January 29, 2004
show rift over gays in Christian Church
lack of regulations regarding ordination of gay Disciples
allows regions to decide for themselves.
The alleged discrimination against a gay Brite administrator
by a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) official reflects
fundamental disagreements within the denomination and
society over homosexuality, several ministers said Wednesday.
Stephen Sprinkle, a Brite Divinity School representative
for the Christian Churchs Committee on the Ministry
for the Southwest Region, says he was prevented from participating
on a committee interviewing ministerial candidates because
he is gay. Sprinkle claims that committee chairman Ben
Hubert told Sprinkle that he was polarizing students,
and could not attend the interviews held from Jan. 12-14.
But the Christian Church does not have explicit rules
or regulations against openly homosexual people, said
Cyndy Twedell, the associate minister at University Christian
Church on South University Drive. Twedell is also a Brite
Ministers said the Christian Church is divided into regions,
and each region makes the final decision on whether to
Andy Mangum, the minister for the First Christian Church
is Arlington, was an ordination candidate in 1998, while
Sprinkle was on the interviewing committee.
Hes been excluded from some things because
of his sexuality and for his views and opinions on gays
in the church, Magnum said of Sprinkle.
Administrators of the Christian Church Southwest Region,
including the Interim Regional Minister and President
Bob Rueter and the chairman of the Committee on Ministry
Ben Hubert, could not be reached for comment. Ken Hall,
minister for the Trinity-Brazos area, declined to comment.
Brite President D. Newell Williams said the church reflects
the social and political divides of the world. He also
said that the Christian Church is no different from any
church, synagogue or institution undecided on gay issues.
While regions have the authority to make rules about the
ordination of gays, congregations are the ultimate foundation
and body of the church, and they do not live by any rules
but the focus on Christ, Twedell said.
The General Assembly for the Christian Church makes resolutions
about matters, but they are considered guidelines, not
binding laws, Twedell said.
We encourage people to make their own decisions,
to think and to live blending faith and reason, head and
heart, Twedell said.
The Christian Church is founded on unity, not division,
God is a part of all of his creations: he is a part
of gays, he is a part of blacks, he is a part of whites,
Twedell said. As long as we respect the diversity
that Gods made, we are the beauty of Gods
creation with all our differences.
God calls each of us to a valued and specific ministry
and I would not put any restrictions on what Dr. Sprinkle
is allowed to do based on his sexuality.
A lesbian Brite graduate says a resolution preventing
gays from being ordained was created by the Southwest
Region in response to her pursuit of ordination, which
I think they thought they could send me away and
people would forget about it, said Michal Anne Pepper,
an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and Brite graduate.
They act like this issue is going to go away. When
people get freaked out they act poorly and the
Region acted very poorly.
Ordination candidates need both a supporting congregation
and an approving region to be ordained. Pepper was supported
by her congregation, Midway Hills Christian Church in
Dallas, but the region disregarded that support and would
not ordain her.
My church was very angry and upset and had meetings
with the region, Pepper said.
The Southwest Region remained opposed to Peppers
ordination, so she sought support from another congregation
in a different region. The University Christian Church
in Berkeley, Calif., co-sponsored her with Midway Hills
and she was ordained in the North California/Nevada Region.
She is currently a minister at the Berkeley church.
The North California/Nevada Region is the only open and
affirming region in the United States, Pepper said. She
said she was not surprised that the debate over homosexuality
had surfaced again in the Southwest Region, which has
offices in Fort Worth.
Twedell said each region and congregation of the Christian
Church is urged to make their own decisions regarding
Its not very Disciple-like to have a bunch
of rules restricting what people can do, she said.