One year ago on Easter Sunday, Brad Bullock and Ben Papa joined Second Presbyterian Church of Nashville. Many readers may recognize Second Presbyterian as an affirming and accepting church to the GLBT community. But what stood out about this particular Sunday is the fact that in addition to joining Second Presbyterian, Brad and Ben’s twin children, Eli and Ella, were baptized as well.
According to Jim Kitchens, pastor of Second Presbyterian, “One of the best Sundays we’ve ever had at Second was last Easter when Ben and Brad were received into membership and we baptized their twins. It was a wonderful witness to the kind of diverse congregation Second dreams about being.”
Second Presbyterian isn’t a “gay church.” But they are setting the standard for churches in the Middle Tennessee area that want to welcome the GLBT community and their families into their fellowship and leadership. For a church to baptize the children of a gay couple is monumental enough. However, this church chose to baptize the children of a gay couple on Easter Sunday…a day set aside to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ…a day that is paramount to the Christian faith.
As I entered the home of Ben Papa, Brad Bullock and their children for this interview, the kids greeted me at the front door. Ella and Eli are upbeat, confident children. They aren’t over-bearing, shy or precocious. They are wonderfully normal. As we sat down for dinner, a wealth of conversation occurred. Eli wanted more beans. What four year old wants more vegetables?! Ella wanted to tell me about her birthday party.
Later, after the dinner dishes were cleared, I began my interview with Brad, known as “papa,” and Ben, known as “daddy.”
“We visited Second Presbyterian for about 18 months. When we joined and our children were baptized, it was a tremendous way for the church to affirm us as a family,” Ben says.
“When I first visited, I couldn’t tell what the church thought about me or my family. I’ve been open about who I am from the beginning. But after a few Sundays, I figured out they truly were okay with everything. It didn’t matter. They weren’t going to judge us. I knew they fully accepted us,” says Brad.
Half way through the interview, the children came in to say their evening prayer. To be honest, I was caught off guard…but in a good way. Staring me in the face was the undeniable fact that the four people gathered there were a family. Did it fit any stereotype? Did it fit the image I think of when I think “family”? No. But as these children began to pray with their “papa” and their “daddy” I couldn’t help but think back to my own childhood prayer time with my own mom and dad.
Led by Brad, the four of them prayed: God of life, God of love, keep us in Thy watch above. Where I’ve done wrong again today, remove these things from me I pray. And for life’s blessings freely given, let my thanks show in my living. Amen.
And without any fuss, without any whining, the children went off to bed…and after I gathered my composure, I continued the interview.
Brad and Ben live in Brentwood and have been together for eleven years. Brad is a physician. Ben is a lawyer. Williamson County has often had the reputation of not being gay friendly. Yet, here are two successful gay men raising two beautiful children.
“We were nervous about Williamson County. But our neighbors have been pleasantly surprising. Without exception, our neighbors have treated us and our children wonderfully. You can read people’s faces and tell if they don’t approve. But so far, most everyone bends over backward to let us know they are okay with our family,” Brad notes.
Ben says, “We aren’t a perfect family. No family is. But we can do more right than wrong.”
According to their pastor, Jim Kitchens, “Ben and Brad are great dads. And Eli and Ella light up a room when they enter. I love watching them be a family.”
Brad, Ben, Ella and Eli are a family. The kids go to pre-school. The parents go to work. They all go to church on Sunday. “We realize every day how vital the church is to us as a family. God decided and we agreed that we were to live a whole life. For us, that meant being out, loving ourselves and our neighbors, respecting different points of view and living as a gay couple in Brentwood with two kids,” says Brad.
This Easter, I hope every reader can follow the example Brad Bullock, Ben Papa and their children have set. Live a whole life, love yourself, love your neighbor, respect different points of view and embrace the love God eagerly wants to give you through the local church.
There is more to this story...read the extended version of this article on line at www.outandaboutnewspaper.com in the "Religion" section.