This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first diagnosed case of AIDS, adding additional significance to Sunday’s AIDS Walk. Since 1981, the disease has claimed more than 25 million people. Currently, more than 4,600 Oklahomans are living with the disease.

The AIDS Walk raises money for in-state AIDS services organizations. Serving as grand marshal is Randy Potts, grandson of Oral Roberts. Now in his mid-30s, Potts is openly gay, raising his children, and writing and speaking to the LGBT community worldwide. His story is quintessentially Oklahoma, including the process of coming out to a conservative, Christian family.

He said the attention he could bring because of his family is a good thing.

right  Randy Roberts Potts

“I would like to publicly link the Oral Roberts family name with an acceptance and loving affirmation of all its members, gay and straight,” he said. “The Oral Roberts legacy has done a lot to cause pain, and even suicide, in the gay community, and it’s time for that to stop.”

Potts was inspired by his uncle, Ronnie Roberts, the one-time heir apparent to Oral Roberts’ ministry.

Ronnie Roberts took his own life four months after coming out as a gay man, providing the inspiration for Potts’ “It Gets Better” video, which now has more than 100,000 hits on YouTube.

The AIDS Walk is his latest opportunity to share his story with the LGBT community, and he is particularly focused on teens who are members of conservative Christian communities.

I am convinced that there is no conflict between Christianity and homosexuality.
—Randy Potts

“It’s been an amazing experience to get to reassure young, gay kids that, yes, they can keep the faith they were raised in and still be gay,” Potts said. “That is the most common question gay teens have for me.”

He said he still considers himself a person of faith — specifically, a Christian — although he doesn’t “wear my faith on my sleeve.” He struggled to reconcile his faith with the Bible and his family’s Pentecostal tradition.

“I am convinced that there is no conflict between Christianity and homosexuality,” he said. “I read a lot of books, both pro and con, on the Bible’s message regarding homosexuality, and concluded that there was no clear, consistent condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible. There are passages that call it — along with eating shellfish and wearing blended cloth — an abomination. There are passages that say homosexuality, along with men with long hair and women in teaching positions, is unnatural.

“Modern Christians do not read either of these passages literally, except in regards to homosexuality, for reasons they are unable to competently articulate. As long as there are Christian men with long hair eating at Red Lobster, there is no good reason why those same men can’t also be gay and accepted by the church.”

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