The Unbelievers

Minister James Simmons says he awoke from a coma one day to find himself a gay amnesiac. Some of his Dallas parishioners aren't buying it.

"Nobody is after him," says Craig McDaniel, the public relations consultant.

Beth Cox, who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and her attorney did not return calls for comment. Simmons, Jeffrey Brown, and Sharon Blair, the current head of the deacon board, declined requests for interviews.

Church sources say Simmons flew to Tennessee for a brief visit with his ex-wife and daughter last weekend. It would have been the first time he met his former family, people he claims he does not know.

Meanwhile, church sources say Simmons was busy moving into a modest house in East Dallas--a 1,250 square-foot 1950s bungalow--and settling into a job for which the church budgeted a salary of roughly $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

If Simmons stays put, several dissenters say they will have no choice but to withdraw from the church, a decision that would leave them with few places to go. There are no other evangelical churches in Dallas where they would be accepted with open arms, and other gay and lesbian congregations practice a more liberal theology than White Rock. Orrell referred to it as "that Mother God stuff." The White Rock church was formed in 1991 by a splinter movement from the Cathedral of Hope, Dallas' largest gay congregation.

"It would be nice if we could go to the nearest Baptist Church and sit together and not worry about people staring and making comments," Blackwell says. "But that's what we'll do, as long as they're teaching God's word. There is a name for Mr. Simmons or Mr. Cox or whatever he is calling himself. He is what is called a false teacher. In God's church, people should never sit under a false teacher."

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