Media Contact: Jane Ralph
LYNCHBURG, VA: (22 October 1999) The Rev. Dr. Mel White is bringing 200 delegates of Soulforce, an ecumenical network of volunteers committed to teaching and applying the principles of nonviolence on behalf of sexual minorities, to meet with the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell and 200 representatives of his ministries on October 23 and 24. During this historic meeting, White and Falwell will jointly condemn violence and hate speech on the issue of homosexuality. They and their participants will also enter into dialogue, meeting as individuals to share their stories.
"It’s a wonderful beginning," says White, minister and gay activist. White co-founded Soulforce with his partner, Gary Nixon, to apply the nonviolence teachings of M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in an effort to end the suffering of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered by helping change the minds and hearts of religious leaders whose anti-homosexual campaigns lead to that suffering. "This is the first step in our journey to reconciliation, not the last," White adds.
The Soulforce team plans a number of activities during the weekend, in addition to Saturday’s forum with Falwell’s representatives. They will continue their training in nonviolent discourse. All will participate on Saturday afternoon in one of a number of social service activities to benefit the city and citizens of Lynchburg. Many will attend Sunday worship at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. A memorial to victims of hate crimes is also planned.
Falwell says he will not compromise in his biblical conviction that homosexual behavior is sinful, and Soulforce supports Falwell’s right to preach his conscience. "Our issue is when preaching his conscience crosses the line into false and inflammatory rhetoric, with its tragic consequences," White noted about his friend, for whom he ghost wrote two books, "If I Should Die Before I Wake" and "Strength for the Journey."
"Interest in the meeting has been tremendous," White said. "It is an historic occasion, after all. Yet it’s sad, in a way, that it’s such a newsworthy event when people of faith to join to decry violence and call for reasoned dialogue."
Soulforce, Inc. of Laguna Beach, California, is a non-profit organization in operating as an ecumenical network of volunteers committed to teaching and applying the principles of nonviolence on behalf of sexual minorities. PO Box 4467, Laguna Beach, Ca 92652. www.soulforce.org firstname.lastname@example.org fax: 949-455-0959