The couple believes they were asked to sit elsewhere in the church so they wouldn’t be visible on webcasts of church services.
Paulk and the Freeman-Howards differ about the level of public affection the men showed. The couple contends it was similar to what is displayed by straight couples during church. Paulk said that the men’s behavior was over the line of what is acceptable for anyone in church, gay or straight. He also said that tolerance requires compromise from both sides.
“Diversity means willing to moderate your behavior a little bit and tolerate other people,” Paulk said.
The Freeman-Howards left after a March 28 sermon where Paulk addressed a letter Wayne Freeman-Howard had written saying that he felt there was a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
After Paulk said it was no secret that Wayne Freeman-Howard and his partner are gay by the way he “swished down the aisle,” he went on to address his congregation.
“If our gay folks use too much freedom and run off the rest of the straight folks we ain’t got nothing but a gay church left,” Paulk said in the sermon that was archived on the church’s website.
“That means every gay person who joins this church needs to understand that every straight person might not be 100 percent in this thing yet… There may be different levels of idea in this church, but the beautiful thing is that we all come in, we all come to the same place, we may not all see it the same way, but the whole household of God is in the same place.
“When I see anyone challenging the balance of this church — if I see any of our straight members challenging any of our gay members I’m going to be on you — I promise you, you’re going to get a call,” Paulk said in the sermon. “If I see any of our gay members distancing our straight members then you’re going to get a call.”
Wayne Freeman-Howard said that the sermon was Paulk’s way of saying that he was “too gay” to be a member of the Cathedral.
“When can you tell someone that they’re too gay? He hasn’t walked a mile in our shoes, he hasn’t been called the names so many of us have been called when we were younger,” he said. “I strongly believe that his statements were out of bounds.”
Paulk said part of being an inclusive church is making all members welcome, even those who might not be completely comfortable with gay issues. Paulk said he has gay pastors, recently performed gay weddings and does not shy away from supporting the gay community, but noted change doesn’t always come all at once.
Paulk said he has marched in favor of gay marriage, “but does that mean that everyone in the church is okay with that? No,” he said.
He related a story about how the Cathedral was one of the first churches to become an interracial congregation.
“When we were inviting black families what we didn’t do was say let’s have marriages the next week and encourage all of our teenagers to date interracially,” he said. “You take one battle at the time. … It’s been a process, a transition for us.”
Top photo: Rev. D.E. Paulk, pictured here on the cover of his book ‘Destroying Religion,’ wants to embrace gay worshipers while also not alienating his church’s straight members. (via Myspace)