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August 22nd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Gay detective's mother booted from church

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(CNN)–The mother of a gay detective has been booted from the Tennessee church she attended for decades.

Elders at Ridgedale Church of Christ told Linda Cooper and two relatives that their public support for Kat Cooper, Linda Cooper's gay daughter, went against the church's teachings, local media reported. In a private meeting, reports say, Linda Cooper was given a choice: publicly atone for their transgressions or leave the church.

Linda left the church.

Kat Cooper is a detective with the Collegedale Police Department. This month, she fought successfully for health benefits for her same-sex spouse, Krista, from the town.

The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution allowing for same-sex partner benefits, becoming the first city in Tennessee to do so.

Along the way, the mother publicly supported her daughter. That support appears to have led to a rift with her church.

"My mother was up here and she sat beside me. That's it," Kat Cooper told the Times Free Press of Chattanooga. "Literally, they're exiling members for unconditionally loving their children - and even extended family members."

"Her answer to them ... is that she had committed no sin in her mind. Loving her daughter and supporting her family was not a sin," Kat Cooper's father, Hunt Cooper, told CNN affiliate WTVC. "There was nothing to repent about. They certainly couldn't judge her on that because that was between her and her God, and it was not their place to judge her for that."

"The sin would be endorsing that lifestyle," Ken Willis, a minister at Ridgedale Church of Christ, told to the Times Free Press. "The Bible speaks very plainly about that."

The news enflamed the passions of critics and supporters of the church's action.

A phony Facebook page for the church was created by one critic, who posted glib messages affirming same-sex marriage shortly after the controversy went viral. "There's nothing about girl on girl in Leviticus," one post reads.

Mary Sturdibint, a Collegedale resident, told WTVC, "I don't think they should be kicked out of church. If you're going to kick out someone, it needs to be the two that are same-sex that's married. I do believe in that."

Willis declined an on-camera interview with WTVC but released a written statement.

"This is an in-church private issue. Because emotions are so inflamed at this point, I choose not to comment any further," it read.

"The church is overseen by elders. I am a minister, not a pastor and therefore, do not have the authority to speak further on this. The news is getting mixed reviews."

Multiple calls to the church and the Coopers by CNN were not returned.

Church of Christ structure

What happens next for the small suburban church remains unclear.

There is no denomination to hand down an edict praising or condemning the local church's decision.

Churches of Christ are a loosely joined group of independent churches that are autonomous by design. There is no denominational oversight, formal structure or even a denomination headquarters.

Local churches are governed by appointed elders in a structure the church traces to the early followers of Jesus described in the New Testament, said Ronald Highfield, a professor of religion at Pepperdine University.

"They're organized in congregations with their own local leadership so that no other congregation, no set of congregations, no convention can exercise any ecclesiastical discipline over another congregation," said Highfield, who is also an elder in his local Church of Christ congregation.

While there are no documents or position papers by the church on the issue of homosexuality and how members ought to interact with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender family members, he said that on the issue of sexual orientation, churches in the denomination fall on a spectrum from progressive to conservative.

Most churches, Highfield said, hold a traditional Christian belief that sex is to be reserved for married men and women and that sex outside of that marriage arrangement is wrong, regardless of what the church believes about sexual orientation.

"There is an implicit covenant when you're a member of a congregation to adhere to the scriptures and the authority," he said.

So, he said, supporting a view that could be seen as undermining the teaching of the church could be grounds for excommunication.

Highfield was unfamiliar with this particular congregation until the story broke and said as for its decision, "whether it's just or fair, I'm not going to make a judgment."

Not a new issue

For decades, churches have wrestled with the issue of homosexuality, leading to splits and schisms of individual congregations and entire churches.

Some churches, like the Episcopal Church, have shifted from the traditional Christian position on marriage to now bless monogamous same-sex unions and perform same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.

While churches that have formally shifted their policies on same-sex marriage are in the minority, Americans' opinion of such marriage has shifted significantly from opposition to support.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted in June, when the Supreme Court was deciding the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act and the validity of a California law banning same-sex marriage, 55% of Americans said marriages between gay or lesbian couples should be recognized as valid. That marked an 11-point swing from 2008, when 44% of Americans said the unions should be legal.

The public outcry about the exile of the parents of a gay adult child from this Tennessee congregation seems to mirror this shift in public opinion.

Some pollsters and commentators have pointed to tension about same-sex marriage as a reason for an exodus from churches, particularly among young people.

Many mainline Protestant churches have seen a decline in membership, while pollsters have noted a steady increase in "nones," or people saying they have no religious affiliation. In its latest surveys, the Pew Forum on Faith and Public life puts "Nones" at 20% of the population.

Pew has also noted that at the same time younger Americans are leaving churches, older Americans are returning in a pattern that matches historical trends that have shown people become more religious as they get older.

Because there is no central office for Churches of Christ, reliable numbers on membership are difficult to come by.*

When the Ridgedale congregation next updates its membership rolls, it will be crossing out the Coopers. The family told the local newspaper they were devastated to leave a church where they had been active for 60 years.

For now, both the Coopers and their former church are standing by their own convictions, and after six decades of traveling together, they are heading in different directions.

 

*Update

Difficult, but not impossible. There are 12,438 Church of Christ congregations in the United States with 1.55 million adherents according to publisher 21st Century Christian's annual "Churches of Christ in the United States" which they have compiled since the 1970s.
H/t @BobbyRoss

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Gay marriage • Gay rights

soundoff (3,329 Responses)
  1. Jay David

    Jesus wept.

    Of course, Jesus has been weeping about the bigotry and ignorance of His supposed followers for 2,000+ years.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Ron

    Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the LIght for fear that his deeds may be exposed. ....Jesus (John 3:20)

    August 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • ME II

      Anyone who disagrees is evil. Is that it?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Russ

        @ ME II: if you disagree with Jesus... then, yes. that's the definition of evil – disagreeing with Good Incarnate.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • Russ

          Now get out and kill and burn that sheep or Jeebus he gonna get you and burn yo ass in HAELLL for eternityy.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Russ 2: stealing my handle is not a substi.tute for a good response.

          and, as John 3:17-18 point out, Jesus didn't come to condemn. we had already done that to ourselves.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • Ron

        Me 2, you tell me?

        August 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • RC

      John sure had a vivid imagination didn't he?

      August 24, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  3. haime52

    It seems to me that many people have an off center view of what love is. They think that love should encompass and accept everything that other feel they wish to do. Love should inform when one is off base in their lives. This is not hatred, it is loving that person enough not to let them continue in error, thinking they are right in whatever it is they are doing that is contrary to scripture. If you choose to ignore this love act, that is truly your business. Being asked to choose between family and church is hard, no doubt. The real choice is between family and Christ. To say that Christ would approve of a life style such as portrayed is a huge reach. The God who changes not, may have a different view and assumes more than is scripturally valid. There is much said in scripture to the contrary, this is hard to deny, although some do, saying it is misinterpretation. You should love the sinner but not the sin, as it is said. That is not to say to accept the sin, only love the person. To accept open sin is, to a large extent, to abet that sin. Oh, I know that many don't even believe in sin, saying that sin is a human construct that has near no bearing on mankind or human behavior. Just because we cannot see harm, now, does not mean that no harm accrues. We may come to see this in a different light years forward. After all, we could see no harm in so many things, until the harm showed us wrong. Time will tell whether or not you believe so. But now I'm starting to ramble. I'm weird and revel in being so. Just a few tidbits to think on.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  4. Ron

    Jesus was delivered over for our transgressions, and was raised again for our justifaction....Romans 4:25

    August 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • sam

      Ron, it looks like you're trying to sanctify the comment board or something. Don't you have a toenail clipping collection to get back to curating?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Jesus is a myth.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  5. cvg22

    Linda Cooper, you are a good mother. You stood up for your children and upheld what you know was right and just. You followed your heart and not the flock. In a world that seems to have so much hate and brutality, its people like you that can be an inspiring light for those that feel that they have no one that loves them. I was always taught that Christ's message was to love and respect each other. Don't judge each other...don't follow blindly those that profess to know God's plan and don't hate. "Religious" people that preach hate and intolerance will reap what they sow. Congratulations are in order on your excommunication from that congregation...you are now free from the hypocrits and holier-than-thou. They are the ones that will suffer from not having you in their lives. Embrace the new chapter in your life and the new friends that recognize and appreciate the qualities you possess. God Bless /you!

    August 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Mom needs training so she can train the younger women. She ain't gud.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        What are you blathering on about now??? The Mom is fine, the daughter is fine...it is you who is not!

        August 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • .

          Just hit report abuse for everything this moronic troll posts.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Why?? Could it be that you don't like the TRUTH??

          August 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
        • .

          On the 'lol' troll, not you.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Sorry...you were not specific.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  6. George Beverly Shea

    Me and Jesus got our own thing going
    Me and Jesus got it all worked out
    Me and Jesus got our own thing going
    Me and Jesus don't need anybody to tell us what it s all about.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  7. John

    This is why I do not belong to any church. I believe in God not the church.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Athy

      I'm the other way around. I believe churches exist, but not god.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ John: think that through...
      "Jesus, I like you. but I hate your BRIDE."
      How does that go over with any other loving husband you know?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
      • .

        Jesus should have known better than to marry a bullshit construct.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • Russ

          @ .
          so you believe people are just constructs?

          August 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • .

          Churches fit that bill.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • Russ

          @ .
          a church is a group of people. the word literally means "called out" ones.
          so, are you mocking the One who called them (Jesus) or denying the reality of those people?
          the former goes directly to my original point above. the latter is empirically falsifiable.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • .

          Pretty ugly bride.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • Russ

          @.
          now we come to it.
          that's the Gospel: Beauty kisses the Beast... unmerited favor and love.

          and – to my original point – if Jesus finds his bride lovable... whose eyes need fixing?
          if you claim to be a follower of Christ, hating the Bride is not an option.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  8. Ron

    "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousnsess of God in Him." ...II Corinthians 5:21

    August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  9. Dan

    Organized religion especially the most conservatives elements are rather ugly and not Christian like at all.Even Rick Santurom has stated his ugly false believes that 1) you cannot be gay and a Christian and 2) no such thing as a liberal Christian.We are rightly following in Europe'e footpaths and rejecting this ugly lie filled belief system.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Tory stock??

      August 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Frank Terrent

    They are no different from the taliban

    August 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • The really for real Scotsman

      Yep, just like them. They threw acid in her face, gang ra ped her and murdered her.

      Oh wait, no they didn't. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  11. Ron

    "Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me" .Jesus (Mathew 11:6) Better to honor the Lord than concern yourself with the agenda of man.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  12. ll

    The Ridgedale Church of Christ billboard says "Righteousness lifts up a nation". I take that as code for they are going to kick out every demographic that makes them question their own insecurities.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Father knows best.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • ll

        Clearly your father didn't.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  13. t

    .............CoC is just to the right of the John Birch Society...............I know.................

    August 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  14. Ron

    "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." ...Jesus (John 3:21)

    August 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  15. Felix Sinclair

    These kinds of people show their true colors more and more. They discredit themselves more effectively than any opponent.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Crips or Bloods??

      August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  16. Ron

    "And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, becuase their deeds were evil." John 3:19 Many will not come to the LIght of Christ because they prefer to practice their evil deeds.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Yours is a very accurate assessment of the situation.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • Ron

        Bonnie, ty Thank the Lord for the Truth of His Word. God Bless

        August 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • CDAinLA

      couldn't agree more Ron. These church people need to repent for their evil deeds and seek out the light

      August 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
      • Ron

        CD, I agree with the Churches position. The woman is unrepentant. The Church has a duty to expulse her.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
        • Madtown

          The woman has done nothing needing repentance, in this case. I truly hope you have no children.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • Dippy

          It's Church's, not Churches. Your grammar is as bad as your thinking.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • sam

      Yes, Ron, this church has done evil deeds.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • Ron

        Sam, the unrepentant do not belong at Church polluting the flock. The Church did the right thing.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • sam

          The 'flock' is far more polluted than any 'sin' you can dream up. You're so polluted yourself that you can no longer tell smog from fresh air.

          I hear some antipsychotic meds might help.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
      • Ron

        Oh Oh Sammy, is that angry Sam back? lol

        August 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • sam

          Here comes Ron's true christian troll side.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Madtown

      Many will also not come to the light of Christ, because they've never heard of Christ. Why you ask? God placed them into an area of the world where christianity doesn't exist.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • ll

      Agreed. The church here is not a loving, Christ-like church.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • Ron

        The Church is behaving 100% Christlike. To teach only the love doctrine is false teaching. You seem to prefer lies to the truth. I would recommend you not attend there.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • sam

          Better be careful, Ron. You're accusing Jesus of being a bigoted asshole.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Curtis

      Ron, me being a health freak, I guess I could say eating donuts and drinking soda is evil too. Religion divides people, families, and organizations. People are look down upon if they don't do what their churches "encourage" them to do. Instead, we should love each other and not judge, for we are not God. My friend, I would take a serious look at your bible. The bible warns about people (false prophets) that would mislead many with false hopes and promises..such as heaven, paradise...this fantasy world that nobody has proof of even exist. Would you love God if this life you have is all there is? No promise of heaven or paradise...but just the very air you breathe today was his gift to you. And that every person you met on the streets gay or not, was placed their by God to see if you would love and not judge. Tsk Tsk my lost religious soul.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Ron

        Nice job Curt. You are equating eating donuts with practicing perversions clearly condemned by God. Nice try.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • sam

          You're equating people loving whoever they want to and not harming anyone with it as 'perversion'. Take off, you sick fuck.

          And stop posting stupid random bible quotes all over.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • Ron

          Sammy, why so angry? Are you confused about the difference between love and perversion?

          August 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
        • sam

          No Ron, I'm confused about how obsessed you are with 'perversion'. Have you consulted a professional about how much you enjoy debating about it?

          August 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • Ath

          Ron probably thinks a lot of things are perversions. Don't you Ron?

          August 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Ajax

      If you're going to quote the bible it's best to spell all the words correctly, otherwise you risk reinforcing a popular stereotype. That stereotype in this case, would be people who have never read any books other than the bible.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  17. dmoney

    I wouldn't want him to do a stop and frisk on me

    August 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Her and why??? Afraid she might steal your wife and treat her better than you do??

      August 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  18. Edward

    Tax this church.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You can't

      August 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • ll

      A good case can be made for them not being a Christian church. I say tax them too.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • The really for real Scotsman

        Not a true church eh? Hmmmm, I think there is a fallacy somewhere in all that.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
        • ll

          They sure aren't following the teaching of Christ, and aren't acting in a Christ-like manner. Their billboard says they are the Church of Christ. I'm calling BS on them.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • BubblesB

      Can I get an AMEN?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  19. kelly

    yeah but it's Tennessee. ignorant welfare nanny state of people with an 8th grade education. who the hell cares what those bigots think?!

    August 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Bigot is a gay mantra.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • Quasi

        Religion is the real perversion, and this hypocrisy is the worst of all its sins. 
        Religion breeds hatred and intolerance.

        "Hate served with a smile is still hate; evil in religious trappings is still evil." - Danny Maynard – 2012.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • skm

      i don't know what's more ignorant. this church (which there are plenty of) or your broad brush painting of an entire state.
      – signed,
      liberal with an advanced degree from tennessee.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • mick

        you must be very lonely

        August 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  20. mike

    This church needs to immediately have it's tax exempt status removed. This is beyond ridiculous, and the church needs to be shamed publicly. Fortunately, there are many wonderful open minded churches out there that would love to have her as a member.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • ll

        ....the apostrophe police have arrived.....

        okay......

        August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • Ur Mom

        Is that all you had to contribute? You're not dippy, just a moron.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • CDAinLA

        you can put the ' in your : Mr(s) Dippy

        August 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah if those other churches don't act right, we'll tax them too!

      August 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Yeah, where is Jim and Tammy when you need em??

      August 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bob

      So you can decide what a church believes and it's tax exempt status? What about the Muslims? I disagree with gay rights, so I think gay churches should have tax exempt status.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
      • Dippy

        Its, not it's.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • RC

          SHUT UP!!

          August 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • ll

      Agreed.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • theala

      Removing their tax exempt status would be improper. The IRS is not the arbiter of religion in this country.

      I trust you are familiar with the Establishment Clause?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.