Dallas Voice, "Dallas Pastor to Meet with LGBT Group"

Dallas Pastor to Meet with LGBT Group

John Wright

Soulforce representatives to attend Potters House services on Sunday, attend meeting afterwards

Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potters House in Dallas reportedly has agreed to meet with local LGBT families and representatives from the national gay rights group Soulforce on Sunday, May 18.

Paige Schilt, a spokeswoman for Soulforce, said this week that a contingent of 50 people plan to attend services at the Potters House on Sunday. Following the services, Jakes, staff members and congregants from the Potters House have agreed to meet with them, Schilt said.

Representatives from the Potters House didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

The Potters House, which has upward of 30,000 members, is one of six megachurches Soulforce plans to visit this year in an effort to initiate a dialogue with prominent Christian evangelists on LGBT issues.

"The idea is that we feel called to love each other across differences, and we feel that not knowing each other breeds fear on both sides, so this is just an opportunity to get to know one another as families, as people of faith, and to get beyond the divisiveness," Schilt said. "We’re not saying you need to change what you believe. We’re saying get to know us and our families, and let’s see how that changes the conversation."

Last week, Soulforce visited Lakewood Church in Houston to meet with Pastor Joel Osteen. Osteen initially ignored the group’s request, but he later agreed to meet with Jay Bakker, the son of the late Tammye Faye Bakker Messner, who led the visit on behalf of Soulforce.

Schilt said the visit to the Potters House will be led by the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a 74-year-old retired black minister who’s a veteran of the civil rights movement. Caldwell participated in the "Mississippi Freedom Summer" of 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 and the March on Washington.

In an interview with Dallas Voice, Gill said although he and Jakes are apparently at "different places" on LGBT issues, he’s a fan of Jakes’ preaching.

“He’s an important force within the church community," Caldwell said. "What a magnificent ministry it would be if Bishop Jakes could help the black church and other churches deal with the heterosexism, the homophobia, the kind of anti-gay feelings that seem to be endemic. What a shaker and mover he could be if he dared step out on faith on this."

Although he’s been largely silent on LGBT issues, Jakes once called being gay a "brokenness" and has said that he wouldn’t hire an openly gay person.

Caldwell said he believes many blacks feel threatened by the gay rights movement.

"There’s this great concern that another group is sort of piggybacking on the [civil rights] movement when in fact we are still struggling in terms of black equality," Caldwell said. "If in fact the gay community could express some real overt understanding of the racial struggle, that in fact could open the door for conversation vis-塚ィヘ -vis gay rights."

Also on hand for the visit to the Potters House will be Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group. The visit is being facilitated by Living Faith Covenant Church, an LGBT-affirming black church in Dallas.

In addition to Lakewood Church and the Potters House, Soulforce plans to visit Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md.; New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.; and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

Schilt said pastors at all but one of the churches have agreed to meet with Soulforce.

"We’re feeling very happy with the interest and the positive response that we’ve gotten from these congregations," Schilt said.

In addition to Soulforce, the visits are being organized by the National Black Justice Coalition, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and COLAGE, a group for children with LGBT parents.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

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