Lazarus Project Award; James Simmons, TX
- CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
Two stories: Presbyterians to give Lazarus Project Award to William
P. Thompson and Southern Baptist Convention coverage of the story of
the Rev. James Simmons of Texas.
From PCUSA News Briefs, January 25, 2001
Lazarus Project Award
Former General Assembly stated clerk William P. Thompson will be
given the Lazarus Project's Lazarus Award Feb. 24 at the project's
annual awards banquet in Pasadena, Calif.
The Lazarus Project is a ministry of reconciliation between the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgendered persons. It is a mission of West Hollywood (Calif.)
Presbyterian Church, the Presbytery of the Pacific and the Synod of
Southern California and Hawaii.
Its Lazarus Award is given annually "to a person outside the project
who has either sought reconciliation between the church and the gay
and lesbian community, or who has advanced the spirituality of the
gay and lesbian community."
Thompson, who was stated clerk from 1966-1984, was a staunch defender
of the PC(USA)'s policy banning the ordination of "self-afffirming
practicing homosexuals" that was adopted in 1978. Since 1984, he has
become increasingly vocal in declaring that the denomination erred in
adopting that policy.
From the Baptist Press (SBC)
Ex-seminary staffer/missing man calls himself celibate homosexual
Jan 23, 2001
By Art Toalston
DALLAS (BP)--A former staff member of Golden Gate Baptist Theological
Seminary said no one at the seminary knew he was a homosexual during
his 10 years there.
James Simmons identified himself as a celibate homosexual in a Jan.
20 news conference at the predominantly homosexual church in Dallas
that selected him as pastor in December.
Simmons, 49, subsequently faced a personal firestorm when he was
identified as Wesley Barret "Barre" Cox who had not been seen since
disappearing on a Texas farm road in 1984 and leaving behind a wife
and six-month-old daughter in San Antonio, Texas. Simmons had said he
had amnesia since being savagely beaten and left for dead in the
trunk of a junked car near Memphis, Tenn., in 1984.
Simmons' story has received widespread media attention, from the
Associated Press and New York Times and TV's "Today" show.
At Golden Gate Seminary, Simmons told the Jan. 20 news conference in
Dallas, "They knew I had worked with the gay community doing HIV
counseling, although if I had come out to them, they would have been
obliged to dismiss me."
Simmons was Golden Gate's campus housing director at the time of his
resignation in December. In 1991, after arriving at the Mill Valley,
Calif., seminary, he was elected body president in 1993 and 1994 and
earned two master's degrees.
Simmons expressed regret for the furor that has faced his new
congregation, White Rock Community Church in Dallas, which has been
characterized as a "predominantly gay and lesbian congregation" in
"Many church members have been outed as a result of this media
circus, and for that I apologize," Simmons told the news conference,
which was attended by about 50 members at the church, along with his
brother and sister from his previous life as Barre (pronounced Barry)
Cox, a young Church of Christ minister and Texas Tech doctoral
student in art education.
Simmons told the news conference, "I will take four weeks off to give
the church time away from the media and to give me time to be with my
family. It will give the church time to reconsider its call."
Simmons acknowledged, "I don't know if I would believe myself if I
heard this story," which includes him using a Texas farmer's name,
Social Security number and birthdate -- and causing two IRS audits of
the farmer in the late 1980s. But, Simmons asked, "If I made up this
story, why would I come back to Texas, where I'd try to get away from
to begin with?"
Simmons said, "I feel confused. I feel uplifted. I feel surprised. I
feel frustrated. I have so many questions. There will always be
questions." He concluded the news conference by saying, "Pray for me
in the coming weeks, that I can be the best dad, the best husband,
the best pastor, the best Christian as I can."
Simmons preached Sunday morning, Jan. 21, at the church and was
greeted at the end by hugs and well wishes from many of the nearly
300 worshippers. The service, Cox told the Associated Press, "was a
pastor's dream as far as a first Sunday goes."
Simmons had a three-hour closed-door meeting with about 120 church
members to answer their questions Friday night, Jan. 19. Various
church members told the media they remained supportive toward
Simmons, and some voiced enthusiasm over the opportunity to be
supportive of their new pastor.
Simmons said he has spoken several times with his wife, with whom his
marriage was ended when Cox was declared legally dead in 1991, and
his daughter, now 17, who live in the Nashville, Tenn., area. Simmons
said he plans to meet with his former wife and daughter.
Simmons' identity as Cox was first noticed by a White Rock church
member when Simmons preached there in mid-December in view of a call.
The member contacted his mother, who made some inquiries and then
contacted Cox's mother, now 80 and living in east Texas.
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