American Family Outing Seeks to Dispel Divisive Tactics

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 8, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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On Thursday, April 3, 2008, The Gay City News reported on a Family Research Council (FRC) fundraising letter devoted to the American Family Outing, a project that aims to create dialogue between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) families and members at six American mega-churches. The letter, dated March 2008 and signed by FRC President Tony Perkins, asks for $50,000 to create “Church Crisis Response Teams” to react to same-sex couples and their children who have expressed a desire to attend church and share a meal with families at the mega-churches between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2008.

“The frantic tone of the letter is a testament to the vital need for the American Family Outing.  For too long, fear and dehumanization have kept people of faith divided over issues of sexual-orientation and gender-identity,” says Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director.  The American Family Outing is a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

In late 2007, the four partner organizations wrote letters to:

  • Rev. Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
  • Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
  • Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
  • Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

The letters propose a date when the LGBT families will attend a worship service.  The letters also invite each Pastor “to match our families with an equal number of families from your congregation” for a meal and conversation.

In contrast to the alarm bells sounded by Perkins, reaction from the churches and America’s diverse evangelical community has been more positive.

“We want those Christian brothers and sisters who have read terrible untruths about us to meet us and to know who we really are.  We are those children of God who happen not to be straight and their straight allies like myself, who grieve the fact that those who judge us do not really know us,” says Peggy Campolo, Baptist author and editor. 

Campolo is one of several Christian leaders who are helping The American Family Outing reach out to the six mega-churches.  Other clergy supporters include Rev. Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker-Messner, Rev. Gil Caldwell, Rev. Phil Lawson, and Rev. Troy Sanders.

Although The American Family Outing is a collaborative effort, the Family Research Council fundraising letter named only COLAGE, a social justice organization for children, youth, and adults with LGBTQ parents.

“Tony Perkins probably knows, as well as we do, that when children, youth and families speak truth to power, we expose the injustice of the Family Research Council’s discriminatory agenda,” shared Beth Teper, COLAGE Executive Director. “His letter and fundraising ploy demonstrate the great significance of a simple invitation — for six mega-church communities to meet our members and hear our message of acceptance and unity.”

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) is an international fellowship of Christian churches with a special ministry to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The National Black Justice Coalition(NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. The Coalition works with our communities and our allies for social justice, equality, and an end to racism and homophobia. 

COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy.

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