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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. Mona

    Last I heard, God loved EVERYONE, sinners & non-believers alike....so where does this stupid pastor/church get off
    kicking out a God Fearing woman who has participated in their church for many many years ? Ya know, they should all
    be ashamed of themselves.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Athy

      Mona, you have to remember this happened in Tennessee.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  2. JackEstate

    This Church is a private organization, and has every right to exercise their right to free speech.

    However, if they choose to discriminate against against a legal US citizen, then they absolutely need to lose their federal tax-exempt status. Anything less than that is an open-endorsement of discrimination by the US gov't, and is absolutely unacceptable. ALL (non-felon) US citizens deserve, should expect, and are guaranteed, the same rights and protections under federal law.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Doooglas

    So glad she left. Idiots like this fundamentalist zealot are why Christianity is fading. If These uneducated idiots would just live and let live the church and the faith would be as strong and good as it was in my younger days. All the violence, lack of education, hunger in this country, and this is what the church and it's idiotic "leaders" focus on. They can all go to hell.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
      • Doooglas

        its, Dippy, its!!!

        August 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
      • pothead

        O my dippy doo

        August 22, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
      • RC

        This is getting fun. SHUT UP!!!! If that's all you have to bring to this thread, your time would be better spent twaddling your turnip.

        August 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  4. sundownr

    Incredible... we should all be booted from this church for being human. What kind of people are these?

    August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  5. I'm Outside

    As an atheist, I have experienced more hatred and bigotry from "good christians" in the few years I've lived here in the south, than from every other group of people in all the other years and places I've lived combined.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  6. JOHN

    Leviticus 18:22 GOD himself called it an ABOMINATION!

    August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • John Sharp

      You quote a fairy tale book and then implied god wrote it.

      But those amongst us that are informed know that it was manipulated and written by man, not god.

      Only a fool believes this trash was written by god.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
      • pothead

        You're sharp,John

        August 22, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Doooglas

      It was NOT God. Nothing in the bible was written by GOD. But it sure gives one a sense of self righteousness to believe so doesn't it? Christ never said a word about it. Live and let live.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • aaron

      Do you follow everything in there...I seriously doubt it. And some guy wrote that God said that

      August 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • OldSchool

      I imagine you stone your misbehaved children then as well?

      August 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • sam

      It's cute how you don't seem to realize how much harm you do to christianity's image every time something like this is posted...keep it up.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  7. Brad

    Spare the rod, spoil the child.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  8. SweetGeekGoddess

    Good for the mother for standing by her family against a bunch of bigots. I guess the Church of Christ got the memo of the 'tolerance trap' that the Mormon leader Boyd Packer preached from the LDS pulpit...wait the Church of Christ hates Mormons too. So much hating going on when the God they worship taught only love.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • JOHN

      GOD does not teach love, Jesus taught love! Maybe you should re-read the Old Testament. GOD is definite, even the souls will be cut off from among their people. The land that they walk on is defiled! Who are you to argue with GOD! ABOMINATION!!!

      August 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
      • sam

        Obvious Poe is obvious.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Evelyn Connaway

      They have just enough religion to make them hate, but not enough to love one another. Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it with religious conviction. The only thing the Church of Christ teaches is the old "Guilt Complex"! One's belief in God is between the person and God – the church has nothing to do with it – other than fellowship with the other members and they are not supposed to judge each other. God is the only Judge.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  9. Katie

    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • John Sharp

      Quoting your favorite childhood fairy tale book, doesn't help your argument.

      it just points out that you have no intelligence.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
      • JOHN

        You sir have been fooled!

        August 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Evelyn Connaway

      Katie, that is a fact, thanks for remembering that statement.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  10. ug

    LOL! this is what you call spreading the wealth...what you do affects everyone...hope you perverts are all happy...

    August 22, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • John Sharp

      If you mean pervert as in perverted intelligence than yes. It is gratifying to see stupid people shoot them selves in the foot.

      Religious people are such simple minded sheep.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • JOHN

        Its not about being a sheep. You cannot prove Evolution, but I can show you God!

        August 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • Spock

          Illogical.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      What exactly is perverted about something that is natural?

      August 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bat Guano

      It's preverts. not perverts. Deviated preverts.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Spock

      Illogical.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Ray

    This must make a lot of non-church goers/non-believers quite happy, but in the day of judgment, they may find others who feel the same. Hell is filled with those who travel the road of wide comon believers. "I rather be a door keeper"...
    These kinds of articles makes for good teaching material for most believingcongregations. These sad, mad and misguided unbelievers. It's just another merry go round of all those who crucify Christ followers because they have devoutly decided to follow the patten of Jesus. Most of these commentators and those who think they know what is right for "A BELIEVING" people they neither follow nor care for except until they find a soft sweet comfortalble haven to rest their sinful life styles is beyond me. To think that even in this day and time if Jesus were in the flesh, he would not only be crucified for obeying his Father's ordained plan but called every thing but a child of God is just mind numbing. I find most of these comments and commentators the equivalent to long time citizens of Gomorrah...May God have mercy on their souls...

    August 22, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • John Sharp

      There is no day of judgement you fool.

      What a clown.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • ug

        LOL! you are the fool...

        August 22, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • John Sharp

          No, you are.

          I am a rational intelligent educated person that can see the world around them clearly.

          And no god exists. Only fools believe in this childishness.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
      • JOHN

        Don't blaspheme, It is easier to deny the Lord, than to hold yourself accountable for your actions!

        August 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • doug

      I'm a non-believer, and a very happy one at that. And I believe the Church can kiss my grits.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Spock

      This is illogical.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      It's all layers of guilt & lies on top of promises of milk & honey... layer upon layer...

      August 22, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • JOHN

        those doctrines are doctrines of deceit. You are correct. Even our poor is richer than you. Its more than just the rainbows and fairy wings. Its an appreciation for yourself and everything around you! Its about respect for all life and life rules to live by. Enjoy Hell! Tell Lazarus what you wrote here today.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          It was religion that taught people not to respect their fellow man. Religion gives man a reason to hate unreasonably, and they have for many centuries. The wh ore of Babylon will fall and organized religion will be devoured leaving nothing but the palms of her blood soaked hands. Good riddance.

          August 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Benjamin in Texas

      "Knowing" your religion is true is not sufficient to convince anyone, and should not be sufficient for your own belief. Numbers are hard to come by (it seems there are few, if any, polls on the issue), but anecdotally, it seems that the vast majority of people believe the religion of their parents and no other. Believing something simply because your parents believed it is perhaps one of the weakest reasons to do so.

      From About.com's article on agnosticism/atheism: Is it coincidence that people tend to stay with whatever religion they were raised in, and this religion tends to be whatever religion is dominant in the community/nation where they live? If people were genuinely convinced by the arguments which apologists offered, shouldn't the distribution of religions around the globe be a bit more even? The high and consistent degree of religious concentrations suggests that people believe their religion because that's the one they were indoctrinated into and which is consistently reinforced around them. People acquire a religion before critical thinking skills and that religion is promoted without most people noticing. That's really not a very good reason to believe that a religion is true, is it?

      August 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
      • Larry L

        Well said.

        August 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  12. Vic

    Generation X & Generation Y (millennials) are leaving the church because of legalism that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself rejected, simple as that! They are out of the church but still in Christ.

    The "FREE GIFT" of Salvation by the Grace of God through Faith ALONE in Jesus Christ as Lord and personal Savior, the "UNMERITED FAVOR," is UNCONDITIONAL!

    August 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • John Sharp

      Shut up you clown. No one believes your childishness.

      We are intelligent.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Athy

      Vic, you remind me of a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • ug

        You remind me of a godless fool...

        August 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • Athy

          Well, you're half right at least.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
        • John Sharp

          You remind me of a fool that believes in fairy tales.

          Sorry you lose this one.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
        • Athy

          He wasn't even in the running, John.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  13. John Sharp

    I am so fed up with the stupid religious people and their primitive beliefs.

    People are biologically gay. Your god, if there was one, wouldn't be against something he or she created in the first place.

    The lack of intelligence with religious people is so amazing.

    They are all so dumb.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • dmwinsd

      Just an idea John, stop frustrating yourself by reading the comments of people you disregard so strongly. Read articles to which you can make helpful, useful comments. Avoid articles which you have already formed an opinion about before you even read them.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • John Sharp

        Sure that is the way to go through life. Only have conversations about things you agree with.

        But if I do that, than I allow the religious people to keep spreading their poison.

        And that is morally reprehensible.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  14. JayHobeSound

    Never underestimate the cruelty of self-righteous "christians".

    Snakes treat each other better.

    Bring back the lions!!

    August 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  15. fatherheathen

    Slack-jawed, vacant-eyed cross-lickers.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • ug

      Godless little perverts...

      August 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
      • John Sharp

        Stupid religious person. Oh wait that is redundant.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Better to be godless than a bigoted fool!

        August 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  16. David

    Church is in the south... not surprising... hillbillies...

    August 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • oldleftcoastdude

      My thoughts exactly.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  17. LeeCMH

    Typical venomous hateful Christians in true form.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • The really for real Scotsman

      Typical idiot making vast generalizations about people he doesn't even know.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
      • LeeCMH

        Over 60 years I've grown to rely on those vast generalizations to safely navigate the world.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • The really for real Scotsman

          Hmm, heard old KKK guys say similar things.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
        • LeeCMH

          When it comes to hateful Christians, my experience at that of Christians spewing hate at me.

          August 22, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
      • John Sharp

        Doesn't need to. He used the word Christian. That is enough. Says you are stupid.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  18. Vox Axiom

    A recently released study indicated a link between religious belief and lower IQs. Explains much!

    However, IQ can be raised by reading a book and taking an interest in accquiring knowledge.

    But, why bother putting in the effort to learn when you can be told what to think and how to act.

    "Ignorance may be bliss, but ignorance chosen is a religious experience." – source unknown

    August 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • John Sharp

      Amen!!

      August 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • ug

      And you must be a lib thinking that you are smarter than everyone else huh...nice try but in your little pea sized brain you have no idea what your talking about...I support reading and other things to learn from but you just deny that there is no God...no there is no room for fools like yourself...with the brain you have you think you are a legend in your own mindless mind...

      August 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
      • John Sharp

        Well I am certainly smarter than you. You make that painfully obvious.

        No I do not believe in fairy tales. Only children do.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • Athy

        ug, do you ever proofread your comments before posting them?

        August 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • sam

        I think your screen name is perfect for you.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • Dippy

        ug, it's you're, not your. And you call yourself smart!

        August 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
        • RC

          Oh-look who's back. SHUT UP!

          August 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  19. JayHo

    And I am SO sure there aren't any adulterers in that church...no, of course not...

    August 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Fred

    Let's not judge all Christians by a few wing nuts. Every group has their loonies, including the left AND the right.

    August 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Not all are hateful or bigoted but those who are, make their god look much worse than he already comes across.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • Cinematt

        It's hardly a few wingnuts, Fred. It's the whole evangelical movement that must have someone to hate so they can pretend to righteousness. That and keep the donations pouring in from all the poor schmucks they've terrorized into thinking gays are going to destroy the world.

        August 22, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
        • Conspiracy wingnut spotter

          found one

          August 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • John Sharp

      No, we can judge them. The stupidity is in their childish book.

      These people are just dumb.

      August 22, 2013 at 6:19 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.