Richard Bates grew up in a fifth-generation Methodist family in Robston in southern Texas. He was very active in his congregation’s Methodist Youth Fellowship and attended church camp each summer. At a mid-winter assembly, he decided to go into the ministry. Upon graduation he served as associate pastor at Edge Park UMC (Fort Worth), First UMC (Del Rio), Windcrest UMC (San Antonio) and First UMC (Seguin).
Richard studied at Brite Divinity School on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, specializing in Christian education and worship. There he became involved in a church-related course in human sexuality with junior high youth. He later became certified to lead such events including one with senior high youth. During one of these experiences he learned about the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. He applied and was accepted there.
Richard moved to San Francisco in August of 1979 and started classes that October. Shortly after arriving he met Joe Santoyo, who would become his life partner for 37 years. They visited churches of all denominations but settled on Bethany UMC which was near Joe’s home. Bethany was one of the first Reconciling Congregations in the U.S. One Sunday it was announced that Joan Clark would be speaking a few Sundays later. Joan represented Affirmation: United Methodists for Gay and Lesbian Concerns. Richard had gone to a gathering of Affirmation in Dayton, Ohio in 1976 and so was aware of the organization. He and Joe would attend several national meetings of Affirmation and Richard served on the board from 1990-2000.
When Richard returned to Austin after his five-year sabbatical at the Institute, he started the first gay car club in the state. Joe collected vintage cars and they had joined the Bay Area Freewheelers Car Club. The Austin club was to be called the Classic Chassis Car Club and became official in September of 1984. Within the next two years chapters started in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. They are now all under the banner of Lambda Car Club, International.
After living in San Francisco and hearing the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Richard pushed for the formation of one in Austin. In the fall if 1989, a group of interested musicians got together and formed the Capitol City Men’s Chorus. Richard was president the first two years. It started out with a couple dozen singers under the direction of David Weigle. Today it has around 150 singers and has changed its name to the Austin Gay Men’s Chorus.
On June 25, 2015 when marriage equality became the law of the land, Richard was at the Austin/Travis County Courthouse where he officiated at five weddings. He officiated at another the next day in the state capitol and one two months later for close friends. He was “called on the carpet” by his bishop for this, but the punishment was simply to not officiate at any same-sex weddings for three months.
Richard has continued to work closely with the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Reconciling Ministries in central Texas.
(This biographical statement provided by Richard Bates.)
Biography Date: May 2020
Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Affirmation (United Methodist) | Reconciling Ministries Network (formerly Reconciling Congregation Program) | Austin | Texas | San Francisco | California
“It has been my pleasure over the years to know and appreciate Richard’s work. The combination of his training in human sexuality, his willingness to be openly gay when it was not necessarily comfortable and his theological insights make him truly a gift to the United Methodist Church!”
– as remembered by Morris Floyd on May 21, 2020
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