Christopher William Purdom is an amateur Philadelphia poet, graphic artist, and self-proclaimed non-binary queer heretic who was an early adapter of internet activism, 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.
Chris was born in 1964, the only child of an atheist science fiction author and a seminary graduate, and was baptized at Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia, a progressive Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ congregation. Chris grew up in University City, a mostly African-American neighborhood with a large minority population of academics, artists, musicians, and writers. Chris 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 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 Chris 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 the congregation’s 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, LGBT, and church/state issues; was interviewed on several radio and television shows; was quoted in Christianity Today; and spoke to congregations and at LGBT 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.
Chris started to build a new, more coherent personality and belief system in late 2004 and retired from organizational activism in 2005, but continues to create deconstructionist cognitive dissonance propaganda, to protest with progressives and anarchists, and to spread a message of love and inclusion at Pride events with other folks from Tabernacle.
(This revised biographical statement provided by Christopher Purdom.)
Biography Date: January 2018 revised
Presbyterian Church (USA) | United Church of Christ/Congregational Church | Equal Partners in Faith | National Gay & Lesbian Task Force | Soulforce | Activist (church change) | Queer/non-conforming
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