Published December 25, 2014
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has suspended the city’s fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, from his position. It is a month’s suspension without pay.
I know Chief Cochran. He is a Georgia Baptist – one of us. Chief Cochran is a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Noonday Association. He serves there as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. He is a humble, dedicated, faithful servant of God.
However, Chief Cochran has been suspended without pay for one month because he authored a Christian book in which he describes homosexuality as a “perversion.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokeswoman Anne Torres said the administration didn’t know about (Cochran’s book) Who Told You That You Are Naked? until employees came forward with complaints. In addition to suspending Cochran, Reed’s office has now opened an investigation to determine whether the chief discriminated against employees.
“Cochran has been ordered to undergo sensitivity training and barred from distributing copies of the book on city property after a number of firefighers said they received them in the workplace,” Torres said.
Kelvin Cochran was born in Shreveport, LA in 1960. He was the fourth of six children and his father died when he was five years old. After his father’s death the family moved to a “shotgun” house on Rear Snow Street in an impoverished section of the city. His mother never remarried and struggled to make sure her children were fed and clothed.
One Sunday after church Kelvin and his family heard fire trucks headed down their street. The house across the street from where they lived had caught fire. Kelvin watched as the firefighters put on their equipment and got their fire hoses to extinguish the inferno. It was then, as a five-year-old boy, that Kelvin decided he wanted to become a firefighter.
He had been taught that if you put your faith in God, get a good education, respect your elders, and treat others as you would have them treat you your dreams will come true.
During those years there were no blacks in the Shreveport Fire Department, but Kelvin was never discouraged from dreaming his dream.
Kelvin grew up under the ministry of Rev. E. Edward Jones, who became the pastor of Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport in 1958, and who continues to provide godly leadership for the church. Pastor Jones became a father figure and role model for Kelvin. He also observed the character of godly men with good families.
Upon graduating from high school Kelvin went to Louisiana Tech in Ruston but it was a short-lived academic endeavor. He left college and went back to Shreveport to fulfill his goal of becoming a firefighter. His dream was realized when he earned his place with the Shreveport Fire Department in 1981.
Within four years he was promoted to fire training officer and served in this capacity from 1985 to 1990, when he became assistant chief training officer and continued to earn promotions until he became the department’s fire chief in August of 1999. That was also the year he received his bachelor’s degree from Wiley College. Ultimately, he went back to Louisiana Tech, reversed his earlier academic misfortunes, and earned a master’s degree.
On Jan. 2, 2008, Chief Cochran was selected by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to become the city’s fire chief. He entered into a Daniel fast prior to making his decision and concluded that God was leading him to accept the position.
He served in that capacity until July 2009, when President Barack Obama appointed him as U.S. Fire Administrator for the United States Fire Administration in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, Chief Cochran was charged with overseeing, coordinating, and directing national efforts to prevent fires and improve fire responses.
On May 8, 2010 Chief Cochran returned to Atlanta to resume the position of fire chief. As the Atlanta’s fire chief, Cochran has spent innumerable hours training his force of almost 1,200 people. He has shared the principles and values that he believes are essential to a caring and efficient department.
Among those principles, which he has called “The Fire Service Doctrines,” is the value which he has called Ism Free.” He insists there is to be no discrimination regarding sexism, favoritism, racism, territorialism, or nepotism. Under Cochran’s administration that has became the code for the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department.
Kelvin’s leadership as an Atlanta public servant roots back to his faith and commitment to Christ. Kelvin and his wife, Carolyn, are a part of Elizabeth Baptist Church and serve as an integral part of their fellowship.
Several months ago the men of the church were engaged in a series of studies called “A Quest for Authentic Manhood” and when some of the men began to mention their struggles with condemnation, Cochran wondered how “saved” men could live under the dark cloud of guilt and condemnation. The question, “Who told you that you were naked?” gripped his heart and mind.
He began to study the word “naked” from a biblical perspective and concluded that the “naked” were spiritually dead. He thought, “The instigator of spiritual death is Satan. The progenitor of spiritual death is Adam. And when Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s provocative temptation they realized that they were naked.”
Cochran also studied the word “clothed” and realized that it was a reference to redemption. He surmised, “When a man is adequately covered, he is confident and accountable – that a redeemed man is no longer ‘the naked’, but with Christ he is ‘the clothed.’”
The fire chief sensed that through his study the Lord was leading him to write a book that he chose to call Who Told You That You Were Naked?
Cochran has never tried to market his self-published book, but has shared the book with his church and given books to his colleagues at work. After work on Monday the Chief has hosted a Bible study for those who were interested. Other colleagues have frequently sought him out for spiritual counseling. He consistently provided counsel by sharing truths from the Word of God.
Even when he gave his books to colleagues he never signed the books as the fire chief, because he did not want to appear to use his position in an untoward way.
However on page 82 of Cochran’s book he wrote that uncleanness “is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion.”
Those words, which are consistent with the teaching of the Bible, are the ones that prompted Cochran’s suspension. But this issue is bigger than the impact it has had on Kelvin Cochran. It impacts every Baptist and every person of faith in Georgia and in the nation.
I realize our churches are open and our religious institutions continue to function and everything on the religious front may look copacetic. But when you begin to look beneath the surface, acknowledge the threats, and analyze them, you begin to realize that our religious liberty is under an organized and concentrated assault.
Recently there have been multiple attempts to prevent Christians from speaking to the cultural issues of the day. The Christian Index has attempted to communicate to you, our readers, of some of the moves to silence believers, push activist agendas, stifle freedom, and intimidate our pulpits.
In Janet Folger Porter’s book The Criminalization of Christianity she writes, “As a Christian in this country, you may be understandably reluctant to speak out on moral issues like abortion, homosexuality, or pornography. But while we have the right to remain silent, that’s not what God calls us to do.
“Because if the world can silence the truth, it will silence the Gospel.”
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