NEW YORK (AP) -- TV and film producer Daniel Karslake enjoyed working on segments about religion and gay relationships for the PBS gay news magazine "In the Life."
Yet as he watched the wrenching debates over Scripture and homosexuality in Protestant denominations and society at large, he felt a need to reach beyond an audience that already accepted partnered gays and lesbians. The result opened nationally Friday in New York, a documentary called "For the Bible Tells Me So."
The film takes a different approach to the gays-in-the-church debate. It focuses on devout Christians who learn their child is gay and how that affected their belief that same-sex relationships are prohibited by Scripture.
"I made this movie for the movable middle in America," Karslake said, before a private screening last week at New York's Marble Collegiate Church, where inspirational pastor Norman Vincent Peale preached for decades. Karslake, who is gay and a mainline Protestant, believes that "sincere, honorable, compassionate people" have been misled about how they should read the Bible.
The documentary features many pro-gay veterans of the theological debates.
Among them is the Rev. Mel White, the former ghost writer for the Rev. Jerry Falwell and founder of the gay and lesbian advocacy group Soulforce. So is Jimmy Creech, the former United Methodist pastor who lost his clergy credentials in the late 1990s for conducting same-sex union ceremonies. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Rev. Peter Gomes, the prominent preacher and Harvard Divinity School professor, also make a case for acceptance.
But the movie largely focuses on the personal stories of some well-known -- and not-so-famous -- mothers and fathers of gays and lesbians.
The parents of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, talk about how they knew nothing about homosexuality until Robinson came out to them. They bought some books about "gay folks" and decided that what they had been taught was wrong.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat, and his family talk about his daughter Chrissy, who is a lesbian.
A Bible-believing African-American couple from North Carolina, David and Brenda Poteat, told Karslake that while they still disapprove of homosexuality, they have found a way to build a good relationship with their lesbian daughter, Tonia.
And a woman who was raised to interpret the Bible literally tells of her daughter's suicide after her mother repeatedly said she would never accept the girl as a lesbian.
Christian conservatives are sure to be unhappy with their depiction.
They appear largely through outtakes from CNN's "Larry King Live" and other TV broadcasts, and as targets of protest. A pro-gay, Lutheran couple from Minnesota, Phil and Randi Reitan, are shown leading a protest at the Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters of Focus on the Family, the evangelical ministry led by James Dobson.
The Reitans, who had worshipped for years in the Evanglical Lutheran Church in America, were arrested when they tried to enter the office and deliver a letter to Dobson about the pain he causes gays and lesbians. Their son Jake came out early in his teens, and they describe their emotional journey from shock and fear for their son's safety, to becoming activists who press churches to accept gay and lesbian relationships.
In an interview, Robinson, who helped win support for the documentary when Karslake was just starting out, said the filmmaker had approached leading Christian conservatives about appearing in the film, but they declined when they learned about its approach.
Craig Detweiler, director of Reel Spirituality, a think tank for pastors and filmmakers at Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, California, saw the documentary when it premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival with a group of Fuller students, who invited Karslake to meet with them afterward to discuss the movie.
Detweiler said he admires the film because, "it explores the human cost of the culture war. I think it tries to move the conversation beyond politics into the personal."
But he indicated the documentary might end up being more controversial than transformative.
"'For the Bible Tells Me So' represents one side of an ongoing argument, and the filmmakers seemed very interested in evoking a reaction," Detweiler said. "I think film at its best starts conversations, but this conversation will continue for quite some time."