Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Methodist Preacher and Boyfriend Attacked in Atlanta

Rev. Josh Noblitt (St. Mark UMC photo)

Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia – A gay United Methodist minister and his boyfriend were attacked and robbed on July 2 at at picnic in the park.  Rev. Josh Noblitt, 32, Social Justice Minister at St. Mark United Methodist Church, and Trent Williams, 25, were just finishing up their picnic and had started playing cards when six young men approached the couple asking if they were gay.  Jarvis Johnson, 19, Sam Johnson, 18 and four other males between the ages of 13-17 allegedly began threatening them at that point, saying “Y’all gay? We ought to beat y’all for that.”  Then three members of the gang physically attacked Noblitt and Williams, demanding money.  One of them wielded a large stick, according to The Examiner.   Noblitt and Williams proved not to be the easy marks their robbers expect two gay men to be.  Williams, Noblitt’s partner, knew karate and kicked the assailants in the face. Thwarted, the attackers fled, and Rev. Noblitt called 911 to report the attack.  Then, “out of nowhere,” as Noblitt said to the GA Voice, 8 to 10 youths rushed up to surround the pair.  At one point, one of the assailants pressed a loaded pistol to Rev. Noblitt’s head.  Hearing sirens, the gang broke off the attack and attempted to escape.  When Atlanta Police arrived on the scene, they found some of the youths hiding behind a building, and six suspects were rounded up.  The two adults were arrested and are being held in the Fulton County Jail  Atlanta PD sources say that the suspects were also involved in a series of robberies in and around the park.  As the minister said to the GA Voice, “Sometimes we live in a bubble, but right here in Midtown a hate crime can happen.”  Rev. Noblitt, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, has wrestled with the meaning of what happened to him and his lover in the park.  In an open letter to the St. Mark congregation read to worshippers on July 11, he said, “Over this past week, I have spent a lot of that time thinking about the young men I encountered in the park, and I am sure they have thought a lot about me. I wonder how people so young could have found themselves in a position to make the decision to assault and rob people that they perceived to be gay and not think through the harm that it would cause to us, to the community and to themselves.” Noblitt went on to say, “Do they really hate me and people like me? Or do they merely think that we are easy targets? What led them to ask us if we were gay and then to conclude without even waiting for a response that we should be beaten for that? Would they still have approached us if we had been a man and a woman? Would they still have approached us if we were two men of the same race? Where did they even get these ideas in the first place?” The full text of the open letter may be seen here. What amounted to be a very close call for the couple could easily have taken a lethal turn.  Rev. Noblitt continues to rely on his faith to make sense of the assault, and to put his life back together again, as the young African American men face the legal system.  It is not clear whether this attack will be investigated as a hate crime.

July 24, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, Georgia, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, St. Mark United Methodist Church Atlanta | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. This is 1 thing that I worry about with my partner & myself when we go to the mall or the store, as we’re holding hands, if we’ll be attacked. We’re proud of who we are. We get taunted & laughed at, but so far, we haven’t been physically attacked. Thank goodness these 2 guys are safe.

    Comment by Dave B | July 24, 2010

  2. subscribe

    Comment by Dave B | July 24, 2010

  3. I am glad to see that your partner was able to kick one of the assailants in the face. I am a black gay male, and it is appalling to me to say that the black church has contributed to anti-gay attacks like this occurring.

    I recently met with the minister of the baptist church that I grew up attending. I met with him to tell him that I have seen 2 recent instances of anti-gay hate speech being espoused in his pulpit. In one case this was done at a youth revival. I tried to explain to him that this type of hate speech leads to anti-gay violence. At the time, I was serving as the treasurer of an auxiliary group within the church. I have since been removed from that position.

    I think that unfortunately the answer to your question of “Do they really hate me?” is “Yes” because they have been taught by their church and their culture to hate you. It is unfortunate that children (and adults) are taught this type of hatred; however, I was sitting in a black baptist church recently when I heard a minister stand in the pulpit and scream about “faggots running around in the church” No one in the church (except for me) expressed a problem with this statement.

    I am glad to hear that you survived the attack. Reading about your incident lets me know that some of the abuse I have taken to stop and fight back against homophobic attacks is still necessary.

    Comment by Rick | July 25, 2010

  4. Josh & Trent,

    Our thoughts prayers are with you. I’m so sorry and so glad you all are okay.

    Comment by Micah in Nashville | July 25, 2010

  5. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I wonder why the UMC still allows the victim of this crime to retain his pastoral credentials? The UMC Book of Discipline clearly states that “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” are not to be ordained or accepted into ministry. The judicial council in 2005 defrocked Beth Stroud for precisely that reason.

    I’m an ex-Methodist myself, and left the church in part because I wanted no part in its hostility against liberals and homosexuals, so I wonder how this man is still a pastor, in violation of the UMC’s own rules.

    Comment by Ray | August 12, 2010

    • Dear Ray,

      Brite Divinity School, where I teach, has an open and out UMC minister, Dr. Joretta Marshall, on faculty with me. Seems like it is a matter of who you know in the Conference, doesn’t it.


      Comment by unfinishedlives | August 12, 2010

      • Interesting, I wasn’t aware of that. Of course, that just leads to further questions, doesn’t it?

        I don’t know which is worse; that this policy is official doctrine or that it’s enforced arbitrarily. And if it is applied unfairly, what does that say about the UMC leadership? Aren’t they sworn to uphold the Book of Discipline, regardless of their own conscience or judgment? After all, how can one be a minister of a church and not uphold its doctrine?

        As an outsider, I really have no business suggesting that the UMC change its policies, but it’s this sort of thing that reminds me why I left in the first place.

        Comment by Ray | August 12, 2010

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