Arun Gandhi to Lead Training in Principles of Nonviolence

"Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" and "24 Hours of Justice" to take place in St. Louis during the Southern Baptist Convention, June 2002

Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592

(Laguna Beach, CA) – Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, will once again be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC’s) annual meeting. The SBC’s annual meeting will be held at the America’s Center in St. Louis this year. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meetings in Orlando in 2000 and New Orleans in 2001 to protest the SBC’s antigay policies and teachings.

From June 7 -9, the "Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" will take place at Centenary United Methodist Church, 55 Plaza Square in St. Louis, Missouri. Supporters of Soulforce from across the United States and Canada will join with residents of St. Louis to take part in nonviolence trainings and workshops.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker on June 8 and facilitate a workshop on nonviolence for those attending the Institute. Civil rights leaders from the 1960’s will also participate, as will other experts in the field of nonviolent resistance.

Then, on June 10-11, Soulforce is sponsoring "24 Hours of Justice" designed to bring truth and justice to the Southern Baptists, beginning with GLBT Southern Baptists sharing their struggles and faith journeys. Those planning to participate in the "24 Hours" of vigils and/or direct action are required to participate in specialized nonviolence training on June 10. Vigils will take place throughout the night in front of America’s Center, where the SBC convention is being held. Tuesday, vigils will continue, and additional activities will include a march, media event at the America’s Center, and a direct action and possible civil disobedience and arrests.

Throughout the five days, additional options will be available to youth over 18 interested in the principles of nonviolence. Soulforce will also introduce its new Youth Coordinator, Jacob Reitan, who has been a significant and instrumental part of the planning of these events.

Advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are also participating in both the Institute and the ""24 Hours of Justice".

"On several occasions, we have attempted to dialogue with Dr. James Merritt, president of the SBC. He responded that he refuses to enter into dialogue about the issue, and will not change his position that homosexuality is a ‘sinful lifestyle’," said Mel White, Executive Director and co-founder of Soulforce, Inc. "Therefore, Soulforce will continue its relentless campaign to challenge the homophobia and untruths perpetuated by Southern Baptist religious policies and teachings. And we will not stop until every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Southern Baptist knows that God loves them just the way they are."

Read the letters sent to Soulforce by Dr. Merritt and his response.
For interviews, call 717-278-0592.