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.



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. TomT

    The mother and the two relatives are better off without this kind of church.

    August 23, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  2. Rockboy106@yahoo.com

    "And they'll know we are Christian by our love...by our love..yes they'll know we are Christians by our love" Great song...does not apply to this church though

    August 23, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  3. Rogue351

    Bigots are driving religion in the United States. Seriously would Jesus have turned his back on a family, NO. How is this any different than the extremist Muslims that turn religion into a terrorist organization. All extremist miss the entire message of religion and go straight to controlling with fear and hate. History repeating it's self and people not learning from their mistakes. This type of behavior is exactly why religion should not play a role in government. A few people with opinions and ideals based on a book that has been translated and embellished over and over again and instead of taking the most positive points and putting them to use in a community they choose to take the path of fear and discrimination. Fear that if you do not listen to that one persons interpretation you will be burn in hell. So please contribute because that is what good Christians do. Separation of church and state. Tie is in with the GOP stance on guns, which where created to aid in killing humans not just animals. and you have the perfect makings for an extremist religious government. Compound this with power over millions and history teaches that things never end well. Talk radio all to often likes to reference Hitler. Take a look at exactly how he manipulated religion in his rise to power. The crusades, another example. And the GOP / Tea Party is pulling the wool over the eye of the flock once again with there message of "family values", "equality" and free speech. But talk about helping out dirt poor people coming over the boarder for a better life. Universal health care so that people can actually live without being bankrupt by medical bills and there is a different story entirely. All the while people like Romney are still shipping jobs over seas. Holding to a religion that has a very questionable past and only allowed black to hold the priest hood after a media frenzy forced the issue. And you the GOP vote for people like this because they believe in "god" and family values and peoples rights. Exactly how is living in a first world country, denying healthcare to the population, allowing thousands to stave on our streets and excepting gun deaths that top 21 thousand a year in any sense of the word Christian ? You are being brain washed by Fox, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, the GOP / Tea Party not because they want a better world for your kids but because they want power and money. Another small tid bit of proof is the fact that the House of Representatives will block vital legislation and do nothing to make a point. What more evidence do you need, death camps as predicted by Beck ? Our streets will become deaths camps for the poor if you side with the GOP / Tea Party. NO government funding for disaster victims. No more FDA that regulated medications sold to the population. More money, as if they do not already spend enough on the military that if push came to shove a personal fire arm would do NOTHING against a tyrannical government, NOTHING. Wake up and see the GOP / Tea party is using fear, hate and limited power to make your life hell in the event your not health and working. Old, disabled, addiction problem, it is cheaper for them to let you die than help with Social Security or Medicaid. It is not about the few that take advantage of the system it is about culling the less desirable to make the bottom line look better. Wake up you fools, wake up.

    August 23, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • skytag

      People don't read walls of text.

      August 23, 2013 at 12:51 am |
  4. R Burns

    Groups like this, masquerading as "Christian", just serve to repel people who might otherwise be interested in Christianity the way it was intended to be lived. But that is a scriptural situation. Jesus admonished religious leaders quite soundly in his time and issued warnings for those who would lead in the future. Too bad more don't pay attention!

    August 23, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • bigjohn

      emperor Constantine invented Christianity. so he's are God now!!

      August 23, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • skytag

      There are so many flavors of Christianity because there is no god behind them. They're just what different folks decide Christianity should be. As such, no version is any more correct that any other. Just find a flavor you like so they can tell you what you want to hear.

      August 23, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Sophie Meyer

      So much for "we're all God's children", eh? The perversion that passes for "Christianity" today is appalling.

      August 23, 2013 at 12:27 am |
  5. Tony A.

    This church does not belong to the catholic church, it really doesnt matter at all what they say.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  6. wiseguy

    No mother in her right mind would support immoral behavior of her son or doughter. Shame on her!

    August 22, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Chase

      You're going after a mother that is trying to support her daughter? You have no right to say, "Shame on you." In fact, shame on YOU for being a bigot.

      August 22, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  7. 7

    Everyone is invited to visit... thetreasureofzion.com

    August 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  8. BOb

    WHAT?? A church being hateful and discriminatory?! Well, I never! Oh wait....

    August 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  9. Religious Guy

    Pope says "who am I to judge". These church "elders" think just the opposite.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • GrewUpInCofC

      The Church of Christ believes it really is the one true church and that all of those other churches who believe they are the one true church have it wrong and are going to burn. What the Pope says is irrelevant to them because he and all those other Catholics are doomed anyway.

      August 23, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  10. les_b

    CoC is one of the nastier denominations–used to claim they were the only church assured of salvation. Why anyone would want to stay with them is a mystery.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Chad

      No more of a mystery than why people would believe in talking snakes and the notion of "eternal life."

      August 22, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  11. dannyC

    When Jesus Christ made his most important, and detailed address to his followers, he gave VERY SPECIFIC instructions in regard to divorce. With virtually EVERY Christian church ignores. Yet Jesus never said one single word about people being gay.
    This is VERY IMPORTANT, because Jesus spoke MANY TIMES against hypocrites.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  12. ally buster

    I wonder how many members of that "church" eat shrimp-

    August 22, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Religious Guy

      They don't follow the Bible and hence these actions.

      August 22, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  13. newsrell

    Will Dick Cheney's church kick him out too for supporting his gay daughter ? Conservative side is losing all battles, running scared and acting crazy, fighting each other viciously. There is no hope.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  14. James PDX

    "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'm so tired of hypocritical religious people. Until you evict all of your divorced members and members who supported their friends and relatives while they were getting divorces, you're a hypocrite who only goes after sins that you don't intend to protect for you and yours.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Chad

      Agreed. The Bible speaks much MORE clearly about its support and advocacy for slavery, but modern people rightly distance themselves from that. The Bible is also abundantly clear about a woman's place, both in the home and in the church - that's silent and obedient, in case you've not read your Bible, but churches set those verses aside, too. Jesus was very plain and clear about a number of things that today's Christians gleefully ignore - turn the other cheek, love your enemies, love one another, sell all your possessions and give to the poor... don't meet many Christians like that these days, do we?

      August 23, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • christian

      Actually a church of Christ that is conservative enough to disfellowship (not "kick out" as being reported) most likely disapproves of divorce just as strongly.

      August 23, 2013 at 12:37 am |
      • GrewUpInCofC

        True, unless it is someone they like. Then they rationalize it away. I know of a popular CofC minister who was caught cheating on his wife and ended up divorced, dating, and then remarried. He changed congregations but continues to be a CofC minister and on friendly terms with his prior congregation. His ex moved away which relieved the congregations of having to deal with the awkwardness. Seems that many were outright grateful that the ex moved - thought it was the best thing for the church.

        August 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Reality

    Only for the new members:

    o "Abrahamics" like the members of the topic church believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
    "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"


    August 22, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  16. RobrertC

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people believe Jesus came to Earth to spread hatred against gays. There is nothing in the Gospels to support that.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • BA

      It never ceases to amaze me why people like you worry about what the churches think!

      August 22, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
      • skytag

        Noticing is not the same as worrying.

        August 23, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  17. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    How I hope that mankind will soon outgrow the absurdity and backwardness that we call religion!

    August 22, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Dana

      Community service is one thing, and a good thing. If your church does that, then great. Otherwise, I'm with you: I don't need to belong to an organization that's going to tell me how to think. This same mindset would never have allowed any type of modern medicine, or even something tricky like fire.

      August 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  18. jack wagon

    Not a church....! More like a cult. Pick and chose how you want to devote. Clearly the elders at this church need to leave soon...maybe catch a ride on that UFO following the comet Halle Bop.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Athy

      It's Hale-Bopp.

      August 23, 2013 at 12:10 am |
      • Observer


        Halle Bop is MUCH better. 🙂

        August 23, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  19. Scholar

    First Amendment issue – both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
    The parties are free to do what they want.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • AZlefty

      GED recipient; There is no govt. intervention here so it is not a 1A issue, but it is a social issue and hence in the news

      August 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
  20. caldon

    Finally a church willing to stand by its teaching...perhaps the Roman Catholic church will take notice and follow suit giving Christie, Pelosi, Biden & others a similar choice. I won't hold my breath.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Michael

      And yet they have no issues with the adulterers in their midst even though its a top ten sin.

      Who exactly do you think you're fooling thinking hatred of gay people is anything biblical?

      August 22, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
      • caldon

        I would expect this congregation would expel known adulterers from their midst as well. If not then they are hypocritical & misunderstand the teachings of Scripture. But that issue is not addressed in the article, therefore it is a prejudicial assumption on your part.

        And how does this action fall into the "hatred of gays" category? Do you erroneously assume that love always accepts the behavior of the one loved. Have you not raised any children? Loving someone does not mean condoning or even accepting all their behaviors. Love often is present in spite of the offending behavior. Again it is prejudicial assumption on your part to conclude this was an act of hatred instead of love. Love corrects, exhorts, disciplines.

        August 22, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
        • Observer


          If you really wanted to follow the Bible you'd be supporting slavery and discrimination against women and the handicapped.
          Skip the HYPOCRISY.

          August 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
        • caldon

          Observer, obviously you haven't read the whole book.

          August 22, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
        • Observer


          "Observer, obviously you haven't read the whole book."

          LOL. Obviously you haven't read it if you can claim it doesn't support slavery and discrimination.

          Go read a Bible and then come back when you know what you are talking about.

          August 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
        • caldon

          Observer, been reading & teaching it for 35 years. Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." I could go on but then you probably already know the other verses.

          August 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
        • Observer


          "Observer, been reading & teaching it for 35 years"

          Good. So you shouldn't have any trouble at all answering this question:

          ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, what is the punishment if a slave owner takes a rod and breaks the arms and legs of a female slave, but she doesn't die in a day or so?

          August 22, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
        • caldon

          You're taking a situation out of the Old Testament which dealt with the nation of Israel and is not effectual for New Testament believers. We can really nit pick at this stuff all night but it doesn't deal with the overall message of law & grace culminated in the teachings of Jesus & the Apostles. Why do you choose to dwell on what is past & no longer relevant?

          August 22, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
        • Observer


          "You're taking a situation out of the Old Testament which dealt with the nation of Israel and is not effectual for New Testament believers."

          So the Ten Commandments dealt with the nation of Israel and is not effectual for New Testament believers. Obviously, you'd have no problems if Israelis follow the Bible that applies to them and kill all Christians who work on the Sabbath.

          Get real. It's the SAME God. Who do you think you are fooling?

          August 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
        • caldon

          Romans 3:19-24: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

          It is insufficient to hold only to the Old and ignore the New. So I would have problems with your mis-characterization of what I said. The New has come the Old is past.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:08 am |
        • Michael

          Unless a man is on his first wife, he commits adultery.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:14 am |
        • Michael

          Btw the original text does not condemn gay people.

          That is a verifiable fact.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:17 am |
        • Observer


          "You're taking a situation out of the Old Testament which dealt with the nation of Israel and is not effectual for New Testament believers"

          Those are YOUR words. The Old Testament was for Israel and they don't follow the New Testament. So you'd understand them following God's commands to them to kill anyone working on the Sabbath. That's what the Bible says.

          As long as you are PICKING-AND-CHOOSING from the Bible, why pick on verses that trash gay activities and yet ignore the MORE IMPORTANT Golden Rule. Any answer other than HYPOCRISY?

          August 23, 2013 at 12:19 am |
        • caldon

          Actually if his first wife died or was unfaithful, then a man could be with his second wife and it would not be adultery. As for verifiable fact, it's a matter of significant debate not fact.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:21 am |
        • Observer


          Christian churches are full of Christian ADULTERERS who have divorced and remarried. Don't expect Christian hypocrites to make any kind of issue of that like they do about gays.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:24 am |
        • caldon

          It's true that many Israelis do not follow the New Testament but that doesn't mean that the New has not surpassed the Old. They choose to live in error, in my opinion, if they are still trying to get to God by the Old.

          I do find it interesting how quickly you judge me, especially in light of the Golden Rule. While I have enjoyed this exercise in the free and open expression of ideas, I must sign off for now as it's late. Thank you for your interactions.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:25 am |
        • Observer


          Good night.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:29 am |
        • skytag

          Another clueless Christian.

          "Have you not raised any children?"

          Three. Once your children are grown and on their own you have no control over how they live their lives. You either accept them with their flaws or you reject them. Rejecting them will not cause them to change their ways, at least I've never heard of an adult on his or her own who made major life changes to please a parent.

          "Love corrects, exhorts, disciplines."

          Rubbish. Love is an emotion. It does none of these. Love motivates people do these and many other things, including hurtful things. I'll bet the Catholic church viewed the Spanish Inquisition as tough love.

          We both know you have no evidence God even exists. If he does, you have no evidence your understanding of him is correct. It is the height of arrogance to condemn people for not sharing your beliefs which even you can't support with any facts, evidence, or even logic.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:43 am |
        • skytag

          "Again it is prejudicial assumption on your part to conclude this was an act of hatred instead of love."

          Casting a woman out of her church where she has been a member for decades because she won't shun her grown daughter is not love.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:50 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'Have you not raised any children? Loving someone does not mean condoning or even accepting all their behaviors. Love often is present in spite of the offending behavior.'

          telling them to repent or else get the heck out isnt love in any way.

          August 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Stand by its teachings? Why does that sound similar to Hitler teaching the Hitler Youth group during 1939-1944?

      August 22, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
      • caldon

        Seriously you want to bring that straw man argument in here? All religions hold to convictions. Hitler understood that and abused it.

        August 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
        • skytag

          That wasn't a straw man argument.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:55 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47
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.