Cross Purposes

The Rev. D. James Kennedy teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Richard Murphy loves him anyway.

But no encounter was as bizarre and disturbing as one Murphy had with another Coral Ridge worshiper on Easter morning. "This man came out olaf the church with a video camera. He put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, 'Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine who was a cocksucker.' And I just looked at him in total disbelief and told him that I didn't want him to tell me the story. But he kept talking. It was the vilest thing anyone could do on Easter Sunday. I told him to stop repeatedly. All of a sudden, the guy said, 'And you know what happened? The guy died.' It was very, very strange."

Later in the afternoon, Murphy's friends Andy Lant and his partner, Gordie Eggelston, joined him in front of Coral Ridge. Like Murphy, Lant and Eggelston wrestled with their homosexuality and religious identity for most of their twenties. Lant was married for six years; Eggelston, an ex-Air Force pilot, was married for 12 and a half years. While Lant considers himself spiritual, Eggelston, wearing a shirt that says "Jesus," frequently watches The Coral Ridge Hour -- not because he's keeping tabs on the enemy but because he likes it.

"When I moved to this area, I had always wanted to go to service in this church," he says. "When I thought of Fort Lauderdale, I always thought Coral Ridge."

Brian Stauffer
Flanked by the mighty steeple of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Richard Murphy wants Kennedy to rethink his antigay preaching
Michael McElroy
Flanked by the mighty steeple of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Richard Murphy wants Kennedy to rethink his antigay preaching

While he was still married, Eggelston went to Bible college in Lima, New York. "Somehow, I was able to tell myself that I wasn't gay in spite of fantasies I had. I wasn't really trying to hide it; I just didn't want to acknowledge it. That's why I wanted to be there with Richard. I want people to see that I love Jesus and I love Coral Ridge and also that I'm not ashamed to be who I am."

While the three men stood together, a Coral Ridge worshiper yelled to them, "Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God! Are you a sinner?"

Eggelston looked calmly at the man and replied, "Yes." Startled, the man turned to walk back to the church.

"I told him that because we're all sinners," Eggelston says. "I mean, you're not going to change these people's minds, so you might as well try to live in peace with them. I'm sure some people would wonder why I support a church that calls me a deviant. But I'm not going to judge someone by one flaw they have. I want to look at the whole person, and to me, Kennedy is at heart probably a good person."

Eggelston and Lant attended Easter service hand in hand. But Lant left in the middle of Kennedy's sermon. "There just wasn't a lot of sincerity coming from him. I got a weird feeling, like the room was just cold when he talked."

As for Murphy, he left at sundown, alone, a book of prayers under his arm, without having exchanged a single word with the Rev. Kennedy.

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