Dr. Cindi Love to attend UN Human Rights Consultation

Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce will attend 2nd LGBTI/SOGI HUMAN RIGHTS CONSULTATION DECEMBER 13th, 2010 at the United Nations.  The task force will further its work in countering the homophobia that is quickly spreading throughout the world, particularly in regions like Africa and the Middle East and explore more opportunities to raise religious voices and support human rights defenders on the ground throughout theworld.  There are more than 80 nations where a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person may be imprisoned for life or executed for being open about sexual orientation or gender expression.

The meeting coincides with several other events held at and around the UN commemorating International Human Rights Day.  Three frontline
advocates from both Uganda and Kenya will be featured at the consultation, Bishop Christopher Senjonjo and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha from Uganda and the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, David Kuria Mbote.

ELCA Reinstates Openly Gay Minister Couple in a Committed Relationship

A visible sign of the wondrous changes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) is the reinstatement of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and
Pastor Darin Easler to the roster of ministers of the ELCA.  Both had been
removed from that roster for being in a committed, same-gender

As a committed, same-gender clergy couple they will serve openly on the
roster of ELCA ministers under the now-revised policy.  The new policy is
the result of the decisions of the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly
directing the removal of the barriers to service in the church by
ministers in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationships.  That new
policy was implemented by the actions of the ELCA Church Council in early
April 2010.

Schmeling was on the roster of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA at St.
John”s Lutheran Church in Atlanta.  In 2006, he told his previous bishop
that he had found his partner for life.  That bishop filed ecclesiastical
charges for violation of the-then policy that required celibacy of gay
ministers.  Famously, at the end of the 2007 trial, the Discipline Hearing
Committee”s ruling said that they found nothing wrong with his ministry
or commitment to the work of the church, that they would hold him up as
exemplary, and that they thought the policy was wrong and ought to be
changed.  But, they said that, obedient to the law, he was to be removed
from the roster.

Schmeling”s congregation, which had thrown a celebratory party when first
told about his commitment to Darin Easler, informed the bishop they were
keeping him as their pastor, as they have done for the last three years.
No formal charges were filed against the congregation.  However, from that
time, the ELCA officially considered the pulpit at St. John”s to be
vacant.  But, no more.  Pastor Schmeling”s ministry will be officially
recognized by his reinstatement to the roster.

Darin Easler was on the roster of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the
ELCA, successfully came out to the congregation he had served for five
years in Zumbrota, Minnesota, but because of the previous policy, chose to
leave his call in 2003. He was later dropped from the clergy roster solely
because of his committed relationship with Schmeling.  Subsequently, he
received ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ, who welcomes
gay ministers in committed relationships.  His ministry in Atlanta is as a
chaplain and grief counselor to patients and families in hospice care.
Pastor Bradley Schmeling says, "One of the stones of injustice has been
rolled away from the door, and Christ now lives more fully in the life of
the church.  The old policy, a dead end for so many for so long, has
fallen in the face of Easter’s gracious power.  It’s been striking how
deliberately and how clearly the church has moved forward to make the
assembly’s witness a reality.  These are exciting days to be part of the
church, and I’m looking forward to years ahead in ministry both with the
church I love and with the partner that God has given me.  To be on the
roster together makes Isaiah’s vision of an everlasting place within God’s
house a wonderful, living reality in our lives."

Easler said of the reinstatement, "Today is a day of hope, not only for
those of us in the LGBT community who can return to our church family and
to the ELCA clergy roster, but for all those, young and old alike, who can
now imagine a future in the church, and truly experience the church as a
place of full welcome and unconditional love."

Laura Crawley, Congregational President of St. John”s Lutheran Church,
said, "St. John’s has seen history turn many corners in its 140-plus years
as a Lutheran congregation in Atlanta. With the change in ELCA policy that
enables Bradley and Darin to return to the ELCA roster of ordained
ministry, we rejoice that we’ve been a part of righting one of the wrongs
of history."

"The larger church continues to struggle with this issue. Many people are
saddened by the policy change and worry for the future of the Lutheran
church. I hope they’ll come to St. John’s to worship with us one Sunday,
so we can welcome them and make them feel at home again in their church.
"The St. John’s congregation never doubted Bradley’s and Darin’s calls to
ministry. We’re honored by their ministry gifts and by the example of
their loving, committed relationship. We’re so glad the ELCA is welcoming
them home!"

Ross Murray, Interim Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North
America, said, "We celebrate that Bradley is the first pastor to be
reinstated to the ELCA roster and that Darin is being restored to the ELCA
roster, both under the new policy.  And, we celebrate that they are able
to serve openly in the ELCA  as a same-gender clergy couple. Our continued
prayer is that they will be the first of many people who are able to come
out and serve the church with honesty and integrity.  Such a day calls for
celebration, not only in Atlanta, but by all who value full participation
and the continued spread of Christ”s message.

Murray continued, "We look forward to celebrating with every pastor and
lay leader who is being received or reinstated onto the ELCA clergy
roster, every person who is able to be more honest about his or her
personal life because of this policy change, and every congregation who is
freed to call the leader with the gifts that will suit them best.  There
is still much work to be done to achieve full inclusion of LGBT people in
the life of the church."

Pastors Bradley Schmeling, Darin Easler and the congregation of St.
John”s Lutheran Church will jointly celebrate the reinstatements at a
congregational event to be scheduled for mid-June.

About Lutherans Concerned:
Working at the intersection of oppressions, Lutherans Concerned/North
America (LC/NA) embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the
acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and
gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and
global partners. LC/NA is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

2010 Equality Ride Route: Belhaven University

Belhaven University

The Equality Ride stop at Belhaven University is March 29, 2010.

The Equality Rider organizing the stop at Belhaven University is Stuart Brewster.

Stuart Stuart Brewster

If you are a student at Belhaven University , an alum of Belhaven University , or a concerned citizen in the Jackson, MS area and would like to help with the Soulforce Q Equality Ride’s visit to Belhaven University , please register below.

Register to help with the 2010 Equality Ride’s stop at Belhaven University

Sunday, March 28th
6pm: Potluck dinner at Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson
4866 North State Street
Jackson MS 39206 

Tuesday, March 30th
1:45pm – 4:30pm
– Community Service project at Belhaven University;
meet on campus in the Student Center

7:00pm – Dinner at Safe Harbor Family Church
2147 Henry Hill Drive, Suite 203
Jackson, MS 39204-2000 

Spring 2009 Catholic Action

St. Peter's photoSPRING 2009 CATHOLIC ACTION

UPDATE: See video footage of April 22, 2009 and April 23, 2009

Please join us this spring in calling on the Vatican to support the safety and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are working to gain support from the Roman Catholic Church for the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The United States, as of Wednesday March 18th, has signed on to the declaration. This is a great shift in U.S. policy, and we hope that you will work with us to continue the focus on the Vatican.

There are many ways to participate, if you are not able to join us in New York City.

Send us your story! We will be delivering the personal testimonies of those who want to share why it matters to them that the Vatican support LGBT by endorsing the UN’s declaration. We will be delivering all our stories to the office in New York City, and we would be honored to include your story. Contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org with your statement.

If you want to join us on the ground in New York City, next week, read details and register here.

Our introductory training will be on Tuesday, April 21 from 8 to 10pm at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, www.spsanyc.org, 263 West 86th Street @ West End Avenue. Subway 86th Street on the 1, B or C line. If you have questions, contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org or 212-203-5774.

You can join the growing group of local leaders organizing solidarity actions where they live. We will work with you to support efforts in your hometown. All are welcome at any experience level. If you are interested in being a local leader or a participant, click here for a list of participating cities, ideas for action and contact information.

You or your organization can also join the campaign by signing onto the following statement of support. Click here for contact information, the text of the statement, and the growing list of supporters.

The background of this campaign:

For the first time ever at the United Nations in December 2008, a statement was heard on the support of equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade began the effort in early 2008 to create U.N.-backed protections for LGBT people. The Netherlands signed on as a co-sponsor on behalf of the European Union, and on December 18, 2008 Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina read out the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, some countries have not yet signed on in support of safety for all. The Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, was among the first to oppose:

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations. For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

Read the official statement on the declaration from the Holy See here.

We have sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against defamatory language regarding LGBT people and work in open and good faith to bring the Vatican toward supporting safety for all humans.

We are inviting you to work with us this spring in solidarity actions across the country and internationally to unite our voices. Based on the idea of pilgrimage, we are looking for local leaders and participants who want to help create conversations about faith and LGBT equality and get active in their community. No experience is required – just the desire to work in solidarity with activists in a localized action with global impact to make justice the standard.

Download the text of the declaration

Read some of the actions and statements of the Roman Catholic Church

With questions or feedback about the campaign, please contact:
Haven Herrin at Haven@Soulforce.org or Kara Speltz at Kara@Soulforce.org