Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gays Terrorized by Panhandle of Texas Hate Crime

Anti-gay death threat painted on the porch of a gay couple in Clarendon, Texas on October 1.

Clarendon, Texas – A gay couple have been put on notice that they are in danger by vandals in a small community an hour from Amarillo.  Two weeks after an anti-gay diatribe by a local Church of Christ pastor appeared in the community newspaper, Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers found their front porch defaced by the scrawled warning, LEAVE OR DIE FAGS. The gay couple, partnered for better than a year, say they have never been so afraid for their lives.

Pronews 7 reports that the Donley County Sheriff, Charles “Butch” Blackburn, is calling the vandalism “a hate crime.”  The Donley County Sheriffs Department is investigating who painted the ominous warning on the gay couple’s property. Harrison and Jeffers are arranging to leave Clarendon because of the threat to their lives.

In late September, Minister Chris Moore, spiritual leader of the Clarendon Church of Christ, published his provocative advertisement in the Clarendon Enterprise, condemning gays and lesbians for an “agenda” that included compromising the “values” of ordinary American citizens, and making their children “prey for pedophiles”  (full ad available for viewing here). Moore based his screed upon a “platform”  published “sometime back” by a group known as the National Coalition of Gay Organizations, a short-lived group convened in Chicago in 1972, but which has not been in existence for over 40 years. Moore apparently dredged up his “factual” claims from this old, extremist chestnut, and sought to incite anti-gay discussion in the Panhandle. Moore is surely aware that charges of pedophilia incite strong negative reactions against gay people, though they are not grounded in any truth.  Moore defends his ad in the paper, but has gone on record denouncing the vandalism and violence threatened against Jeffers and Harrison as “unChristian.”  As of October 8, readers of the Pronews 7 report of this hate crime said by a two-to-one majority that Moore’s anti-gay ad and the subsequent hate crime against the gay couple are directly connected.

Chuck Smith of Equality Texas condemned the atmosphere created in Clarendon by the Church of Christ ad:  “No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. While Smith affirmed Chris Moore’s freedom of speech, he went on to say, “It is a fact that when people teach or preach homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, it can inflame people to the point of violence.”

Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School and ordained Baptist minister, says that there must be zero tolerance for hate speech in the Christian community, whether the group is conservative or progressive.  “There is an undeniable link between religious leaders’ intolerant speech and acts of physical violence against LGBTQ people in this country,” he said. “Minister Moore’s hate speech ranks high on the anti-gay incitement scale, right along beside violence permitting statements by extremist ministers who favored Amendment One in North Carolina this year.” Noting that the online blog of Clarendon Church of Christ has carried anti-gay postings for better than two years, Sprinkle went on to say, “While Moore’s speech is protected under law,” Sprinkle went on to say, “Moore would be quick to deny responsibility for the fear, destruction of property, and physical harm such statements incite, but he must bear some indirect responsibility for this crime. This is unbecoming of  a Christian minister.”  Sprinkle called upon people of good conscience in all communities of faith to express their intolerance of all expressions of hate speech coming from pulpits everywhere.

Meanwhile, Harrison and Jeffers are still in fear for their lives because of irrational hatred against them, and their intimidators are still at large in the Texas Panhandle.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, Clarendon Church of Christ, death threats, Equality Texas, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gays Terrorized by Panhandle of Texas Hate Crime

Anti-Gay Violence with a Side of Waffle Fries: A Comment on Matthew Paul Turner’s “Five Reasons the Church Failed” on Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day

Dallas, Texas – By all reports, Mike Huckabee’s Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day was a success in “Big D” and around the nation.  Beaucoup Church folk stretched around the block to show some love to Dan Cathy’s corporate bottom line, and munch on some fast food chicken–the storied “Gospel Bird” gobbled at every church supper throughout the South.  Matthew Paul Turner, the popular Christian blogger (5,000+ subscribers) responded by writing a thoughtful post entitled “5 Reasons Why the Church Failed Yesterday.”  You can read the post in its entirety by clicking here.  In the aftermath of Wednesday’s effort to show Cathy, Huckabee, and CFA Corp some love by the conservative Christian Right, otherwise known as the Republican-Party-at-Prayer, Matthew Paul speaks to the head and the heart of right-of-center, salt-of-the-earth supporters of CFA, and seeks to prick their consciences (or at least raise their consciousness a bit). As a gay man and a Christian, an ordained Baptist minister and seminary professor, I must tell you, I was moved by much of what Matthew Paul had to say. His opening words for Reason Five were especially impressive to me. Matthew Paul writes:

“Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, ‘I don’t hate gay people!!’ But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?”  Matthew Paul then said, “Trust me, I understand that most people who ate chicken sandwiches at CFA yesterday did not do that as an act of hate. I get that. And that’s cool and all, but did the act of going out of your way to CFA prove that to be true? Do you think that the GLBTQ communities believe you? Would you, if you were gay, believe you?”

Yet, even as I read the good words on Matthew Paul’s blog, I still could not get the perpetual violence done the LGBTQ community in the name of God, the Bible, and the Church out of my mind. Nor could I remain silent about the specter of violence egged on by faith-based bigotry that lurks behind most every anti-gay hate crime in America. So, here is the short reflection on the “5 Reasons” post that I sent to Matthew Paul:

“Thought provoking and generative post, Matthew Paul. But the larger point to me is that the pogrom against LGBTQ people (many of them LGBTQ people of faith, too!) is going on all around the half-million or so ‘chicken Christians’ who are simply, idly standing by and letting it happen while they eat. 2011 saw the largest number of anti-gay murders in US history according the NCAVP (National  Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs) report. In Texas, in the space of barely six weeks, three lesbians of color have been violently attacked, and two of them are dead. The decimation of LGBTQ people is going on apace, with killers quoting the Bible and right wing religious leaders as they do it. And the good people (I really mean that, in regards to many CFA supporters) of the church are bystanders silently permitting the killings to go on, munching away. I am an ordained Baptist minister and a gay man. As I contemplate the complicity of the church in the slow rolling decimation of our fellow Americans, I believe I have a visceral understanding of the Gospel verse, ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35).” 

Christians in Austin, Texas, have called on all their Facebook and Twitter friends to show their faith on August 8 by making a $10 donation to a local food bank. Hold the chicken, and hold the waffle fries, please. That seems to me to be in keeping with what Jesus would have us do to show some real Godly love in action, so I will be joining my faith-filled Austin friends by sending my bucks along to the Cathedral of Hope food pantry in Dallas.  But I will also be pursuing a mission of conscience beyond that.

If you, gentle readers, believe you see an “agenda” in my response to CFA Appreciation Day, and in my addendum to Matthew Paul Turner’s “5 Reasons” post, then let me hasten to borrow the words of “our dear friend and prayer partner,” Dan Cathy of CFA, who famously said, “I plead guilty.”  I do have an agenda, an authentic gay agenda, the only so-called “gay agenda” I know anything about, one that has been influenced and shaped by the simple WWJD faith of my youth.  My agenda is that the faith-based bystanders who look idly on while women, men, and youths are bashed, bullied, and killed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender variance will finally awaken, and take responsibility for their merciless silence–to the end that all Jesus’ followers raise their voices and act until the senseless violence stops!

~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas,
and Theologian-in-Residence of Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, Texas

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Cathedral of Hope, Chick-fil-a, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian teens, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Prayer For the 2012 International AIDS Conference: A Special Comment

Washington, D.C. – As the International AIDS Conference convenes today amidst shocking statistics of the pandemic and hopeful advances toward a cure for this ravaging disease, the Unfinished Lives Project Team offers a Prayer for all who seek to overcome the death, horror and fear associated with HIV/AIDS. May the 20,000 top scientists, activists, policy makers, and everyday people who attend be challenged and inspired by this Franciscan Prayer as we have been [With thanks to Joe Stabile, Nathan Russell of Brite Divinity School, and Jennifer Jacobson who helped transmit the prayer to us].

“St. Francis ‘Neath the Bitter Tree,” by Fr. William McNichols

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
and turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do
what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Brite Divinity School, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, International AIDS Conference, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Prayer For the 2012 International AIDS Conference: A Special Comment

Teen Lesbian Couple Remembered in Texas Prayer Vigil

Brite Divinity School Community at prayer for Mollie Olgin and Mary Chapa in Friday’s Prayer Vigil held on the school’s Memorial Garden.

Fort Worth, Texas – Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were remembered Friday by a Divinity School community, and their families and friends were prayed for in an outdoor Prayer Vigil on the school’s campus. Brite Divinity School gathered in Memorial Garden to pray for the recovery of Mary Chapa who remains in intensive care after being shot in the head, and for God’s blessing upon her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, who died from her wounds.  The horrifying attack took place on the night of June 9-10 at a Texas State Park in Portland, Texas, on the Gulf Coast.  Police have not identified a suspect in the shootings yet. The motive for the attack remains unknown, and police are downplaying a possible hate crime aspect.  The likelihood that Olgin and Chapa were randomly chosen for the assault, however, is very slim.  Portland Police have suggested that this case bears the hallmarks of a “targeted attack,” though there is no evidence of robbery, either.

Organized by Brite’s Dean, Dr. Joretta Marshall, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of Field Education, and Mr. Nathan Russell, a Master of Divinity degree student at Brite, the Prayer Vigil was well attended.  In addition to the prayers of the people shared by all present, Dean Marshall read a letter entitled “Pastoral Response and Invitation: June 29, 2012,” which has been sent out by Brite President D. Newell Williams to the Divinity School’s larger network of churches, trustees, alumni, and denominational stake holders.  While the Brite Prayer Vigil is one of as many as 13 vigils for the two young women, the “Pastoral Response” is believed to be the first and only theological appeal in regards to this outrageous and senseless attack.  Expressions of support have been pouring in to the Divinity School for its initiative in carrying out the vigil, among them a word from Lynn Mulder, parent of slain gay son Ryan Keith Skipper who died in an anti-gay hate crime murder in Wahneta, Florida in 2007.  Speaking for many other families and friends of hate crimes victims, Mulder wrote: “To all who attended, you have no idea how healing it will be to these families [of Mollie and Mary].  It has been five years since vigils were held in honor of my son, Ryan Skipper.”  Mulder went on to say, “Seeing these photos helps me still today as we all grieve yet another tragic and senseless loss of life.”

Here in full is the text of the Brite Prayer Vigil appeal read at the service on Friday:

A Pastoral Response and Invitation

June 29, 2012

“We believe in a God whose mercy and justice is without end. In the name of that God, we offer comfort to those who mourn and are outraged over the vicious attacks committed against two young women, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, last weekend in a Portland, Texas park. This incident follows other acts of violence such as the racist and homophobic hate graffiti in Arlington earlier in June. Such acts perpetrated against women and men in our country because of who they are, who they choose to love, or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone took offense to their existence, reminds all of us that we live in a world that is dangerous to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of many of us. We invite churches and pastoral leaders to speak out against this kind of injustice and violence, in the name of God.

 Often in our country, the name of God is used in our communities, in our churches, and from our pulpits to condemn or – at the very least – to encourage non-support of those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Erroneous biblical interpretation connects with fear in ways that make it difficult for LGBT persons to flourish in our churches and in our communities. Hurtful and harmful rhetoric offered by some within the Christian community contributes to the likelihood of violence and reinforces in the minds of some that silence and closets are the best options for their lives. The result is that faithful members of the LGBT community continue to live in fear in their communities and hesitate to speak out on their own behalf or on behalf of others. Members of TLBG communities often avoid our churches because their souls are damaged by the perpetuation of silence or the messages of intolerance and sometimes hate.

We invite pastoral leaders to:

·         pray for the families, friends, and communities surrounding Mollie and Mary

·         pray for all who embody a gender identity or sexual orientation that invites fear because of the potential for violence done against them

·         pray for the souls of those who committed this act of violence and those who participate and support such violence in our world

·         speak out against violence and draw upon the resources of our faith – biblical, historical, ecclesial, pastoral – in ways that clearly claim God’s desire for those within the bisexual, transgender, gay, and lesbian communities to flourish

·         urge reporters, editors, broadcasters, bloggers, and other members of the news media to report incidents like these fully and fairly, informing the public of the human, social, and moral impact of such deeds of violence and injustice

·         create space for communities to gather in deeper and more meaningful conversation about how to be open and vital spiritual homes for all

Thank you for joining our commitment at Brite Divinity School to foster the life-giving and life-affirming grace of God in our communities. If there is any way that we can support the work in your church or community, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

In the meantime, with prayers for all and with grace sufficient to continue the work of embodying justice in our world in God’s name,

Joretta L. Marshall

Executive Vice President and Dean

Brite Divinity School”

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dallas Gay Community Rallies for Marriage Equality

Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope Dallas, Dr. Jo Hudson and GET EQUAL Texas Regional Director, Daniel Cates speak out for human rights and marriage equality (Dallas Voice photo).

Dallas, Texas – A swiftly gathered crowd of nearly a hundred people converged on the crossroads of the LGBTQ community in Dallas on Wednesday to speak out in support of President Barack Obama who publicly declared his decision to endorse same-sex marriage in the United States.  Called together at the Legacy of Love Monument by Daniel Cates, Regional Director of GET EQUAL Texas to protest the victory of the anti-gay marriage amendment to the North Carolina state constitution, events in Washington, D.C. caused Cates to recast the rally in support of President Obama’s endorsement of Marriage Equality for all Americans.

The crowd was a rainbow cross-section of the LGBTQ and Allied community in North Texas: activists and organizers, clergy and lay leaders from churches and synagogues, journalists and television reporters, enthusiastic gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people, straight allies, and some plainly curious about what all the flag waving, speeches, and homemade signs were all about. Messages were strong.  Cates read the words of slain gay San Franciscan Harvey Milk, to rally the crowd to recruit others to the cause of “100 percent equality” for LGBTQ people. Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, Senior Pastor at Dallas’s Cathedral of Hope, set the tone for this historic day, declaring that for the first time in history, a sitting United States President has declared his support for same-sex marriage.  Dr. Hudson quoted the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying today the “long arc of history” had bent a significant distance toward justice.

The Dallas Voice reports that Dallas Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thanked President Obama, saying he was proud “to say that President Obama has evolved.”  Narvaez encouraged the crowd to become politically involved in support of progressive Democratic candidates up and down the slate this November.  Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center of Dallas, called by Cates “the most important and effective rights activist in North Texas,” said that this day was a “rainbow-colored, neon-lighted, star spangled, red letter day” in the struggle for human rights. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Professor at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth and Theologian-in-Residence at Cathedral of Hope, told the cheering rally that President Obama’s public declaration of support was the most powerful reply to the victory of Amendment One in North Carolina that he could imagine.  Citing his admiration for the amazing campaign of the NC NAACP to defeat Amendment One in his home state, Sprinkle called upon the crowd to reach out to African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Asian Americans, women, and other marginalized groups in the nation who are the LGBTQ community’s “natural allies.”  “We need to let President Obama know that when the extremist right wing strike out at him, which they surely will, we in the LGBTQ community will have his back!” he declared.

Other speakers, including leadership from Equality Texas, local bloggers, and members of the crowd who had a word to speak, called upon Texans to remember that they have much to do in the Lone Star State to win equality here at home.  Dr. Hudson said, “There will come a time when Lesbian couples and Gay couples will marry each other in justice of the peace offices, courthouses, and churches right here in Texas!”   As the Dallas Voice reports, “Many [attendees] shared stories of losing loved ones and not having any rights to keep their things or claim their true relationship, while others shared stories of progress in uniting an anti-gay neighborhood and overcoming their own struggles for equality.”  The gathering sang the great Civil Rights theme song, “We Shall Overcome,” holding hands as the Dallas traffic sped by.

The news organizations such as the local Fox News affiliate, NBC Channel 5, and CW 33 Dallas/Fort Worth News covered the event with video cameras rolling.  Their presence shows the far-reaching significance of the news made by President Obama and the LGBTQ community of North Texas.

May 10, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Amendment One, Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, Dallas Stonewall Democrats, Equality Texas, GET EQUAL Texas, GLBTQ, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, North Carolina, North Carolina NAACP, President Barack Obama, Protests and Demonstrations, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dallas Gay Community Rallies for Marriage Equality

Gay Hate Crimes Book Receives National Independent Publishers Award

New York, New York – Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims by Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle has been awarded the national Silver Medal from the Independent Book Awards for outstanding excellence in Gay/Lesbian Non-Fiction.  The IPPY Awards, created 16 years ago by the Jenkins Group, honors independently published books throughout the United States. Jim Barnes, Awards Director of the IPPYs for the past 14 years, made the announcement of Dr. Sprinkle’s groundbreaking book on May 2. For Dallas Voice coverage of the award by David Taffet, click here.

Unfinished Lives is Dr. Sprinkle’s labor of love, telling the stories of 14 LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims throughout the U.S., representative of over 13,000 women, men, and youths who have lost their lives to unreasoning hatred since 1980.  It took four-and-a-half years to research and write the book. Dr. Sprinkle traveled throughout the country, meeting family members, law enforcement officers, journalists, brokenhearted lovers, and friends who told the stories of their loved ones so that their memories would not be lost. “I set out to change the conversation on hate crimes in this country,” Dr. Sprinkle said, “to put a human face on the outrage of homophobia and transphobia robbing us of so many so brutally.”  In regard to the IPPY Award Silver Medal, he said, “I am grateful to the judges and to my publisher, Wipf and Stock–but most of all to the women related to the victims who have become my teachers during the struggle to write this book.  These mothers, sisters and aunts became courageous human rights advocates by tragic happenstance.  In their names I gratefully accept this award.”

Known as the “Oscars of Independent Publishing,” the IPPY Awards were launched in 1996 as “the first unaffiliated book awards program open exclusively to independents.”  Awards Director Barnes says: “Even today, authors choose to publish independently to break free of the rules and constraints of conglomerate publishing, and this rebellious attitude still influences the Awards’ mission today, ‘To reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.’” Over 4,000 titles compete for the honors each year in over 72 categories.  Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded in each category. “As far as we know,” Barnes went on to say, “it’s the largest book awards contest in the world.”

Award winners gather this year on June 4 for the awards ceremony at Providence NYC, in the Midtown West area of New York City, a venue where the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon recorded their music. The IPPYs are given in conjunction with the mammoth annual BookExpo America convention to insure the greatest exposure possible for award winners.

Unfinished Lives was published in January 2011 by Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers of Eugene, Oregon. Stephen V. Sprinkle is Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry at Brite Divinity School, on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.  He also serves as Theologian in Residence of Cathedral of Hope (United Church of Christ) in Dallas, Texas, the largest congregation in the world with a predominant outreach to the LGBTQ community.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Cathedral of Hope, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Independent Book Awards (IPPYs), LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, New York, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Crimes Book Receives National Independent Publishers Award

Hate Crimes Activist and Queer Theologian Gets Promotion

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, promoted to Full Professor (Phoebe Sexton photo, Cathedral of Hope)

Fort Worth, Texas – By vote of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle has been promoted to the rank of Full Professor in the Brite Divinity School faculty.  Sprinkle, author of three books and many articles on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, theology, practice of ministry, and liturgy is now Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry in the Fort Worth seminary.

Sprinkle, a native North Carolinian, came to Brite in 1994.  He has taught and directed the ministerial formation of thousands of students.  In 2008, he founded the Unfinished Lives Project, an organization aimed at changing the national conversation on LGBTQ hate crimes murder.  Dr. Sprinkle is a member of the Academy of Religious Leadership, where he serves on the Board of Directors, and he holds membership in the Association of Theological Field Education. In 2010, he received the Hero of Hope Award for his advocacy for LGBTQ equality from the Cathedral of Hope, the largest gay-predominant congregation of Christians in the world.  In the same year, the Cathedral named him Theologian in Residence, a post which he still occupies. Texas Christian University’s 2012 edition of Image Magazine recognizes Sprinkle as “one of America’s prominent experts on queer theology–the exploration of man’s relationship with God through the LGBTQ experience.”

In the summer of 2009, Sprinkle took a leading role in the protests arising from the Raid on the Rainbow Lounge, a noted gay bar in Fort Worth.  He is one of the few theologians who has integrated his work as an academic and church leader with social justice advocacy.  Dean Nancy J. Ramsay, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Divinity School, said in a congratulatory email to Dr. Sprinkle that the motion to promote him “sailed through in committee and in the Board.”

The process leading to promotion at the Divinity School is a year-long round of applications, votes by the school’s Faculty Committee, the Tenured Senior Faculty, the Dean, and the President.  Two outside scholars evaluate the academic work of the nominee for excellence in scholarship and national significance in the church and the academy. Dr. Sprinkle is a graduate of Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, and received his M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School, and his Ph.D. degree in systematic theology from Duke University Graduate School.  He and his partner Rob live in Dallas, Texas.

April 29, 2012 Posted by | Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments | , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Crimes Activist and Queer Theologian Gets Promotion

Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School Makes Top 20 List of Most Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries

Fort Worth, Texas – According to the prestigious Religious Institute, Brite Divinity School has won a berth among the Top 20 “Most Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries” in the United States.  Brite, a non-sectarian progressive divinity school on the campus of Texas Christian University, is the only institution of theological higher education in the Southwestern United States to make the cut by fulfilling the criteria set out by the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice, based in Westport, Connecticut.  The rest of the Top 20 honorees are located in the North, on the Eastern Seaboard, and in California.  For the full list, click here.

This achievement puts Brite and the other 19 seminaries and divinity schools in the front ranks of addressing sexuality issues in the formation of religious professionals, according to the Religious Institute’s website.  Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director of the Religious Institute, said that the seminary list represents hard work and commitment on the part of each school in partnership with the Institute.  Though seminary education in the past offered virtually no help or instruction to prospective religious professionals in sexuality and sexual diversity, the landscape has changed in less than two years.  Haffner said, “These twenty seminaries are the vanguard in ensuring that tomorrow’s clergy are prepared to minister to their congregants, and to be effective advocates for sexual health and justice.” 

Brite was cited for instituting “a full-semester course on sexuality and pastoral care issues; has revised their community inclusion statement to be inclusive of sex, gender identity, and orientation; and requires all field education supervisors, students, and lay committees to address sexuality-related training needs.” In addition, the Fort Worth school has created a model for seminary-wide dialogue with Christian denominations on the ordination and authorization of LGBTQ people for religious leadership.

The Carpenter Initiative on Gender, Sexuality and Justice was inaugurated at Brite in October 2011, and named openly lesbian Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall as its first director.  A grant of $250,000 over five years will advance teaching, dialogue and programming on sexuality and diversity.  Speaking at the Inaugural Service on October 4, Dr. Marshall, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling at Brite, said to a packed chapel, “For justice work to be carefully done, we must listen most clearly and closely to those whose very souls are at risk by the spirit of hate and rejection they experience in their churches.”  Dr. Marshall said that matters of sexuality and justice at Brite flow from “the recognition that God loves all people.”  She went on to say, “Being disruptive agents on behalf of justice requires support, both individual and collective, and the Carpenter Foundation and Brite are reminders that institutions can shape change.”

Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, an openly gay member of Brite’s faculty, is the 18-year Director of the Field Education and Supervised Ministry program that teaches practical ministry to all Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Arts in Christian Service (MACS) students on the Fort Worth campus.  Reflecting on this milestone in sexuality education and ministry, Dr. Sprinkle said, “While much more remains to be done in the areas of diversity and sexual justice at Brite, this honor gives us a moment to pause and thankfully remember the courageous LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff, who worked so hard for equality and sexual wholeness in what many would consider a difficult part of the country.”  

“Brite stands in sharp contrast to the world’s largest Southern Baptist seminary, just down the street from us, where reparative therapy for homosexuality is still thought to be appropriately Christian,” continued Sprinkle, who founded and directs the Unfinished Lives Project to combat anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. “Given the unique way Bible, church, and theology have been misused in American religion to justify anti-gay discrimination and physical violence, the work of all these top seminaries to break the link between religious-based sexual bigotry and faith leadership is one of the most important things they do.”

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hate Crimes Blog Marks Quarter-Million Milestone!

Celebrating 250,000 readers and more! Many thanks!

Dallas, Texas – A blog site created to change the conversation on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes hosted the 250K visitor today, marking a milestone in cyberspace.  Unfinished Lives Blog broke the quarter million hit barrier Tuesday morning, January 10, fueled by intense interest in gay bashing stories from Wisconsin, California, and the Republic of the Philippines.

Created by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, the author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011) as “a place of public discourse which remembers and honors LGBTQ hate crime victims, while also revealing the reality of unseen violence perpetrated against people whose only ‘offense’ is their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation,” the blog has to date posted 432 articles relating to overcoming violence against sexual and gender dissidents in 370 categories.  Assisted by the Unfinished Lives Project Team, the blog ginned up in June 2008, and gradually gained a loyal readership, becoming a trusted source on hate-crimes-related issues affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people.

Originally, the site appealed to colleagues at Brite Divinity School, students, and interested North Texans.  Early on, however, the blog began to gain a national and international constituency.  As of this date, the top ten U.S. states represented by hits are (in rank order) California, Texas, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey, with all 50 states, U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia represented. Internationally, readers from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Mexico, Italy, and Spain lead the pack, with the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Taiwan leading Asian visitors, and South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, and Nigeria contributing the most readers from Africa. In all, Unfinishedlivesblog.com counts readers and followers from 174 foreign countries and territories.

One distinctive feature of Unfinished Lives Blog is its combination of reportage, ethnography, theological orientation, and academic origins.  Few academically-originated blogs reach the number of people this one consistently does.

The month of January will be a time of appreciation and celebration in the life of this blog.  Highlighted for thanks and recognition are four groups: the Endorsers of this blog and the Unfinished Lives book, the growing number of Followers (now more than 470 official Followers!), the Unfinished Lives Project Team support staff, and, of course, the 250K readers without whom this effort would be a lone voice in the dark.

This effort has no paid staff, no advertising to defray expenses, and no full-time personnel.  Instead, this blog has been and remains a labor of love and remembrance.  No end to the violence perpetrated against LGBTQ people is yet in sight.  We cannot, will not forget the women, men, and youths cut down by irrational hatred because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender presentation. Their families, friends, and lovers are dear to us. Their attackers and murderers are in our prayers. The work of this blog is in no wise done–there is so much more remaining to do until hate violence is erased.  So, we who believe in Justice cannot rest–we who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes!

Thank you for your continuing readership, commentary, and support!

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Crimes Blog Marks Quarter-Million Milestone!

Gay Baptist Preacher Calls on Churches to Repent of Anti-Gay Attitudes

Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle speaking to a rally at the University of Toledo (Toledo Blade Photo).

Toledo, Ohio – An ordained gay Baptist minister has called upon churches to change their anti-gay attitudes and language.  Dallas Baptist preacher and theologian, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, speaking to a packed house at the University of Toledo last month, said that the notion Christianity and the Bible are considered irreconcilably anti-gay by many in contemporary churches is simply wrong. Citing Dr. Peter Gomes, the late chaplain of Harvard, Sprinkle said that the biblical teachings on hospitality to those who have been deliberately excluded by society, “the poor, the discriminated against, people of color, women, homosexuals, and all persons beyond the conventional definition of Western civilization,” is far more significant than the few misinterpreted Bible texts used to condemn LGBTQ people.  Sprinkle went on to note that Christianity arose in the cosmopolitan world of the Greeks and the Romans, who in the main were tolerant of same-gender-loving people for much of the classical age.  When taken as a whole, the early churches exhibited very little concern about what we today call “homosexuality.”  “Homosexuality,” Sprinkle said, “is not mentioned in the Top Ten [Commandments], and is not in the message of any of the Prophets.”

The Republic reports that Sprinkle was invited to speak at a rally sponsored by Equality Toledo in response to the so-called “billboard wars” over LGBTQ acceptance in the Toledo church community.  A progressive United Methodist congregation put up a large billboard on a well-traveled street in April proclaiming that “Gays Are a Gift From God.”  An evangelical mega church responded by buying up space on nine huge billboards around the city rebutting the Methodist claim with the slogan “Gays Are NOT a Gift From God.”  Sprinkle, a professor at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, and Theologian in Residence at Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, the largest LGBTQ predominant congregation in the world located in Dallas, is a widely-sought speaker and teacher.  His most recent book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), is an anthology of stories of people murdered for their sexual orientation and gender identity, most of whom were killed by people who claimed justification from the Bible and church teachings. He is the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, and the web master of http://unfinishedlivesblog.com, a blog seeking to remember the victims of hate crimes violence in the United States.

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Being Gay is a Gift From God Campaign, Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, Central United Methodist Church Toledo, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Ohio, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Baptist Preacher Calls on Churches to Repent of Anti-Gay Attitudes

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