VOICES AND ECHOES
DECEMBER 3, 1999 • HOUSTON VOICE
A profile in courage chooses to fight
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Perhaps you've wondered how a gay
friend could choose to serve in the military, the Republican Party or a religious
domination that officially withdraws thc
welcome mat for gays.
At times I think what a waste it is for
these lesbians and gay men to work in
institutions where hope for our integration is futile. But most of the time, I stay
thankful we have our own on the inside,
fighting for change and doing what they
Steven Baines is executive coordinator
of Equal Partners in Faith, a
Washington-based network of religious
leaders committed to equality and
diversity* He was born and raised in
Charleston, S.C, where he attended the
oldest Southern Baptist church in the
One day, when he was six, his preacher walked him up into the large, raised
pulpit of that historic sanctuary. Unable
to see over the lectern, the young boy
tugged at the preacher's robe, telling the
minister, "I want to see!" As he lifted the
young Baines up to see the magnificence
of the empty church, the boy knew he
wanted be a preacher.
But as he grew older, Baines learned
another thing about his life. He was gay.
Despite the nagging reality of his sexual
orientation, Steven eventually became
Rev. Baines, an ordained minister in one
of the nation's most homophobic
He desperately wanted to make "his
life right." So he attended an ex-gay
ministry in Raleigh, N.C, under an
assumed name soon after taking his first
preaching job. After a year in the pro
gram, Baines found only one lesson was
being taught: that he should hate himself for his homosexual tendencies.
But one day, Baines looked in the mirror and heard an inner voice telling him
he was as God intended and changing
that God-given nature was futile.
The self-acceptance came hard for
ing "homosexuals are incompatible with
community standards," Rev. Baines
could no longer stay silent. He spoke at
a protest rally and came out.
Fearing that word of this provocation,
and of being gay, would make its way to
his fundamentalist parents, Baines told
them later that week, on Thanksgiving
The next time you think what a waste it is
for gays to work within anti-gay institutions
like the Southern Baptist denomination,
remember Rev. Steven Baines.
Baines, but not as difficult as what was
to come in his congregation some time
later in Greenville, S.C. He had developed a mutual, romantic relationship
with a church organist, who was struggling with the same self-hatred from
which Baines was now free.
Incapable of enduring the difficult
relationship, Baines ended it. But in a
retaliatory act, the jilted lover outed the
young minister to church leaders. Very
quickly, a few of them confronted Baines
with the charge. Rather than lie and perhaps save his job, Baines told the truth,
"Yes, I am gay"
On the spot, Baines was told he had
"four months to find another job", and
was asked to go quietly so that the
"scandal" would not impair the church's
ability to hire a replacement. But when
Greenville passed an ordinance declar-
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day. His mother did not speak and left
the room. His father, after expressing
shame and disgust, demanded his son to
give back his house key
"No words could ever express the
devastation that 1 felt when my father
told me he wanted the keys to the family house back," Baines said. "The unspoken message he gave then was, 'You're
no longer my son.'" Since that time, his
chilled, family relationship has thawed
somewhat. But not so with his church.
Baines, like many of our profiles of
courage, has turned his personal
tragedy into an activist calling. He now
works in an important national ministry
at Equal Partners in Faith.
He organizes and speaks at rallies and
conferences that challenge the sexist,
racial and homophobic forces in the
church and society—the same forces
that saw him fired from his job and nearly disowned by his family.
Baines leads "Equality Summits" that
highlight progressive values in response
to the Promise Keepers, the arch-conservative group that conducts large, anti-
gay crusades in football stadiums.
Despite his new work and the reach of
his ministry, Baines has not renounced
his denominational roots or his ministerial credentials. Instead, he intends to be
"a thorn in the side" of a church he sees
as out of touch with the true meaning of
By his own admission, Baines may
never live to fulfill his dream of being an
openly gay minister in the Southern
Baptist church. But maybe one day, he'll
again climb into that pulpit of the country's oldest Baptist church and preach
the word. In the meantime, he's still tugging at church robes.
Greg D. Kubiak is a Washington-based
public policy analyst, author and syndicated
writer; he can be reached via this publication or by e-mail, GKubiak@aol.com.