Letters to the SBC Executive Committee from Soulforce Volunteers in Preparation for the SBC Action in Phoenix, Arizona, June 15-18

May 28, 2003

Greg T. Mathis

Mud Creek Baptist Church

Dear Reverend Mathis,

I read where you were a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, 2003. My partner and I are Soulforce delegates this year and we will also be in Phoenix to work on ways to resolve differences between sexual minorities and Southern Baptists..

You may not be aware that your policies and teachings have been the cause of much suffering to us gay people resulting in murder and suicides.

We live in Henderson County in the World’s Edge area. I am retired, a magazine publisher, photojournalist, and organic apple farmer and my partner, Kevin, is in the lawn maintenance business. I will be 69 years old in June and my partner is 49 years old. After 12 years of companionship, we were married at our farm on May third of this year.

Love knows no gender. We were truly blessed at the ceremony by the love from our family and friends and by the sun shining throughout the ceremony. My late wife’s family sent us a Tiffany Clock as a wedding present. They were happy that I had found someone to spend the rest of my life with.

Our love grows stronger with the obstacles we experience daily. You may not know it, but we have been deeply wounded over the years by your comments and those of your ministry against gay people in our local paper, the Hendersonville Times-News.

When an influential and church leader such as you equate homosexuality with the laws of the Old Testament and not modern and current Federal or

State law, he is giving fuel to those people who take the law into their own hands and seek to punish those they perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or


In a letter published in the Hendersonville Times News, Oct. 20, 2002,

Ms. Wanda Case, a member of Mud Creek Baptist Church, communicated the threat that we would be stuck by God’s lightning as follows, "Goodness knows I wouldn’t want to be up on World’s Edge when the lightening strikes. Mud Creek Baptist Church is where I’d want to be." She ended her letter with, "Jesus didn’t teach that lifestyle, God said "abomination".

Due to the content in Ms. Case’s letter, we were harassed by anonymous threats over the telephone and gun shots from the road that we reported to the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department.

With all of the suffering we have experienced from a predominately rural

Southern Baptist culture, our love and souls remain strong. We believe that we are children of a loving Creator, sons of the Soulforce at the center of the universe.

Hope to see you and meet with you soon, either in Phoenix or here in


Kindest regards

Charles Merrill

May 28, 2003

Richard J. Sweetman

Dunkirk MD 20754

Dear Mr. Sweetman,

Greetings and blessings once more in the spirit of Jesus Christ. As mentioned in my letter to you last year, I’m a Christian member of the interfaith social justice network, Soulforce.

The purpose of this letter is to re-introduce myseIf and inform you of my call to again stand witness with them against the continued Southern Baptist caused suffering and injustices harming God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

As a Christian, I have long reconciled with myself and my Savior, that sexual orientation, like gender, is another wonderfully mysterious gift of the goodness of God’s creation. I respectfully believe that anything or anyone that divides or separates The Beloved Community, or harms or denies any of God’s children from living full, happy, healthy, unencumbered lives… physically, mentally and/or spiritually…is neither good nor God.

I would like the opportunity to meet with you in Phoenix and share our mutual stories of faith, hope and love. I would also like to present you with some Baptist suffering witness stories along with a copy of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth as produced and distributed by The Alliance of Baptists and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Perhaps we can break bread together over a freshly brewed cup of morning coffee or simply find a mutually agreeable safe place to sit, share and pray.

I promise to respect your personhood, humanity and religious beliefs with the understanding that you will do and conduct yourself likewise. At the very least, we can honor Christ’s command to "love thy neighbor as thyself" and achieve positions that respect the others’ beliefs without violence of the fist, tongue or heart.

Below is all my contact information including cell phone number should you need it in Phoenix. Please feel free to call or contact me anytime to arrange our meeting.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Richard Murphy

June 2, 2003

Michael S. Hamlet, Pastor

First Baptist Church — North Spartanburg

Ashville Highway Spartanburg, S. C. 29303

Dear Rev. Hamlet:

Last year I sent you a copy of "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth", a wonderful resource for congregations in dialogue on sexual orientation from The Alliance of Baptists and The Baptist Peace Fellowship. I hope you received "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" and took the time to study it. Most heterosexuals do not think seriously about homosexuality until someone important to them comes out and forces them to realize this is not just an issue but real people we are talking about.

I invited you to meet with me in New Orleans (2001) and again in St. Louis (2002) at the SouthernBaptist Convention. I will be in Phoenix June 15-19 to participate in the Soulforce vigil at the SBC. Once again I invite you to put a face to the issue.

Soulforce Central will be at the Days Inn — Phoenix Airport, 3333 East Van Buren (602-244-8244). I will be registered under the name of Gene Hannold, my partner of 29 years, or any member of Soulforce will relay your message. Meet with us. Hear our stories. Share our pain. Help us end the suffering.

I believe the Spirit of God is ready to do a new thing in our houses of worship and in our individuallives. I don’t believe that God is static and capable of only speaking to us from two, three, or fourthousand years ago. God is alive and revealing new truth to us at this moment. Christian belief has and does change over time. We should not hold tightly to the past and resist the new work of the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, we honor the spirit of the word, not the letter of it, when it comes to slavery. If only we could do that with lesbians and gays.

I remind you of this prayer by Ken Schested of The Baptist Peace Fellowship: From the cowardice of resisting new truth; From the laziness of being satisfied with half truth; From the arrogance of thinking we know all truth; Deliver us O God.

In all things love,

Cris F. Elkins

Enclosure: Mel White’s May 7 letter to Dr. Jack Graham, President of the SBC

Soulforce pamphlet: What the Bible Does — and Doesn’t Say — About Homosexuality