Soulforce Commends Dr. Robert Edgar for His Courage and Commitment to Equality


November 21, 2000

For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-951-7712

Laguna Beach, CA – On Friday, November 17, Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, withdrew his signature and support from the document "A Christian Declaration on Marriage" cosigned by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Today, Soulforce Board of Directors publicly commended Dr. Edgar for his courageous stand.

"We are grateful to Dr. Edgar for withdrawing his support of this most recent attack on same-sex marriage and accept his apology gladly," says Dr. Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce, Inc., an interfaith network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) individuals and their families, friends, and allies, committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

"In this dramatic about-face, Dr. Edgar has placed the National Council of Churches squarely on the side of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans," continued White. "For decades the NCC has tried to please its constituents on both sides of this issue. In this courageous act, Dr. Edgar has made it clear that he would rather see the NCC close down with honor than be forced to water down its faithful and historic stand for justice, mercy, and truth."

In a letter to the NCC Assembly, Edgar explained why he no longer supported the ecumenical declaration. "A number of the NCC member communions interpret the document more as a condemnation of same-sex unions than as an affirmation of marriage…I am concerned that in our dangerously fragmented and violent society, misinterpretation of the declaration may be used by some as a pretext for attacks on gay and lesbian persons."

"Dr. Edgar is right," says Karen Weldin, a Soulforce Vice-Chair. "In limiting marriage to ‘one man and one woman’, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and Evangelical leaders are simply continuing their campaign to deny gay and lesbian Americans the 1,047 rights and protections that go automatically with heterosexual marriage. And worse, when they demean our loving, committed relationships as "intrinsically evil" (Roman Catholic) and "sick" and "sinful" (Southern Baptist) they inadvertently give license to those who harass, harm, and even kill us."

In an earlier letter warning against the documents misuse, Dr. Edgar acknowledged that NCC member communions are "in discussion and discernment regarding same-sex unions. Nonetheless," he added, "there is unanimity among us in our long-standing advocacy for full Civil Rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Through our dialogues, we have come to celebrate the gifts and the challenges they present to us. We stand with them in our common battle against hatred and violence and the pain of exclusion."

"Bob Edgar has acted with great integrity and, in the process, has protected the integrity of the National Council of Churches," says Jimmy Creech, Board Chair of Soulforce, Inc. "His intention in signing the declaration was obviously compromised by the way it has since been used to denounce gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships. He has bravely refused to let himself and the NCC be exploited by the antigay agenda of the others who signed the declaration."

In the past year, hundreds of Soulforce supporters have been arrested in non-violent acts of civil disobedience held during the United Methodist General Conference in May, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian General Assembly in June, the Episcopal Convention in July, and most recently at the National Council of Catholic Bishops in November in protest of church policies which exclude GLBT individuals from the life of the church.