As the son of famed televangelists Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Messner, Pastor Jay Bakker has worked to step out of their ubiquitous shadow and create his own niche. However, the founder of Revolution Church in New York City is returning to his hometown of Charlotte, and not just to visit old friends or dig into his favorite barbecue. Well, maybe a little of both, but it's all in the name of service.
Bakker is hosting a cookout on Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Charlotte for early voters casting their ballot against Amendment One, which, if passed, would constitutionalize a ban on gay marriage and other domestic partnerships. While the official vote date is May 8, early birds can visit the polls today and Friday. These voters must bring their "I Voted" stickers to get into Bakker's cookout at the corner of North Davidson and 15th streets (called Area Fifteen).
The straight 36-year-old has been a vocal advocate for marriage equality. About six years ago, Bakker became a gay-affirming minister and has performed same-sex marriages in New York since they were legalized in that state in 2011. At the beginning of April, Bakker received the first-ever Straight For Equality in Faith Communities Award from Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He's a firm believer in religious institutions fighting for their followers.
"The church should be leading the cause for people to have equal rights," he said. "Unfortunately, that's not what we're seeing a whole lot of."
There certainly wasn't a whole lot resembling equality during his parents' time. But in the 1980s, when most fundamentalist Christians and televangelists rejected gays, the Bakkers welcomed all walks of life to their massive Praise the Lord Television Network. Tammy Faye even featured a gay Christian pastor with AIDS.
Although PTL eventually imploded in 1989 due to alleged reports of fraud, mismanagement and a staged coupe from rival Southern Baptist minister Jerry Falwell, Tammy Faye reinvented herself as a certified gay icon. She was immortalized in Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey's cheeky, gay-friendly documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and even co-hosted a short-lived talk show with openly gay personality Jim J. Bullock. "I just thought of him as another human being that I loved," she once said.
While Bakker is nurturing a new generation of equality, it's safe to say his folks planted the seed. His visit home to fight Amendment One is a testament to furthering a new brand of the family business. "This is the city I love," he said. "I want other people to feel that love."