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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. Adam

    I'm a Christian. And as a Christian you hate the sin, not the sinner. And for a supposed Christian church to tell a mother that she can't love and support her daughter, even if in their eyes she's a sinner, is wrong. Christians are supposed to love everyone, they don't have to agree with their thoughts, beliefs or practices, but they are still supposed to love them.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Grumpy

      Woe to him who calls good evil and evil good. If the woman says gay intercourse is ok she is sinning and calling God a liar.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • sam

        Bible never said anything about chicks doing it with chicks.

        You think about gay sex more than gay people do.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          They think about se/b>x in general far more than most considering they have their bibles in every aspect of it.

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

          Romans 1:26

          August 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • Observer

        Grumpy,

        The Bible supports slavery, too.

        So do you believe everything in the Bible or are you just another HYPOCRITE who picks-and-chooses from it?

        August 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
        • Doooglas

          Amen to that one!

          August 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Sane Person

      Hate the bigotry, not the bigot!

      August 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Sane Person

      Hate the big.otry, not the big.ot!

      August 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • NotGodsWay

      Adam hit it on the head. THis is not the Christian way. This church must have 10 members.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  2. BE

    "There is an implicit covenant when you're a member of a congregation to adhere to the scriptures and the authority," he said. If not, you're out

    So .. keep the sabbath holy (Saturday, not Sunday) You're out.
    He who is without sin... You're out
    Love thy neighbor... You're out
    Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. If you are divorced, you're out
    Eating shellfish is an abomination... You're out

    August 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • greenaxe

      Grope young boys...well that depends on which side of the alter you are on.

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

        Altar, not alter.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
        • Doooglas

          I think you taught my 7th grade English class

          August 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • RC

          You know, every time you correct someones spelling or punctuation, I'm going to tell you to SHUT UP! No one cares!

          August 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  3. RamboJohnJ

    "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."

    I love when the Christians quote the parts of the ghost written book of Invisible Superman when it fits their agendas. The Bible also says to slay your children and sell your daughters into slavery..

    August 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Doooglas

      So true Rambo!! And there are so many other ABOMINATIONS that the "holy" commit daily.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  4. What is going on? FREEDOM

    Just so these religious folks know, Mao, Stalin, etc. etc. committed their atrocities in the name of Communism (which was political), not Atheism. Pick up a history book for once you fools.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Grumpy

      Actually, they are all atheists and burned down churches, burned Bibles, and murdered religious people simply because they believed in God.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Wrong Grumpy. There are actually many Atheists that had to flee those Communist countries for fear of being killed because they disagreed with Communism running the government. Communists attacked all those groups because those groups disagreed with the political group in power.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • greenaxe

        Yet the crusades was pretty much like a day at six flags.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • billyjoel

        "I'ld rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the Saints. Sinners are much more fun..."
        Billy Joel, Only The Good Die Young

        August 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  5. Judy Braham

    She is better off finding another church with REAL Christians in it – not a bunch of judgemental hypocrits. You don't boot people out for sinning!!! THOSE are the people who should be in church the most!! WHO are the sinners? WE ALL ARE!!! "Let he who is without sin, cas the first stone". Her husband said it best, it's between her and God – just like what her daughter is doing – it's between her and God. It is not anyone here on Earth's place to judge them. The Christians job on Earth is to show others the way by EXAMPLE and to pray for the sinners. There is nothing in the Bible that says we are to be the judge and jury for God.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Madtown

      Everyone is indeed a "sinner", i.e. imperfect. We were designed to be imperfect. However, in this story, they don't discuss any "sin" comitted by the daughter. She is simply living as God made her, as are you.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • knowthetruth

        Do you mean that she was created a female? If so, that would be correct.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • sam

          Protip: all fetuses start off as female. What's your point?

          August 22, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
      • knowthetruth

        Madtown,
        We were not designed to be imperfect. Adam and Even sinned. We inherited imperfection.

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

          Of course we were designed to be imperfect. How could it be any other way? If we were perfect, wouldn't we be gods ourselves? As far as Adam and Eve, were they part of the h0m0 erectus or h0m0 neanderthal sub-species?

          August 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • knowthetruth

      There is only one judge.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  6. lamelionheart

    All manly built churches are false churches and the true church is one's own body... For anyone to leave these manly built churches and worship the true church being one's owned body is sometimes hard but a righteous decision nonetheless...

    August 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • knowthetruth

      The true church is your own body. What exactly does that mean?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  7. KSM

    that's what the church is...it is a way to oppress and force people to behave a certain way...people get confused by religion/faith and "the church". Look at history and other religions...look up canon law...just because christianity is the main religion in the US...does not mean they are any different than the ones they make fun of from other countries!

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

      Dude, if believe gay intercourse is not sin a Christian church is not for you. Try the church of Satan.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
      • HillandGone

        Amazing that people so filled with hate think they are "true" Christians. Very sad that you don't have the slightest idea what Christ taught (love/acceptance) but instead think Christianity is about detesting anyone that isn't like you. Dude, you must have a pathetic life.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • billyjoel

        "I'ld rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the Saints. Sinners are much more fun..."
        Billy Joel, Only The Good Die Young

        August 22, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  8. Forteaneye

    Ooh those loving Christians. I bet they fell pretty self righteous about now. This lady will find out she is better off without that lot.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  9. Rational Thought

    I you’re too stupid for thought – too cold hearted for empathy – too lazy for self honesty… Well then, religion is custom made for you.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  10. Tommy & family

    WE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH!!!
    We cannot stand when the church stands by the word of God as taught in the Bible and has not lived up to our lifestyle choices.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Saint Compassionate

      Sorry to hear that Tommy, what must the church do about sinfulness?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • Tommy & family

        Turn a blind eye to sinfulness.

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

          Tommy & family,

          The church has already turned a blind eye to sinfulness. That's why there are any people in them.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
        • Saint Compassionate

          Sorry Tommy and family, but the church can't turn a blind eye to sinfulness. What is the point of wanting to be a Christian and continuing to live in sin?

          A Christian accepts mercy and grace and is forgiven of their sins, strives to live a godly life, repenting of their sins and letting God transform their lives.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
      • Call me Bwana

        What must you do about forgiveness?

        August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • Saint Compassionate

          The church is an organization representing godly principles, too bad when people want to tell the church what to believe and what not to believe.
          Forgiveness is not about turning a blind eye to sins, forgiveness is about showing love to the vilest sinner earnestly seeking to repent.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Call me Bwana

      Remeber " love thy neighbour"? Remember love thy enemy? Your comment is so unchristian. You will not gain salvation unless you atone. You and your family are damned. Shame on you. You follow Church teachings but forget the lord`s words.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • NotGodsWay

      Don't leave the church. This is not God's way. I am a Christian and this is not God's way. If we started to throw out all the sinners in the church, there would be no one in the church. No one is perfect. We must love each other and not judge each other.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • Drake

        You are right. However, if you are a parent would you not correct your child in a loving manner if they walked away from the principles you have taught them? Or, would you as a parent say to yourself 'I do not want to judge my child because that would mean disciplining my child'???

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

          Your little snowflake throwing rocks at the neighbor's dog is not the same situation as two people loving each other that has NOTHING to do with you and harms no one. Mind your own business and let people be.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Tom

      I'm assuming this is an attempt at sarcasm although some didn't get it?

      Anyway, you cannot actually PROVE that God exists, speaks through the Bible ( as opposed to Jainism , say )- if He/She does exist, or that gay is a " choice" any more than I can prove the opposites.

      ,However, is it really your contention that True Believers can cherrypick among "sins" ,virtually ignoring some admonitions & dictates (i.e. Sermon on the Mount), while honing in on only those one personally dislikes most? Does this not attempt to usurp God's authority?

      August 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  11. Gregg

    Me thinks the church of Christ and many others have moved their focus off of worshiping Jesus and are focusing too much time worshiping a book Jesus never even wrote.

    People are sheep.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Marky Merlot

      Nailed it!

      August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  12. Grumpy

    The Bible says to disfellowship sinning church members who refuse to repent after being approached with the issue. Sounds like that is what this church did. Good job.

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

      Grumpy,

      Get real. If chuches got rid of all their sinners, they'd all be closed.

      Wake up!

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

        Observer, well-said. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). However, further in the book, the Apostle said in Romans 6:1 “…shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”

        We’re all sinners. Flouting our sinfulness may cause us to trip up others. May God guide us.

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

          Forget god. Try guiding yourself.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • JeffreyRO5

      Why do they never seek revenge against fornicators or adulterers? What about members who dishonor their parents, specifically forbidden in the Ten Commandments?

      Why is always gay people that have to endure the angry, hateful Xtians?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Irish

      To quote Jim Carrey...you are one pathetic loser... 🙂

      August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • KSM

      Funny how you think someone, anyone, has the right to tell a fellow citizen how to think and feel. So you would abandon your child if they were gay...you are a sad, sad example of a human being.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      The bible doesn't matter, it is not what laws are based off of or facts for that matter. The facts in regards to LGBT prove the bible wrong.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Dan

      I'm sorry, I seem to forget which passage says it's a sin to love your child unconditionally. I also wonder the hypocrisy level of these church folk. Do they adhere strictly to every word of the bible, or are they, too, sinning daily by eating pork and seafood and wearing mixed fabrics.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  13. Andrew

    I said this before on other stories...religion is the cause of so many wars, hate, intolerance, and so many problems in this world. There is no religion on this planet that stands out as being so pure and good. The only one that I can think of that isn't perfect either, but is a lot better than the others is Buddhism. Still, religion is a sad state of the human race. I believe if you respect others, are nice to everyone, and giving, regardless of who they are, you are much better than religious folk....and regardless of the religion. All you have to do is follow history and see the news every day.

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

      Atheists have murdered far more than all other religions combined for all of recorded history, and that just in the past 100 years. Mao, Pol Pot, Lenin, Stalin, ect.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Grumpy how dumb can you be? All those people you spoke of committed those atrocities in the name of COMMUNISM (which is political), not Atheism.

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

          Each of those men were atheists committed to stomping out religion.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Grumpy pick up a history book you clueless fool. Atheists actually fled those Communist countries because they disagreed with having Communism in control of the country as well as other groups. Communism was committing the atrocities because they wanted to eliminate anyone that disagreed with the new political party.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Casualkul

      I couldn't have said it better. I used to be a flight attendant (I'm straight). One of the flight attendants (a female)was from Alabama. She told me that as a teen, she was instructed by her church to attend meetings that was led my the local Klan. They HAD to go as she was given extra school credit. Now this was in the 90's. I believe in God, but I refuse to go to church.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  14. praline

    That is not the Jesus I was taught. I do remember very clearly something about stones and minding your own sins...

    They need to get with the WB Baptist church and have a party =/

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

      That because religion has now become a convenience factor for the Republican platform

      August 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  15. Yeah Right

    According to the bible, All of mankind descended from 1 man and 1 woman...who had two sons. Yeah think about that. Take all the time you need.

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

      Amazing to me how people actually believe that tripe.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Dwayne

      haha

      August 22, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  16. Enough already

    I am so fed-up with gay people thinking that everybody has to accept them. The same way they want to openly practice their gayness is the same way SOME non gays would like to be strong in their beliefs. This is getting old.

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

      I'm fed up with having to accept idiots. Can't you just keep your idiocy to yourself, instead of broadcasting it everywhere?

      August 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Proud Canadian

      They don't care if YOU accept them or not, they do care that they have human rights, the same as every other human being.

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

      Actually, the Bible says Adam and Eve had sons AND daughters. But atheists are pretty ignorant about the Bible they condemn.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        So incest is more acceptable than being gay??

        August 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
      • Observer

        Grumpy,

        Give the EXACT quote to show you know what you are talking about. What were the girls names?

        August 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • greenaxe

        I guess that means everything after Adam and Eve were inbreds.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • Tom

        Gen.6:1-4,Gen.19:4-8,Ex.4:10-11,Ex22:29-30,Lev.25:44-46,Num.31:17-18,Deut.21:1-8,Deut.22:24-29,Judges 19::22-24,Hosea:13:16,Isa.13:15-16,Ezk.20:25-26-ad infinitum.

        Believe it or not , some nonbelievers know more about what is in the Bible than many church goers. I think 2 Kings 2:23-24 may have decided the matter for me personally. Why, some of us were even graduated from C of C colleges.Yeah, I've heard about the dog returning to its vomit.

        August 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      I am so tired of my friends and relatives who are LGBT being belittled and hated for something out of their control, something that SCIENCE says is natural. The people pay taxes; roam the same streets you do every day...they are not directly doing you any harm...they are living their lives as they should.
      If you don't want to hear about it or be near them. locate yourself a cave and move there...they're all around you. Don't want your children near them, keep your children out of the public school system; don't take them out in public...ah but then not doing that with children means you raise the next generation of bigots and we can't allow that to happen...so we stand for the LGBT and we'll make sure the info is available for your children, so they fully comprehend how hateful you are at heart.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • clevercandi

      We each have the right to live our own lives as long as we don't harm others in the process.

      I left the church 40+ years ago and have never regretted it for one minute.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • sam

      Huh, let's try your post again:

      I am so fed-up with black people thinking that everybody has to accept them. The same way they want to openly practice their blackness is the same way SOME non blacks would like to be strong in their beliefs. This is getting old.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  17. Darw1n

    Good job Linda. That's not a church, it's a hate club.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  18. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    Ted Haggard is lookin' fer libby sheep. What's the problem??

    August 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  19. Theo

    the Religion love and understanding at work again

    NOT

    August 22, 2013 at 5:37 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.