A Personal Invitation From Rev. Dr. Mel White
Gary and I are hoping that you will seriously consider joining us in Ft. Worth, Texas, April 25-27, and if you can, stay through the following week until Friday, May 2. You will have a rare opportunity to stand with us on the front lines of our struggle to end religion-based oppression.
On Friday evening, April 25, we will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Soulforce with laughter and tears, food and drink, special music and a documentary film looking back at the first ten years on the frontlines with Soulforce. The entire Soulforce team will be there to meet and greet you. Dan Karslake, the producer of For The Bible Tells Me So will be there to shake your hand, and we will sponsor a showing of that prize-winning film (featuring the work of Soulforce) on Saturday night, April 26. Former Soulforce Board Chairman, Jimmy Creech, who stood with us in the very first Soulforce actions, will be there to welcome you as well. We owe it to ourselves to spend this quality time together remembering the amazing work you have done to peacefully confront injustice during our first decade.
However, we are not going to Fort Worth just to party. Our Soulforce visit coincides in time and place with the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, with 8.5 million members – the country’s second largest denomination. Sadly, it is becoming more and more apparent that a majority of the more than 1,000 United Methodist delegates gathering at this historic General Conference are determined to keep in place their ban against the ordination and marriage of LGBT members. We expect a number of other discriminatory policies to be introduced that would signal a giant step backwards into intolerance and oppression.
Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27 will offer another of those rare opportunities to stand vigil with Soulforce as thousands of United Methodist – delegates, clergy, bishops and laity from across the US and around the world – converge on the Ft. Worth Convention Center for their weekend General Conference events. Soulforce will support the Reconciling Ministries Network, Affirmation, and other LGBT Methodist groups who are working tirelessly to end the injustice within their denomination.
Just standing in an elegant, silent, Soulforce vigil is guaranteed to change your life. How often do you have the chance to actually do justice, to put your body on the line, to transform your words into actions? Remember, both Gandhi and King remind us that taking this step may or may not change the minds and hearts of our adversaries; but standing in that vigil will change your mind and heart forever.
If you are feeling courageous on those weekend morning vigils, you and a partner, trained in nonviolence earlier in the day, will distribute our case against the antigay policies of United Methodist Church to the very men and women who create and enforce those policies. They are not evil. They are victims of misinformation as we have been. We are there to liberate United Methodists from the burden of their intolerance. We will stand vigil at the front doors of that Convention Center because we love United Methodists enough to spend time and money helping them discover the truth that homosexuality is not a sickness nor a sin and that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith serve as UMC clergy and laity across the country and around the globe.
During the weekend, you’ll also have a chance to spend some quality time brainstorming about the future of Soulforce with each other, with our esteemed board of directors, with me, Jeff, and the entire Soulforce staff. Through a carefully guided process, we invite you to share your vision as together we shape the next decade of our important future.
If you can stay with us Monday, April 28, through Friday, May 2, you will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of creative actions against the unjust and discriminatory United Methodist Church policies. Whatever powerful response we plan together you can be certain that our words and actions will be guided by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance as developed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. If you’ve ever considered taking that next step, this may be your chance. You’ll be part of our ongoing efforts to end the dehumanizing injustice within the United Methodist Church.
In 1999 in Grand Island, Nebraska, Soulforce stood vigil and engaged in civil disobedience at the trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was defrocked for marrying a gay couple. In 2000, more than 200 Soulforce volunteers were arrested during a peaceful protest at the UMC General Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2004 Soulforce conducted nonviolent direct actions at two trials of UMC pastors, the Rev. Karen Dammann and the Rev. Beth Stroud, who came out as lesbians in committed relationships.
Soulforce must continue to assist UMC members who are struggling against the advances of the antigay forces within their denomination. Check www.soulforce.org to register and for regular news updates.
Gary and I look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth!
-Rev. Dr. Mel White