Habitat for Humanity Construction Schedule

October 3 – December 9, 2000

Soulforce originally called for volunteers last fall, and 35 of you responded. But there’s room for more.

Soulforce volunteers planning to spend the week, October 3-7, should plan to arrive on Monday afternoon, October 2, for dinner and a Habit for Humanity briefing at the First Christian Church, our Soulforce sanctuary for the week. First Christian is also providing housing for all volunteer workers who request it.

Here’s the schedule:

Tue., Oct. 3 – need 20 helpers Framing walls; sheathing
Wed., Oct. 4 – need 20 helpers Framing walls, 2nd floor; sheathing
Thu., Oct. 5 – need 20 helpers 2nd Floor, walls; sheathing interior walls, stairwell, doors and windows
Fri., Oct. 6 – need 20 helpers Roof trusses, paper, porches
Sat., Oct. 7 – need 25 helpers Shingles, facia, rake trim; finish porches, finish framing
Sat., Oct. 14 – need 20 helpers Vinyl siding, porches, wall insulation
Sat., Oct. 28 – need 15 helpers Finish siding, carpentry; trim started
Sat., Nov. 4 – need 15 helpers Trim, set cabinets, paint prep, interior doors
Sat., Nov. 11 – need 15 helpers Finish trim, painting
Sat., Nov. 18 – need 15 helpers Finish painting, hardware
Sat., Dec. 2 – need 10 helpers Final touchups, paint porches; punchlist
Sat., Dec. 9 – need 15 helpers Landscaping, cleaning

Dedication TBA

Gandhi says there are two ways to do justice:
First, help those who suffer, and second, help cut off the suffering at its source. Here’s our chance to help end the suffering of one homeless family. Jewish and Christian prophets both call us to "house the homeless." Here’s a wonderful opportunity to do our Creator’s bidding. Don’t worry about not having skills or experience at building a house. Habitat encourages everyone to serve — not just those with construction experience. Volunteers are encouraged to use their existing talents — and to discover and develop new skills along the way.

I can do it — sign me up!

Come Build with Soulforce – Habitat for Humanity

July 18, 2000

Hello, friends! Diana Westbrook here.

I know you must be wondering how the plans are coming along. There hasn’t been much to report till now, but suddenly things are really swinging into gear.

Most important, the dates now are set: October 3-7 (Tuesday through Saturday), along with subsequent Saturdays through December 9 (excluding Thanksgiving Saturday).

It appears that Thomas Road Baptist Church will not participate, though as Mel says, "Jerry is full of surprises, and we may hear from him yet." First Christian Church (Soulforce Central) and St. John’s Episcopal Church (another supportive church from October) are recruiting local volunteers and raising the final funds needed from Lynchburg-area churches and synagogues.

We’ll soon have registration for the project on the Soulforce web site, along with a fairly detailed construction schedule. We’ll also ask for additional specifics regarding your strengths and preferences.

When you register, you can indicate the dates you want to participate. If you really want to be a part of the effort but can’t commit to the entire week, not to worry. Habitat recognizes that volunteers may need to "come and go" as their job and home responsibilities necessitate.

We need for all of you to register your intent to participate on the Soulforce web site. Check the site over the next couple of weeks — the Habitat info should be posted soon.

I’ll keep you informed as additional specifics are finalized. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. Many thanks for your interest in helping with the construction of the Soulforce in Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity house. It’s a mighty exciting way to follow up with the good work we began last October.

Mel and Gary will be present for the entire week and will lead us in special worship and training sessions along the way. Mel will be preaching at First Christian on Sunday, October 8.

If you have questions, be sure to contact me.

God bless,
Diana Westbrook
804.266.5370 [h]
804.287.6217 [w–new]

PlanetOut Article: "73 Arrests at Episcopal Demo"

PlanetOut News Staff
Wednesday, July 5, 2000 / 12:07 AM

SUMMARY: For the third time this year, gays and lesbians get locked up to convince a major denomination not to lock them out of the church. The ten-day 73rd General Convention of the 2.4-million-member Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) began July 5 in Denver, and gay crusader Reverend Mel White’s Soulforce group got things rolling the day before by being arrested in a peaceful civil disobedience action demanding equal treatment for gays and lesbians within the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion.

The triennial General Convention is the denomination’s final authority on matters of policy and canonical law. One proposal before the Convention, nicknamed "the local option," would codify the current Episcopal practice of allowing each diocese to determine whether to ordain sexually active gays and lesbians or bless same-gender couples — yet there are both liberals and conservatives who fear that doing so could result in schism, and the Convention may decide to make no move at all. Conservatives are now campaigning for programs purporting to change homosexual orientation to heterosexual.

Soulforce Protest
One to two hundred lesbians/gays/bisexuals/transgenders and their allies, many in T-shirts reading "Stop spiritual violence," rallied on the steps of the Colorado Convention Center in 90-degree heat for speeches, prayer and songs in Soulforce’s third civil disobedience protesting at a major denomination’s national assembly this year. White said, "For 30 years they’ve been discussing this. We’re asking them now to resolve it." Non-gay Jimmy Creech, stripped of his United Methodist ministerial credentials last year after his second church trial for blessing same-gender couples, said, "We are here to say to our sisters and brothers who are Episcopalians to stop the debate! It is time to open your arms in full inclusion. Open your doors. Open your hearts. Welcome all God’s people."

As discussed in advance with police, those prepared to be arrested linked arms or held hands in five groups of about fifteen each to silently block the entrance and did not respond to three police warnings to disperse. Police arrested 73 according to Soulforce (some other sources quoted as many as 80) on charges on trespassing and failure to obey a lawful order. A police sergeant asked the protesters about hand and shoulder problems that might be exacerbated by handcuffs; the fifty officers involved gave protesters a choice between being cuffed with their hands in front of them or behind them. Police had prepared to process the arrests around the corner of the building in the shade, and as photos were taken of each arrestee and arresting officer together, sometimes both smiled.

The maximum penalty for the charges is a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Assistant Denver City Attorney Jim Thomas assured the Rocky Mountain News that the actual sentences would not be likely to approach the maximum. Sheriffs’ buses transported the arrestees to jail, but they were released after about an hour.

One of those arrested was Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, who publicly identified himself as a gay man after his retirement. He said, "For about 20 years, I thought God would deliver me from this, but then I realized that wasn’t going to happen." He said gays and lesbians "pay a price" when as he did they lack "the courage to live the truth of my life," adding, "I know the cost of that." He said that, "the time has come to say that we are fully a part of the church. We refuse to be silent; we refuse to be invisible." Charles is the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Another rally speaker was Leanne Bryce, who has filed a discrimination lawsuit June 13 against Boulder’s St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church for firing her from her post as youth minister after learning of her commitment ceremony. She said she had been put through "a public inquisition," called "debased" and "demonically possessed," and been heartbroken by the intolerance of the church she loves.

There were no counterdemonstrators against Soulforce, although police had arranged an area for them. Adding to the voices of protest was esteemed Reverend Dr. George Regas of Pasadena, California, who wrote in a letter to all the Convention participants that, "The debate on the homosexuality issue has become a primary source of suffering for millions of lesbian and gay people. The fact that bishops, priests and laity are at this General Convention to debate once again whether gay and lesbian persons are acceptable is obscene!"

The Episcopal Church’s own 25-year-old gay and lesbian network Integrity was able to discuss the action with Soulforce in advance, and Integrity president Reverend Michael Hopkins declared his group was happy White’s group was there "to speak on the outside to the church." However he explained that Integrity’s own focus "remains on the inside of the Convention" in their own tradition of working within the church’s institutional structure. He said, "We’re not here to fight a battle or win a war. We’re here to tell the Good News, trusting that if our telling is the truth, it will set us free."

Chicago Free Press Article: "Soulforce Protests Episcopalians"

July 5, 2000

Chicago Free Press (glbt)
By Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

The Episcopal Church (USA) became the latest Christian denomination to hold a public wrestling match with homosexuality when representatives of the church gathered in Denver July 5 for a 10-day convention.

The 2.4-million-member ECUSA has an unofficial policy of allowing each diocese to decide independently whether to ordain lesbians and gays and whether to bless gay relationships. GLBT rights advocates want the church to endorse both same-sex unions and the ordination of open gays and lesbians, but opponents want those positions banned as inconsistent with biblical teachings.

The ECUSA General Convention was expected to address proposals on both issues before it closed. But even before it got underway, protesters with Soulforce, an ecumenical organization devoted to ending religious discrimination against GLBT people of faith, staged acts of non-violent civil disobedience July 4 on the steps of the Colorado Convention Center.

Police arrested 73 demonstrators wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, "stop spiritual violence." Among those arrested was the Rev. Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist minister who was defrocked in November for blessing a same-sex union. "Open your arms; open your doors; open your hearts," Creech said as he addressed a crowd of more than 100 protesters before he was taken into custody. "Stop the debate. Be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Although the (Episcopal) Church presents itself as ‘liberal’ and far ahead of other denominations, if justice and how it is applied toward LGBT members is used as a measure, ECUSA fares no better than other denominations," said Kate Bishop, Soulforce’s co-chair in Denver.

"For 30 years (the Episopalians) have been discussing this," said Soulforce co-founder the Rev. Mel White. "We’re asking them to resolve it."

Inside the convention, members of Integrity, an Episcopal GLBT organization, told the Episcopal News Service that while they respected Soulforce’s position, they believed their church was well on its way toward the full inclusion of gays and lesbians.

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of Integrity, told ENS, "We were in conversation with (Soulforce), so we knew that (the demonstration) was happening. We’re happy for them to be here. Our focus remains on the inside of the convention, and their ministry is to speak on the outside of the church and we’re happy for that."

Soulforce protesters were also arrested earlier this year in connection with demonstrations against the United Methodists, Presbyterians and Southern Baptists. The group plans to disrupt the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. in November.

Three days after the Soulforce demonstration, legendary folk singer Judy Collins announced that she was canceling a scheduled concert at the general convention to protest the church’s discriminatory policies against GLBT people. In a July 7 news release, Collins said she was "shocked" to learn that "the Episcopal Church, of which I’m a member and in which I was married, does not have an official national church policy allowing minister to officiate at same-sex unions or ordain openly gay people."

The same day Collins canceled her performance, the convention’s committee on church and human sexuality discussed a proposed resolution calling on the church to develop rites for couples who live in monogamous, committed relationships but do not get married. Committee members said the proposal would create rites for committed couple[s] while stressing the importance of monogamy. They hoped it would provide a middle ground for liberals and conservatives within the church.

Remarks Written for the Soulforce Press Conference, Denver, CO

July 4, 2000

The Rev. Dr. George F. Regas
Rector Emeritus, All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA

We are here today to say the debate is over.

The fact that bishops, priests and laity are here in Denver at this General Convention to debate once again whether gay and lesbian persons are acceptable is obscene.

The debate on the homosexuality issue has become a primary source of suffering for millions lesbian and gay people.

Over my 28 years as Rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena, California, I got acquainted with a larger number of gay men and lesbians. I know them up close and down deep. They are beautiful people who live holy and virtuous lives. Then love God deeply and try to live to God’s glory.

But there is no way to describe adequately the humiliation, exclusion and rejection most of these precious children of God have experienced in the Christian churches and throughout the structure of society.

These gay and lesbian persons have frequently been told by their families that they don’t belong to them, by some churches that they are perverse sinners because they express their love for each other, by the Vatican they are told they are intrinsically disordered, by some in the medical profession that they are sick, by the Boy Scouts of America that they are not "morally straight", they are not clean, and by the former President of the United States that they are not normal.

The brutal way these children of God have been excluded from normal life is breathtaking. Homophobia is the last respectable prejudice – one seemingly sanctioned by the Church and the State.

We will no longer sit silently as our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are condemned as having immoral relationships and their ministries are denied. The debate must end.

Rev. James Lawson, my long-time friend and a close colleague of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the civil rights struggle, made a comment not long ago that still reverberates in my mind and soul.

The gay community’s struggle for civil rights is even more difficult that our black community’s struggle. We have our families and our churches to help us. The gay community has neither."

We must change that here in Denver at this General Convention.

We can no longer tolerate a rhetoric that lacerates the souls of our gay brothers and lesbian sisters. They are precious children of God, created, redeemed and accepted by our God. Hatred is the depravity, not the choice of whom to love.

Some are gallantly working for justice for gays inside the Convention Hall. Some of us are outside saying, no more debate, no more stalling. Open your arms and your hearts to welcome gays and lesbians into our Church’s ministries.

The most popular religious song in America, hands down, is "Amazing Grace." Get a bunch of Christians together and they want to sing "Amazing Grace." But what bothers me is that too few really understand that grace is the most radical concept in the Bible.

At the Core of the Christian faith is the simple and profound assertion: God loves you just as you are. In the Gospel of Jesus, the first and last word is "grace." This is unconditional inclusive love and generous acceptance is not marginal to our religion. It is central to our beliefs.

God accepts us as we are – gay or straight. This radical acceptance is of the total person – body, mind and spirit. Grace is total acceptance.

Is that a God’s way – can it not be practiced in the Church?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been a long-time friend from the day I met him in South Africa in 1978, struggling to end the vicious apartheid structure of South Africa.

More recently, this fighter for justice moved into another dimension of apartheid – homosexual behavior. He opposes the official position of the Anglican Church in South Africa, which forbids homosexual behavior. "We’ve made celibacy obligatory for homosexuals and I am uncomfortable with these restrictions on homosexuals." He opposes those restrictions, he says, "because physical expression of the sex drive in a loving relationship is important to becoming fully human."

Yes, this amazing man would bow before his lesbian and gay sisters and brothers – people of precious worth, holy vessels of the living God.

The clearest way for this loving acceptance and inclusion to happen in our church is blessing the union of same sex couples who are committed to life-long fidelity and love and allowing the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

I believe that these acts – ordination and blessing – are the clearest symbols that the Episcopal church can offer that these precious children of god are fully accepted into the live of the Church and are loved unconditionally by God, just as I am loved and accepted.

But what about the Bible? Lambeth said all of this is incompatible with scripture. And there are bishops, priests and laity inside that convention Hall who are saying the Bible doesn’t allow us to act in this radically inclusive way.

Let’s be honest about the Bible. The Episcopal Church does not hold to biblical inerrancy. I don’t know anyone who still publicly advocates slavery or stoning to death an adulterer – both urged in the Bible.

One day the famous theologian, Paul Tillich, was accosted by a Bible waving fundamentalist. "Professor Tillich, do you believe this book is the word of god?" The wise theologian responded, "Yes, I do if it possesses you rather than you processing it!"

The Bible is central to my life as a Christian. It is the foundational document for our church. But if we take the Bible seriously, we cant read it literally and dismiss what we’ve learned in the centuries after the Bible was finished.

Today we know gay and lesbian couples who live deeply in committed lives of love and integrity. This sexual orientation and its expression in an honorable relationship was not the subject matter of the biblical writers. However, the really serious problem for Christians who live by "The Book" is not how to square homosexuality with the seven passages in the Bible which on the surface seem to condemn it – but rather how to reconcile the rejection, prejudice, and cruelty of homosexuals with the gracious, unconditional love of Christ.

Pivotal to the sacred scriptures is the centrality and primacy of justice.

Blessing same sex unions and ordaining practicing gay and lesbian persons are acts of justice, acts of liberation, and as Dr. King said long ago, "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Many want this General Conference to be peaceful and serene, with no divisiveness and conflict. Yet the imperative of Amos thunders through this place: "Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

One thing we know is antithetical to scripture: it is injustice – the treatment of human beings as inherently immoral – a bondage that excludes gays and lesbians from the holy of holies.

Let’s be a Biblical Church and hear again the imperative of Amos – "Let justice roll down like a river."

And when the Church acts to allow blessings of same sex unions and ordination of practicing gays – it is affirming a God who is not static, only speaking 2000-4000 years ago, but a living God who is revealing new truths to us now.

If the bishops and priests and lay delegates listen carefully, above the competing pressures of this groups and that, they will hear the still small voice of God from the prophet Isaiah whisper to them, "I am doing a new thing," and they will respond faithfully to the call for justice.