Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things "we just don't talk about"

In Texas there are a lot of things that mamas teach their children that "we just don't talk about."

This is especially true among those in the higher income "society" circles and among the powerful people of Texas cities, although I suspect this is not a phenomenon limited to Texas. God knows it's rife all through the Anglican Communion.

One of the subjects"we just don't talk about" is rich, famous or powerful people who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This tends to play out in ways that can make one's head spin.

Here is the headline in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Broadway Baptist kicked out of Southern Baptist Convention

The story said, "Broadway Baptist Church has been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention because its stance on homosexuality is too lenient, convention members said.

"Convention delegates, known as messengers, voted Tuesday to end the 127-year relationship with the historic Fort Worth church during the annual convention being held in Louisville, Ky.

"The vote affirmed that the relationship between Broadway and the convention cease, 'and that the church’s messengers not be seated,' according to Roger Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the executive committee.

"The committee made the recommendation Monday.

"Stephen Wilson, a member of the executive committee, told the Baptist Press that 'the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals.'

"The 2,000-member church could seek reinstatement if it 'unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under Article III,' according to the committee."


And how is Broadway to do that?


"David Lowrie, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Canyon and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told the Baptist Press that Broadway 'needed to express those convictions in a practical way. They, for whatever reason, weren’t able to do that.'

"Lowrie said, for example, that Broadway could have started a ministry to help people with 'unhealthy lifestyles.'"


Does that mean they should start a ministry for all the obese people at Broadway? Or all the smokers? I think not.

I am sorry about Broadway Baptist, because it has long been a moderating influence in the conservative Christian community -- obviously too moderate for the determined-to-be-purer-than-pure Baptists.

But people in Fort Worth know there is a limit to how much more Broadway Baptist can do on the issue of homosexuality, given that their most high profile member -- and one of the biggest rainmakers for donations to the church -- is world renowned pianist Van Cliburn. Van regularly attends Broadway, reportedly with his partner. If he suggests to someone in Fort Worth that they donate to one of Broadway's ministries, it happens. With big donations.

Van was very discreet while his mother was alive -- and social Fort Worth cooperated by not noticing anything. Fort Worth is like that. Folks here will look past a lot as long as people don't do it in the streets and scare the horses.

And it's not just Baptists. The oldest and richest parish in the diocese, attended by many "old Fort Worth" families,"left' with Iker. Its ministers never miss an opportunity to slam the Episcopal Church on homosexuality. But one of the largest endowments of this church was left to it by an openly lesbian artist.

Have these pure former Episcopalians refused to use that 'tainted"money. You bet your boots not. And they haven't returned it to the Episcopal Church yet either.

But back to the Baptists.

Cliburn moved to Fort Worth from New York City in 1985 with his mother. Here's what a blurb about the Broadway Baptist Cliburn Organ says:

"After the death of her husband in 1974, Mrs. Cliburn shared Van's New York apartment until 1985, when they moved to the estate that had previously belonged to Kimbell Art Museum benefactor Kay Kimbell in the Westover Hills neighborhood of Fort Worth. There she lived her final years, lionized as the mother of an international concert star and musical celebrity. As long as her health permitted, well into her nineties, she circulated prominently in Fort Worth society at her son's side at cultural and church events (she was a lifelong, devoted Southern Baptist) and frequently entertained visiting musical artists. She died at the age of ninety-seven in Fort Worth on August 3, 1994, five days after suffering a stroke. The huge Rildia Bee O'Bryan Organ at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth was under construction at the time."

The Rildia Bee O'Bryan Organ is something indeed. More than seven thousand people attended the six dedication concerts and services of the Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn Organ.

In 1996 Cliburn was very publicly outed when a former partner sued him, alleging that Cliburn exposed him to the AIDS virus.

Keven O'Hanlan, reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, broke the story which was picked up by the Associated Press and run in the Star-Telegram [the local paper never did its own story on this]:
"A former associate sued pianist Van Cliburn for palimony, seeking millions in cash and property and alleging that Cliburn exposed him to the AIDS virus although Cliburn has never tested positive for the virus.

"Thomas E. Zaremba, 48, a former member of the board of the Van Cliburn Foundation, brought the suit this week in a court that normally handles divorces.

"'This has been absolutely a shocking surprise to me this afternoon,' said Cliburn, 61.

"Cliburn's lawyer, Dee Kelly, said the claims are false and were an attempt at extortion. 'Van Cliburn categorically denies the charges,' Kelly said.

"Zaremba is represented by attorney Mike McCurley, who represented tennis player Martina Navratilova as the defendant in similar litigation four years ago.

"McCurley said Zaremba met Cliburn in 1968 and the two became sexual partners in 1977. The lawyer described the relationship as 'akin to a common-law marriage'and said it broke up two years ago.

"McCurley said Zaremba had no reason to believe that Cliburn has tested positive for HIV, but accused the pianist of having sex with other people who were HIV-positive during the relationship. Zaremba does not have the AIDS virus, McCurley said, 'but he continues to be tested regularly because of his exposure.'

"Cliburn said he has not been tested for HIV and does not have AIDS.

"Zaremba, who teaches mortuary science at Wayne State University in Detroit, declined to comment when reached at his home in a Detroit suburb.

"Although the exact total had not been determined, Zaremba will seek 'multiple millions' of dollars in cash and property, McCurley said. He contended the pair agreed to share Cliburn's income in exchange for Zaremba serving as a business and personal consultant."

As the story says, this was not the first high-profile palimony fight Fort Worth society has had to ignore. In 1991, Navratilova -- who was living in Fort Worth -- told reporters "she lavished $1.6 million in cars, credit cards and cash on ex-lover Judy Nelson and her family over the course of their seven-year relationship.

"In return, the tennis champion described the former beauty queen as selfish and vindictive in an interview with reporters covering the celebrity palimony lawsuit hearing."

Nelson and Navratilova met at the high society River Crest Country Club, where Nelson was a member with her physician husband and Martina practiced. The highly visible affair between the two women and Nelson's subsequent divorce was studiously treated as invisible by social Fort Worth as was their 7-year relationship, most of which took place right here in Cowtown.

Reports are that Navratilova ended up paying Nelson a million dollars. If Cliburn settled his lawsuit it was done out of the public eye. And no one ever talked about it pubicly.

Many say this kind of tact is the oil of the gears of Society. Maybe so.

But this oil turns rancid and smells of hypocrisy in Christian churches when it's used to single out one group of the Baptized as sinners so bad anyone who even tolerates them is to be cast out.

Someone should be ashamed here and it's not Broadway Baptist.


Fr Craig said...

Lowrie said, for example, that Broadway could have started a ministry to help people with 'unhealthy lifestyles.'"

Like, maybe, all the hetero folks having affairs and getting divorced... the hypocrisy is appalling.

Brad Evans said...

Your surprised that Broadway has a disproportionately high number of gays?

Leonard said...

Not exactly hard to imagine for LGBT people who have had lifetimes of playing pretend...let´s see, who would you like me to portray ¨being¨ today?

There also was a time, and sometimes there still is, when most LGBT people wanted to ¨fit in¨ by not rocking the know, extravagant kinds of arrogant demanding like wanting ¨to be¨ and ¨to be¨ equal family members, loving/dedicated partners and everyday citizens just like remember don´t you when LGBT never could aspire ¨to be,¨ properly? Certainly LGBT couldn´t safetly ¨be¨ in everyday society!

Of course, it wasn´t that long ago that the Governors of South Carolina, New Jersey and New York were playing a game of PRETEND! Mixed doubles of sorts. Sarah Palin experienced/missed a couple of brushes with REALITY too. Liberache, had a very hard time figuring things out and he was fully accessorized to scream and shout...confusing ain´t it?

I think there should be a class in figuring out what´s what and what´s not what.

Works for me.

Katie Sherrod said...

No Brad, I'm not surprised. I hope Broadway does not try to buy unity with the Southern Baptists by sacrificing their gay members. The Episcopal Church has tried that and it doesn't work. Appeasing bullies NEVER works.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an excellent piece!

EHC said...

I suggest that Broadway Baptist affiliate with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I'm a great fan of the Rev. Dr. George Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.

Gals - Very Smart Gals said...

Even when we were 10-years-old I knew you'd grow up to be special Katie! Thanks for not disappointing me.

Sue - your west-Texas gal-friend.

mimser1 said...

Katie, I have read most everything you have written for a long time, and I want to thank you for your words about my church, Broadway Baptist, and our current dilemma. All my life I've been a Southern Baptist...but no longer. Sad as that is, I'm proud of the path my church has chosen in sharing the love of God with the world. Jesus told us to "turn the other cheek"....and we will.

KelSus said...

Hi, Katie,
Your post is so timely after last night's raids in a few openly gay bars her in Cowtown. It was interesting becuase I was thinking of taking my partner out to honor the heroes that had the courage to fight back in the the police brutality in the streets just outside the Stonewall Inn 40 years ago. I am just livid about this type of openly hostile attitude rearing up its ugly head again in our own backyard. The links to follow these stories are: and . Mayor Mike needs to hear from us, all of us who believe that this type of targeting and bullying gay people cannot and must not ever be tolerated again. I cannot help but think that is tied in to Broadway Baptist's recent trouble and that is part of an ugly storm surge as a backlash to keep those of us who are LGBT in our "place". Thank you for your support, Katie. Your blog is a "must-read", especially is you are Episcopalian, gay, and relatively new to Fort Worth as is our case. Thanks, Katie. --Susan

Unknown said...

I can remember some years ago when University Baptist in Austin went through the same thing - however, their ministry was open to LGBT people and were adamant about their expression of full inclusion. They also embrace women in the ministry. The last time I visited there, the sermon was preached by a female preacher. Reading the lesson for the day was a Transgender child of God.