Soulforce to Vigil and Demonstrate for 4th Year in a Row During Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Phoenix, June 15-18

Trainings in Grassroots Organizing and Nonviolence, Press Conference, Dialogues with SBC Messengers, and Vigils Planned

Soulforce Press Release, 05/20/03
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592

(Phoenix, AZ) – For the fourth year in a row, Soulforce, Inc. will be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting trying to dialogue with SBC messengers, handing out educational materials, and giving Southern Baptists the opportunity to meet out and proud gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) persons. Also present will be allies and ministers from the Phoenix area and all across the United States. This year’s SBC annual meeting is being held at the Convention Center in downtown Phoenix.

Soulforce, Inc. is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meetings in Orlando in 2000, New Orleans in 2001, and St. Louis in 2002.

“Being raised Southern Baptist and graduating from a Baptist university, I know first hand the pain that GLBT people suffer because of the homophobia and misguided teachings of Southern Baptist leaders,” said Soulforce director of operations, Karen Weldin. ” If all we accomplish in Phoenix is saving one gay Southern Baptist from committing suicide, or getting just one person to reconsider his or her interpretation of Scripture, then we have succeeded monumentally.”

Starting on Sunday morning, June 15 at 9am, a two-day workshop will be held in grassroots organizing for potential Soulforce local group leaders. Soulforce currently has a network of 20 licensed local groups active throughout the United States, and this workshop is designed to expand and support that network. The workshop is being held at the Days Inn at 3333 Van Buren in Phoenix.

A SOULFORCE PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD on Monday, June 16 at 6pm, in front of the Convention Center at 3rd and Monroe. Speakers will include individuals from:

  • Soulforce, Inc.,
  • No Longer Silent – a 100+ clergy network in Phoenix that supports equality for GLBT people,
  • P-FLAG – Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays,
  • Community Church of Hope – the largest GLBT centered ministry in Phoenix
  • Wingspan Anti-violence Project, and others.

Additionally, several gay and lesbian former Southern Baptists will be present to speak with reporters.

Also on Monday, June 16, beginning at 6:30pm, a training in nonviolence based on the principles of Gandhi and King will be held at the Days Inn. Those planning to participate in the vigils are required to participate in the training designed to “bring truth and justice” to the Southern Baptists.

Vigils will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, June 17-18 in front of the Convention Center. Soulforce is encouraging Southern Baptists to take the time to talk with Soulforce supporters who will be standing outside the Convention Center.

“Over the course of the last four years, we have tried to dialogue with the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, we have sent letters and video tapes to the SBC messengers, and we have invited them to hear the stories of those growing up gay in Southern Baptist churches and stand with us to denounce violence against GLBT people,” said Mel White, director and founder of Soulforce, Inc. “So far, it hasn’t worked. How great it would be if they would just take the time to get to know us!”

For more information, see For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc