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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. Tony

    Apparently they forgot about that "Judge not, lest ye be judged" section in the bible.

    August 23, 2013 at 5:19 am |
  2. gwats1957

    Whatever happen to 'Love the sinner,but hate the Sin? Not the kind of Church I would want to be a part of. Closed minds, and hypocrisy.

    August 23, 2013 at 5:14 am |
    • mdn7779

      Have you noticed how religion is at the top of all lists of organizations in practicing racial and discrimination acts? People wonder why I have turned away from religion as they can save no one especially from themselves!

      August 23, 2013 at 5:27 am |
      • gwats1957

        I couldn't agree more! Since the middle ages, the Churches have had their hands drenched in blood,as they urged others to kill each other in their lustful quests for power.
        They ignore Jesus' example of staying out of secular politics, and as a result, there hasn't been 30 years of prolonged peace in Centuries!

        August 24, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • gwats1957

        So true.....

        March 16, 2014 at 11:23 am |
  3. LivinginVA

    If a member of the church has a child who is divorced and remarried, do they throw the member out if they attend the wedding? After all, it's endorsing the sin of divorce.

    August 23, 2013 at 4:59 am |
  4. glauber

    Aaaaaaaaaand, these organizations are tax-exempt WHY, again?

    August 23, 2013 at 4:54 am |
    • Harry Assmann

      "The quickest way to make money in America is to start your own religon" ~ L. Ron Hubbard

      August 23, 2013 at 4:59 am |
    • jimatmad

      Every church should have their tax exemption pulled. In addition to hate groups like this one, a large percentage of 'churches' are just political organizations with a cross hanging on the wall.

      August 23, 2013 at 4:59 am |
      • Sara

        As political organizations they would still be tax exempt but have to release the names of their donors. That's the main reason they don't officially support candidates.

        August 23, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • Sara

      Because they aren't making a profit. We don't normally tax clubs or other non profit gatherings on monetary collections, either. What we can, do, however, if charge property taxes on any part that doesn't actually fulfill a charitable purpose. These groups should be paying for local fire protection and roads like everyone else.

      August 23, 2013 at 6:24 am |
  5. AM

    Isn't there an article at the top of the page about the Pope and Gays? If the Pope is infallible and talks to God and he says "who am I to judge" shouldn't the rest of the believers fall in line?

    August 23, 2013 at 4:48 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Catholicism is only one brand of christianity, they don't all agree and they all seem to have different interpretations of what their giant book of multiple choice claims.

      August 23, 2013 at 5:13 am |
    • Sara

      The rest of the Catholics should, but he doesn't speak for anyone else.

      August 23, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  6. Water to Whine

    Ah, the Church of Christ. At least she wasn't playing an instrument AND supporting her gay daughter, then she'd really be going to hell.

    August 23, 2013 at 4:33 am |
    • saggyroy

      Everyone knows playing cards and dancing is also sinful.

      August 23, 2013 at 5:45 am |
  7. Gumdrop

    It would seem the church forgot about "hate the sin, love the sinner"

    August 23, 2013 at 4:32 am |
  8. jimatmad

    If Jesus came back today, one of the first things He'd do is burn down all of these churches that bring shame to His name.

    August 23, 2013 at 4:15 am |
    • If Jesus came back

      I am afriad if Jesus came back these so called Christians will torture and murder him again !

      August 23, 2013 at 4:24 am |
      • JoeyE

        not happen.. Jesus is too powerful and He will NEVER be harmed by anyone.. why because he is God!

        August 23, 2013 at 4:29 am |
        • sam stone

          jesus won't be harmed by anyone ever again. why? because he is dead

          August 23, 2013 at 4:32 am |
        • truthprevails1

          If jesus is god then god doesn't exist. Do you people ever stop to think about what you're saying and how non-nonsensical it really is???

          August 23, 2013 at 4:43 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          "Jesus is too powerful and He will NEVER be harmed by anyone"

          He got nailed to a cross the first time...what makes you think it couldn't happen again?(not that anyone rational thinks he's coming back at all)

          August 23, 2013 at 6:07 am |
      • saggyroy

        He may already be back and locked up in the loony bin.

        August 23, 2013 at 5:47 am |
  9. Dick Wiggler

    It's small wonder the Millennials are leaving religion in droves. Hopefully, they'll teach their children not to believe in idiocy, and religion will die out in the next century.

    August 23, 2013 at 4:12 am |
  10. jimatmad

    Church membership used to be a good thing. Now it's like being a member of any other hate group.

    There are some open, loving, and caring denominations, but you rarely hear about those.

    August 23, 2013 at 4:11 am |
    • saggyroy

      Apparently the good ol' days you speak of is when most gay people (and atheists) lived closeted lives. Now they speak up and we see the true face of religion and life based on mythology.

      August 23, 2013 at 5:49 am |
      • Sara

        Exactly. I always find it odd how many people think something in the churches changed for the worse. They just finally were called out.

        August 23, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  11. swipedcard

    Geez, in their hate for fellow humans some of these church elders have turned downright evil...you wouldn't know it if Satan himself hadn't taken control of these small churches.

    August 23, 2013 at 3:55 am |
    • Dick Wiggler

      Satan, Jesus, if you read the bible there's just not a lot of ideological difference between the two. Except that Jesus kills more people in Revelation.

      August 23, 2013 at 3:57 am |
    • saggyroy

      I think I read a count somewhere of people killed in the bible: God was in the millions, and Satan a mere handful.

      August 23, 2013 at 5:51 am |
  12. Tigerflower

    Geez! In a time of falling church memberships, can these congregations not find better things to focus on than hate? Do they really have so many members that losing a few loyal ones is no biggie? It's seriously time to move past this kind of crap. Can we dedicate ourselves to things that actually matter, like feeding the poor and loving and educating kids so we can stop the violence and make all lives better?

    August 23, 2013 at 3:48 am |
  13. Andrew

    How christian like of them.

    August 23, 2013 at 3:35 am |
  14. Vinny

    Jesus wept. His followers are no different from the Pharisees.

    August 23, 2013 at 3:24 am |
  15. DarrellSF

    A friend said something to me years ago that stands true for anyone and any organization.

    You make me choose, YOU lose.

    A church making families choose between the church or a family member will die. All the sane church members who truly follow the teachings of their faith will eventually leave, and only the zealots will remain. And as they die off, so does the church.

    Churches are dying all over the United States. Not because the people move away from God or religion, but because those who teach about religion do not progress with society. They interpret things one way only, and follow that interpretation forever. Well, that's not the way the world works. Things that don't evolve, die. Church and worship offers nothing for the younger generations nowadays because they simply don't believe in an archaic set of laws that don't apply any longer. Women are NOT subservient to men. Gays and Lesbians are NOT under the influence of the devil. And dark colored skin is NOT a sign of original sin.

    And Linda Cooper has it right. Her child before the church.

    August 23, 2013 at 3:16 am |
    • Dick Wiggler

      You can't expect people that look to Bronze Age scrolls for moral guidance to be reasonable. The most oft-quoted part of the Bible for the gay-bashers is Deuteronomy, and the first seven chapter of that book are dedicated to the proper way to sacrifice a goat!

      August 23, 2013 at 3:23 am |
    • CLK1967

      The Word of the Lord (Bible) never changes, nor does He. Because the world changes (which is an anti-Christ spirit) working against the things of God, does't mean the church must change. The church must follow the Word and teach the word...From beginning to end the Bible is about Love...God loving mankind so much He created us in His image perfectly, sin came in through disobedience and God continues to seek our devotion. So He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins...that through Faith in Jesus we are no longer under the law, but Grace! Love, Love, Love..we must Love and allow God to show us how. Blessings

      August 23, 2013 at 3:40 am |
      • Dick Wiggler

        Yeah, you jesus freaks are chock full of love, except when your hating. Why don't you take your "blessings" and jam them in your A55?

        August 23, 2013 at 3:52 am |
      • Mirosal

        There are just so many things wrong with what you said, I don't know where to begin.

        August 23, 2013 at 3:53 am |
      • Angela Birch

        Well if the word never changes why is the Bible so self contradictory. Read it carefully and you will discover that verses contradict each other. I might add that if it never changes one is asking do you keep kosher? Do you plant a vegetable garden with more than one kind of plant in it. Do you wear clothing of mixed fiber? Do you really believe slavery is just dandy and do you think it is right to sell your daughter into slavery? Do you believe that you cannot go to church if you have an injury? What do you think Jesus last words were on the cross? Hint; it depends on which book in the New Testament you are reading.

        August 23, 2013 at 4:10 am |
      • Angela Birch

        If you are no longer under the law, all I can do is point out that no gay was under the law. Jesus never said a word against gay anything. He did heal the gay lover of the Centurion and never said a word about disapproving of gayhood..

        August 23, 2013 at 4:12 am |
      • Marcus

        How old is the Earth?

        When we make first contact with a species from another planet, what does the Bible have to say about THEM? Are they also children of God? IF they have a religion is it necessarily superior to yours or inferior? Why?

        Can you expand your mind beyond the self-contradicting verses in the Bible?

        August 23, 2013 at 4:27 am |
      • Water to Whine

        You can skip all the rest of it and just keep the "love, love, love," and you'll be fine. Blessings.

        August 23, 2013 at 4:47 am |
      • LivinginVA

        And exactly how is tossing someone out of the church for loving their child in any way showing Love?

        August 23, 2013 at 5:02 am |
      • guest

        no problem here...believe what you wish. But love is all inclusive.

        August 23, 2013 at 5:19 am |
  16. skytag

    I find it interesting how much discussion is taking place here without really knowing much about what happened. What exactly did this woman do? The article said she "supported" her daughter. What for did that support take? What exactly did the church think she should have done instead? How did they want to the "publicly atone" for these unspecified offenses?

    August 23, 2013 at 3:03 am |
    • Dippy's after hours assistant

      "What for did that support take?"

      Try again.

      August 23, 2013 at 3:22 am |
      • CommonSense

        Here, let me relax your sphincter just a teensy bit:

        "What form did that support take?"

        There, feel better?

        August 23, 2013 at 3:33 am |
    • saggyroy

      What ever happened, should the church be kicking her out? Or are they supposed to accept all?

      August 23, 2013 at 6:02 am |
      • Sara

        I think the parents fairly clearly disagree with the teachings of the church on hom.ose.xuality. It gets down to a question of whether one should have to accept a creed or platform to belong to a group of club. If you let anyone with any belief join a club you can quickly find that club overturned and destroyed under some conditions. A gay rights club at a conservatibve college forced to take all members will find most members hostile and an agenda turned to saving their souls. The same with political parties. This doesn't always happen, but it's a bit idealistic to think you can always have an open policy to membership without risking a hostile (or more gradual) overthrow.

        August 23, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Sara

      She sat beside her daughter during meetings that gave health benefits to same-se.x couples and hugged her when they succeeded in getting the benefits.

      August 23, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  17. Dick Wiggler

    Hate the sin, love the sinner
    Christian translation:
    We hate you

    August 23, 2013 at 3:00 am |
    • Brandon

      You might hate the church for some reason, but be rational.

      Asking someone to leave does not mean you "hate" them. Moreover, the church didn't even ask her to leave. They said "these are the terms required for you to stay" and she said "Then I'm leaving".

      Somewhere along the line, people starting making a strawman argument against the church which basically says that Christians are supposed to be about accepting everyone all the time no matter what, and then calling us hypocrites when we don't. The Christian faith is not about "do what you feel like". There are churches that do that, just not Christian churches. It's unreasonable to attempt to slam the church for not living up to a persona that was created solely to complain about how christians aren't living up to that persona.

      August 23, 2013 at 3:46 am |
      • Dick Wiggler

        Dude, even the MAFIA doesn't go after your family. By all accounts, the only thing this woman did wrong was give birth to a gay person. If your god wants to punish you for familial connections, I would suggest finding a better god.

        August 23, 2013 at 3:55 am |
      • truthprevails1

        It's not irrational to slam a church that teaches hate and bigotry against something something that is out of ones control. This lady nor her daughter have done anything wrong. LGBT is not something chosen but instead something that the person is born as.
        What is irrational is following a book that was written 2000 years ago by men who had the intention of fooling people and making them feel less than worthy as humans.

        August 23, 2013 at 4:58 am |
  18. David Walsh

    Ya gotta love the christions!

    August 23, 2013 at 2:56 am |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Next thing you'll say is God owes the gays LUV.

      August 23, 2013 at 2:59 am |
      • Angela Birch

        So God doesn't love gay people?? Find that in your Bible

        August 23, 2013 at 4:15 am |
      • truthprevails1

        No sorry lol, the next thing to be said is that you're a weak minded idiot who obviously lacks an education or functioning brain cell.

        August 23, 2013 at 5:29 am |
  19. itsrealD

    YOU ARE ALL CRAZY IN THIS DAY AND AGE BELIEVING IN A CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE WHEN THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DO NOT PERMIT NOR REQUIRE A CREATOR.

    August 23, 2013 at 2:41 am |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Been hangin' with Charlie Manson for how long??

      August 23, 2013 at 2:52 am |
    • CLK1967

      Every knee shall bow and tongue confess! JESUS!

      August 23, 2013 at 3:44 am |
      • Dick Wiggler

        LOL, not this tongue. i=uck your god. i=uck whatever stupid hat he wants you to wear, i=uck his arbitrary day off and i=uck his ridiculous set of Neolithic rules. The bible was written by slope-headed cavemen that thought the earth was flat. It's a FABLE, people, grow up!

        August 23, 2013 at 4:01 am |
      • Angela Birch

        Sorry but that isn't a scientific argument. IT is a bit of Christian theology based on something Paul wrote, hard to take PAul seriously.

        August 23, 2013 at 4:18 am |
      • truthprevails1

        That's according to one 2000 year old outdated, easily debunked book. That is not according to 5 billion people who don't share your imaginary friend.

        August 23, 2013 at 5:09 am |
    • Byron

      And I suppose that the laws of physics just popped out of thin air? Every effect has a cause. Nevertheless, there is a difference between Christ and churchianity, the latter being a form of religion without substance whereas the man Jesus demonstrated Love and its power over matter.

      August 23, 2013 at 4:08 am |
    • lerianis

      Right in one, itsrealD. The fact is that the laws of nature do NOT require a creator in the slightest. In fact, they work just as well with a powerful group of people or better with that than with the 'god' explanation.

      August 23, 2013 at 4:44 am |
  20. Poncho81

    Doesn't the Bible mention something about not judging others? That judging others was the work of God? Just curious.

    August 23, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      What judgment did you use to post your question??

      August 23, 2013 at 2:53 am |
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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.