Gayther (again and again)

It’s official (at least judging from my mail it is): The Gaithers’ years-old meeting with songwriter Marsha Stevens, who is a lesbian, has just about attained the status of what I call an evergreen gospel scandal - an event so shocking to the sensibilities of the average (conservative) gospel music fan that it never fails to jolt, no matter how old and stale it is. Thus it becomes the kind of thing that people are horrified to “rediscover” every few months or years, about which they can’t talk/post/email enough about. Welcome, then, to the Gaither-Stevens fracas, which joins the Crabb divorce, the Martins breakup, Jeff Easter’s marriage history, the circumstances surrounding Denise Hopper’s leaving the road, why Candy Hemphill Christmas left the Gaither tour, the dissolution of the Bishops, and other “mysteries” that comprise the Evergreen Gospel Scandal hall of infamy. I’ve written about the Marsha Stevens story here and here (and Marsha Stevens herself very kindly responded here). So I won’t rehash it. Nor am I interested in debating “the gay question,” about which there is actually really little “question” for people on either side of the issue.Anyway, there are a lot of twists to the latest turn in the Gayther “scandal” (one here, another here) but it pivots on the question of the Gaithers and gay people - do they “accept” or “reject” or “approve” or “disapprove” of homosexuality? etc. The din has gotten loud enough this time that Bill Gaither himself has been forced to renew his fundamentalist bonafides in a statement notable for the way he simultaneously takes credit for his statements about Christian inclusion from the stage and claims he’s not really being inclusive at all (read it here, via Daniel Britt). Britt and the musicscribe troupe do their best to fan the flames in all this with some links to comments by the “homosexual activist” Mel White [and I am the only one who’s a little wearied by the ascription of “homosexual activist” to anyone who is gay and doesn’t deny it? If White’s a homosexual activist, then the Gaithers are “straight Christian activists”]. White, according to Britt, is on record as saying that the Gaithers are “surrounded by gay people every day.”

This “news” is delivered with the stentorian gravity of a BFD (the title: “Bill & Gloria are brought up in gay discussion on radio talk show,” as if the mere asociation of Gaither and Gay is newsworthy), but is this really that shocking (and now we’re to the place where I make my point)? I mean, opposing homosexuality, as many of Gaither and gospel-music fans do, does not undo the reality that gay people exist (including gay people who don’t consider themselves mired in sin or unbelief), even and perhaps especially in gospel music, which - as I suggested below - has a long history of appealing to a wide range of people with disparate backgrounds and identities and needs. Believe it or not, gay people (and gay-friendly people) drive your buses and produce your albums and market your singles and write your songs and buy your records and play your tunes and sing next to you on the stage and play your pianos and bass guitars and drums and radios and (yes, even) interview you on the air and promote your concerts and make some of that food at churches and in hospitality rooms and sit next to you at concerts. The scandal isn’t so much that the Gaithers (or anyone else in Christian music and in the world at large) are surrounded by gay people everyday, whether it’s obvious or not. What’s scandalous is that so many people involved in Christian monestry persist in the self-delusion that everyone in gospel music thinks and lives exactly alike in matters of theology, morality, sexuality, and identity. Update: Gaither’ statement is now up on the Singing News website. It’s difficult to reread what Gaither himself says he said in 2002 from the stage and not get the feeling that he was consciously and seriously trying to send a pretty inclusive signal to gays and lesbians. Which makes it all the more disappointing to see Gaither buckling to the homosexual panic that the sg web has managed to whip up about all this four years later. My own hunch is that Gaither’s original words from the stage were his true (and right) feelings on the matter (just as John McCain’s statements back in 2000 that Jerry Falwell was a bad influence on America and American politics were McCain’s true (and right) feelings on the matter).

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  1. When Christian Music Stars Come Out | The Church of Jesus Christ on 04 May 2010 at 8:14 am

    […] music impresario Bill Gaither embracing the lesbian songwriter Marsha Stevens and her partner generated such blowback from Gaither fans that Gaither issued a public statement denouncing homosexuality and lamenting […]


  1. John Bale wrote:

    The Gaithers and their Gospel Homecoming friends brought me to Christianity at the age of 60 by their wonderful music and ministry. What I’ve come to realise is that ‘none of us is perfect - not one’ and they, like me, are just sinners saved by Grace. It hurts and offends me (and I’m sure millions of others) to read all these innuendos which are intended to cause division, and it’s a clear sign that the enemy is on the attack. But have no fear friends; those wonderful people are on the Lord’s side and will reign in victory with Him for eternity. Incidentally, how many people have you led to the Lord?

  2. Kristina Lee wrote:

    Bill and Gloria Gaither and all their homecoming friends have changed my life as well. I don’t know how many times I hear them say, “We are not perfect. We don’t have it all together.” Nobody does. It’s obvious that you are not a Christian. Please stop posting crap like this. Sometime divorces are needed, the Martins are back together, Jeff and Sheri Easter’s marriage is stronger than ever, I haven’t heard of Denise Hopper, but Candy has a very successful ministry called the Bridge Ministry in Nashville, and I’m not sure where the Bishops are,but anyway, everyone goes through hard times…EVERYONE! and Sometime the result of it, is to take a break from what they are doing. It’s Alright. But stop posting all of that crap. I hope you find your life, cause right now you have none.

  3. Thabo masena wrote:

    All I know according to the word of God the Bible, the one we believe, is the fact that HOMOSEXUALITY is sin it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing, the bottom line is sin in the site of God almighty.

  4. willie wrote:

    People! They are “ENTERTAINERS”. Gaither is a great salesmen with incredible talent to write & put groups together,but talent will not get you to heaven. My dad has been singing gospel music for many years & he’s a womanizer & has never lived right.
    Anyway, what are washed up Country stars doing on Gaither’s dvds if it’s not true.

  5. leigh` wrote:

    The sin is not being “gay” or “lesbian”, but rather the actions of the person. If you are a Christian & really love GOD, He will help you to not engage in this life-style, which is where the sin comes in. Most of us have “something” that we really have to pray about. For me its always having to have an opinion on everthing. I just need to shut my mouth most of the time. Sin is sin. Amen

  6. Doris wrote:

    If these things bother you,find out about the Blackwood ?Brothers in thei heyday.

  7. Woody wrote:

    Those without sin….cast the first stone….no takers? Friends, we are all sinners saved by grace!

  8. Peter Bardsley wrote:

    to contact Candy Hemphill/Christmas who was with the Gaither group who have 2200+ songs the mix of humor+ inspiration is excellent,my favorite”What a Day That Will Be/How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”he is anything but mentally impaired,It would be great to know his age if you can find out,Ive written 60 biblical poems & 4 songs over half published in”Saints & Sinners”available online for about $10 less in number,I also have excellent health info,Peter

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