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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. repubsareevil

    And they claim to be Chistians.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  2. S

    I stopped going to church when I was 16 and I haven't regretted the decision. Religion is used to oppress and hate others. That's not something I want to be part of. I've only met a few people who I would consider good Christians all the others were hate filled hypocrites.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • CosmicC

      I know many people who I would consider good Christians, based solely on their actions – charity, compasion, humility, etc. Most of them are atheists, agnostics, and humanists. Some are Christians, but many people I know who claim to be Christian do not act as if they are.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  3. sandalista

    So much love, so much compassion...not! I guess the 'love thy neighbor' thing is out the window. If you are looking for acceptance, empathy, respect, etc., a church is the last place to go. If you are looking for hypocrisy, hatred, intolerance and ghost stories, religion (any religion) will make you feel right at home.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • steve

      no, if you want love and compassion and such go to an empty church....the theory of religion is not too bad...throw man and translation into the mix its all hell.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  4. David

    Agreed, I just don't see how people can center their lives around a book that was written almost 2000 years ago and has absolutely no bearing on life today as we know it. Sure there are good examples of bad and good written in the bible, but that goes for just about any noteworthy piece of literature. Seriously folks, remove thy head from thy rectum and wake up and smell the roses.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Doug Lynn

      If you really believe the Bible has no relevance today, then I feel very sorry for you. The Bible is without question the most relevant book that exists. If you saw how the Bible has transformed lives for the better you would not say such foolish things. Of course, God does not generally shower blessings on or reveal himself to those that worship themselves. There is not a messed up life or situation the Bible does not address through principles woven into its teachings.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:39 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The same thing can be said for the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Quran, Sunnah, Nahjul Balagha, Avesta, Vedas, Upanisahds, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Tantras, Sutras, Vachanas, Adi Granth, Purvas, Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; Anupreksa; Samadhishataka of Pujyapada; Tattvarthasutra of Umasvati, Tattvarthasutra, Pali Tripitaka, Jataka,, Visuddimagga, Tripitaka, Lotus Sutra, Garland Sutra, Analects; the Great Learning; the Doctrine of the Mean; the Mencius, Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, K-oki, Ofudesaki, Mikagura-uta, Michi-no-Shiori, Johrei, Goseigen, Netarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Chun Boo Kyung, Kitab-i-Iqan, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Book of Mormon, Dianetics, or Revelation X.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        People do not need the Bible to be good. Also the Bible is far from being used to teach people to be good and moral. Remember the crusades? They used the Bible to start wars in the ME.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • John Sharp

        It is not relevant. Period. And the fact that you think it is, even after supposedly reading it, that is sad.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • DJones

      David, you are not a Christian and you are therefore looking at the Bible as a book like any other book out there. There are tons of good books that have good stories and good messages in them. To a Christian the Bible is more than a goof book with good stories, it is the Word of God, the absolute and final authority on life, and it is not just dead print on a page, it is living, powerful, and eternal. You could burn every Bible on earth, erase every digital copy stored, and the Bible would not only still exist, it would still be the final authority and judge of mankind. Those who reference the Bible as an interesting piece of literature may take a good thing or two away from reading it, but the power and impact of the word only really happens to those who believe it.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:43 am |
      • John Sharp

        It is only the word of god, if your god is a psychopath.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  5. Doc Vestibule

    The passage in Romans is about apostacy.
    Before any mention of God infecting those people lust (God "gives them over" to their desires), He is first angry that they rejected Christianity and became Pagan idolaters.
    The bit about s.ex is just the tip of the iceberg, though. The Bible says that "They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."

    And, of course, there's a message for you judgemental ars/eholes in the same scripture:
    "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself."

    August 23, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      This is supposed to be a reply to "j"

      August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  6. Chris

    Why do people keep being interested in religion when things like this happen. Why aren't normal Christians saying "I may not belong to that church, but those people believe most of what I do, wow I should stop going"

    August 23, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • skeptic4321

      Christians aren't normal, imo. The religion is based on mythology, fiction, magical thinking, vicarious redemption via human sacrifice predicated on animal sacrifice, etc. All these things are nonsense, imo.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      No – what it does is assure the believer that their particular sect is The One True Faith and everyone else has got it wrong.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Religious tribes seem to love fighting over mythological minutiae – sometimes to the point of war.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  7. patty

    when are these righteous idiots going to realize that ANY church that kicks out people for not adhering to the rules is NOT A CHURCH OF GOD. This is not in line with the teachings with Jesus Christ.... this is man made gibberish that people are taking to the extreme. They will ALL burn in hell for their judgments of others...

    August 23, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • BU2B

      Hell also sounds like "man made gibberish that people are taking to the extreme".

      August 23, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • John Sharp

      None of them are churches of god. They are churches of mythology.

      Eventually we will be rid of this childishness and the religious people will be gone.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Doug Lynn

      You really should study the Bible under some godly teachers before you post such foolish comments. Of course, God wants us to put people out of the fellowship if they continue to support immorality after the elders correct them and call them to repentance. The Church exists for us to understand and to teach the Gospel which means teaching God's love and God's truth. Jesus rebuked plenty and walked away from plenty when they refused to repent. Paul ordered the Corinthians to put a man out of the church until he repented. Truth without love is legalism. Love without truth is hedonism. This woman is embracing hedonism.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:50 am |
      • John Sharp

        Foolish comments, hmm. How about 16 years of theological education under the Jesuits.

        What is foolish is still believing this drivel.

        I don't need a person who believes in mythology to take me through that simple minded book. Unlike you I can read and disseminate information myself.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:59 am |
        • John Sharp

          Maybe if you stopped following blindly like a sheep you could see the truth yourself.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • NickZadick

        Why should we study a 2000 year old book of myths and parables? get off your high horse...you have been utterly brainwashed!

        August 23, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  8. Why is the Antoinette Tuff story not on the belief blog?
    August 23, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Randy

      just because...

      August 23, 2013 at 8:24 am |
      • Why is the Antoinette Tuff story not on the belief blog?

        Because what???

        August 23, 2013 at 8:25 am |
        • Randy

          Because, it's a positive story with a positive outcome!! Belief blog only carries articles that further needle the sentiment of unbelievers.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:28 am |
        • Why is the Antoinette Tuff story not on the belief blog?

          Glad it got a wider coverage elsewhere 🙂 🙂 🙂

          August 23, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • NickZadick

      because it's not a fairy tale?

      August 23, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  9. LeeCMH

    Linda made a mistake by joining a church. They are full of hateful people..

    Now, hopefully, she learned from her mistake.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • You're smart

      And that's different from a chat section filled with hypocrites like you?

      August 23, 2013 at 8:23 am |
      • John Sharp

        Sounds like she nailed it to me.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Guest

      Talk about hateful....the way you condemn churches by saying all churches are full as hateful makes you as ignorant as tthe people of Rigdedale. My church and thousands of other churches are supportive of gay people to the point that we welcome them as Pastors. Maybe if you went to church you may actually find that a church where someone as hateful you is even welcome.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:29 am |
      • texasnotea

        Yes,but the People who run your chuches have said just the opposite.and have even condemned the President. Since when does politics and gay rights belong in church. Any church? They are even telling you how to vote. Shameless!!!!!!

        August 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  10. You're smart

    Why is gossip column this listed on the front page of CNN as a Top Story rather than being under Opinions?!?!?!?

    August 23, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Dippy's early morning assistant

      Do over.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • texasnotea

      Why? So you can't hide your shame.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  11. Jen

    She's better off without a church like that. The irony is that they probably claim they support "family values".

    August 23, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  12. j

    Romans 1, gays are going to hell...period.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • NickZadick

      you are aware it's all fiction? right?

      August 23, 2013 at 8:15 am |
      • John Sharp

        Unfortunately he is not. He is deluded in thinking a book written by man 1800 years ago has some mystical powers and is always right.

        Even though it is full of frightening contradictions and describes a god that is nothing less than a psychopath.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • skeptic4321

      There is no hell, no god, no satan, period.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:17 am |
      • You're smart

        In fact, you don't exist and are a mere solipsistic figment of my imagination.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:22 am |
        • John Sharp

          LOL, was that a incredibly weak attempt to connect the fact that god doesn't exist to our life's.

          Nice try, NOT.

          We exist and we can prove it. Your god does not, and you can't prove he or she does.

          Because god doesn't. Silly religious person.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:24 am |
        • You're smart

          So, John, please quantify your atheistic certainty that God does not exist and then explain to us all why your quantification can't possibly be lower. Atheism is for the weak minded.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          We wouldn't exist if we did not believe in ourselves first.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • John Sharp

          That is a childish response. The evidence, well 2000 year of NO evidence, is overwhelming that god does not exist.

          The only people that still believe are those that are deluded and ignore the truth.

          I don't have to prove his or her existence. There is NO proof that god does exist. End of story. Only the childish still believe in these fairy tales.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:31 am |
        • You're smart

          I would say that avoidance of answering the question is childish, John. The fact is that you know you can't be certain that God does not exist, but you insist on lying to people and confidently stating that God does not exist. That is weak minded and foolish. I have an ounce more respect for less evil agnostics.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:35 am |
        • skeptic4321

          The probability there is no god is far greater than even the possibility there is any form of a god. The horrific Judeo Christian god clearly does not exist (thankfully).

          August 23, 2013 at 8:38 am |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          You're smart there is no God. No evidence of an Eden, no evidence of an Adam and Eve, no evidence of Noah's Ark, no evidence of Mose's, and so on and so forth. History would show if such a religion in God existed, but that would come from multiple sources and the only source that people get that information from is the Bible. No mention of a group of people believing in one "God" in the Ancient Greeks, Persians, and Egyptians history.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:39 am |
        • John Sharp

          I love how religious people cling to the theory that if you can not prove he does not exist than he obviously does.

          That is a child like use of logic.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
        • NickZadick

          hey you're dum.b – you can't prove the moon is not made of cheese...so it is!!

          August 23, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        I'm afraid it is religion that is for the weak.
        A religion can sometimes be a source of happiness, and I wouldn't want to deny someone that comfort – but to believe that The Almighty Creator of the Universe is anthropocentric and anthropomorphic is just plain gullibility.
        Just childish conceit is a crutch for those unwilling to stand up and face reality.
        One may bask at the warm fire of faith or live in the cold uncertainty of reason – but one may not have both.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Jesus H Christ

      So are you–see ya there!!

      August 23, 2013 at 8:26 am |
      • John Sharp

        Wow Jesus on the blog. So are you gay? I had to ask because you only traveled with 12 men and in today's world we would say you were gay.

        Just curious. And who did sleep with your mom, because no one believes in the virgin story.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Guest

      Actually J Romans 1 says everyone is going to hell....including you!

      August 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  13. j

    First of all, it wasnt that they "didnt love" her, it was that the parent "SUPPORTED" her... BIG difference...

    August 23, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • NickZadick

      second of all... going to church is a major waste of time since the bible is fiction!

      August 23, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  14. NickZadick

    WOW! you muricans with your big book of ridiculous fairy tales! it's all fiction....get over it!! Rational people are anxious for you to join us in reality!!

    August 23, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  15. jojojo

    everyone here needs to be emailing this church telling them how disgraceful they are... leaving angered comments on the interest doesnt do much if anything.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  16. jojojo

    its chatanooga what the hell do people expect.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  17. Dave - Phx

    Religous moronic sheep. You wonder why there is a war against religion? Because you try to shove your opinions and outdated thinking down everyones throats. I laugh every time there is a chruch fire.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  18. Concerned American Citizen

    Is this really a church of Christ?

    Matthew 7:1

    August 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • NickZadick

      you have all been brainwashed!

      reality 1.0

      August 23, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • John Sharp

      Yes it is. The book written about a psychopath, your god.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:19 am |
      • Rich Kurtz

        I am a Christian. In no way or shape do I try to force anyone to believe the way I do. I can agree, this church is wrong. Dead wrong. And it is churches like this and westboro baptist and others that paint good Christians in a bad light.
        "Love your neighbor as yourself". I think we can ALL agree, Christian or not, that this is a good, and right practice.

        I know I am replying to John Sharp here, but I see a comment from Doc Vestibule that must be addressed.
        He says (and I quote): "It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics."
        – R.A. Heinlein

        Are we really fighting a book, with another book? Please form your own opinion. This is the "sheep mentality" that seems to be the immediate "dig" for most in opposition of Christianity. 🙂

        August 23, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  19. LarryW

    They are no better then than the radical Jehadist and fundamentalist that we despise.Well there is one group headed straight to hell. Enjoy yourselves.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:05 am |
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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.