Bishop Yvette Flunder has released comments about gospel music industry producer and singer Walter Hawkins who died last Sunday at age 61. Her comments reveal more about the private Hawkins and confirm that he was at least biblically in error at the time of his death. Unfortunately no sermons or teachings of Hawkins have been made public, but his embrace and apparent teaching of gay inclusion sullies his music legacy. Flunder who is “married” to Hawkins’ cousin Shirley Miller said that anyone who appreciated her progay ministry, must also pay tribute to Hawkins. And black gospel industry stars are lining up to do just that.
“I received an invitation to come and preach at Love Center Church in Oakland, and very reluctantly I went. I had not preached in years. I had planned never to preach again, but that day God transformed my life. I joined that Sunday and the Sunday after I met the leader of my new church family. We called him Pastor Walt. I understood why I was led there when I heard him preach. He spoke with passion, clarity and conviction about the extravagant Grace of God that is greater than all of our shame and guilt. He introduced me to the doctrine of Eternal Security that made me understand that my salvation was not fragile, and that God was not punitive and vindictive. I realized that I was indeed justified by faith and that I had peace with God. What a glorious revelation!
I recall him saying over and over, ”What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” I became progressively freer every time I heard him. I learned to both love and affirm myself. Pastor Walt became my friend and Brother. We talked regularly, shared vision, traveled the world and designed ministry. He was my Biker Buddy and we spent many hours riding through the hills of Northern California. I remember late night conversations that turned into after church fried chicken, sweet potato pies, (he made them from scratch), and Walt practicing his budding hair styling skills on me. I have fond memories of sitting with him on his piano stool, watching him create brand new music under the influence of the Holy Ghost.
I was blessed to know him and he was the same when we were at the ice cream parlor and when we were at the Stellar Awards. For 10 years I served beside him as his Assistant Pastor and as a member of The Hawkins Family. My love for the transforming power of Gospel music grew under his direction. My call to the Ministry of Radical Inclusivity grew out of his influence.
Bishop Hawkins took the courage to step into uncharted waters and to preach a liberating Gospel that was like fresh cool water on my battered spirit. Everyone who has ever been blessed by my ministry in any way…every church, every class, and every organization must pay tribute to the life and ministry of this great man. His mark is on you.
Bishop Walter Lee Hawkins, Walt…you were and are a giant of a man. You are home now with the Jesus you loved and served with your whole life. May your legacy have an even greater impact on the world than you could have imagined in this life.
Flunder as well as many of Hawkins supporters have stopped short saying the gospel singer himself was homosexual. Highly lauded as a man who wrote and produced music which dominated the gospel music industry and spanned four decades, Hawkins was at the same time an advocate of the false inclusion doctrine. Strangely, his songs were solid in contrast to his theological fallacy. Undoubtedly, Hawkins was a man of immense talent, but his support of homosexuality and gay marriage is particularly troubling despite that acknowledged talent.
I grew up on the Hawkins’ music. It was personal and remain significant markers in my life. I’ll never forget the first time I heard “Dear Jesus, I love you”. I sung it over and over till it felt like I wrote it myself. As a young man struggling with his sexuality, it was my letter to the friend that understood. “Changed” was my anthem when I came out of homosexuality. But others like me have expressed an unusually torn feeling about Walter Hawkins perhaps unlike any other gospel singer/musician we know. His songs weren’t trashy chart topping ditties you forgot about two weeks later. Each one seemed to strike a deep chord of common experience with the listener. But his support of something that we all know is deeply offensive to God sours the memory. How can the same fountain bring forth both bitter and sweet in such contrast? The danger of being a castaway is something we all should consider. When its all said and done, we had better be sure that we have not run in vain.
I therefore so run, but not with uncertainty; I so fight, but not as one that beateth the air. But I keep control of my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Cor 9:26-27
Like his predecessors and some contemporaries, Hawkins’ legacy embodies the very best and perhaps the very worst of the gospel music industry. Hawkins is gone and whatever his eternal state is, it is already done and cannot be changed. But no one should ever mistake talent and acclaim as an indicator of right relationship with God. We can only be sure of our relationship with him by adhering to his word and never compromising it for ourselves or anyone else.
Previous GCM Watch coverage of Walter Hawkins: