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Rabbi-to-be defies dogma at Denton’s Bethel Temple Fellowship

Rabbi-to-be defies dogma at Denton’s Bethel Temple Fellowship

Rabbi-to-be defies dogma at Denton’s Bethel Temple Fellowship
July 20
14:47 2016

Austin Jackson | Staff Writer


A red-brick synagogue featuring a large beige cross stands at the intersection of Tradition and Progress. With a little extra oomph, the ornery white door lurches free, jerking you across a doormat that bears the Star of David and into the midst of a tight-knit congregation immersed in prayer.

Lights flicker. Kristina Uresti | Staff Photographer

Lights flicker throughout the sermon at Bethel Temple. Bob Gutierrez has decorated everthing in the temple including the six candle holder. Kristina Uresti | Staff Photographer

The fluorescent lights and air conditioning drone and flicker until the room is transformed by Messianic music led by the temple’s intrepid pastor, Linda Gutierrez, with the miracle stained voice of her husband, Bob.

Their duet through ministry and marriage is in its 44th year, and since the ‘70s, the pair has led side-by-side making faith a family business. On Sunday, the song ends and brings Bob, and his sizeable beard, to his seat and the preacher to her pulpit.

Pastor Gutierrez then leads the congregation, and with each punchy, rhetorical “AMEN?” she subverts the patriarchal dogma of religious authority, giving ladies, young and old, the example that they can do anything.

At Bethel Temple Fellowship Gutierrez preaches the traditional observance of the Torah, as well as a “newer” Testament that incorporates a Jewish approach to the Christian faith. This includes three days of services, starting with the Shabbat and ending with the Sabbath. She believes the blank page separating the two sections of the Bible should be torn out, placing an equal emphasis on each.

Pastor Gutierrez said she was merely called by God to lead, and that she isn’t in the business of questioning the Lord’s commands.

“When you’re called, you better answer,” she said.

Since then, she’s used her passion and expertise in Hebrew to guide her group of Messianic Jews through their spiritual journey.

And after October 20, Pastor Gutierrez – mother and grandmother – will become a Rabbi, the first female Messianic Jew to be ordained as Rabbi by Jewish Ministries International.

She said the journey was a long one, requiring years of rabbinical courses to study Hebrew and traditional Judaism. Her thesis explored what female Rabbis could bring to the table. She said she has insight that men do not have, and that God created Adam and Eve to be equal, and so she sees her husband, Bob, as an equal.

laskdfnlkasdnf Kristina Uresti | Staff Photographer

Bob Gutierrez, Pastor Linda Gutierrez’s husband, sings to the congregation at Bethel Temple Fellowship. Bob’s ear and throat were slit open by shrapnel in Vietnam not allowing him to sing. He says it’s a miracle he is able to now. Kristina Uresti | Staff Photographer

Bob Gutierrez is quick to echo his wife’s beliefs, just about as quick as he is to hand out a copy of his autobiography, “Almost Home.”

Bob’s story started with a promising music career that was halted in Vietnam after a piece of shrapnel sliced beneath his ear and through his throat, nearly killing him and rendering him without the ability to speak – much less sing.

But two and a half years later, he said the voices came to him.

“A voice said, ‘Bob, open your mouth.’ Three or four times I heard this,” he said. “I thought I was going crazy.”
He said his voice miraculously came back just in time to sweet talk his future wife into a life together.

Bob and Linda’s kids remain involved in the congregation, with their son, Robert, and their daughter, Lynnette. Bob describes her as “the Mariah Carey of Gospel music,” who can be found jamming on stage at Bethel Temple spreading the word with their collective voice.

But the familial atmosphere at Bethel Temple is not limited to blood.

The attendees of the church are very much a part of the Bethel Temple family. They lead, they share and they believe together.  The congregation meets Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And of the 15 people present, the three most outspoken were all women.

Sabrina Chatman and Pastor Gutierrez sing choruses to the congregation at Bethel Temple Fellowship. Kristina Uresti | Staff Photographer

One of those women is Sabrina Chatman. Chatman performs several roles at the service. She sings, leads prayers and as the sermon begins, she takes over the role of youth pastor.

“Women can be used by God,” she said, adding that men, women, Jews and gentiles are all one in Christ.

Chatman said Pastor Gutierrez has given her the example that if God so happens to choose her to lead, she will not hesitate to follow. She said she passes that knowledge along to both the boys and the girls she teaches.

Last summer, the Bethel Temple family traveled to Israel. Chatman said their progressive ways weren’t commonplace in the Holy Land, adding that the “Orthodox don’t play.”

Despite the violence among Israel and Palestine, in addition to the orthodox legalism that would view Linda’s authoritarian position to be heretical, Bob and Linda said they felt safer “there than on Fry Street.”

“In society, they actually think you have to be a man to be a Rabbi,” Pastor Gutierrez said. “I’ve had people say that I’m on my way to hell because I want to be a Rabbi, but the Bible doesn’t say that.”

Featured Image: Linda Gutierrez, pastor of Temple Bethel Fellowship, leads the congregation in a passionate sermon of the Tora. Gutierrez also teaches from the New Testament of the Jewish faith with an approach towards Christianity. Kristina Uresti | Staff Photographer

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1 Comment

  1. Hunter
    Hunter July 20, 20:47

    Fantastic article about my Pastor and soon to be Rabbi. Well done and may Hashem bless you!

    Reply to this comment

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