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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. ELMO

    There was a time in this nation when any private organization, club, group, etc could have its own ideals and only include those individuals who ascribed to its doctrine. If you didn't agree with them well you blew them off. Now individuals can cry foul and apply legal means to force these groups to accept individuals who either don't or no longer share the same doctrine. This is a distributing trend. If churches want to be like this who's business is it if your not in that congregation? Same issue with the boy scouts. If you don't like an organizations doctrine ignore them. If enough people follow suit then they will eventually go way problem solved.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Agnostickids

      See...that's why we live in America. We can tell people like you and your churches and your scouts, that we don't like what you do. You have the right to do the same thing. Isn't that fun?

      The problem is, you want to live in an America that doesn't have free speech. You aren't an American Patriot, you're a theocrat. Why not move to the Middle East where the media is controlled the way you'd like it to be?

      August 23, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      There's nothing wrong with crying foul, but you're right about legal means. Any private organization should be allowed to accept/boot out any members they like.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Marcus

      Why do christians get all up in arms when a new mosque wants to move in, like near the 9/11 memorial?

      Also, they are encouraging people to be UNamerican. They vote to suppress other people's freedom based on the hatred that they are taught in their church. What exactly does FREEDOM mean, if gay people aren't free to live their lives the way they want to?

      This woman is better off not being in the church anyway. Now maybe she will realize how they have been poisoning her mind and she can now be a better person.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • MarkinFL

      No one is using the law to force any private org to do anything. It is purely public pressure. You remember the 1st amendment?
      The BSA was not forced, nor will this or any other church be forced to accept anyone.
      So get off your high horse and join the rest of us in freedom.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  2. cdh2526

    Religious elders have the no right to pass judgement on this poor old lady for going to church for 60 years and then kicking her out? Unbelievable! As if these so called elders have never commited a sin and are some how the word of god and bring down their judgements on people. Makes me rethink everything about religion and what they truly stand for. She was simply loving her daughter!

    August 23, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Jason Young Guy

      Now she can be a true Christian, much more than those people hope to be, and understand how Christ felt when the "elders" of Jerusalem did not believe him, and kicked him out, except to a cross to die. Christ will truly reward this lady much more than the Church and the "elders" of the Church. I seriously doubt you feel the Holy Spirit when you enter that Church now. It's gone.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Live4Him

      1 Corinthians 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:42 am |
      • Jason Young Guy

        "Remove the wicked man from among you?" Hmm, this was the woman's son, not her. How dare anyone cast their judgement of someone else onto that of a another person and hold them responsible for a another persons life? That is a abomination far and beyond any sin and not quote on earth would verify Christ Himself in approving that. Let him without sin cast the first stone. Do we really want to start quoting verses here?

        August 23, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • Marcus

        Leviticus 20:10 – If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

        How come christians arent jumping up and down to enforce that one? Or here's another good one:

        Leviticus 25:44-45 – Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.

        When can we open the slave markets?

        August 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  3. JohnG

    These are the type of intolerant "churches" that want to impose their religious beliefs on our society, backed by the Tea Party morons.
    Real Christians need not apply.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  4. Vic

    Matthew 7:1,2
    “7 Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

    Luke 6:37
    “37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

    Romans 2:1
    “2 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

    Scripture Is From:

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

    http://www.biblegateway.com/

    August 23, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Live4Him

      Don't forget these verses:

      Luke 12:57 And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?

      1 Corinthians 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • Madtown

        Don't forget that human beings who've never heard of christianity also should not judge.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      but if you're Christian you must believe EVERY word of the bible, so you must agree with this vile behavior. If you don't agree with this vile behavior, you must not believe every word of the bible so you are not a true Christian.

      according to Christians, the bible is the word of god. you can't pick some lines that you want to believe in and others you disregard!!! are you saying that you know better than god?!?!

      and you accuse Atheists of being arrogant! we know there is no god. you believe there is one but presume to know better than him. that's the ultimate arrogance (or the ultimate hypocrisy!).

      aaaaah the mind numbing foolishness of religion!

      August 23, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • ME II

      "And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell." (Matthew 18:9)

      The Bible can justify just about anything, if you read it the "right" way.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • NickZadick

      correction... old book of fairy tales that has been modified for 2000 years...

      August 23, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • bostontola

      Good post Vic.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  5. P. R.

    And Xtian fools accuse atheists like me of playing "God" - what falls more into that category than passing "His" judgements for "Him" and then acting on those judgements? Asshattery at its finest (or worst)...

    The simple fact that ANY human STILL believes in the controlling dogma of Iron Age mysticism and mythology here at the dawning of this new age of science, reason, understanding, and progressiveness shocks me to my core EVERY time.

    //sigh//

    August 23, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  6. ShawnDH

    I'm pretty sure the "Christians" in this church are doing it wrong. What horrible people.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  7. Z_Man

    Linda Cooper should ask for her money back from the so called church. I am sure she supported that church thru the years, now they just throw her aside. Didn't i read that Jesus forgave "sinners". but this group does not believe in forgiveness, but rather following their own agenda.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Live4Him

      @Z_Man : Didn't i read that Jesus forgave "sinners".

      He also said: Go and sin no more.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:32 am |
      • Madtown

        "Go and sin no more." In other words, don't be human.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  8. Vile religion

    You assume the Bible is correct and intact. It is not. Jesus true teachings have been corrupted for a good 1700 years. Most of it by Paul the usurper. Jesus would burn today's bible and stomp on it.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • DCBuck

      Interesting point. There needs to be a much stronger effort to understand the original Greek and Hebrew texts.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  9. been there

    My family attended a Church of Christ in Connecticut for years. I was raised in that church. In my 20's I was kicked out of the church because I was drinking alcohol. It left me very bitter for years and I wrongly took it out on God instead of the narrow-minded elders of that church. The Church of Christ is full of narrow-minded, hypocrital bigots!

    August 23, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Jesus loved the ol' Hebrew vino, why would they kick you out for emulating Jesus?

      August 23, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  10. JJ

    I was raised in a Pentecostal Christian church and was forced to go 4 times/week. My mom was completely consumed into the cult. I fortunately survived the Christian indoctrination and escaped at the age of 14. My sister remained where she then became the organist. She started wearing makeup which caused quite the uproar amongst the deluded idiot members.

    The pastor approached her and told her she was unfit to have any participation in the music of the church. My sister and her family left and joined another Christian cult but my mom remained even though these scum did this to her daughter. My mom remained with the cult until she died. Really caused a rift between her and my sister. Christians can be so disgusting.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • DCBuck

      Sorry for your experience, but don't make the mistake that many make by lumping all of Christianity into one group. I grew up in the fundamentalist church (which thought that Pentecostals were going to hell, BTW), where every Sunday, I learned of a new and exciting way I was going to burn in hell. I fortunately had the good sense to leave and find a church that practices the true message of Christ – God is love. I do think you are spot on when you say that these churches are nothing more than cults, as they have all of the classic signs – a leader who is semi-deified and whom you are NEVER to question; the "we're right and everyone else is wrong" mentality,finding groups (like gays) to hate in order to rally the cult members, and a closed, insular view of the world.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  11. bostontola

    This comment string is funny, over 2000 comments at a furious pace. If Christian bloggers simply said these people are extremists and are not behaving as Christ taught, there would have been 200 comments.

    Why defend stupid behavior. It doesn't reflect your religion, it reflects on those people in that particular church. Becoming defensive of bad behavior does reflect on you. Please don't say those mean atheists baited me into it unless you are 10 or under.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Because there are millions of "Christians" in this country that DO believe like this church. I do not know which is worse, the Taliban or the far right-wing "Christians". At least the Taliban does not pretend to believe in freedom.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:27 am |
      • DCBuck

        There are millions MORE Christians who do not believe as these people do. Granted, we have done a lousy job of raising our voices, but here's one voice right now.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  12. Opiate of the Masses

    It's sad that there are stories every single day that show how backwards religion is. I'm not just talking about Christianity (even though it is the biggest joke of them all) but all religions. It blinds people to make stupid decisions. If there was a god, it wouldn't allow for things like this. More evidence that there is no god and that people have been making up crap for years.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  13. Maria Carvalho

    That church is betraying the same principles they alledgedly hold, but "pick and choose" seems to be the MO of intolerant pseudo Christian churches. What happened to "Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged"?

    August 23, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      But that's no fun!
      What's the point of having a pulpit if you don't use it to point your finger and condemn this and that....

      August 23, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • DCBuck

      EXACTLY! I love it when my fundamentalist relatives accuse me of picking and choosing. They quiet down quickly when I point out that they pick and choose on Levitical law, divorce, and other matters.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    if you are a Christian you must believe every word of the bible, so you must agree with this vile behavior. If you don't agree with this vile behavior, you must not believe every word of the bible so you are not a true Christian.

    according to Christians, the bible is the word of god. you can't pick some lines that you want to believe in and others you disregard!!! are you saying that you know better than god?!?!

    and you accuse Atheists of being arrogant! we know there is no god. you believe there is one but presume to know better than him. that's the ultimate arrogance (or the ultimate hypocrisy!).

    aaaaah the mind numbing foolishness of religion!

    August 23, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      The only thing worse is the mind numbing regurgitation of your straw man and Scotsman fallacies.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • DCBuck

        EXACTLY! If intellectually lazy atheists like Dyslexic bothered to do some even cursory research, he/she would see that scholars have been studying for centuries to better understand Biblical text. But, hey, why let facts stand in the way of some hypocritical hate?

        August 23, 2013 at 9:46 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          but Buck, if even one line of the bible is suspect, then surely all lines lose all value. If god said or inspired it all, how can mere man say what we can ignore? if god didn't write it, then what the hell do you follow it for?

          tool!

          August 23, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        but you never, ever, ever, ever answer the question.

        Bill Deacon reply method:
        1 – ignore your comment and pretend they never read it
        2 – talk in circles without actually saying anything
        3 – insult me and change the subject

        August 23, 2013 at 9:47 am |
        • DCBuck

          Again, had you bothered to do even the most basic research, you'd see that there are common threads throughout the different texts and translations. I really don't think you are interested in hearing a rational discussion. I think you are far more interested in venting your anger over religion in general.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  15. Skycyclepilot

    Christianity – no different than astrology or witchcraft...

    August 23, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • C-Dawg

      It's meaner and more self-righteous than those, but other than that, you are correct.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  16. TheRationale

    Just another step on religion's path to the history books. I sincerely hope it is gone in 100 years, preferably sooner.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Now YOU are being guilty of wishful/magical thinking. 🙂

      August 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  17. midwest2

    There is nothing Christ-like about the members of this church. They are doing the mom a favor. Hopefully she will find acceptance and fellowship in a congregation that actually exemplifies the life of Christ.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  18. Randall

    What do you expect from the bigoted fairy-tale believers? A hateful bunch of thugs, each and every filthy one of them.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  19. pagan rituals

    These kind of articles bring out the best!

    August 23, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Observer

      Pagans have nothing better to do in life, other than attack the Christians.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:11 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Read up on the Christianization of Europe. I think you'll find 99% of attacks were in the other direction.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:14 am |
      • Observer

        These are not atheists but pagans here attacking Christians.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:14 am |
        • nicdy3

          Weren't many of the prominent dates and events in Christianity purposely made to coincide with pagan events and dates in order to convert pagans to Christianity?

          August 23, 2013 at 9:33 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Christian seem to love nothing better than fighting amongst themselves.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:15 am |
      • Madtown

        Christians earn almost every attack given to them.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:16 am |
      • shipwreck73

        "Attack christians"? Wow, I guess your definition of attack differs from mine.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:17 am |
      • NickZadick

        We don,t attack you...we ridicule you! how can we not? you try to convince us ancient myths and parables are true..

        August 23, 2013 at 9:20 am |
      • Observer

        Continue with your pagan rituals, your hatred toward Christians is not going unnoticed, continue to live with that animosity, these topics only last for a day or two and your hatred can continue to build inside of you till the next article comes along. And may the cycle of hatred continue to grow inside of you. It is good for your soul, NOT!!!

        August 23, 2013 at 9:25 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.