Soulforce Launches Petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Signers Ask Leader Not to Segregate Openly Gay Bishop Robinson at Lambeth in 2008

For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771

(Austin, TX) — Soulforce has launched an online petition asking the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to invite Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

According to the New York Times, Williams has expressed liberal views on gay men and lesbians in the past, but appears willing to withhold Bishop Robinson’s invitation to this important meeting of Anglican bishops in order to try to avoid schism within the communion.

The Lambeth Conference only happens once every ten years. In 1998, the bishops passed a resolution "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture" and opposed the blessing of same-sex unions. The archbishop has indicated that he hopes the 2008 meeting will focus on prayer and reflection rather than policy.

Like many gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters, Jay Decker–a choir member at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Kenilworth, Illinois–reacted to Robinson’s exclusion with heartfelt outrage: "If the Archbishop will not reflect together with gay people on the faith they share with him, what hope is there of reaching any positive resolution? If he will not see us, how will he ever understand our heart and our humanity? If the Archbishop will not gather to pray with gay people, what hope do we have of finding welcome in that Church?"

The text of the Soulforce petition is below. The online petition can be found at:

A hard copy of the signed petition will be mailed to the archbishop’s office.

"I ____________ cannot accept that the way for faith leaders to deal with the tension resulting from an oppressed group of people’s struggle for justice is to exclude both the oppressed and the oppressor from historic church gatherings–especially meetings of prayer and reflection.

I call upon the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to do the right thing and invite V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to the 2008 meeting in London."

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. For more information go to

U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada given opportunity to stand up for justice and equality in the face of statement by Anglican Communion

U.S. and Canadian churches issued moratorium and asked to explain their thinking on same-sex holy unions and consecrating bishops based on their sexual orientation

SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: February 24, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt

(Lynchburg, VA) – Today, primates of the Anglican Communion issued a statement that they want the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to stop performing same-sex holy unions, stop consecrating bishops who live with a partner of the same sex, and withdraw temporarily from the Communion’s Councils, and to explain their position and thinking on homosexuality and the church, in Nottingham, England in June.

The consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man living in a committed relationship with another man, has divided the church and caused a rift between the US and Canadian Churches, and the Anglican Communion.

In light of these events, Soulforce, Inc. issued the following statement:

Although the statement by the primates of the Anglican Communion is incredibly hostile toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people everywhere, it gives the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada the historic opportunity to stand up for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all of God’s creation.

This is also a auspicious moment in time for the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to perform acts of ecclesial disobedience in the face of injustice by going against any moratorium requested by the Anglican Communion, and continue to perform holy unions and consecrate bishops without regard to one’s sexual orientation or who they love.

It is the hope of Soulforce, Inc. and thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of faith and their allies, that when given the opportunity in Nottingham, England in June to explain their position, the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada will use this opportunity to proclaim that everyone is worthy of equal treatment and uphold the principles taught in the Bible of love, justice, and compassion for all.

Chicago Free Press Article: "Soulforce Protests Episcopalians"

July 5, 2000

Chicago Free Press (glbt)
By Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

The Episcopal Church (USA) became the latest Christian denomination to hold a public wrestling match with homosexuality when representatives of the church gathered in Denver July 5 for a 10-day convention.

The 2.4-million-member ECUSA has an unofficial policy of allowing each diocese to decide independently whether to ordain lesbians and gays and whether to bless gay relationships. GLBT rights advocates want the church to endorse both same-sex unions and the ordination of open gays and lesbians, but opponents want those positions banned as inconsistent with biblical teachings.

The ECUSA General Convention was expected to address proposals on both issues before it closed. But even before it got underway, protesters with Soulforce, an ecumenical organization devoted to ending religious discrimination against GLBT people of faith, staged acts of non-violent civil disobedience July 4 on the steps of the Colorado Convention Center.

Police arrested 73 demonstrators wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, "stop spiritual violence." Among those arrested was the Rev. Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist minister who was defrocked in November for blessing a same-sex union. "Open your arms; open your doors; open your hearts," Creech said as he addressed a crowd of more than 100 protesters before he was taken into custody. "Stop the debate. Be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Although the (Episcopal) Church presents itself as ‘liberal’ and far ahead of other denominations, if justice and how it is applied toward LGBT members is used as a measure, ECUSA fares no better than other denominations," said Kate Bishop, Soulforce’s co-chair in Denver.

"For 30 years (the Episopalians) have been discussing this," said Soulforce co-founder the Rev. Mel White. "We’re asking them to resolve it."

Inside the convention, members of Integrity, an Episcopal GLBT organization, told the Episcopal News Service that while they respected Soulforce’s position, they believed their church was well on its way toward the full inclusion of gays and lesbians.

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of Integrity, told ENS, "We were in conversation with (Soulforce), so we knew that (the demonstration) was happening. We’re happy for them to be here. Our focus remains on the inside of the convention, and their ministry is to speak on the outside of the church and we’re happy for that."

Soulforce protesters were also arrested earlier this year in connection with demonstrations against the United Methodists, Presbyterians and Southern Baptists. The group plans to disrupt the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. in November.

Three days after the Soulforce demonstration, legendary folk singer Judy Collins announced that she was canceling a scheduled concert at the general convention to protest the church’s discriminatory policies against GLBT people. In a July 7 news release, Collins said she was "shocked" to learn that "the Episcopal Church, of which I’m a member and in which I was married, does not have an official national church policy allowing minister to officiate at same-sex unions or ordain openly gay people."

The same day Collins canceled her performance, the convention’s committee on church and human sexuality discussed a proposed resolution calling on the church to develop rites for couples who live in monogamous, committed relationships but do not get married. Committee members said the proposal would create rites for committed couple[s] while stressing the importance of monogamy. They hoped it would provide a middle ground for liberals and conservatives within the church.

PlanetOut Article: "73 Arrests at Episcopal Demo"

PlanetOut News Staff
Wednesday, July 5, 2000 / 12:07 AM

SUMMARY: For the third time this year, gays and lesbians get locked up to convince a major denomination not to lock them out of the church. The ten-day 73rd General Convention of the 2.4-million-member Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) began July 5 in Denver, and gay crusader Reverend Mel White’s Soulforce group got things rolling the day before by being arrested in a peaceful civil disobedience action demanding equal treatment for gays and lesbians within the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion.

The triennial General Convention is the denomination’s final authority on matters of policy and canonical law. One proposal before the Convention, nicknamed "the local option," would codify the current Episcopal practice of allowing each diocese to determine whether to ordain sexually active gays and lesbians or bless same-gender couples — yet there are both liberals and conservatives who fear that doing so could result in schism, and the Convention may decide to make no move at all. Conservatives are now campaigning for programs purporting to change homosexual orientation to heterosexual.

Soulforce Protest
One to two hundred lesbians/gays/bisexuals/transgenders and their allies, many in T-shirts reading "Stop spiritual violence," rallied on the steps of the Colorado Convention Center in 90-degree heat for speeches, prayer and songs in Soulforce’s third civil disobedience protesting at a major denomination’s national assembly this year. White said, "For 30 years they’ve been discussing this. We’re asking them now to resolve it." Non-gay Jimmy Creech, stripped of his United Methodist ministerial credentials last year after his second church trial for blessing same-gender couples, said, "We are here to say to our sisters and brothers who are Episcopalians to stop the debate! It is time to open your arms in full inclusion. Open your doors. Open your hearts. Welcome all God’s people."

As discussed in advance with police, those prepared to be arrested linked arms or held hands in five groups of about fifteen each to silently block the entrance and did not respond to three police warnings to disperse. Police arrested 73 according to Soulforce (some other sources quoted as many as 80) on charges on trespassing and failure to obey a lawful order. A police sergeant asked the protesters about hand and shoulder problems that might be exacerbated by handcuffs; the fifty officers involved gave protesters a choice between being cuffed with their hands in front of them or behind them. Police had prepared to process the arrests around the corner of the building in the shade, and as photos were taken of each arrestee and arresting officer together, sometimes both smiled.

The maximum penalty for the charges is a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Assistant Denver City Attorney Jim Thomas assured the Rocky Mountain News that the actual sentences would not be likely to approach the maximum. Sheriffs’ buses transported the arrestees to jail, but they were released after about an hour.

One of those arrested was Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, who publicly identified himself as a gay man after his retirement. He said, "For about 20 years, I thought God would deliver me from this, but then I realized that wasn’t going to happen." He said gays and lesbians "pay a price" when as he did they lack "the courage to live the truth of my life," adding, "I know the cost of that." He said that, "the time has come to say that we are fully a part of the church. We refuse to be silent; we refuse to be invisible." Charles is the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Another rally speaker was Leanne Bryce, who has filed a discrimination lawsuit June 13 against Boulder’s St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church for firing her from her post as youth minister after learning of her commitment ceremony. She said she had been put through "a public inquisition," called "debased" and "demonically possessed," and been heartbroken by the intolerance of the church she loves.

There were no counterdemonstrators against Soulforce, although police had arranged an area for them. Adding to the voices of protest was esteemed Reverend Dr. George Regas of Pasadena, California, who wrote in a letter to all the Convention participants that, "The debate on the homosexuality issue has become a primary source of suffering for millions of lesbian and gay people. The fact that bishops, priests and laity are at this General Convention to debate once again whether gay and lesbian persons are acceptable is obscene!"

The Episcopal Church’s own 25-year-old gay and lesbian network Integrity was able to discuss the action with Soulforce in advance, and Integrity president Reverend Michael Hopkins declared his group was happy White’s group was there "to speak on the outside to the church." However he explained that Integrity’s own focus "remains on the inside of the Convention" in their own tradition of working within the church’s institutional structure. He said, "We’re not here to fight a battle or win a war. We’re here to tell the Good News, trusting that if our telling is the truth, it will set us free."

Remarks Written for the Soulforce Press Conference, Denver, CO

July 4, 2000

The Rev. Dr. George F. Regas
Rector Emeritus, All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA

We are here today to say the debate is over.

The fact that bishops, priests and laity are here in Denver at this General Convention to debate once again whether gay and lesbian persons are acceptable is obscene.

The debate on the homosexuality issue has become a primary source of suffering for millions lesbian and gay people.

Over my 28 years as Rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena, California, I got acquainted with a larger number of gay men and lesbians. I know them up close and down deep. They are beautiful people who live holy and virtuous lives. Then love God deeply and try to live to God’s glory.

But there is no way to describe adequately the humiliation, exclusion and rejection most of these precious children of God have experienced in the Christian churches and throughout the structure of society.

These gay and lesbian persons have frequently been told by their families that they don’t belong to them, by some churches that they are perverse sinners because they express their love for each other, by the Vatican they are told they are intrinsically disordered, by some in the medical profession that they are sick, by the Boy Scouts of America that they are not "morally straight", they are not clean, and by the former President of the United States that they are not normal.

The brutal way these children of God have been excluded from normal life is breathtaking. Homophobia is the last respectable prejudice – one seemingly sanctioned by the Church and the State.

We will no longer sit silently as our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are condemned as having immoral relationships and their ministries are denied. The debate must end.

Rev. James Lawson, my long-time friend and a close colleague of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the civil rights struggle, made a comment not long ago that still reverberates in my mind and soul.

The gay community’s struggle for civil rights is even more difficult that our black community’s struggle. We have our families and our churches to help us. The gay community has neither."

We must change that here in Denver at this General Convention.

We can no longer tolerate a rhetoric that lacerates the souls of our gay brothers and lesbian sisters. They are precious children of God, created, redeemed and accepted by our God. Hatred is the depravity, not the choice of whom to love.

Some are gallantly working for justice for gays inside the Convention Hall. Some of us are outside saying, no more debate, no more stalling. Open your arms and your hearts to welcome gays and lesbians into our Church’s ministries.

The most popular religious song in America, hands down, is "Amazing Grace." Get a bunch of Christians together and they want to sing "Amazing Grace." But what bothers me is that too few really understand that grace is the most radical concept in the Bible.

At the Core of the Christian faith is the simple and profound assertion: God loves you just as you are. In the Gospel of Jesus, the first and last word is "grace." This is unconditional inclusive love and generous acceptance is not marginal to our religion. It is central to our beliefs.

God accepts us as we are – gay or straight. This radical acceptance is of the total person – body, mind and spirit. Grace is total acceptance.

Is that a God’s way – can it not be practiced in the Church?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been a long-time friend from the day I met him in South Africa in 1978, struggling to end the vicious apartheid structure of South Africa.

More recently, this fighter for justice moved into another dimension of apartheid – homosexual behavior. He opposes the official position of the Anglican Church in South Africa, which forbids homosexual behavior. "We’ve made celibacy obligatory for homosexuals and I am uncomfortable with these restrictions on homosexuals." He opposes those restrictions, he says, "because physical expression of the sex drive in a loving relationship is important to becoming fully human."

Yes, this amazing man would bow before his lesbian and gay sisters and brothers – people of precious worth, holy vessels of the living God.

The clearest way for this loving acceptance and inclusion to happen in our church is blessing the union of same sex couples who are committed to life-long fidelity and love and allowing the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

I believe that these acts – ordination and blessing – are the clearest symbols that the Episcopal church can offer that these precious children of god are fully accepted into the live of the Church and are loved unconditionally by God, just as I am loved and accepted.

But what about the Bible? Lambeth said all of this is incompatible with scripture. And there are bishops, priests and laity inside that convention Hall who are saying the Bible doesn’t allow us to act in this radically inclusive way.

Let’s be honest about the Bible. The Episcopal Church does not hold to biblical inerrancy. I don’t know anyone who still publicly advocates slavery or stoning to death an adulterer – both urged in the Bible.

One day the famous theologian, Paul Tillich, was accosted by a Bible waving fundamentalist. "Professor Tillich, do you believe this book is the word of god?" The wise theologian responded, "Yes, I do if it possesses you rather than you processing it!"

The Bible is central to my life as a Christian. It is the foundational document for our church. But if we take the Bible seriously, we cant read it literally and dismiss what we’ve learned in the centuries after the Bible was finished.

Today we know gay and lesbian couples who live deeply in committed lives of love and integrity. This sexual orientation and its expression in an honorable relationship was not the subject matter of the biblical writers. However, the really serious problem for Christians who live by "The Book" is not how to square homosexuality with the seven passages in the Bible which on the surface seem to condemn it – but rather how to reconcile the rejection, prejudice, and cruelty of homosexuals with the gracious, unconditional love of Christ.

Pivotal to the sacred scriptures is the centrality and primacy of justice.

Blessing same sex unions and ordaining practicing gay and lesbian persons are acts of justice, acts of liberation, and as Dr. King said long ago, "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Many want this General Conference to be peaceful and serene, with no divisiveness and conflict. Yet the imperative of Amos thunders through this place: "Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

One thing we know is antithetical to scripture: it is injustice – the treatment of human beings as inherently immoral – a bondage that excludes gays and lesbians from the holy of holies.

Let’s be a Biblical Church and hear again the imperative of Amos – "Let justice roll down like a river."

And when the Church acts to allow blessings of same sex unions and ordination of practicing gays – it is affirming a God who is not static, only speaking 2000-4000 years ago, but a living God who is revealing new truths to us now.

If the bishops and priests and lay delegates listen carefully, above the competing pressures of this groups and that, they will hear the still small voice of God from the prophet Isaiah whisper to them, "I am doing a new thing," and they will respond faithfully to the call for justice.

Soulforce to Demonstrate at Episcopal Conference in Denver


Demonstration to Cap off a Summer of Civil Disobedience and Arrests All Across the United States in Protest of the Exclusion of God’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Children

Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt, Media Coordinator
Cell: 717-951-7712

Laguna Beach CA – On July 4th, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender individuals, and their families, friends and allies will join together in Denver to protest the exclusionary practices by many churches in the Episcopal Church USA and support the full inclusion of GLBT individuals in all aspects the church. The protest is being organized by Soulforce, an ecumenical people of faith network committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

"The Episcopal Church (ECUSA), like other denominations, continues to debate whether LGBT persons are worthy of full inclusion and membership," declared Kate Bishop, Soulforce Co-chair in Denver. " The debate itself is harmful and damaging to those within and outside of the Church. Although the Church presents itself as "liberal" and far ahead of other denominations, if justice and how it is applied toward LGBT members is used as a measure, ECUSA fairs no better than other denominations."

People of faith from many denominations will be taking part in the protest and anticipated arrests. The day begins with gathering at 8am on July 4th at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 16th and Ogden. A Soulforce Training in Nonviolent Resistance to Injustice based on the principles of Gandhi and Martin Luther King will be led by Dr. Mel White beginning at 8:30am, followed by a picnic. The training is open to media.

As Bishops and Deputies arrive for their Opening Orientation Session at the Colorado Convention Center, 14th and California Streets in Denver, Soulforce supporters will be standing in silent vigil to greet them. A press conference will take place at 1:15 on the Convention Center steps, featuring distinguished Episcopalian leaders and other friends and allies. After the press conference, many of the participants are expected to take place in an act of non-violent civil disobedience leading to arrest.

"From the beginning of this tragic debate, Episcopal bishops, priests, and laity have taken courageous and costly stands for full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities," explained Dr. Mel White. "However, there are fundamentalist forces working within the Anglican Communion in this country and abroad that are trying to turn the entire denomination against God’s GLBT children. We are here to say that this debate must end! We hope that Bishops and Deputies will not be swayed by the dangerous and regressive voices nor by the toxic rhetoric of those who wish to oppress us."

To participate in the direct action, individuals must take part in the Soulforce non-violence training the morning of July 4 or in a brief training at the Convention Center, 12:45 p.m. All participants are required to sign, wear, and uphold the Soulforce "pledge to nonviolence" used by Dr. Martin Luther King and his marchers in 1963.

Similar acts of protest were held during the United Methodist General Conference in May, and the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian General Assembly earlier this month. In November, a Soulforce delegation will conduct another civil disobedience at the meeting of the National Council of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

Link here to additional information on the Soulforce action, or to sign up for the civil disobedience training and non-violent direct action, or call (949) 455-0999.

The Invitation to a July 4 Picnic in the Park

June 20, 2000

Sisters and Brothers,

For three decades we’ve waited patiently for Protestant and Catholic Church leaders to end their policies against sexual and gender minorities. Those same policies lead to discrimination, suffering, and even death. We cannot wait patiently any longer!

On Tuesday morning, July 4, Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church representing 2.5 million members and 7,500 parishes and missions in the U.S.A. will gather in the Denver Convention Center to begin their 73rd General Convention.

We respect their First Amendment Right to gather and we will not disrupt their meetings in anyway. In fact, many who enter the Center that afternoon will be our friends in the struggle for equal rights.

At a press conference at 1:30 p.m. we will thank those Episcopalians who have led the way to full acceptance. At the same time we will protest the great injustices suffered by sexual and gender minorities at the hands of other Episcopal leaders. And we will remind the media of the tragic consequences of this endless debate. At 1:45 p.m., the police will warn us that we are an unlawful assembly and arrest those who stay to pray.

On May 10, in Cleveland, Ohio, at a similar United Methodist event, 191 Soulforce volunteers were arrested in an act of spiritual resistance. On June 14, 100 Soulforcees held a Pray-In at the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando. Thirty-five were arrested. Sunday, June 25, 200 will join us in a similar protest at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Long Beach. July 4, we’re going to Denver. Spend the summer with Soulforce.

Put your body on the line. Tell the nation’s religious leaders: THIS DEBATE MUST END. THE SUFFERING HAS GONE ON TOO LONG. WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN, TOO!

We are working closely with the Denver Police Department to be sure our July 4 direct action is safe and non-disruptive. At this point it looks like those who are arrested will be given a summons (like a parking ticket) and be released. You may pay your fine by mail. Or you can support us and not be arrested, and even change your mind either way at the last minute. If you sign up, we will keep you posted each step of the way.

But you must be trained. Learn the full details at our training session, 8:30 – 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 4, at the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 16th & Ogden. We will provide a Fourth of July Picnic lunch and then move together to the press conference and direct action at the Convention Center at 12:30 p.m.

If you are interested in learning more, sign up today. The training is free and you are not obligated to join us even after being trained. But you must be trained and sign a pledge to nonviolence written by Dr. King in 1963.
Gandhi and King both remind us that we were "created to do justice" and that until we have taken one step in that direction we will never know the real power and purpose of our lives. Join us. Get a civil rights misdemeanor on your record and the joy of doing justice in your heart.

Jimmy Creech, Soulforce Chairman of the Board
Kate Bishop, National Co-Chair for Soulforce Journey to Denver
Carol White and Judith Nelson, Local Co-Chairs, Journey to Denver
Mel White, Co-Founder, Soulforce

Soulforce, P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
Phone: (949) 455-0999

Denver – General Conference of the Episcopal Church

Denver, Colorado
July 4, 2000

73 Arrests at Episcopal Demo

Soulforce Protests Episcopalians

Remarks written for the Soulforce Press Conference, Denver, CO
General Conference of the Episcopal Church
The Rev. Dr. George F. Regas
Rector Emeritus, All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA

July 4 Press Conference at 1:15 followed by Civil Disobedience

The Invitation to a July 4 Picnic in the Park

The Open Letter to the Episcopal Church USA – Denver
To Our Sisters and Brothers in the Episcopal Church USA,
We at Soulforce acknowledge gratefully that the ECUSA is far ahead of most Christian denominations on issues pertaining to God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered children. From the beginning of this tragic debate, Episcopal bishops, priests, and laity have taken courageous and costly stands for full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities.
Read more.