The Open Letter to the Episcopal Church USA

June 20, 2000

To Our Sisters and Brothers in the Episcopal Church USA,

We at Soulforce acknowledge gratefully that the ECUSA is far ahead of most Christian denominations on issues pertaining to God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered children. From the beginning of this tragic debate, Episcopal bishops, priests, and laity have taken courageous and costly stands for full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities.

However, like you, we are painfully aware that there are fundamentalist forces working within the Anglican Communion in this country and abroad that would turn your entire denomination against us. We hope that Bishops and Deputies will not be swayed by these dangerous and regressive voices nor by the toxic rhetoric of Lambeth and Oporto.

Whatever you decide in Denver, the hearings themselves will have tragic consequences. Every press release from Denver, every radio or television story, every newspaper or newsmagazine account that gives the fundamentalist forces another chance to repeat their false and inflammatory rhetoric contributes to discrimination, suffering and even death.

In fact, the verdict is in. You know in your heart that homosexuality is neither a sickness nor a sin, that sexual minorities serve Christ and the Episcopal Church with courage and commitment. Will you allow those who ignore the scientific, historic, pastoral, personal, and even biblical evidence to win the day? That this debate has not been ended and may even be postponed for another three years breaks the heart of Christ.

For that reason, Soulforce will be in Denver on July 4, 2000. From 1 p.m. we will stand in silent vigil as bishops and deputies arrive for their 2:00 p.m. "Opening Session." At 1:30 p.m. we will hold a press conference to thank Episcopal bishops, clergy, and laity who have led the way to full acceptance. At the same time, we will state clearly the great injustices being suffered by sexual and gender minorities at the hands of other Episcopal leaders and remind the media of the tragic consequences of this endless debate.

At 1:45 p.m., we will kneel at an isolated exit for a Pray-In for the ECUSA and for the men and women who will decide its future. We invite bishops and deputies to speak at the press conference and even to join us in our act of civil disobedience. While we are praying, the Denver Police will warn us that we are an unlawful assembly. We will be arrested, booked, and fined. Your Convention will not be disrupted or disturbed by Soulforce. Our goal is to win minds and hearts through voluntary redemptive suffering. We’re hoping the Denver Police will simply arrest us, book us, and charge us a small fine; but whatever it costs in jail time, fines or court costs, we will pay it to get our message out: THIS DEBATE MUST END! THE SUFFERING HAS GONE ON FAR TOO LONG! WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN, TOO!

We are aware of the concern voiced by some Episcopalians that our presence in Denver might jeopardize the delicate balance of progress for the LGBT community which has been made over the years. We appreciate and respect this position and assure you that we will do nothing to disrupt your hearings or alarm your bishops or deputies. While our allies are working for change on the inside, we will be on the outside saying to our GLBT sisters and brothers, never again will we allow this debate to continue (let alone be postponed) without taking our stand against it. It bears repeating: The debate itself has become the source of suffering. Whatever you decide, it is too late for millions who have turned from the church in anger and grief during these past decades of polite (and not-so-polite) debate.

Gandhi says it clearly: "It is as much our moral obligation NOT to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good." By allowing this debate to continue or by postponing it for a "more convenient day," we are cooperating with evil. If we err in taking this stand, we hope you will forgive us. We do it because we love Christ’s body too much to allow it to continue as the primary source of suffering for our sisters and brothers. Once again, we invite you to join us. Take your stand in Denver. Go home with a civil rights misdemeanor on your record and the joy of doing justice in your heart.

Sincerely,

Kate Bishop, Co-Chair
Mel White, Co-Chair

PS: If you are even considering joining us in Denver (for the press conference and/or the civil disobedience) please sign up on the web. That will get you on a temporary email list that will keep you informed every step of our Journey to Denver. A registration form will be posted by evening, June 20.

SOULFORCE, P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
Phone: (949) 455-0999
Fax: (949) 455-0959
Email: RevMel@aol.com

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