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Chris Purdom

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Christopher William Purdom is an amateur Philadelphia poet, graphic artist, and self-proclaimed heretic who was a steering committee member of the Fight the Right Network from 1994 to 1997, co-coordinator of the Interfaith Working Group with his spouse Barbara from 1995 to 2005, an original steering committee member of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's National Religious Leadership Roundtable and an advisor to such organizations as the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy, Equal Partners in Faith, and Soulforce. He does not have a gender identity, but is usually mistaken for a heterosexual male.

Chris was born in 1964, the only child of a science fiction author and a Christian educator and fund raiser. He was baptized at Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia, a progressive Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ congregation where he is still a member. For the majority of his youth he lived in University City, a mostly African-American neighborhood with a large minority population of academics, artists, musicians, and writers. He practiced Shotokan Karate for fifteen years, achieving the rank of second degree black belt; was a member of the 241st graduating class of the then all-male Central High School; and graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer and Information Sciences and a minor in Anthropology.

Chris was Vice Moderator of Tabernacle United Church in 1990 when the congregation, already a Sanctuary congregation, began discussions that would lead them to becoming the first More Light and Open and Affirming congregation in Pennsylvania. During those discussions he became increasingly alarmed at the stories of people who were persecuted for their love, and especially made unwelcome in the church, which went directly against his understanding of church as Sanctuary.

Following the vote, Chris served as half of Tabernacle's More Light/Open and Affirming Committee, which included speaking to other interested congregations and testifying at Presbytery meetings. In 1994, members of Tabernacle attended a Fight the Right Town Meeting at First Unitarian Church, organized by PFLAG, Grassroot Queers, and Act UP. That meeting led to the formation of the Fight the Right Network that spun off several working groups that eventually became separate organizations, one of which was the Interfaith Working Group.

Chris's initial vision of a letter-writing campaign supported by local religious organizations, congregations and clergy to educate the media and counteract the monolithic message of the Religious Right far surpassed his expectations. Starting with just ten names, the organization's letterhead eventually fluctuated between 70 and 100 religious organizations, congregations and clergy from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Chris and Barbara's letters, which were based in fact and the U.S. Constitution, were published in Philadelphia area newspapers, as well as American Biology Teacher, American School Board Journal, Billboard, the Christian Science Monitor, Education Week, Teaching Tolerance, U.S. News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal and local and campus papers in forty-one states and the District of Columbia. In addition, Chris created and maintained iwgonline.org, which was listed in web directories, college textbooks and college syllabi as a source of information for religion, GLBT, and church/state issues; was interviewed on several radio and television shows; was quoted in Christianity Today; and spoke to congregations and at GLBT religious events. Together Chris and Barbara wrote and edited informational brochures, including a Guide to Welcoming Congregations, which they distributed at Pride parades. They also wrote, edited, folded, labeled, and stamped ten issues a year of a four-page newsletter that was mailed to over 300 clergy, civil rights activists and newspaper editors, reporters and columnists in the Philadelphia area. Chris and Barbara were recognized for their work by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, Tabernacle United Church, Central Baptist Church of Wayne, and the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ.

In 2005, seeing that the mission of the organization had largely been realized and that society, the media, and the arguments of the Radical Religious Right had moved beyond the usefulness of the structure and approach of the organization, and wanting for the first time to explore his own theology and spirituality outside the limits of his role as spokesperson for other people with diverse viewpoints, Chris retired from overt volunteer organizational activism. His current interest is in the development and subversive artistic promotion of his understanding of erotic spirituality, spiritual eroticism, free love theology and universal consciousness Christology.

(This biographical statement provided by Chris Purdom.)

Additional Resources

Web Site:  www.philart.net/chrispurdom

Created: 10/3/2005 5:56:07 PM

Modified: 10/4/2005 10:40:22 AM

Biography: October, 2005