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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. Lionly Lamb

    In viewing the other side I have thusly concluded there is no differentiating between any view of socialized sarcasms... Hypocrites are found within all sides ever being barrowed...

    August 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Gary

    "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.

    Got it. Sounds like the exact definition of a cult – a person (or group of people) that exert power over others and that answer(s) to no one. Why is this a news story? If some weird cult in North Dakota kicked someone out we wouldn't care. This story should not be on a religion blog – any fool can start a cult, put the name "Church" on it, and skirt tax laws. It's still a cult.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • snowboarder

      the congregation is the ultimate authority. they should lobby the congregation for a reversal.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  3. joel

    *of

    August 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  4. twinzmom

    Freaking hypocitical radicals.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Really for Real Scotsman

      Radical? As in radically conservative?

      August 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  5. Roberta Schott

    The First United Methodist Church in your area will welcome you with Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors. Thats just the kind of CHRISTIAN minded people we are.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      I'm an Atheist and I give the United Church credit where due. My adopted-brother and his partner were welcomed very openly by the church.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      the only good Christian is a Heretic Christian, that's right abandon the book the book is evil.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  6. Lionly Lamb

    Individualisms within all societal prides are bound to the duties being suggested by any prides' Alpha...

    August 23, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • snowboarder

      that was a lot of syllables to say nothing.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  7. VoiceOfReason

    Don't you love how Christians follow their own teachings of love, acceptance of others, and turning the other cheek? It's even better when they quote from the Old Testament, which is Abrahamic Law (Judaism) and not the teachings of Christ (which is what Christianity is based on). Since Christian preachers work on the Sabbath, I guess people of their town should stone them to death for violating God's law (thou shalt not work on the Sabbath).

    August 23, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  8. Ken

    I guest they don't believe you can love the sinner and hate the sin.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  9. martin

    What the hell is wrong with people?

    August 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      sin

      August 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
      • snowboarder

        no. that's not it.

        August 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Yes Bill, according to your book the elders did sin. They sinned by judging!

        August 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
        • Sam Yaza

          the book uphold hat they dead, the family supported sin of her daughter and got punished with their daughter, the should have done what the bible tells them to do and disown their daughter, then the mother would be allowed in church.

          Jesus hates families that's a fact; he cant stand anything that take love away from him,... (narcissism)

          August 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @yaza, that is just plain stupid.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
        • Johnny Davis

          1 Corinthians 5:12-13 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”... These men here in Tennessee were only doing as the scripture says they should.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @johhny, all the more reason to toss those "scriptures" into the rubbish bin of history.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
      • sam stone

        wow...sin.....pretty scary for those who believe that tripe

        August 23, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Observer

      Hypocrisy.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Supersti.tion

      August 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  10. Lionly Lamb

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    My rights of speech will not be impeded by those wishing to quell my views..!

    If one cannot decide what is moral or immoral then who should be the decision makers judging all acts or actions of what is morality or immorality..? Where are the lines to be so drawn regarding moralism and the immoralists..?

    August 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • snowboarder

      you are apparently another of those that don't really understand what your "freedom of speech" really means. you have the right to post whatever you like on your own blog without government interference. of course, if you would like someone to attempt to read your nonsensical word salads you would need to post it on a forum such as this one, which has rules which you agree to by posting here.

      I hope this helps.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      invariably it is society that determines morality as a whole, and individuals refine it as it applies to themselves

      August 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired cedar rapids...

        Tell me then, "what is your felt difference between moral and immoral?" By my judging your post you seem suggestive that immoralities could be viewed moral depending upon one's individualized opinion(s)...

        August 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
        • snowboarder

          exactly, such as it has been throughout history in every society, because there has never been an absolute morality.

          now you're getting it.

          August 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          While I am imaginatively understanding your waywardness view that their is no "absolute morality" moralism itself is a key centrality toward understanding immoral consequences and their suffrages upon individuals and societies as a whole...

          August 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @lion, which belies the irrational immoral label placed on hom ose xuality. you would think an absolute morality would stick to rationality. since there is no such thing as absolute morality, we are not surprised that the so-called absolutes wander into the realms of no moral bearing.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          That is how people have justified being both christian and racist at the same time.
          I know a guy who will openly tell you that one of the things he enjoys is fighting. He loves to get into a 'good scrap'. To him it is not an immoral act, whereas to society it would easily be viewed as such.
          Society determines the overarching scope of morality and people then put their own stamp on how they interpret and/or reject that morality.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired snowboarder...

          "Rationality" is a subjected perception of rationalisms wholesomeness which is stymied in degrees of the socially augmented... Righteous moralities can only be deduced in the finding of entrenched immoralities...

          August 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Trace

      Why do you think it's perfectly acceptable to punish the mother for "sins" of her daughter? Are you that narrow-minded? Is the view of God's love so small?

      August 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
      • snowboarder

        @trace, his supposed god punished all of humanity for the transgressions of his own erred creation. what would that tell you?

        August 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          My "supposed god" has nothing to do with my human perceptions of moral relativisms... Your declaring such viewpoints regarding my Godly considerations is moot for I have not brought "my supposed God" into the equation... But now that you brought God into our discussion, "Is it not God's willfulness for humankind to be morally upright and condemn all who are found being immoral and continue on being immoralists with no thoughts of being repentant in their misguided ways..?"

          August 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @lion, so the story goes. of course the entire premise reeks of the imaginings of primitive men.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired snowboarder...

          Your aspiring to claim men as being primitive is a no-brainer... Our subliminal contortions with ensembles of narrow-minded accumulations are relative opinions to those who cannot fathom the positive connotations of being moral without understandings of what truly is immoral... The social trenches fill up with many overall perspectives and only the most moral are able to climb out... Immoralists find face in others being like-mirrored much the same way moralists do... The main difference between morality and the immoral is knowledge of what immoralities induce upon the minds...

          August 23, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired Trace...

        How did my view mean what you conjured up..? I never said anything which would construe your wordage views

        August 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      morality is a construct of individuality, some time shared through like minded individuals and develops into a cultural "Value"

      August 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Sam Yaza

    they just following scripture, it their religion they have a right to their religion , you don't like it go some were else. i supprot the churches decision, only because i think their evil, and if it helps to dismantle Christianity; I'm for it.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  12. ART

    Hateful religious people

    August 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  13. linesinthesand

    He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      Christians are with out sin Jesus took them away, so they can cast the first stone, i'm with out sin, i not part of Yahweh covenants; so i cant cast the first stone.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
      • corey

        If Jesus died for everyones sins doesn't that cover gays too? And why is it only Christians you think he died for?

        August 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
      • UTGary

        Sam,
        By your own Christian standards you are really out there on the skinny branches...

        From I John 1...7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

        Just say'n.

        August 23, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
        • Sam Yaza

          not Christian and not bound by your laws.

          Q; if one of your laws says to through the stone and you dont,..did you sin

          A; yes

          August 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      "sin" is an abstract concept. it doen't exist in the real world

      August 23, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  14. UTGary

    The intolerance expressed in the majority of the comments here is pretty ironic. Any Christian church is a community of relatively like-minded and flawed people gathering together to seek a closer relationship with God. They–to one degree or another–seek to follow the teachings of the Bible in seeking this goal. That said, if I were a part of the "tolerant" Episcopal church or Evangelical Lutheran's and began to publicly expouse beliefs that were not consistent with those w/ in their particular communities, I would fully expect to be invited to a sit-down w/ the appropriate authorities to discuss the matter. If, at the end of the day, we could not come to some agreement, I would also expect to be asked to either tow-the-line or move on.

    Those who condemn the church mentioned in this story seem–to me–to be at least as guilty of intolerance, judgement and hypocracy as the leadership of Ridgedale Church of Christ.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      UT for Utah?

      Why should anyone be tolerant of a church that gave a parent an option of basically disowning their child or leave? Sometimes intolerance of intolerance is snot such a bad thing.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • UTGary

        Truth,

        Yup, for Utah. The answer to the next question is NO. 🙂

        Point was not that anyone should or shouldn't agree with Ridgedale Church of Christ or Episcopals or atheists, simply that EVERYONE judges and that I find a huge degree of irony in the tone of...oh...95% of the posts on this blog.

        August 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          but those that are judging the church dont claim to follow a system that talks about forgiveness and love, turning the other cheek etc.

          August 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
        • UTGary

          Cedar,
          And yet, here we are talking about whether folks are forgiving, loving, tolerating enough. If I'm the one determining if it is enough or not, aren't I judging?

          August 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          The actual judging isnt the issue.
          If you claim to follow a teaching that says one thing and you display actions that contradict that then expect to be called out on it.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
        • Just sayin

          Standing against bigotry is not another form of bigotry.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
        • UTGary

          I think that judging is the exact issue.

          Standards inside that Church of Christ are obviously different from the standards of "Joe CNN blog reader". Something Linda Cooper said or did clearly crossed a line in the standards of that church and she got called out by the leadership of that church. Probably in a manner that is pretty consistent with what has been taught within the walls of that church for the last 60 years. Folks might not agree with those standards, but all they did was tell her that, based on where she positioned herself on the matter, she had a choice...in or out. Nobody lynched. Nobody fired from their job. Nobody threatened with physical harm.

          August 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Madtown

      Oh c'mon, intolerance of intolerance is hardly the same as open bigotry. Would you have the same opinion of 19th century southern slave owners? Would you support them in standing up for their slave-owning rights? Bigotry is wrong. Intolerance of bigotry is noble.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Mob Boss: "Pay the protection fee or get your thumbs broke!"

      Man: "I won't pay."

      *cra.ck*

      Mob Boss: "It's not my fault, you had the choice."

      August 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
      • UTGary

        *cra.ck*
        and
        "You can't be in the club anymore."
        Not quite on the same level...

        August 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          When "you can't be in the club" is the concept of your god metting out eternal punishment...it is. The church is just follow their god's lead.

          August 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  15. fight the stupids

    All people are atheists of most of the gods that have ever been believed in. Some people just take it one god further.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • joel

      I am not sure you understand the definition on Atheist....

      August 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Atheist is defined as a disbelief in a god or gods. So, in the grand scheme of it everyone is an Atheist. A Theist is an Atheist in regards to any god that they do not believe in.
        Atheism only defines my disbelief, it does not define what I stand for.
        Jerry Dweitt sums it up nicely:
        "Skepticism is my nature.
        Free Thought is my methodology.
        Agnosticism is my conclusion.
        Atheism is my opinion.
        Humanitarianism is my motivation."

        August 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
        • Troll Finder

          Found one.

          August 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
      • rooseveltnut

        Think about the statement. You'll get it.

        August 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
      • MarkinFL

        His point is that there are many, many gods that you and I do not believe in. He just happens to believe in one less than you. Why do you not believe in Zeus or Odin? They are equally as likely to exist and have an equal level of evidence as the Christian/Muslim/Jewish god.

        August 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  16. Richard

    nice deceptive headline CNN. She got booter, no wait she left the church.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      She was given an option and not much of one at that...disown your kid or leave the church??? What would you do? Is your love for your belief stronger than your love for your child?

      August 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
      • Hey! You!

        Sadly, yes. I never quite understood that belief. If God is truly benevolent, he would surely forgive you if you forsake him out of the love for your children.

        August 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • skytag

          You don't need to forsake God to not shun your child, moron.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • snowboarder

      she was given an ultimatum. no one would mistake that for voluntary.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Mob Boss: "Pay the protection fee or get your thumbs broke!"

      Man: "I won't pay."

      *crack*

      Mob Boss: "It's not my fault, you had the choice."

      August 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        ive used similar analogy in the past about god being a mafia boss.......has a gun to your head and says do as i say or i will s hoot you in the head. Its totally your choice.

        August 23, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
        • Patti

          Or, the ubiquitous "Be altruistic to those around you in order to receive your reward in heaven" that inherently calls into question every Christian's core motivation for doing good - are you doing it out of authentic love and generosity of heart or are you doing it simply to get yours?

          August 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
  17. Colin

    .

    August 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  18. corey

    Why do you bible bangers think that if you don't hate gays you too will go to hell?

    August 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Niloc

      No one thinks that.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
      • corey

        Apparently the people at this ladies church do, otherwise they wouldn't have kicked that lady out because of her gay kid. And tell me how you know everyones mind and can speak for every religious person in the world? Have you met them all? If not how can you be so sure no one believes that?

        August 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • Niloc

          "And tell me how you know everyones mind and can speak for every religious person in the world? Have you met them all? If not how can you be so sure no one believes that?"

          Answer your own questions and tell me how you even know one does. Nowhere did they tell her she had to "hate" anyone.

          August 23, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  19. kevin

    Ahhhh religious people. They are so peaceful and understanding.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  20. tony

    According to the Jehova's Witnesses, satan is the ruler of Earth, not god. So that explains it.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • FYI

      It's "Jehovah's Witnesses"... Witnesses of Jehovah - not THE J. W.s

      You wouldn't call your friends THE Tony's friends, would you?

      August 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • FYI

      Also, it looks like you did not capitalize "satan". Is that perhaps to demean the fictional character? Meh, even Gargamel and Lex Luthor get capitalized.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:17 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.