A Call to Action From Gil Caldwell

The Soulforce 10th Anniversary Reunion and Direct Action at the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church

A Call to Action From Gil Caldwell

A few years ago I saw the Slave Narratives, a presentation of some of the stories that were told by my African ancestors who were slaves. There were nine words in that presentation that I will take with me to my grave; "They used the Bible like a stick against us". This was a graphic way of saying that Christian slave masters living in what is called the "Bible Belt", used the Bible to commit unspeakable crimes against slaves. Paul’s, "Slaves be obedient to your Christian masters…" became justification for demanding obedience and exerting punishment, whenever a Black slave did not please the wishes and needs of his/her master.

When I heard those words I reflected upon how anti-Semitism, sexism, classism, punishment of Methodist clergy who smoked and consumed alcohol, and of course slavery and racial segregation, all of this and much were perpetrated by those who used sections of Scripture as justification for their prejudices and acts of discrimination. In time most Methodists realized it was a desecration of the Bible to use it to support and sustain personal and cultural prejudices. But sadly, the United Methodist Church continues to utilize a narrow Biblical literalism and prejudicial interpretation of Scripture to justify its Book of Discipline language that demeans same gender loving persons.

I first heard Martin Luther King, Jr. at a Prayer Pilgrimage in May of 1957 in Washington, DC. That exposure to him motivated my participation in the Civil Rights Movement. I am convinced that Dr. King who spoke out against the Vietnam War and initiated the Poor People’s Campaign and spoke so many times of the necessity to create the "Beloved Community", if he were alive today, would challenge the Church and Government for their insensitive judgmental approach to LGBT persons.

I will be participating with Soulforce at the General Conference in Ft. Worth as we seek to contribute to the liberation of the United Methodist Church, urging it, "To be the Church". Martin Luther King asked more than once, "Why is the Church always the taillight and not the headlight" (on issues of human justice)? I am saddened that as a fourth generation Methodist, my United Methodist Church (in the 21st century!) desecrates the mission and ministry of Jesus in its attitudes and actions toward LGBT persons.

I invite all persons, especially persons of color and women who have awareness and experience of the Church "using the Bible like a stick" upon those before them and upon them personally, because of race and gender, to be present with me and Soulforce in Ft. Worth.

-Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell (retired)

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