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
relationship.

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.

Report from the Soulforce Action at the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando

Soulforce was proud to partner with Goodsoil at the biennial Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Orlando, August 8-14, 2005. Karen Weldin, Bill Carpenter and others from Soulforce worked diligently with a planning team from all over the country and were joined in Orlando by courageous souls who were eager to do justice. Soulforce, and the other organizations within the Goodsoil alliance, vigiled and gave out leaflets as a powerful witness to the lives that are damaged by unjust Lutheran policies.

On Friday, August 12, 2005, nearly the entire day was used to consider recommendations from the Sexuality Task Force Report of the ELCA.

An amendment that would have given pastors explicit permission to bless same-sex unions failed. Instead, a more ambiguous measure was approved that maintains the ELCA ban on same-sex blessing ceremonies, but says that the church will "trust" pastors and congregations "to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care" to everyone. Some believe the vote leaves the door open for same-sex blessings by Bishops who are supportive.

Next, the assembly rejected a proposal to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained as members of the clergy. When the recommendation failed, Soulforce delegates joined Goodsoil as approximately 100 people walked silently to the front of the hall, stood before the stage where Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson was overseeing the meeting and faced the assembly of 1,018 voting members. The group stood quietly for over two hours and did not leave when asked by the Bishop. The action created tension within the hall. Some voting members were angered while others spoke out in tearful and heartfelt support. Pastor Paul Tideman (a voting member of the ELCA) requested that Pastor Anita Hill address the assembly, but the request was denied. Through our nonviolent resistance, the voting members and the visitors in the hall were forced to see our resolve: the church belongs to us, we are not going away, and we demand full and equal participation.

Goodsoil, an alliance of six organizations including Soulforce, issued a statement accusing the church of "sacrificing" gay men and women "on the altar of a false and ephemeral sense of unity." For more detailed information about the action, please go to www.goodsoil.org.

Goodsoil to the ELCA: "Discrimination is Unbecoming. Faithfulness Requires Full Participation"

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: August 3, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Soucy, 703-980-2038, communications@lcna.org
Laura Montgomery Rutt, 717-278-0592, lmrutt@gmail.com
******************************************

(Orlando, FL)Goodsoil, a Lutheran Alliance of which Soulforce is a partner, is adamant that that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) should change its current policy governing the ordination and rostering of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and the blessing of covenanted, same-sex relationships. The ELCA currently has two sets of rules: one for GLBT people and another for everyone else. Goodsoil believes that there should be only one set of rules. This will be among the controversial and significant issues to come before the biennial Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, August 8-14, 2005.

The Rev. Jeff Johnson, co-chair of goodsoil, said, “In our Lutheran church, faithfulness requires the full participation of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It is time for this discriminatory regime of the current policy to come to an end. We hope that the Voting Members in Orlando will bring to an end this time of open discrimination in our church and change the policy.”

Currently, ELCA policy requires a life-long commitment to celibacy from GLBT persons who seek to be ordained or rostered in this church, a commitment required only of GLBT persons. Additionally, the church does not prohibit or provide for the blessing of covenanted same-gender relationships. In 1991, the Churchwide Assembly urged the full participation of GLBT people in the life of the ELCA, and in 1993 the Conference of Bishops encouraged the exercise of discretion for individual congregations and clergy who chose to recognize and bless same-gender committed unions in the context of the provision of pastoral care.

Ms. Jeannine Janson, co-chair of goodsoil, commented, “Our Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, has said it best: ‘We are going to Orlando to be the Body of Christ.’ This means all of us. We are not part of a divided body. The Body of Christ is not divided into first class and second class parts. We are all a part of the same body, and we are not going anywhere. We hope that the Voting Members will make the changes necessary for the full participation of all people in this body, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

About
Goodsoil is an alliance of six organizations seeking justice and equality by full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Lutheran Church. Further information about the goodsoil effort can be found at www.goodsoil.org.

Controversial Votes on Equality for Gays and Lesbians to Impact the Lutheran Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, August 8-14

Goodsoil coalition to witness to the inequality of treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people in the Lutheran Church

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: July 30, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Soucy, 703-980-2038, communications@lcna.org
Laura Montgomer Rutt, 717-278-0592, lmrutt@gmail.com
******************************************

(Orlando, FL)Goodsoil, a coalition of six progressive advocacy groups (including Soulforce) for the full participation of GLBT people in the Lutheran Church, www.goodsoil.org, will have a significant presence and a myriad of activities at World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Florida for the August 8-14 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Through conversation, vigiling, leafleting, presentations, and non-violent direct action, goodsoil will bear witness to the ongoing inequality, injustice, and double standard at the center of the Lutheran Church’s of treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Goodsoil intends through its presence in Orlando to call the ELCA back to its confessional roots, to be a Church that stands boldly for reconciliation, transformation, equality and justice for all people.

The Issues:
After a four year period of study, the ELCA Church Council is recommending three resolutions regarding the unity of the Church in the midst of controversy, the blessing of same-gender covenanted relationships, and the ordination and rostering of gay and lesbian clergy in covenanted relationships.

Goodsoil seeks justice for GLBT Lutherans at this Assembly in Orlando. The central issue of concern is the complete abolition of the Church’s current policy of discrimination which requires a vow of life-long celibacy for GLBT people seeking ordination. In addition, GLBT people seek the removal of any barriers to the blessing of their covenanted relationships and marriages. Goodsoil will by its large presence both within the body of voting delegates and as visitors to the assembly provide witness to the inequality of the treatment and welcome provided by the Church for GLBT persons.

Goodsoil Activities:
Activities by goodsoil during the Assembly will include silent witnessing, vigils, leafleting, presentations, non-violent direct actions intended to make the Assembly aware of the injustice of the current situation. Midweek, goodsoil will sponsor a Festival Liturgy, co-celebrated and preached by ordained, openly GLBT clergy. During the worship service, vows of baptism, ordination, and covenanted relationships (including marriage) will be renewed. Current and former ELCA Bishops will help lead the renewal of these vows. More than 400 of those attending the Assembly are expected to be at the service, which will be held at 7:30 pm, Thursday, August 11, at the Caribe Royale All-Suites Resort and Convention Center, close to the Marriott. Transportation will be provided from the Marriott. The press is invited to attend.

Lutheran Pastor Lars Clausen, Riding Straight into Gay America, www.straightintogayamerica.com, will continue the witness of his unicycle ride, now a month and more than 1000 miles long, a straight pastor searching for the stories that help all understand the fellow Lutherans, God’s Children, who are the target of the current ELCA bans. Lars will be available to the press/photographers at 2:30 pm Wednesday, August 10th, at the Marriott Center. Lars will also be available at the goodsoil reception that evening in the Marriott.

Interviews and Press Availability:
Jeannine Janson and the Reverend Jeff Johnson, co-chairs for goodsoil, will be available for interviews prior to and during the Churchwide Assembly. Senior representatives from the each of the six alliance organizations will also be present and available.

Lutheran Church Keeps its Promise to Gays and Lesbians to Issue Final Report on Study on Homosexuality in 2005 – Will Also Continue Relationship with Episcopal Church

Soulforce and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation conducted vigils and leafleting during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to help educate voting members

Press Release: August 16, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org

(Milwaukee, WI) – On the final afternoon session of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly, voting members rejected an amendment to a memorial that would have delayed the final report of a churchwide study on homosexuality. The Assembly voted in 2001 to set up a taskforce to enable churches to study the issue of homosexuality, and issue a final report in 2005.

Some members of the church had tried to delay the final report, which would have further postponed the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church. Several ordained ministers have lost their credentials because they have refused to abide by the church’s requirement of celibacy for gay and lesbian ministers.

“We are glad that the church has kept its promise to us. Now we only have two more years to have our lives studied and debated,” stated Greg Egertson, Co-Chair of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries. "However, then the church can move on and fully embrace us for who we are and who God called us to be, as full participants in the ELCA without requiring us to take a vow of celibacy or lie about our relationships.”

Additionally, voting members committed to continuing the relationship with the Episcopal Church, despite efforts by a minority to break that relationship because the Episcopal Church recently installed Gene Robertson as a bishop. Robinson is an openly gay man living in a committed relationship with another man.

The request for Soulforce to be at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly was made by the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, which includes five member organizations: Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, the Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision, Lutherans Concerned/North America, and Wingspan Ministries.

Soulforce and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, were prepared to conduct a respectful and peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience if the Assembly had voted to delay the study.

“What a difference two years makes, so many people stopped and hugged us and thanked us for caring and being at the Assembly!” declared Karen Weldin, Director of Operations for Soulforce. “What we set out to do from the beginning was accomplished – simply hold the church accountable for its promise to us. However, we were prepared in case they didn’t.”

Soulforce is known for nonviolent direct actions during the denominational meetings of many of America’s largest denominations, such as Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA) and more. In the past 3 years, thousands have been trained in nonviolence, and over 500 have been arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Soulforce Report August 15, 2003 from ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee

Soulforce Greetings – Friday, August 15, 2003 from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee!

These past two days have been exciting, and at times challenging. For the most part, we have been welcomed and embraced, both literally and figuratively!

No matter how long we vigil, it is still amazing to see hundreds of Lutherans walking in and out of the Churchwide Assembly, reading our flyers and wearing our rainbow scarves, day after day, in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutherans.

Yesterday and today, however, we were joined outside by some people from Wisconsin Christians United, the very same group that showed up in Lynchburg at Out and About last year. They still have the same old tired sign that says, "Homosexuality is a sin."

We are pleased to say, that most Lutherans walked right past their sign without acknowledging it, and accepted our literature, smiled, and said, "Thank you for being here!"

Today, inside the assembly, it was originally anticipated that there would be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005. Our coalition stands together firmly against the delay, which will postpone the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church. This attempt to vote on a delay didn’t take place today.

During the sessions, we were standing in the back of the assembly hall, ready for a respectful and nonviolent action if the motion to delay was passed, however, our best information tells us that this motion got mired in a parliamentary procedure that doesn’t seem to have an easy solution.

So for now, we are sitting back, praying that we will not have to carry out an action, hoping that the Churchwide Assembly will decide to keep their promise and stick to the current timeline. In the words of the great Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Justice too long delayed is justice denied." We certainly agree!

A delay would be seen not only as a breech of trust, but as perpetuating a policy that hurts people and ruins lives by requiring gay and lesbian ministers to be celibate or lie about their relationships.

So, keep us in your thoughts and/or prayers on Saturday, as we try to make sense of what is going to happen. We pray that the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will do the right thing, and keep the promise it made in 2001 to report on the study in 2005 – at the Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Florida.

Regardless of what happens here, we will be supporting the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation in 2005 in Orlando.

And again, thank you for your support of the work that Soulforce continues to do to empower the oppressed, change hearts and minds, and end spiritual violence committed by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Peace be with you,

Karen Weldin
Director of Operations

Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications

THANK YOU for your support!

Soulforce Report August 13, 2003 from ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee

Greetings from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee!

August 13, 2003

The past three days have been busy and empowering.

The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation develops daily flyers that we hand out each morning. Hundreds of Lutherans stop and thank us for our presence, look at our blown-up photos of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans who have been ostracized by the church.

We have given out hundreds of Soulforce crosses, and buttons, and rainbow sashes, that are our symbols for this direct action.

It is amazing to see hundreds of Lutherans walking in and out of the Churchwide Assembly with one of the several symbols of support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutherans.

Remember, the reason we are here is to be a presence at the Assembly at the request of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation. It is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005. A delay will postpone the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

Here is a paragraph or two from today’s flyer:

"As you look at the pictures of the children, remember that each child pictured is now an LGBT adult who dearly claims the gift of God’s grace received through baptism. Some of these grown-up children and other adults pictured are fortunate enough to experience love of family and congregations that have received them unconditionally. Some LGBT persons, pictured or not, love and are loved through strong family bonds of joy of a committed relationship. Sadly, others have been discarded by their families and denounced by their Lutheran congregational homes. Some, but far too few, who have been rejected by their Lutheran families or congregations, have eventually found other spiritual homes where they are valued as persons of faith. All who have heard the call to ministry have been deemed unworthy to honor those calls if they choose to live in a committed relationship that is not kept ‘invisible’.

"As you study, discuss, and debate the memorials and resolutions that are brought before this Assembly, let us also invite the Spirit of our God to give us the courage to act boldly now. Avoidance and delay may appear to preserve the image of church unity, but unless we can honestly work through our conflicts trusting that we will be guided by the Spirit, our unity is but an idolatrous illusion that perpetuates the exile and pain of so many of our sisters and brother in Christ."

This is but a snippet of the flyer we have been handing out. It is a powerful witness, and the ELCA Assembly has allowed us to stand in the walkways from the Hyatt and the Hilton.

We have been welcomed, and embraced.

Tomorrow, we will be on the skywalks and street corner handing out tomorrow’s pamphlet, In the evening, we will hold our nonviolent direct action training.

We still don’t know what the Assembly will decide to do regarding the timeline of the Study on Homosexuality, but we are prepared. It is anticipated that the vote will be Friday afternoon.

Each day, more and more Soulforce people arrive, and more and more Lutherans join with us and thank us for our presence.

Keep us in your thoughts and/or prayers as we go into the weekend with expectations of positive outcomes.

And thank you for your support of the work that Soulforce continues to do to change hearts and minds and end spiritual violence committed by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Love and Peace,

Karen Weldin
Director of Operations

Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications

Nonviolence Direct Actions Take Place this Week in Milwaukee to Support Gay and Lesbian Lutherans

Soulforce and Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation to conduct Vigils, Leafleting, and Nonviolence Trainings during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 11-17 in Milwaukee

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Press Release: August 11, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org
****************************************************

(Lynchburg, VA) – Soulforce is in Milwaukee this week at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly (August 11-17) at the request of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, to be a visible presence at the Assembly. The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation includes Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, the Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision, Lutherans Concerned/North America, and Wingspan Ministries.

The request for Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, to be a visible presence at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly was made because it is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005. A delay will postpone the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

"Delaying the final report in an attempt to avoid conflict and decision-making for fear of ‘splitting the church’ denies the promise that God will be with us in all that we do," declared Dr. Mari Irvin, Co-Chair of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Soulforce Co-Chair for this event.

Soulforce is known for nonviolent direct actions during the denominational meetings of many of America’s mainstream denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic, and more.

WHO: Soulforce and Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation

WHAT: Vigils, Leafleting, and Nonviolence training

WHEN and WHERE:

* Leafleting and Vigils are taking place throughout the week at the Midwest Express Center, 400 West Wisconsin Avenue.

* Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Training will take place Thursday, August 14, at 7pm at Calvary Presbyterian, 935 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee.

WHY: It is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005, thereby postponing the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

“For us, the debate is over. We know God loves GLBT people just the way they are,” said Rev. Mel White, Founder and Executive Director of Soulforce, Inc. “Delaying even one more day is not acceptable to us. We believe it is time the ELCA recognizes that gay and lesbian Lutherans bring awesome gifts and talents to the church and deserve the capability to share their gifts and participate fully in the life of the church.”

Media are encouraged to attend the Civil Disobedience Training, please RVSP to 717-278-0592

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Soulforce and Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation Commend ELCA Youth for Their Stand on Homosexuality

Youth are encouraged to join in the vigils and leafleting outside the ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 11-17

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Soulforce Press Release: July 29, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org
****************************************************

The National Lutheran Youth Organization, an official youth office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), voted overwhelmingly to welcome people of all sexual orientations as members. Delegates also adopted a resolution supporting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate individuals of all sexual orientations in committed relationships. The ELCA currently will not ordain non-celibate homosexuals as pastors.

The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation and Soulforce, Inc. commend the youth office for taking this stand, and encourage the youth of the ELCA to join with them in vigiling, leafleting, and nonviolence trainings throughout the week of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 11-17.

By a 91% margin, the youth organization also voted to be listed as a “Reconciling in Christ” organization with Lutherans Concerned/North America, an independent group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutherans, and one of the coalition groups of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation.

“The youth are clearly leading the way to full acceptance of GLBT persons in the life of our church,” said Jeannine Janson, Co-chair of Lutherans Concerned/North America. “They are modeling the ELCA as it will be; the question is simply when.”

The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, which includes Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, the Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision, and Wingspan Ministries, and Soulforce, Inc, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, will be present at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 11-17, leafleting and vigiling during the week to be a visible presence at the Assembly.

Trainings in nonviolence will be held each day as well, culminating in a rally and nonviolent direct action training on Thursday evening August 14, at Calvary Presbyterian, 935 West Wisconsin Ave, in Milwaukee. The Churchwide Assembly is being held at the Midwest Express Center, 400 West Wisconsin Avenue.

Everyone is welcome to vigil; however, individuals must have taken part in a Soulforce training in order to participate in any possible direct action.

“I look forward to the day when I will be accepted fully into the ELCA for who I am, and be allowed to fully participate in the life of the church,” declared Jake Reitan, young adult coordinator for Soulforce. “I am so glad, as a young adult, a member of the ELCA, and a volunteer for Soulforce, that we can all work together to make that day become a reality.”

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Soulforce to Join With Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation at ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, August 11-17, 2003

Vigils, Leaflettings, and Trainings to Take Place All Week Long

Press Release, July 17, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org

(Lynchburg, VA) – Soulforce will be at Evangelical Church in America Churchwide Assembly, August 11-17, at the request of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation. The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation is made up of 5 member organizations, including Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, the Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision, and Wingspan Ministries.

The request for Soulforce to be at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly was made because it is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005, thereby postponing the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

"Those of us who are sexual minority Lutherans are baptized Christians, not objects to be studied or issues to be decided at some far-off future date," declared Dr. Mari Irvin, Co-Chair of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries. "The ELCA is our spiritual home; we are here to stay as full participants in all aspects of the mission and life of our church."

Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, will be standing with the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation both inside and outside the meeting leafleting and vigiling.

Trainings in nonviolence will be held each day as well, culminating in a rally and nonviolent civil disobedience training on Thursday evening near the Convention Center at Calvary Presbyterian, 935 West Wisconsin Ave, in Milwaukee. The Churchwide Assembly is being held at the Midwest Express Center, 400 West Wisconsin Avenue.

“For us, the debate is over, homosexuality is not a sickness, and not a sin, and the ELCA needs to get on with the study so gay and lesbians can be ordained in the church while being committed to both their church and their partner,” said Rev. Mel White, Soulforce founder and executive director. “The ELCA, as well as most of the other denominations, need to stop treating us as second class citizens and recognize the incredible gifts we bring to the church.”

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

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Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.