Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Breaking News: Unfinished Lives Project Founder Becomes Official Huffington Post Blogger

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle now blogs for Huffington Post (Keith Tew photo).

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle now blogs for Huffington Post (Keith Tew photo).

Dallas, Texas – The founder and director of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, has been officially accepted as a Blogger for the Huffington Post.  Dr. Sprinkle’s inaugural blog post on the civil disobedience of a gay Louisville, Kentucky Baptist preacher and his spouse may be found by clicking here. Josh Fleet, representing the Huffington Post Blog Team, informed Dr. Sprinkle that his post had been accepted and posted Sunday on the Religion Page of the highly respected and widely read progressive news and opinion source.  He will be a continuing Blogger for the Religion Page, which is overseen by the Rev. Dr. Paul Raushenbush as Senior Editor.

Sprinkle ventured into the cyber world as a blogger in June 2008 with the launch of Unfinishedlivesblog.com, a web forum for news, opinion, and discussion concerning the alarming rise of anti-LGBTQ violence in American life.  With nearly 500,000 hits on the site currently, a notable achievement for a blog done by an academic and a theologian, the future of Unfinishedlivesblog.com looks promising.  The continuing readership of the blog is, of course, largely due to the unabated rise in hate crimes murders perpetrated against the LGBTQ  community since the Matthew Shepard, James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama in October 2009.  Anti-violence programs throughout the United States, as well as the Hate Crimes Program of the FBI have registered higher numbers of bias-drivien murders perpetrated against LGBTQ people in each of the three years since the Shepard Act became the law of the land–and activists see no signs of these horrific statistics lessening in the near term. Sprinkle and the Unfinished Lives Project Team have chronicled this dismaying increase in anti-gay violence throughout the years.

Sprinkle.UnfinishedLives.98111Originally conceived as a supporting platform for the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s IPPY award winning book on LGBTQ hate crimes murders in the U.S., Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), Unfinishedlivesblog quickly took on a life of its own, thanks to the cyber know-how of two savvy divinity school students, Todd W. Simmons of Houston, Texas, and Adam D.J. Brett of Syracuse, New York. As time passed, Huffington Post became an invaluable source of information on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the responses of the queer and religious communities to these outrages.  “Being named a Blogger for HuffPo brings the spiritual and cyber journey of my activist life to a new milestone,” Sprinkle said in response to the news of his selection.

The brave story of the non-violent protest against Kentucky’s repressive anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage laws by Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, and his spouse, Dominique James, sparked a passion in him to write about this news for a wider audience than a personal blog can reach, Sprinkle said.  The unflinching support offered by Blanchard and James’s pastor, the Rev. Joe Phelps, and the congregation of Highland Baptist Church, Lousiville, was also a feature of the story that begged to be shared broadly with the Baptist world, and beyond.  The parent blog post that gave rise to the Huffington Post piece can be found by clicking here.

Sprinkle is himself a openly gay man and an ordained Baptist preacher (with the Alliance of Baptists) who has recently celebrated his 36th year of ordination.  He is the Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School, a post that he has held since 1994.  Sprinkle is Professor of Practical Theology, and the first openly gay scholar to be tenured in the 99-year history of the school.  He also serves as Theologian-in-Residence for Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and the largest liberal Christian Church in the world with a primary outreach to the LGBTQ community.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Alliance of Baptists, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Highland Baptist Church, Huffington Post, Huffington Post Religion Page, Independent Book Awards (IPPYs), LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, Same-sex marriage, Social Justice Advocacy, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Breaking News: Unfinished Lives Project Founder Becomes Official Huffington Post Blogger

Blessed Rosh Hashanah from Unfinished Lives

L’Shana Tovah!  This year, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, commences with sunset on September 16 and continues through nightfall of September 18.  The beauty of this great festival is that it celebrates the total human race.  Rosh Hashanah, meaning “The Head of the Year,” begins on 1 Tishrei, the first day of the Jewish calendar, and commemorates the anniversary of the creation of womankind and mankind–all males and females, commencing with the mythological First Woman and First Man, Eve and Adam.

Sam Meyer, our Friend on Facebook, reminds us that Rosh Hashanah accentuates the special relationship between G-d and humankind: our dependence upon G-d as Creator of Heaven, Earth, and the whole creaturely Cosmos, and the dependence of G-d upon humanity to make the works and ways of G-d known in the world.

Every remembrance of the fallen in the LGBTQ community we offer on this website, and every call for social justice we make is framed within this great story, in which all are the children of God, all are worthy of life and love, and all have their share in the dignity and co-creativity of creation.  So, the Unfinished Lives Project Team sounds the rams horn of hope as the New Year begins, and prays for your health and prosperity in the days and weeks to come!  L’Shana Tovah!

September 14, 2012 Posted by | GLBTQ, Homosexuality and the Bible, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Curing What is Wrong with America – An Independence Day 2012 Meditation

J.C. Leyendecker, “Statue of Liberty”

Dallas, Texas – A sincere wish for joy. equality, and prosperity from the Unfinished Lives Project Team to you and yours this Independence Day, July 4th, 2012. “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”  ~William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on Curing What is Wrong with America – An Independence Day 2012 Meditation

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

Gay Hate Crimes Victim Ryan Keith Skipper Lives On: A Special Comment

Ryan Keith Skipper (April 28, 1981 - March 14, 2007)

Wahneta, Florida – Today would have been Ryan Keith Skipper’s 31st birthday, had he not died at the hands of two reckless, homophobic men in Central Florida five years ago.  But Ryan lives on in the hearts and minds of his family, his friends, and countless supporters of human rights who commemorate his life and the lives of other hate crimes murder victims around the nation.

Ryan’s murderers are both sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.  William David “Bill-Bill” Brown Jr. and Joseph “Smiley” Bearden killed Ryan on the night of March 14, 2007 in cold blood, stole his car, and vainly attempted to fence it before desperately trying to burn it up in order to destroy evidence of the murder.  The Sheriff of Polk County, Grady Judd, capitalized on Ryan’s murder politically, and crassly blamed Ryan for his own death.  Sheriff Judd, as of this writing, still holds office, though every one of his innuendoes and allegations concerning Ryan have been categorically disproved.

In the five years since Ryan’s untimely death, his parents, Pat and Lynn Mulder, his brother Damien, and his host of friends have gotten on with their lives, dealing with their grief the best they can.  His family has become one of the foremost voices for justice for hate crimes victims in the nation.  A major documentary film, “Accessory to Murder: Our Culture’s Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper,” directed by Vicki Nantz, a former news director for Orlando’s WESH-TV, continues to open hearts and minds to the cause of human equality throughout Florida and beyond.  Damien, Ryan’s older brother, has married and moved away from Florida.  He and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Ryan, into the world this past year, so in an act of life in defiance of death, another Ryan Skipper lives and thrives in her uncle’s memory.

The Unfinished Lives Project was inspired by the life story of Ryan Skipper: his extraordinary capacity for love and friendship, his ability to make people feel appreciated and important, and his unconquerable spirit of life.  His story occupies a chapter in the recent book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), entitled “Keeper of Hearts.”

Every time Ryan is remembered and his story is retold, the intentions of his killers and their accomplices in today’s culture and politics are thwarted.  Ryan is precious in our memory on his birthday.  Our fight for equality and justice continues because Ryan lives on in our hearts.

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Florida, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Politics, Remembrances, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

This Holy Season . . .

The Unfinished Lives Project Team wishes you and all your Beloved a safe, joyous, fulfilling Passover and Eastertide!  With prayers for a better, more just world, we remain your Friends.

“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of  hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”    ~  Robert Francis Kennedy

April 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on This Holy Season . . .

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!

Remembering Our Dead During the Holidays

Lawrence Fobes "Larry" King, one of our ancestors who received a measure of justice in 2011.

2011 was a year to remember.  The stories of the LGBTQ sisters and brothers who have died among us are windows through which we can see into our own souls.  Our ancestors are our teachers, if we will let them be.  At some point, I cannot pinpoint exactly when, I made the choice to still my powerful emotions around the murders of LGBTQ people, and let their stories teach me what it means to be alive.  That choice is one of the most important I have every made, and one of the most fruitful.  The book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, was truly born in that moment.  Though I never met a one of the persons whose stories I tell in my book, they are very close to me–not in a morbid sense, at all.  I believe I can understand why so many gay folk would rather not remember how quickly our lives can be snuffed out.  But a truly community-shaping insight the dead have given me is that only the choice not to remember is morbid.  Re-telling the stories of those who have died among us because of who they were, gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people, gives our community a new sense of how precious each life is, and a new resolve to be a justice-oriented people who treasure every moment we are given.

2011 is full of such memories for the LGBTQ community.  So many have faced terrible persecution, just to love whom they choose, just to live as they were created to live. We remember the young–so many of them–who found life too much to bear in a homophobic, bullying world.  We remember the transgender sisters, especially, who faced injustice everywhere they turned, and for whom living daily is an act of uncommon courage.  We remember the families, the lovers, the neighbors, the friends–and the killers, too.  Change comes at a glacial pace…so slowly.  But it comes.

Our dead have only died in vain if we refuse to remember and honor them.  Like the Mexican people know who treasure their dead on the Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, death is a stark reality however it comes.  But our friends south of the border also know how to tease death, argue with it, make fun of it, create works of art, song and dance out of it, and how to transcend the fear of death by gathering together to remember and cherish those who have died.  The LGBTQ community is learning how to do that, as well.  In Houston, Texas, right off of the Montrose, a memorial to LGBTQ people who have died has been created and dedicated this very year.  Everywhere I have gone this year to talk with people, more and more are finding the healing empowerment of remembrance.  Around the memories of our dead, extraordinary communities of strength, advocacy, and love have arisen.  These are all such good things, and they all have come about as gifts from our ancestors who have died among us.

We cannot, will not forget our fallen ancestors.  In their memories lies the key to becoming a true people of maturity, gratitude, justice, and hope.  That is the true fruit of remembrance for the LGBTQ community.  So, we who believe in justice cannot rest.  We honor and educate.  We recall, re-tell, and remember.  We push for justice, and then we push some more.  Our ancestors expect us to do no less.  And we, in their memories, can do no less.

Happy Holidays, however you celebrate them in your homes, from the Unfinished Lives Project Team.  We give thanks for each of you!  ~ Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

December 23, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Remembering Our Dead During the Holidays

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