Houston’s Cathedral of Hope church screens ‘Southern Baptist Sissies.’
by Donalevan Maines
Baptists love to sing how “the blessed Gospel is for all,” but, in reality, many of those churches slam their doors to the LGBT community—believing that LGBT Christians won’t be included “when the roll is called up yonder.”
That’s a problem, says Rev. Lynette Ross, pastor of Cathedral of Hope Houston-United Church of Christ (UCC). “We thought that a premiere screening of the award-winning Southern Baptist Sissies was the perfect vehicle to let Houston know there are churches that wholeheartedly welcome the LGBT community.”
Southern Baptist Sissies is the filmed version of the 2000 GLAAD Award-winning play by writer/director Del Shores (Sordid Lives). “The film is not an adaptation, but an actual capturing of the play in the theater on the stage, allowing the film audience to be a part of the electricity and intimacy of the original theatrical experience,” explains its press kit.
“The name could have easily been UCC Sissies, Methodist Sissies, or Catholic Sissies,” Ross adds. “We are everywhere and we are proud to be a part of the LGBT community—and proud to be people of faith. The film speaks to us all.”
Unfortunately, says Ross, many houses of worship haven’t kept up with the love that has embraced the LGBT community in recent years. “The LGBT community has made incredible strides toward equality, and at Cathedral of Hope Houston-UCC we are extremely grateful for the progress,” says Ross. “The reality, though, is that even as we achieve a greater measure of equality, there are still [countless] children, teens, and young adults living in families and growing up in communities and churches where they are being told they are ‘less than’ because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
“Even more disheartening is the reality that much of the discriminatory and marginalizing messaging continues to come from pastors and their churches,” she laments. “Now more than ever, we need to do everything possible to acknowledge the abuse, demand that it stop, aid in the healing, and pronounce that there are many, many churches that welcome the glorious diversity of God’s creation, living out Jesus’s prayer [in John 17:21] ‘that they may all be one.’
“At Cathedral of Hope Houston-UCC, we are committed to creating a place where all can come together, encounter God, and know they are loved and belong,” says Ross.
Southern Baptist Sissies follows four gay boys through their formative years in a Southern Baptist church, highlighting the conflict between its pastor’s rigid teachings and their developing sexuality.
Early on, Mark, the thinker, questions the teachings of the church. He’s unable to reconcile how a loving God would send people to hell. He grows into an adult who’s eager to expose the hypocrisy he experienced.
His mother is played by Bobbie Eakes, who was Miss Georgia 1982, placing in the top 10 at Miss America the year that Cut ’n’ Shoot’s Debbie Maffett won the grandest of all pageants. Eakes also won Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Best Lead Actress as Krystal on All My Children.
Mark’s best friend is Andrew, the sensitive one, who prays to God to take away his homosexuality, which his pastor preaches is a terrible sin.
Benny, the most flamboyant of the boys, embraces his true nature and becomes a preeminent female impersonator in Dallas.
Mark’s first love is T.J., whose fear of his military father is a factor in why he fights his feelings and tries to live “a normal life” with a woman.
The soundtrack includes as many beloved Protestant standards as the 2011 movie Bernie. (Did you hear that Bernie’s real-life subject, Bernie Tiede, was released from prison? Yay!). Among the popular tunes are Frances J. Crosby’s “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” (performed by Levi Kreis), Thomas Ken’s “Doxology,” “O Happy Day,” “Revive Us Again,” “In the Garden,” and “Whispering Hope,” as well as Dolly Parton’s “The Seeker.”
What:Southern Baptist Sissies premiere screening
When: Thursday, June 19, 7 p.m.
Where: River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray Street
Tickets: $20 (proceeds to benefit the Cathedral of Hope Houston-UCC building fund)
More info on Cathedral of Hope: cohhouston.org