“You know I don’t even think that was intentional, it was just sort of organic, it was just a date that worked for everyone. But as a gay man I love the idea that it is on the Stonewall anniversary,” he said.
Rev. D.E, Paulk, another organizer, grew up in and Atlanta, saw his church through a sex scandal and experienced the fallout of preaching an inclusive message. Rev. Earl Paulk built the Cathedral of Chapel Hill into one of the first independent mega-churches. Now smaller and called Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, the ministry survived under D.E. Paulk’s leadership when Earl Paulk’s adultery — including that he was really the father of D.E. Paulk, not his uncle — was revealed.
But things began to change when D.E. Paulk began preaching inclusion, he said.
“Specifically coming from a Christian background in the South, the reason I began this pro-love idea a couple years ago was just to give Atlanta a different view of who God is… there are so many people in the South who are homophobic and religious phobic, where anything that isn’t Southern and Christian isn’t right,” Paulk said.
Paulk said he has faced backlash not only for reaching out to gay people, but also for including other religious faiths.
“I started speaking at gay churches years ago and they were happy to have me, happy to have a straight man coming talking to them about God’s love and inclusion, but when I started speaking about including other religious in the Kingdom of God I stopped getiting invitations,” he said.
The Pro-Love March and Rally for Inclusion are part of Ault and Paulk’s effort to showcase their view of God that transcends denominations and traditional views of heaven and hell. They believe that there isn’t a traditional hell and that God wants everyone to go to heaven.
“There’s this idea that there’s a hell and God is just cooking up ways to torture us if we do bad, and it’s just not accurate,” Dennis said.
The march will start at the Peachtree Center MARTA station and will end at the steps of the state Capitol. Paulk is still finalizing the lineup of speakers, but he, Ault and Rev. Carlton Pearson will speak along with others.
“We want to have a Muslim speaker, an atheist speaker, and someone from the GLBT community,” Paulk said. “We want to make sure that everyone is represented across the board.
The following day will be a rally and worship service at the Cathedral of Holy Spirit.
“The theme, humorously, is shut the hell up and we’re talking about how Hell and damnation isn’t relevant anymore and never was, and it’s about love,” Ault said.
Ault, Pearson and Paulk will preach at the rally and both of the church’s choirs will join together.
Like Paulk, Pearson came from a traditional church background and has suffered the backlash of mainline Christian denominations. Pearson was one of the first black pastors to have his services televised and once lead national level conferences. As he preached inclusion theology more of his followers dropped away. It’s a reality Paulk knows well.
“We were protested at the church once. I believe it was the [Westboro Baptist Church],” he said. “We took it as a sign we were heading in the right direction.”
Top photo: Last year’s Pro-Love March included organizers Rev. Carlton Pearson (at microphone) and Rev. D.E. Paulk (to left of Pearson). (Courtesy Pro-Love.org)