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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. proofreader

    "Linda Cooper was given a choice: publicly atone for their transgressions or leave the church.

    Linda left the church."

    Then I guess she wasn't "booted."

    Gay detective's mother booted from church

    Accuracy, please.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      really? that's what you took from this article. how sad for you.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • Miss Y

        That's actually a pretty good point. The headline made it sound like they kicked her out, whereas they gave her choices by which she could stay (not great choices, but choices nonetheless). Come on, if she had been attending this church for decades on end then surely she was aware of its philosophies on these types of issues. I have a hard time believing that this came as a complete surprise.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • They are all a little nuts

      The Church of Christ gives you three choices... 1) Repent 2) be excommunicated/shunned 3) Quit walking in our doors. Think of it this way.. if your boss comes to you and says you can either resign or quit... even if you decide to save face and say you quit.. you were still fired.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  2. John

    Well that ought to teach the mother to have a gay daughter. In all the years I've been alive, I've come to find that religion is directly synonymous with ignorance of the gravest kind.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  3. iReason

    American Taliban.

    Next they will be knocking on your door.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  4. joe

    "Righteousness lifts up a nation"
    And mindless bigotry drags it down.....

    August 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  5. RobK

    On the last day, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, the sinners who are saved by grace from the sinners who reject his sacrifice, every knee shall bow and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LOLOLOL ... good one!

      thanks for that ... very funny!

      August 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Brian

      And that is when this Church, who rejects members who showed love to a sinner, will all be left behind. For it was Jesus who taught to show love for sinners and lead by example. This church is of the devil and has rejected Jesus.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        Jesus was either a sinner or a huge hypocrite himself, acording to the book.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Yeah, because the "last day" is just around the corner isn't it? I've been looking at my watch, in anticipation for about 2,000 years now, and I know, I just know, it's gonna happen in a week or two, right?

      The eternally empty threat of judgement day has a neutral effect on people who can tell time.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • lamelionheart

      Sired Rob K...

      I hate to say this but Christ Jesus's name has been dragged thru the mud for so long by money grubber evangelists and rubber nosed preachers even He has lost faith in His namesake... 🙁 😳 🙁

      August 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        What did this character jesus do that was supposed to be so good?

        August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • lamelionheart

          Sired Badger...

          Forgiving the whole world of its sins is a good place to start....

          August 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          I dont believe in sins therefore it means nothing to me.

          August 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • Steampunk

          So your completely amoral. Ahh...the perfect sociopath.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • dzerres

      What last day? Two billion years from now when the earth is swallowed up by our dying sun? Please.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • Embrace1

        Mankind, human being as we are today, will be long gone by then. With all the environmental poisons that have been created and unleashed, I think mankind's end is not far off. Infertility will get us first.

        August 24, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  6. Victoria

    This is just silly. The bible states judge not lest ye be judged. So how in the world can anyone judge these people? I had a brother who was gay and believe me if he could have chosen to be straight he would have. Why would anyone choose to be something that is so hated by society? But they have no choice and some people just do not get that. I stopped going to church after the pastor kicked out a lesbian couple. If it is so wrong then why not welcome them into the church and show them the way? Sin, heaven, hell is all made up to keep man in line. Well if you are a good person, you are a good person regardless of what a book says. And if you are evil, think a book is going to change that? I don't.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      the bible has a line for every occasion.

      it's an endless litany of contradiction, hypocrisy, fantasy and foolishness

      surely if there was a god he would have put together a better book than that

      August 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Brian

      Christians are well known to be the biggest hypocrites of all and do not actually follow the teachings of Christ.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Josh

      When the bible talks about judgement, it talks about the judgement of souls. The church can't condemn anyone to hell, forgive sin, or accept anyone into heaven. The church judged behavior, which is different.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  7. what a bunch of hypocracy

    Love thy neighbor!

    Judge not lest thee be judged thyself!

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

    I guess they must be tossing out all the family members who support (ie sit next to) family members who shag before/outside of marriage too? If so, churches would be completely empty except for a few hardened haters who condemn everyone for loving in all kinds of ways.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      You forgot the part where he said that if you want to follow him you must hate your mother and your father.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    I was hiking in the mountains last weekend and a bush burst into flames but it was not consumed. A voice came out of the bush and said "there is no god and religion is foolishness". I shrugged my shoulders and thought "OK ... I suppose a voice from a burning bush can't be wrong." So take note everyone. cheers!

    August 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • carlos mejia

      you are and idiot

      August 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        carlos
        Calling somone an idiot while misspelling "and" backfires a bit.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • chelle

          Deliberate irony? no far more likely accidental.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  9. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Good for the mom!! Hopefully this will lead her to forget about this silly religion all together.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Roddy 2112

    The more educated a person is the less likely they are to buy into religion. But for those that can not or just refuse to understand even the basics of science it is all they have.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • samuel

      JESUS CHRIST IS NOT A RELIGION HE IS A PERSON . HE IS THE LIFE AND THE RESURECTION. IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN HIM YOU WILL SEE WRATH BUT IF YOU YOU BELIEVE IN HIM YOU WILL BE PURGED AND SAVED AND ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        Jesus is a ficti tious character in a fairy tale. Get a grip.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
        • samuel

          WHEN YOU STAND BEFORE THE JUDGEMENT YOU WILL REMEMBER THESE PLEAS FOR YOU TO RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AND BE SAVED. YOU WILL NOT SAY YOU WERE NOT WARNED.

          August 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          IF, and it is a big if, I would simply state that there was no evidence and that I was given the faculties that were given me by this supposed god. The fault then lies with this god.

          August 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Proud Canadian

        Unless you're gay, right?

        August 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • dzerres

        Oh ya? Sez who? Oh, Jesus said that. Seems a little self serving don't you think? Besides, do we know he actually said it or was it one of those dialogues that Paul made up? I'm going with the "made up" theory BECAUSE NOT A SINGLE WORLD OF THE BIBLE WAS WRITTEN DOWN UNTIL AT LEAST 40 YEARS AFTER JESUS'S DEATH! I'm doing caps because you think shouting makes your cr@p more believable.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  11. RubyRed4822

    Everyone else should leave that church as well – then what will Ken Willis do? What a terrible person he is to do this to a woman who has attended that church for decades.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      but at least he doesn't pay any taxes. 🙂

      August 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  12. Christians Are Full of Hate

    Jesus said "you will know a tree by the fruit it bears".

    The Christian church only bears the sour lemons of hatred.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS ABOUT LOVE

      CORINTHIANS CHAPT 13. THERE ARE REALLY TWO REASONS WHY PEOPLE CHOOSE TO NOT FOLLOW RELIGION 1- THEY WHERE WITH IT AND THEY WHERE HURT BY A CERTAIN CHURCH OR OTHER CHRISTIAN AND DECIDED TO LEAVE GOD ALTOGETHER 2- THEY HAVE NEVER FELT A TRUE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. IF YOU HAVE NEVER FELT A TRUE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE I FEEL BAD FOR . HOW CAN I EXPLAIN COLOR TO A BLIND PERSON? WELL ANYWAY I FEEL YOU GUYS PAIN AS A CHURCH US CHRISTIANS DO NEED TO BE MORE LOVING AND LESS JUDGEMENTAL . I APOLOGIZE FOR THAT ."I LIKE YOUR CHRIST. I DONT LIKE YOUR CHRISTIANS . YOUR CHRISTIANS ARE SO UNLIKE YOUR CHRIST" -MAHATMA GANDHI .. AS ONE CHRISTIAN I AM DOING MY BEST TO CHANGE THIS VIEW..

      August 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        Except for all the parts that are about hate.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
      • samuel

        TRUE LOVE IS LIVING IN HOLINESS NOT SIN. YOU MAY KNOW GOD AS LOVE THATS TRUE. BUT HE IS ALSO A CONSUMING FIRE. HE IS HOLY HOLY HOLY.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • Nice try but

        If it's true that you are trying to be a better Christian than certain shrill and judgemental others, please allow me to give you a couple of pointers. First, on the Internet, typing in all caps is considered as yelling, so all who read your post feel they just got yelled at. If for some reason the shift key is too much trouble to use, it is far better to type in lower case instead. Secondly, I would suggest being more introspective of yourself. In your post you sound judgemental with your attempt to cram unbelievers into narrow little categories. Give it some more thought next time and try to lose some of that "Christian privilege" hubris.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
        • Clark Nova

          If Christians understood hubris, they probably wouldn't be christians any longer.

          August 22, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  13. pbernasc

    Christians are such good tolerant people who follow God's teaching and don't allow hate to drive them ... yeah ..

    August 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Actully if they were following the bible to the letter they should be kiIIing the girl.

      August 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • Christina

        If you read the Bible, you would know that Christ was against throwing stones.

        August 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  14. michael

    Bullies,and Bigots. So sad. What would Jesus do ?

    August 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • what a bunch of hypocracy

      More importantly, what would Captain Picard do?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        Set phasers on stone to death?

        August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • Clark Nova

        What would Willie do?

        August 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  15. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    So loving, so Christian, these people.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  16. Apple Pie

    Imagine Christians surprise when they realize that Jesus never existed.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  17. lamelionheart

    Gay..? Who am I to judge..? At least I won't be the one having to answer for such misgivings...

    August 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • lamelionheart

      Besides, I have been repentant for many so many years... My past sins are will be accounted for come my passing on...

      August 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    so ... 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 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Anthony

      Brilliant!!!!!

      August 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  19. American Patriot

    No wonder people are turing away from the monument to ignorance, hatred, and hypocrisy that is the Christian church.

    August 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      There is no 'the Christian church'. There are thousands of them, each with varying degrees of hatred/love and tolerance/bigotry.

      August 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  20. lamelionheart

    Gay..? Who am I to judge..? At least I won't be the one having to answer such abominable questionings when their time comes to pass on...

    August 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • mtnman

      Maybe you won't have to answer that question but you'll certainly answer others.

      August 22, 2013 at 9:21 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.