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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. carlos

    That church has nothing to do with Christ. Christianity's base is FORGIVENESS, even when offended, turn the other cheek. That cult passing off as a church has no pastor, it has a drill sargent; and since I'm not a Christian, I propose that protesters find some children (yet without sin) to throw a bunch of rocks at the place.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  2. MarkinFL

    The saddest part of this story is that the mom wasted so much of her life being part of such a group. Perhaps she can find a better set of friends now.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  3. jojojo

    these people all sound nuts with their jesus talk... but that church needs to answer for its behavior. disgustiing

    August 23, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  4. Dave

    Is that what Jesus would want? To turn his worshipers away from the church?

    August 23, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Grumpy

      Since Jesus said to disfellowship members who willfully live in open rebellion against God, yeah, that is what he wants.

      Matthew 15;
      1 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:02 am |
      • jojojo

        "Since Jesus said to disfellowship members who willfully live in open rebellion against God, yeah, that is what he wants." – and here we have a classic seedling of control that is present in all cults. Do as your told or face the consequences. disgusting people

        August 23, 2013 at 8:05 am |
      • MarkinFL

        I treat pagans like anyone else and without the tax collector we would not have schools,police, roads, sewers, etc. etc.
        So I guess we should treat those sinners with the human respect they deserve. Thanks for those words of wisdom...

        August 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  5. Johnjon

    this is nothing short of disgraceful.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  6. Grumpy

    The New Testament instructs the church in multiple places to disfellowship people who claim to be Christians but who willfully persist in living in sin. The church in question apparently had the audacity to think that as a New Testament church it should follow the instructions of the New Testament. Go figure.

    1Corinthians 5
    1 It is actually reported that there is se_xual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,[a][b] so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • MarkinFL

      "A man is sleeping with his father’s wife."

      Relevance to this situation?
      Oh yeah, its in your head.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:01 am |
      • Grumpy

        Both are questions of se_xual immorality. The Bible in both Testaments says gay se_x is sin.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:03 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Please cite the specific passages in which being gay is defined as sin.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:09 am |
        • MarkinFL

          Where does it say that in the New Teste? The MUCH bigger sin that I read about is divorce, yet I do not see anywhere near the outrage at that. Or the shellfish or pork barbecues.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  7. livingston

    She did not leave a church. A church that follows Christ's teachings would not do that. What she left was a money making hate group. I hope she realizes how luck she is.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • G to the T

      Absolutely, the wrong tartan for sure.

      August 23, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Vile religion

      Rename it Church of Bigots.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • You're smart

      You haven't read the Bible, have you? What they did is most certainly Biblical. It's one thing to be a repentant sinner. It is quite another to be an unrepentant sinner trying to tell their church that sin is ok.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:02 am |
      • MarkinFL

        I've read the bible and you are quite right. The church's behavior is perfectly in line with that disgusting dung heap of bigotry, cruelty and evil.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • You're smart

          Wow! You condemn love of one's neighbor and even enemy to be evil?! I'm not sure I want to know what you think is good!

          August 23, 2013 at 8:17 am |
        • MarkinFL

          Hitler believed in strong families and loved children....

          August 23, 2013 at 8:23 am |
        • MarkinFL

          Lipstick on a pig is still just lipstick on a pig. You do not need all that other crud to be good.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:24 am |
      • joey

        God is quite capable of speaking for himself and does so through the Holy Spirit. The bible was written by man.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • You're smart

      Thank God this church actually reads and understands the Bible as opposed to so many so-called Christians who have only passing familiarity and condemn out of flat ignorance. Finally, CNN should be ashamed for pandering to the attention seekers who made the choice to leave and airing a private church matter.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  8. holly wood dood

    JESUS WEPT (for their stupidity)

    August 23, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  9. Spidey-Man

    News like this make me so proud and glad that I'm an Atheist. I don't judge people like that. As long as noone is getting hurt let people live the way they want to live. Or need to live. Who are we to judge someone because their lifestyle is different than ours or some made up religion based on "I'm better than You because I believe in a god or whatever. I see it all the time and it really sickens me when god fearing folk think themselves so above everyone else. And they're the ones that spew more hatred than anyone else that comes to mind at the moment.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  10. John MacChesney

    I believe that we are all Gods children, not just the ones the Church of Christ tells us are OK.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  11. Ken

    Ignorance and stupidity are alive and well at the Ridgedale Church of Christ. I'm glad I'm an atheist.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  12. OctoberOhio

    Sick thing is, no one in the church is living up to every "rule" in the bible.
    The first rule being...."do not judge yet ye be judged".
    The one religious people have the most trouble with.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  13. joey

    Wow, yet these same churches wonder why they see their numbers dwindle. It is actions like these that give Christianity a bad name. Kat Cooper do not be troubled by this, when you stand before God you will be able to answer Him with a pure heart. I would not want to be the elders of this church in the presence of His perfect love.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Grumpy

      Jesus said to disfellowship sinning members who refuse to repent. They apparently followed Christ's direction and liberals are peeved about it.

      Matthew 18
      15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

      August 23, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Exactly how many times do you need it explained to you that your gods apparent word does not matter?? This is the 21st century and we are well aware due to the overwhelming evidence that the bible is wrong. Homosexuality is not a sin and not everyone accepts that sin exists.
        If you don't wish to be near LGBT then locate a cave and leave civilized society because they're everywhere and no amount of whining from bigots like you will change that.

        August 23, 2013 at 7:42 am |
        • Grumpy

          The opinions of atheists are wrong. It is stupid to think the universe came into being by itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing.

          The subject in question is a Christian congregation. That congregation followed exactly what the Bible said to do. The woman was wrong to support gayism when the Bible says gay se_x is sin.

          The woman chose to support sin over God. Maybe one day she'll come to her sense, which is the purpose of disfellowshipping someone.

          August 23, 2013 at 7:45 am |
        • Grumpy

          I'm not a biot. You calling me one makes you a very dishonest person.

          August 23, 2013 at 7:46 am |
        • Mirosal

          Grumpy, you bit'ch about Atheists thinking that the universe came from nothing. Ok then, using that logic, your "god" must have come from something or someplace, right? After all, you said nothing can come from nothing (to paraphrase)

          August 23, 2013 at 7:56 am |
        • joey

          Bigot defined:
          : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

          August 23, 2013 at 7:58 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The Bible barely addresses "gayism" (really? gayism?).
          The terms used in the Corinthians list of vices, ar.senkotai and malakoi in the original Greek, refer to male prosti/tutes.
          The passage in Romans condeming a group of Christians engaging in an or/gy in which they turned from their "natural" predilections is about apostacy, not ho/mose.xuality. Would God have been OK had they been in a straight or/gy?
          Other than that, you'd have to go to Leviticus to rationalize your condemnation, and I can guarantee that you don't follow all the rules from that book.

          Furthermore, does this congregation forsake divorcees who re-marry? Do you think they ban step-parents becuase they're adulterers? If not, then that church is being hyprocritical.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:03 am |
        • I've changed

          Grumpy-Is it at all logical to believe god created himself from nothing?Evolution is scientific fact,whether you like it or not.The origins of the universe can be explained by the big bang.No reason whatsoever, to believe in a vengeful god.Unless of course you NEED to.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:38 am |
        • Johnny

          Grumpy, would you vote to keep gay people from getting married? If you answered yes, then you are a bigot. It really is that simple.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
      • jboh

        Your handle is appropriate for TEA(talibangelical,elitist,authoritarian) beliefs. What's next? Burning at the stake? Stoning? TEA/GOP talk the talk on "freedom", but never walk the walk. Your beliefs are completely at odds w/Jesus' teachings. Old testiment "law", is identical to sharia law. Dominionists are too locked in to their own bigotry to see it.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  14. Grumpy

    The woman was sinning by supporting sin. The church did what Jesus said to do. The woman chose to side with her daughter instead of side with God.

    Matthew 18
    15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • joey

      That is from a book written by men. God sent His Holy Spirit as counselor for us.

      August 23, 2013 at 7:35 am |
      • Grumpy

        If you reject God's Word, you reject God. The Holy Spirit never contradicts his Word.

        August 23, 2013 at 7:37 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Now you just need to provide the evidence that your god exists and you might actually have a point, until then you will remain a hateful bigot, too weak minded to think for yourself.

          August 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
        • Reality

          Seven days. Quite clearly the Bbile is either allegory or outright false.

          August 23, 2013 at 7:49 am |
        • joey

          It is quite clear then that you have never listened to the Holy Spirit.

          August 23, 2013 at 7:53 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Except, of course, for all the bits where there are glaring contradictions.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Grumpy Cat

      You're kind of a dick, aren't you?

      August 23, 2013 at 7:46 am |
  15. Steve Smith

    Question of free will....I dont see male dogs with male dogs-we have free will, thanks to God...that said hate is wrong...of the individual..but clear teaching is correct..without norms we will become so distorted we wont be able to function in society...I mean its pretty obvious in the US we have gone nuts with the gay issue, every day multiple headlines...almost like a madness....

    August 23, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Hommosexuality has been identified in over 1500 species.

      August 23, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • joey

      ROFL, dude really? I have seen male dogs with male dogs, and pillows, and peoples legs.............

      August 23, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  16. Sarcastro

    I'm glad some churches are brave enough to go back to Jesus' true message-

    Judge other, hate others, treat others with contempt. Just for the love of God do NOT accept and love others.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  17. John

    Belief in God and religion is for stupid people. A recent study proved this.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Grumpy

      Atheism is probably the most irrational religion to be derived from the darkened heart of any man.

      August 23, 2013 at 7:34 am |
      • truthprevails1

        You fool, Atheism is not a religion, it is strictly the disbelief in a god or gods.

        "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
        ...Stephen F Roberts

        August 23, 2013 at 7:45 am |
        • Grumpy

          Dawkinite rationality consists of insulting and lying about religion and religious people.

          If you say, "God does not exist" you are making a statement of faith. You have not the slightest bit of proof of your dogma. You are a member of the atheist religion.

          August 23, 2013 at 7:59 am |
        • wolf

          Even though Atheism is not a "religion," atheists certainly act like one. Even though I don't agree with the whole "being gay is a sin," I do think Atheism is the most hypocritical belief system out there. It's rare to find an atheist that isn't "Everyone who isnt Atheist is stupid. I am better than you," while they talk about how much bigotry is in religion. If Atheism was so much better than religion then it wouldnt have a history of intolerance, hatred, killings, and destruction of anything that supports another belief just like every single religion.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:02 am |
        • Joe

          No, you are the fool. Religion is one's way of life and his beliefs. True, there are few Christians around today. Most people adhere to the political correctness religion – violate that one and all hell breaks loose.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:08 am |
        • Mirosal

          WOLF... name us one, just ONE person, who killed in the name of Atheism. The list is too long to name thoe who have killed in the name of their "god", but I want you to name one person whose primary reason for killing was "I killed in the name if Atheism."

          August 23, 2013 at 8:19 am |
        • Deflator

          Atheism is a religion like not playing tennis is a sport.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Charlie

      I'd rather be stupid than have no hope at all. What study are you talking about and by who, and why would believing in God make someone stupid according to those who THINK they are so smart?

      August 23, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • DONALD

      NOT AS STUPID AS THE NON BELIEVER!

      August 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
  18. Molly May

    The 'church' of christ is no a church – it is a cult – they are brainwashed, frightened people who need to be led. They are a hateful, bigoted and small minded group of people filled with hate. I know – I went to one of their colleges and was a minister in it for years until I finally was able to break away.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Mirosal

      By definition, ALL religions are cults. 'nuff said.

      August 23, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Dan

      Ms. "May": I must point out – having grown up in the Church of Christ, and attended Michigan Christian College in Rochester (why didn't you name the college?) Michigan – that you could not have attended a college associated with the Church of Christ. There is no New Covenent biblical example of women ever having a public ministerial role, and therefore, there are no women evangelical ministers within the Church of Christ.

      The Churches of Christ, as the writer of this article and Mr. Highland have correctly pointed out, closely follow the biblical pattern of the early church. Deuteronomy 4:2 : (New American Standard Bible (NASB)) "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you". Yes, that comes from the Old Testament, but similar commandments come from Revelations 22:18 :
      "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.

      The Churches of Christ adhere to the inviloate Word of the Lord. They are not perfect, but their desire to emulate the direction Jesus Christ laid out in New Testament Scripture can only be seen as an honorable and appropriate expression of their faith.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  19. Ace

    I hate people from Church of Christ, they won't say Hi to you in the liquor store.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  20. Wingrider

    I love the way the Christians claim to know the will of God. If God is capable of creating all the Universe and all the flora and fauna within the Universe, I am sure He does not need to consult with the Christian minions to determine what is god or bad, right or wrong, or how to proceed with the development of the Universe. One God created us all, straight, gay, bi, trans, men, women, black, white, red and yellow. How can the Christian Right decipher the Bible to meet their perceived agenda? Why would they claim to know God's will? If God created them, they are perfect in every way, or God is not perfect. I choose to believe God is perfect, therefore, all He creates is perfect.

    August 23, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Mirosal

      Then why, in the words of George Carlin, does everything "he" makes, dies? If your god is SO perfect, why have death at all?

      August 23, 2013 at 7:27 am |
      • Wingrider

        Obviosly, this is part of His perfect design. Without death there could be no life. If we reproduce without dying the world would have been stuffed with all the animals that have ever been. You may be standing in the space a Tyransaurus wants to occupy. You would have no need to eat or drink if there was no death. We would be immortal, much as the description of God.

        August 23, 2013 at 7:32 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Some Christians abhor death as part of a different trinity: "sin, death and the devil". But these things are part of your God's perfect design?

          August 23, 2013 at 10:40 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.