Antigay Baptist pastor arrested in gay sting
Here is a link to a news video: http://newsok.com/video/1724428/
Here is the story from the OKC paper:
Police arrest pastor on lewdness complaint
By Jesse Olivarez
The senior pastor of a Tulsa Baptist church was arrested outside a northwest Oklahoma City hotel after allegedly propositioning an undercover officer, police said.
Lonnie Wayne Latham, 59, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was arrested Tuesday on a complaint of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. He was released on $500 bail Wednesday.
Officers were working in the area of NW 39 and Pennsylvania Avenue after receiving several complaints from area residents that men were flagging down passers-by and propositioning them.
About 9:45 p.m., the plainclothes officer was driving an unmarked car and investigating the complaints when a car began following the officer's car.
Both cars then pulled into a parking lot on the southeast corner of NW 39 and N Youngs Boulevard. The man driving the second car then told the undercover officer he had a hotel room at a nearby motel and asked the officer to go back to his room with him for oral sex, Becker said.
Latham was arrested a short time later in the parking lot of the Habana Inn, 2200 NW 39 Expressway. His car was impounded.
A conviction on an offering to engage in lewdness charge, if one is filed against Latham, carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
Becker said Latham was not accused of solicitation because no money was offered or exchanged.
Officials at South Tulsa Baptist Church had no comment and calls to Latham's home went unanswered late Wednesday.
As he exited the Oklahoma County jail, Latham told NEWS9 he had been set up by police.
"I was set up," he said. "I was involved in a prayer ministry in that area and had a dialogue with police. The officer made many suggestions."
Becker said the officer reported there was no discussion of prayer during the exchange. The officer said the man called himself Luke, claimed he was from Dallas, worked out of Tulsa and visited Oklahoma City once a month.
Latham is one of four executive members of the national Southern Baptist General Convention from Oklahoma. Heidi B. Wilburn, spokeswoman for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said in a statement that the group is "deeply grieved" by Latham's arrest.
"Our first concern is for his church and family," she said. "As Christians we reach out to those who hurt; however, we fully support law enforcement in dealing with these matters. While we certainly do not condone this type of activity, we do continue to care and pray for Lonnie during this difficult time."
In 2004, Latham spoke out against the statewide measure that established the Oklahoma lottery. He has also supported the Southern Baptist Convention's policy that urges its members to befriend gays and lesbians and convince them they can become heterosexual.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, police said.
Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.
Latham, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.
Calls to Latham at his church were not immediately returned Wednesday.
The arrest took place in the parking lot of the Habana Inn, which is in an area where the public has complained about male prostitutes flagging down cars, Becker said. The plainclothes officers was investigating these complaints.
The lewdness charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Latham is one of four Southern Baptist Convention executive committee members from Oklahoma.
He spoke out last year against a measure, ultimately approved by voters, to expand tribal gaming.
He has also spoken out against same-sex marriage and in support of a Southern Baptist Convention directive urging its 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual "if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle."
The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Jan. 04, 2006
I know it's not loving... but my initial reaction is that I'm laughing so hard, I'm falling out of my chair.
But seriously... the hypocrisy of the church rears it's head again. And it sounds like it's against the law to try and hook up with someone! Of course, doing it while driving around outside the "Whorbana" Hotel isn't the brightest thing to do...
I feel sorry for the guy and his family... but the blame for all the trauma rests at the feet of his church.
Now that I've got the "stick it to the man" thing out of my system...
What do you all think would be the most loving and powerful way to respond to this situation?
I feel sorry for him. We all know hoe hard it is to hide and struggle with our feelings when we can't show them. I remember being younger (and miss my hair) and feeling scared and fighting so hard to be straight. These are horrible feelings that come with shame, depression and anger. I feel sorry that he has to go through this.
yes, my first response was laughter and ridicule too. Then i remembered what I went through, and I recalled the stories of others. If not society in general, then certainly the Religious Right forces LGBT people to hide who they are, repress it, then seek passion in dark, unhealthy places. Latham will be facing persecution from at least 3 places (you might think of more) : His church, that truly believes he is sinning because of his same-sex desires; the legal system that caught him behaving illegally; his own mind that can't reconcile his true desires to what he has been taught as Gospel Truth.
I was struck by his pathetic attempt to cover up what he was doing. If you didn't hear it he said "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police." When I was a teenager in the Assembly of God, we referred to that kind of ministry as "laying on of hands" ;)
The rise and fall of gay men leading anti-gay forces
Whether we like it or not, this pastor is family. Like many of us, he knows what it feels like to be same-sex attracted in a world geared for heterosexuals. He likely learned early on the pain of being made fun of and, as he grew up, discovered how to hide behind a mask.
His internalized homophobia led him to make some very, very wrong choices, including condemning fellow homosexuals, working against civil rights for non-heterosexuals, and then lying after getting caught seeking anonymous gay sex with an undercover cop.
Who knows whether God has allowed this man to be broken so that he may rebuild on truth.
Perhaps in our struggle I am being too optimistic and this pastor will go off to promote ex-gay ministries in an effort to reclaim what he will surely lose from this ordeal. But there will come a day when an anti-LGBT Saul will become a pro-LGBT Paul. On that day, let us not be found ridiculing that man or woman.
It is not our place to decide what god allows or doesn't. It is our place to support or not support this man......I support him, I support his struggle with himself and his reconciliation with scripture.
I say we support that he may be falsely accused. I say we keep open minds to learn from this, since we do not know the truth of the situation, it is not our place to assume what happen.....He could have been the victim of homophobe police, when he did nothing wrong....people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
It is easy to deem him guilty because that is what we want, but it doesn't mean that is the truth!
i agree with jamie! this poor guy made a bad mistake, i mean lord help me if i were famous and had the media following my every move. we all make mistakes and this is just another exsample of an earthly error and not a godly desision i hope he finds what he's looking for in other ways.
I do hope that people really heard what I said and that I recognized my poor initial response and moved beyond to what I knew that man would be going through. We all like to see the cracks in the armor of those who are opposed to us. We've got to recognize that the wounds are real.
Before I started this thread the first thing I did after reading this story was email pastor Latham and let him know that he is not alone. I also gave him the contact info of two friends of mine who are pastors in Tulsa that I know will be loving and reconciling toward him.
The fact is in this type of religious system regardless of guilt or innocence this man’s career is basically ruined. His entire world has been flipped upside down. People who he has called friend, mentor, father, and ally will now be nowhere to be found. He is going to be afraid of the gay community. He will be afraid of other ministers. He will be afraid of his flock and even his family. The saddest part of the situation is that again regardless of guilt or innocence he has been a part of creating the very religious system that will now betray him. I pray that through his struggle he will recognize the fault and destruction involved in a mentality that points out sin an accuses the brethren. Maybe he will realize that the pain he is going through is the same type of pain that all of God’s gay children involved in the same religious system go through.
I believe that while this story is of great benefit for those of us trying to bring the truth of the destruction that is caused by Christian Fundamentalism, it is still important to not forget that there is a human being involved in this story. It is in the best interest of everyone to use this story in a way that will cause the least harm to our brother Lonnie.
This is why I love Soulforce
You guys are among the most compassionate people I've ever met - and I haven't even "met" any of you yet!
I too laughed out loud when I first read the story. My reaction was basically, number 1, HAHAHAHAHA! And then number 2: Oh my god, that poor man!
I bet the basic response from the gay movement, generally, will be ridicule and an attitude of "Well he got what he deserved," ie, condemnation, just when he lost everything else in his life. That's because so much of the GLBT movement - and this disturbs and frustrates me - is based on an ideology that it holds in higher regard than the human being. Our activism, if we want success, if we want meaning, HAS TO value the human spirit and human emotions above ideology, and that's what Soulforce does.
Schoolboi - I can't expresss enough how wonderful it is of you to have contacted that man and sent him contact info for accepting resources - you may be the only person who extended him a compassionate hand at this time, who knows? That was truly caring and wonderful of you and I got tears in my eyes thinking about it.
Whoever said we never know when a pastor like this might turn around and become a force for us, is absolutely on target. How many years did Mel White hide in a closet before coming out and founding this organization? Would we even have this website without him? As painful as his journey obviously was, it brought him - and all of us - here, and I am thankful for that. And for all of you. Hugs all round, my friends.
Zerbie:love: :love: :love: :love: :love: :love:
Official Soulforce and NGLTF Statements
The Rev. Robyn Murphy, a spokeswoman for Soulforce, an organization devoted to changing the hearts and minds of religious leaders who engage in anti-gay campaigns, was sympathetic to Latham.
"The anti-gay bias has now claimed another victim," Murphy said. "Now he will be ridiculed for being gay."
"What he needs some is some sanity and grace, and that's the message he should have been spreading all along," she said. "We wish him well, and we wish he didn't have to be outed in this fashion."
Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, suggested that Latham's arrest was indicative of a larger pattern.
"This is just another example of people who are the most viciously homophobic and at the same time are clearly gay," he told the PlanetOut Network, adding that he suspects the same is true for many anti-gay leaders.
"It's nearly impossible to explain the irrational hatred of our opponents, other than to think they have internal conflicts about their own sexuality," Foreman concluded.
Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network
Thursday, January 5, 2006 / 01:03 PM
Baptist Press Article mentions Soulforce
Pastor resigns after arrest for seeking lewd behavior
Jan 6, 2006
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Lonnie Latham, pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., was arrested the night of Jan. 3 in Oklahoma City for “offering to engage in an act of lewdness” according to charges published in various wire reports.
In an area of the city known for male prostitution, Latham allegedly asked a male undercover police officer to go with him to a local hotel for sex.
Television cameras captured him leaving the jail the next day when he stated he “was set up” and was in the area “pastoring to police.”
When reached by phone, Latham told Baptist Press that on advice from his attorneys he declined to comment.
Latham has been pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church since 2002. The statistical records available for the SBC show that the church grew in resident members from 995 to 1,571 during his first two years there. Information for 2005 was not available.
He also served in various roles within the denomination: as recording secretary for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and by virtue of that office as a member of the state convention’s 64-member executive board and as one of four members representing Oklahoma on the 82-member Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Both roles required election by messengers from churches, for the BGCO at the 2000 state annual meeting and for the SBC EC at the 2004 national annual meeting.
Baptist Press learned from officials of the church, the BGCO and the SBC Executive Committee that Latham has resigned each of his positions.
In a letter to the BGCO and an e-mail to the SBC EC, Latham cited “personal reasons” for his resignation. However, in resigning as pastor, he spoke in person to lay leaders and staff at South Tulsa Baptist Church.
The church’s minister of administration, Russell Slack, stated that Latham also submitted a letter, but that the contents would not be shared publicly until Sunday with the church body. Slack said that Latham appeared contrite when he presented his resignation.
“We have obviously two functions: One is to take care of the church and one is to minister to Lonnie as a brother in Christ,” Slack said. He added that the church is moving on with their ministries.
“Our focus is on the future,” he said. “We have a great history and we believe we have a great future, but we've got to focus on God working through our lives, allowing Him to be the controlling aspect so that we are, again, in the future, the witness and the minister in this community as we should be.”
Anthony Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer, spoke with Baptist Press after having talked with Latham.
“We have a dual responsibility,” Jordan said.
“From the standpoint of the church and, certainly, as brothers in Christ, we are to hold Lonnie to the biblical standard of morality and to hold him accountable for his actions.” He added, “Lonnie has responded to that admonition by resigning from his church, asking their forgiveness and stepping aside to seek healing.
“At the same time, in the midst of failure, the church is to be a place of restoration,” he said. “That is the biblical admonition.”
In a statement to Baptist Press, Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, expressed concern for all those involved.
“We’re all saddened by Lonnie Latham’s action along with the subsequent charge against him,” he said. “Our heartfelt concern goes out to Lonnie, his family, church and community in South Tulsa. The emotional anguish must be agonizing for these who know him best. They are on our hearts and in our prayers....
“Of course, Christians are human and among 16 million Southern Baptists there will be moral lapses,” Chapman said. “When it happens, we grieve for the family, the church, the denomination, and God’s Kingdom and we pray for complete rehabilitation of the one(s) who has fallen.”
Latham was outspoken about social and cultural issues, including opposition to tribal gaming as well as support for the state amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage. Voters approved tribal gaming for the state but also voted overwhelmingly for the constitutional amendment.
He also supported the report by an SBC task force that churches needed to provide productive, effective and redemptive ministry to help homosexuals leave that lifestyle.
Critics of the Southern Baptist Convention have seized upon Latham’s arrest to attack Christians in general for hypocrisy. Others, like the homosexual group Soulforce, have taken advantage of the opportunity to attack the SBC’s position that homosexuality is a sin.
In a press release, Soulforce spokespersons called the SBC “anti-gay” and accused Southern Baptists of causing homosexuals to live a “dark and secretive double-life” that causes “this kind of needless suffering.”
Chapman addressed various criticisms that have been aired in the media.
“Obviously, this news has brought negative attention to the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptists in Oklahoma,” Chapman said. “It has opened the door for those who seem to relish the failure of any Christian. It has given an opportunity for those who will to seize the moment to mock the Christian heritage to which Lonnie has testified through the years.
“Regardless of what others may say,” Chapman continued, “the failure of one does not negate the witness of many faithful Christians to the power of Jesus Christ in their lives. The hypocrisy of a messenger does not compromise the integrity of the message. The Bible is no less true than it was a week ago or years ago. It continues to offer hope to all who will believe, including Lonnie and the rest of us.”
California pastor Rob Zinn, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, in a statement to Baptist Press, said, “My heart was broken to hear the report about Lonnie Latham. My first response was to pray for him, his family, church and the work of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“At this moment, the best that we can do is pray -- God knows all the facts, the truth and the situation and He is able,” Zinn said.
Jordan urged compassion and cautioned about being too critical of anyone else’s failures.
“None of us knows what lurks in the heart of any of us,” Jordan said in his interview with Baptist Press.
“As Christians, when somebody says, ‘I have sinned; I need your forgiveness; I need your help,’ we need to offer our forgiveness and walk alongside them to restoration.”
Jordan is scheduled to preach at South Tulsa Baptist Church this Sunday.
The lewdness charge against Latham is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. No trial date has been set.
Official statements can be found at the following websites:
-- South Tulsa Baptist Church, www.southtulsabaptist.org
-- Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, www.bgco.org
-- Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, www.Baptist2Baptist.net
are you & I next?
I had been thinking about this too. Why would a man be arrested for just trying to hook up with someone?
The following is a press release from the ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation:
In the Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear in their decision that engaging in same-sex sexual relations is a constitutionally protected activity that may not be criminalized so long as it's (1) adult, (2) consensual, (3) private, and (4) non-commercial. From the media reports surrounding the arrest of Rev. Lonnie Latham, the ACLU of Oklahoma questions why Rev. Latham was arrested. It appears that all the above criteria were met. The ACLU of Oklahoma would also ask if the Oklahoma City police department would make the same type of arrest at any number of heterosexual “cowboy bars” where women (and men) are propositioned loudly and often. Therefore, the questions concerning “equal protection” arises.
The ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation makes no judgment on Rev. Latham’s actions but rather questions the validity of his arrest.
I sent a strongly worded email to all the staff at his church. One of them were gracious enough to respond very openly.
Pray for our communication.
What is the address of that church in Tulsa>
What is the address of the church in Tulsa that let Latham go after his arrest? If you don't have that, maybe an email address? Thanks. I want to send an email too.
Russell Slack Minister of Administration firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip Stephens Minister of Music email@example.com
Danny Stockstill Minister to Students and their Families firstname.lastname@example.org
Connie Faurot Minister to Children and their Families email@example.com
Alyson Walker Minister to Families with Preschool Children firstname.lastname@example.org
MaryAnn Stephens Music Ministry Associate email@example.com
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