ‘Hey, I’ve got extra breast milk.’ … Something UCC worked for was coming to fruition,” and everyone in the church was excited about it.
Because of that, he said, their son has a large number of surrogate grandparents and aunts and uncles.
Jones said there were hard parts in his coming out process. His Southern Baptist grandfather, who was a deacon could never accept that his grandson the minister was gay. When he came out, he said, he expected his sister to be happy for him — she wasn’t — and he expected his mother to not be OK with it — she was. When he was in 8th grade, she once told him if he was gay, she’d kill herself. She later told him she doesn’t remember saying that.
Jones reminds us that coming out can be hard, but even a Southern Baptist minister who happens to be gay can end up in the right congregation.
Jones will be at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road, at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services on Sunday, Oct. 21 to sign copies of his book. The book is available at LiteratiPressOK.com.