Recently we asked our New Orleans volunteers to send a letter to a member of the Executive Committee of the SBC. Here are some of the powerful letters sent to them to help them understand how their teachings have been a "stumbling block" for God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children:
May 24, 2001
Rev. Greg T. Mathis
Mud Creek Baptist Church
403 Rutledge Drive
Hendersonville, NC 26739
Dear Rev. Mathis,
My name is Ken Gies and I am writing from Kansas City, Missouri. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado where my grandparents and parents were charter members. Over those years, we had only two pastors, both of whom became my role models and garnered my deepest love and respect. Pastor Glen Braswell and Pastor Bob McPherson, you may even know one or both of them. I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old and made a public confession of faith and was baptized by Pastor McPherson and moreover, knew from that early age that God had called me into the ministry.
I gave my life to following that call, but all the while struggled with the pain of another realization. As I grew into my adolescent years, I knew that I was gay. Maybe not in that term, but I knew nonetheless. As I entered college and seminary, those Id counseled with assured me that with enough faith and prayer, I would get over this sickness. So I prayed, I fasted, I begged God with tears flooding down my cheeks, yet still the feelings persisted. I lived a celibate life, hoping that this horror would end, but it just would not go away. I married a wonderful and Godly woman and tried to build what everyone said was a ‘normal’ relationship, only to fail once more. I enrolled in an ex-gay program called Eagles Nest and began therapy that began with counseling, progressed to aversion therapy and ended with shock therapy. Yet again, that which was at the core of my being continued to be a struggle between God, who, I was more and more convinced hated me and hated the feelings over which I had no control. Was God being cruel, not to answer my prayers and pleadings? Was I still doing something wrong? Did I not know the right words, or did I lack faith? I begged to know the answer and God honored that plea.
Pastor Mathis, please know one thing about me, I loved the ministry, I loved the church and most of all, I love the Lord! I DID NOT choose to live with that horrible dichotomy. One day, at the point of desperation, calling on God to cure me or kill me, I began to re-read a number of the scriptures that I had been so very familiar with and of which I was so afraid. Somewhere, in the depths of that suicidal depression, God began to move on my heart. Fear began to lift, light began to shine in areas that I had kept well hidden for so many years. It was there, and I believe this as deeply as anything I have ever believed, that God moved in the depths of my broken spirit, convincing me that my sin was in not trusting how God had created me. My unbelief was rooted in things Id been taught by those I respected the most, yet never searched out f! or myself. I came to understand that while those who taught me had only my best interests at heart, they were wrong. For that, I bear them no malice, but I thank our lovely Lord, everyday, that I now live a life free of fear, free of guilt, free of shame. A life that stands before God, robed in grace, washed in the blood and yes, still gay, but with the full knowledge that who I am is neither a sickness, nor a sin. After thirty-two years as a born again, baptized believer in Jesus, I could actually enter into the abundance of life that John 10:10 promised me and go before my maker assured that I am accepted there, in the beloved, regardless of my sexuality.
Today, there are tens of thousands of people, young and old, men and women, truly born again believers who live life in the same fear, shame and guilt that almost destroyed me. Those who are so afraid of their dark secret that they cannot even talk to the pastor or loved one they trust the most. People whose lives are in jeopardy and you and the thousands of other men and women of God, those who know and love the Savior as we do, hold the answer to the cry of these brokenhearted, broken spirited people. They wait for a word of acceptance, a word of real, divine, non-judgmental love.
I will be in New Orleans with a group called Soulforce during the days of the SBC Convention. Soulforce is a group dedicated to the non-violent principles of resistance to the darkness of ignorance and the brightness of Gods everlasting love, light and life. I would very much like to meet you and get acquainted. This is not an ambush, but just the two of us, in a public venue, over a cup of coffee, fellowshipping and sharing our kinship in Christ. Throughout the day on Tuesday, June 12th, I will carry a sign with your name on it, reminding me to pray for you specifically as you do your part in the Convention. At the beginning of the lunch break that day, I will be in the coffee shop of the Hyatt and invite you to join me there. Please know I have no ulterior motives and am not looking for an argument or a fight. I just want to meet you, listen to what you have to say and pray together for Gods gracious leading. Will you join me there? I would love to hear back from you. Meanwhile, you are in my daily prayers and on my heart as your prepare for your journey to New Orleans.
God Bless You!
Yours, In the Boundless Love of Jesus,
Rev. Robert Carpenter
Cedar Street Baptist Church
1705 Cedar St
Holt, MI 48842-1803
Dear Rev. Carpenter,
My name is Laura Montgomery Rutt, and I am writing to you from Lititz, PA, a small conservative community in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. I am a Christian, a stay-at-home mother of two teenage boys, and will be celebrating my 20th Anniversary with my husband in August of this year.
The reason for this letter is to tell you a little about myself and to let you know that I will be in New Orleans with a group called Soulforce during the days of the Southern Baptist Convention. Soulforce is an interfaith group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their parents, families, and friends, dedicated to applying the non-violent principles of Jesus, Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual minorities.
While I am there, I will be carrying a sign with your name on it, reminding me to pray for you specifically as you go about your work during the Southern Baptist Convention. We will at no time disrupt the Convention, but we will be a constant and prayerful presence outside.
As you may have guessed, I am one of the heterosexual allies in Soulforce. Both my boys appear to be heterosexual, although their orientation has no bearing on my desire for them to live a full, happy, and joyous life with another person, regardless of the gender of who they love. I do have friends and colleagues who are gay and lesbian Southern Baptists, both laity and clergy, some in long term committed relationships filled with love and respect for one another and for God. They did not choose to be gay, it is an inherent part of who they are and who God created them to be.
However, I have witnessed first hand the destruction that the policies of Southern Baptist churches have on the spirit of these children of God, pushing them away from the church and from God. They are afraid to talk to their pastors, and feel they must lie about who they are. Fortunately, many of them find their own path to God after being judged unworthy by organized religion and religious leaders who condemn God’s children in His name, despite Jesus’ commandments to "Love your neighbor," and "Judge not that ye be not judged."
On Tuesday, June 12th, I will be in the coffee shop of the Hyatt during the SBC lunch break, and invite you to join me there. You will recognize me because I will be carrying a placard with you name on it.
The only reason that I wish to speak with you is to listen to you and pray together for God’s will and leading regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Will you join me there? If you are unable to meet me during lunch on June 12th, I would be more than happy to arrange a convenient time to meet.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. In the meantime, you are in my daily prayers as we both prepare for our journey to New Orleans.
God bless you and keep you. May your heart and mind be open to His boundless love and grace.
In His Love,
Laura Montgomery Rutt
June 4, 2001
Rev. Bruce O. Martin
Village Baptist Church
906 S. McPherson Church Rd.
Fayetteville, NC 28303-5351
Dear Rev. Martin:
My name is John Davis and I bring you greetings from Wayne, Pennsylvania, a western suburb of Philadelphia. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church in Ellis Grove Illinois and at the age of 8 accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized. Upon graduation from high school, I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign, and there truly came to realize more fully the blessings of a church family and of my personal walk with Christ. In addition to serving as President of the Baptist Student Union on campus, I participated in summer mission programs sponsored by the Home Mission Board of the SBC in the summers of 1982 and 1983, and was very active in Garden Hills Baptist Church there, where I met some of the people who remain to this day my very best friends.
Although I loved my time at the University, it was also a very emotionally difficult time for me. In the fall of 1983, I came out to myself and a few close friends in my church community as a gay man. Please believe me, this was not a process that was easy for me. It involved much prayer and counseling, however eventually I came to feel confident in God’s creation, and to realize I am truly created in God’s image. To continue to repress this part of me would make me less than whole, and would in fact distract from what I felt was a personal call from God to do his will. For the remainder of my time in college, I kept hidden the fact that I was gay from most of those in my church and community because I knew that most would not accept me. I was confident in my relationship with Christ, however felt like the Church was not a safe place for me. When I graduated and moved to St. Louis to begin my professional life as a CPA, I wanted to live in complete honesty with myself and those around me, and did not feel like I could do that within any of the mainstream Christian denominations. So I continued to walk with Christ, but found my support and communion from friends and family.
Throughout the next 12 years, that decision felt right and in fact was frequently reinforced by what I heard from the "religious" world. Friends attending Southern Seminary in Louisville complained of the censorship that was resulting from the new regimes, and what they saw as a decline in what was once a highly respected institution. The treatment of women who were called into ministry continued to be contrary to what I believe Jesus teaches. And as close friends began becoming ill and dying of AIDS, the hurtful and often hateful response I saw from some who claimed to be members and even leaders in the Christian community created a strong contrast to the loving generous response I saw from those supposedly in the secular world.
In March of 1997 I read an article in the Philadelphia Gay News about a Baptist church in the conservative suburbs of Philadelphia, which had taken the public action of becoming a "welcoming and affirming" church. I later found out this was an American Baptist rather than Southern Baptist congregation, however remained convinced the reporter must have his facts wrong. I attended my first service on Palm Sunday to check things out. In the midst of this suburban community, which is primarily made up of traditional families of all shapes and sizes, I immediately felt not only accepted, but also actually valued because of the special gifts of my sexuality. My partner began attending with me, and we are happy to call Central Baptist Church home. Bill, my partner, grew up Roman Catholic, and organized religion had never played a large part in our relationship, however being part of this community has opened up a whole new chapter for us, and we celebrate the newness in this 12th year of our relationship.
In spite of this excitement with my local community, I still have some difficulty sometimes reconciling my participation in, and support of, a mainline protestant denomination that for the most part seeks to exclude me. The reconciliation comes, as often is the case, by replacing stereotypes with personal contacts, and by trading in expectations for personal experiences. With that though in mind, I would hope that you would have a few minutes to share with me while you are in New Orleans so that we might introduce ourselves in person, and get to know each other a little. I will be in New Orleans with a group called Soulforce, which is dedicated to the non-violent principles of resistance in seeking justice for God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered children. Throughout the day on Tuesday, June 12, I will carry a sign with your name on it, reminding me to pray for you as you do your part in the Convention. At the beginning of the lunch break that day, I will be in the coffee shop of the Hyatt and invite you to join me there for lunch, or a cup of coffee. Please know that I have no ulterior motive but only wish to meet you, listen to you, and perhaps pray together for God’s gracious leading. Besides, I will be attending my first convention as a delegate this summer (the ABC Biennial in Providence on June 22) and perhaps you can give me some helpful hints.
Please feel free to write me at my home address if you get a chance prior to the Convention. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you prepare for your journey to New Orleans.
John E. Davis
May 26, 2001
1401 Reece Road
Goddard, KS 67052-9485
Dear Rev. Click,
I am a United Methodist who lives in New Orleans. I will be attending the Southern Baptist Annual Meeting as an observer. I will be observing with the delegation from Soulforce, the interfaith group seeking to converse with all believers about the status and role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered/transsexual persons in society at large and in churches. There will be some members of Soulforce who will peacefully demonstrate and be arrested. I will be a support person.
I am helping Soulforce because I believe that God loves and affirms gay people as they are. In the late 1980’s I worked at two different HIV/AIDS hospices for about three years. In that time I met persons I would not otherwise have had any reason to meet. I met parents of gay people. I met friends and family of gay people. And I met many gay people who were hospice residents, hospice volunteers, hospice workers, doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy, etc. This experience was eye-opening – as a window to a group of people I had never encountered on their own terms before. But the shocker to me was the number of gay people in long lasting relationships who are Christians that see their life in Christ in the same way I see mine. They believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they respond to the Lord’ s call to serve others. I cannot deny the movement of the Spirit in these folks. It is clear to me that God loves them as they are.
I am not in the habit of making uninvited calls to persons in other Christian denominations than my own to converse about matters of the gospel. But this matter is important to me because of my personal journey as a Christian and because of its impact on all Christians. I would like to meet with you for coffee and conversation. Please know I have no ulterior motives and am not looking for an argument or a fight. All day Tuesday, June 12, I will be holding a sign with your name on it and praying for you as you go about your work. On that day, a number of Soulforce participants are inviting Southern Baptist messengers to meet one on one at the Hyatt coffee shop at the beginning of the lunch break. That time is good for me and I will be there if you have time. Alternatively, if you would like to meet at my house for coffee or a coke, that would be wonderful as well. Please bring anyone traveling with you. I will warn you that I have a marvelous wife and two beautiful preschoolers who will likely insist that you stay and talk and play and have a meal with us. I am praying for you in your preparation for the assembly. And I am hoping to meet you when you come to our fair city.
Peace be with you,