Rev. Dr. Cindi Love: The Lutheran Church Embraces the LGBTQ Community!

Our Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Cindi Love wrote a piece for The Huffington Post titled "The Lutheran Church Embraces the LGBTQ Community!"

George Bernard Shaw once said, "Certainly all great truths begin as blasphemies." On April 11, 2010, those who identify as people of faith and as "non-heterosexual" were given particular cause to celebrate Shaw’s wisdom: a most unlikely church has given a most unlikely people a gift of love and truth, and I cannot stop smiling.

After twenty-five years of deliberation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council has abolished its anti-gay policies, effective immediately. Following from discussions at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly last summer, the ELCA will now allow people in same-sex relationships to serve as rostered leaders. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) human beings are no longer considered abominations but blessed church members with full standing. Same-sex partners and families can now fully participate in the ELCA Pension Plan.

Best of all, the ELCA is reinstating people who were removed from ministry positions because they were truthful and came out of the closet, as well as those who conducted holy unions for non-heterosexual couples. The ELCA has practiced restorative justice. 

Well said, Cindi! Read the full article on The Huffington Post

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) votes to recognize same-gender couples

Allows those gay and lesbian people in relationships to serve as church leaders!

Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a resolution stating that it will commit itself to find a way to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.  Additionally, the voting members passed another resolution stating that the ELCA is committed to find a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of the church.

“We are thrilled with these historic decisions,” said Jeff Lutes,Soulforce Executive Director, “God is smiling and the ELCA will benefit greatly from the spiritual gifts of those who can now love, worship, and serve with integrity.  I hope every Lutheran congregation will see the rightness of today’s decisions and open their hearts accordingly.”

Soulforce has a long history of working for change within the ELCA. In 2001, fifty Soulforce volunteers were arrested outside the Indianapolis Convention Center during civil disobedience after the ELCA voted to continue requiring gay and lesbian clergy to vow celibacy to be eligible for ordained ministry.  In 2003, Soulforce maintained a visible presence at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee by leafleting and vigiling to educate ELCA voting members. In 2005, Soulforce partnered with Goodsoil in Orlando where approximately 100 people walked silently to the front of the hall and stood between Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and the 1,018 members after they rejected a proposal to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained as members of the clergy.  The action created tension within the hall and forced ELCA voting members to face the injustice of their vote.

After nearly a decade of waiting, Soulforce rejoices over today’s decisions and commends Lutherans Concerned, Goodsoil, and so many others who have also worked tirelessly for many years to bring about this change.  Now more than ever, Soulforce is committed to the practice of relentless, nonviolent, resistance until all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are free from both political and religious oppression.

                                                                                         

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

***************************************************
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

***************************************************
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.

——————
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.

Experiences of Indianapolis

Several people have sent their experience of Indianapolis to us and we’d like to share them with you:

August 18, 2001

Several people have sent their experience of Indianapolis to us and we’d like to share them with you:

Greetings!

I was not in Indianapolis. My 16 year old son, who is the president of our synod’s youth organization, was.

He also got involved with many of you and with Soulforce.

I picked Jadon up at the airport last night and we had an incredible two-hour drive home.

All he wanted to talk about was his involvement with Soulforce people, the church’s actions, and the activities he had been included in.

I want to thank Jayne, Jane, Anita, Jeff, and others who made him welcome and included. Just a few months ago he, and his 14 year old brother were viciously, verbally attacked at our own congregation after standing up to an elderly man who had made a hateful statement about glbt members in our congregation.

His dedication to this (using Sitler’s phrase) cantus firmus cause in our church was strengthened and revitalized by your inclusion and by what he considers, the church’s "wishy-washy" and "cowardly" actions.

I still don’t know what he did at the meetings he went there for (SCYCLOPS?!?!). But his faith continues to be strengthened as it was stretched by those of you who do theology rather than simply read it.

I remember back thirty plus years ago growing up in a tiny, grape-growing town the San Joaquin Valley in California. One afternoon I was picketing a supermarket in my hometown, along with other folks who followed Chavez in attempting to bring an end to the inhuman farm labor practices. As I was being harassed by one of the farmers from my home parish, the Roman Catholic campus pastor at Fresno State, Monsignor Negro, stepped up beside me and silently waked at my side for the rest of the afternoon. While walking the road on which the Gospel called him, he walked with me on mine.

In my mind and heart, you honor Fr. Negro, and all who walk the path of the Gospel (and just so happened to walk with my son). Thank you for showing him that the web of action, concern and love spans beyond towns, states, nations, congregations, and denominations. Thank you for sharing your faith with him, and allowing him to act out his faith in Indianapolis with you.

Shalom

Chris Berry

Rev. Christopher D. Berry


RESIST! RESIST! RESIST!
My Lutheran Soulforce Story – Cindy Hadden / Seattle, WA

Once again, members of Soulforce gathered from around the country in Indianapolis to bring "truth in love" this time to the ELCA (Lutheran) Conference.

Primarily we went to assist the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation in the hope that they would vote to allow openly gay people to become pastors. The alliance is made up of five internal Lutheran groups.

They are Anita Hill’s WINGSPAN MINISTRY(wingspan@aol.com), LUTHERANS CONCERNED (LuthConc@aol.com), LUTHERAN LESBIAN AND GAY MINISTRIES (LLGM123@aol.com), EXTRAORDINARY CANDIDACY PROJECT (excp@dnai.com), and THE NETWORK FOR INCLUSIVE VISION (network178@aol.com). I have never met a more loving, powerful & gifted resistance group as this. Together we trained in Soulforce principals, the signing of Martin Luther King’s pledge to non-violence and stood vigils in numbers of 200 or more. WOW!

As always, we respond to what is going on in the conferences around the country. This means "our agenda" for the day is continually subject to change. I have mentioned before in my stories of our Soulforce Journey since meeting Jerry Falwell in Oct. 1999 that Soulforce is a very fluid group. To "be"that (with a right and humble spirit) is testing, and true to past national Soulforce actions, this Soulforce/Lutheran Alliance Action understood that important component and we were "one."

On Friday and Saturday, Fred Phelps’ group showed up to do their part in God’s plan by showing the violence our community faces. One from that group was arrested Saturday. This time they were greater in numbers and they were louder, driving quickly up toward us as we marched to and from the vigil site, screaming and threatening as if to run us over. As people attending the conference and those on the city streets realized what Soulforce was doing there, they would come up to us and thank us. A man came up to me with a check in his hand so his group could give us a donation. A taxi driver drove up to me and asked if I had a bumper sticker or something so he could show the city his support of us. On Sunday Aug. 12th, we were invited into the Convention Center to attend service. A Presbyterian Pastor preached. In two’s we sat amongst them worshiping God and taking communion with them. We changed hearts and minds. The youth choir came from California and were key to the feeling of unity at the moment. They were so supportive. I gave many of them the traditional Soulforce cross necklaces that Seattle’s Jeaneanne Hill is so gracious to make and hand out at all our actions. One woman and young girl followed me out, tapping me on the shoulder to ask if I had just one more cross for the young girl who was also in the choir. I took off the one I was wearing and the smiles and interaction was life changing.

On Monday August 13, we stood in silent vigil from 7:30 am to about 12:30 pm, then marched to a press conference. Much time was spent inside the conference to "change" or "postpone" these issues on the agenda during the course of 3 days. At about 10:00 am Monday morning we got news that the "right" wanted again to change the agenda and talk about civil unions or marriage. Our focus was on ordination or gay pastors and this tactic was internally used to help confuse the issue of gay ordination and gays in the church. As a result, Lutherans decided for the THIRD TIME, to incorporate a 4 year study on us. As Bishops, Pastors, Visitors and the like left the conference weeping, they re-joined our vigil line and we wept together at the news. My new friend, Greg Egertson (co-chairman of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries in San Francisco) announced: "The Church still wants to treat us as an issue, instead of as real people. They want to talk about us, not with us. There has NEVER been a "study" as voted on at previous Lutheran conferences. When reporters pressed the newly appointed by 51% Bishop Hanson (an ally) what previous studies have shown, what this new study needs show, (what are they missing) he humbly fumbled in providing solid answers.

Gandhi said that direct action must only be taken when all negotiations have failed. We held a press conference, only to see the reporters, policeman and women, and others weeping as we taught truth. We knelt on the sidewalks and refused to obey an officer to leave. Forty eight were arrested.

Voting once more to study us was the WORST thing the Lutherans could have done. It serves only to postpone the decision that all churches face today: "Ordain us and Bless our Unions." While we all believed that the "train has left the station" on this issue from within the Lutheran Church, many of us also believed that we WILL NOT BUY INTO THIS "STUDY", but we will teach others, and we will STEP UP THE RESISTANCE. Also remembering not to support our churches our with tithes, offerings and gifts that contribute to suffering via law and bi-law language in the churches.

I asked my new Lutheran Alliance friends to consider keeping 3 of their 5 groups working in the Lutheran Church and to give up 2 of them to find a home in 2 other denominations to teach resistance.

Soulforce made many new friends and allies in Indianapolis. Dozens of Lutheran allies have promised to support us at the upcoming June 2002 Southern Baptist Conference.

United we stand in resistance and love. Watch the website often and come join us or help us with a donation to do justice work. www.soulforce.org

Cindy Hadden
WA/Seattle Soulforce Contact
Articyn@aol.com


8/15/2001

Hey all,

I have not been online for the last several days – since leaving for Indianapolis so I am not sure what discussion has ensued. So what follows are my first attempt to put into writing the amazing experience soulforce and the lutheran alliance just had. I am not sure what effect we had on the ELCA at large, but I do know that it was a powerful experience for us and for most of those to whom we spoke.

Thursday night the soulforce and Lutheran Alliance Leadership team met with Joe Wagner, Joanne Chadwick, and Charles Miller – Daphne correct me if I have missed anyone. While I was not there, it was clear that the meeting was more productive than most in the past and the fact that Joe would meet is something. I understand that Joanne Chadwick was largely responsible for making it happen from the ELCA side. I am not sure what to tone was at first but Mel came in with tootsie pops and most everyone took one – it is just hard to be all that contentious while trying to get to the chocolatey center of a tootsie pop.

Obviously since you have received the press releases you are aware of some of the discussion and outcomes. I am certainly disappointed at the maneuverer to recommend ‘study’ – and soulforce/alliance had a strong response to this between the press conference and act of civil disobedience. But between Thursday night and Monday afternoon so much good happened!

We stood vigil everyday, inside and out. We were told both by allies on the inside and those we didn’t know that our presence was powerful, needed and helped some understand the urgency obviously not everybody yet gets that with each study, time and lives are literally lost. But I think there are many within the ELCA who are almost as tired of and no longer willing to wait. So, I am reasonably sure that the tide has turned.

We stood with many vigilers and others wearing stoles from the stoles project. I stood next to Mel White the first morning and he received a stole that happened to be the one representing the Action for Reconciliating Ministry. It was moving to see so many familiar names – and some unfamiliar ones.

It was also moving to see Anita enter the assembly each day as a delegate (the censure for St. Paul-Ref doesn’t begin until September 1st which allowed Anita to participate as a delegate as elected – this kind of flexibility leads me to believe electing Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is a hopeful thing)accompanied by Jayne Thompson who wore one of my stoles. Both were tireless in their work.

We were also invited to join the assembly for worship on Sunday and all who could attend did. That was powerful and I have not felt so welcome in a lutheran setting (outside of St. Paul Ref & Pr. Hill’s ordination) than I have since my removal. Many of us felt anger, in some cases, hatred and pain melt away. That was incredibly healing. It does not excuse past action but is freeing. It is so much more productive to attempt to hold people and institutions responsible when it is done in love rather than anger. Soulforce prepares, supports and demands this approach.

All of this, of course made the tabling and other delays distressing and of course the decision on Monday. So many still think that the vote to study is progress. It is not. I hope the civil disobedience made that clear. I certainly do not take being arrested lightly -nor did anyone but anything that can make clear that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to pay the price for delay is worth the expense, discomfort and potential for subjecting ourselves to violence.

This is not to suggest police violence -they were respectful and quite frankly concerned for our safety. Of course the Phelps contingent was there but also an incredibly virulent group from Tennessee connected to the militia. The police had real concerns for our safety.

On a personal note, 24 hours earlier, I had reconciled myself to not being arrested because I couldn’t afford it. Miraculously, the money came through.

It is weird because the reason I wanted to be arrested was because I experienced a renewed love of the lutheran church. It is not my church any more but it is the church that raised me and planted so many of these ideas and so I still mourn when it makes decisions that are not life giving to itself or any members whether queer or straight. I am convinced the folks of the Alliance will be fine and continue to be strong but each delay eats at the heart of the church.

Probably the most powerful moments were kneeling in prayer and song. As I was arrested we were singing ‘The Church’s One Foundation’. Many non-lutherans in soulforce were not aware of its significance in the movement for justice but I am certainly grateful for those who sang it before.

The decision of the assembly is not as decisive as that one was but has much the same effect. For those who choose to respect it, I hope there is a way to hold the powers charged with this study accountable – as former Bishop Egertson intends to do- the next four years could be an incredibly rich time -with groups like the ECP and llgm continuing to move forward with an increasing number of supporters and participants AND MAKE the study positive. Based on the past call for study, it is hard for me to take it in good faith and believe this kind of attention is the only way anything substantive will occur.

I think of the way groups in Kansas City responded to the Charter School movement -they developed progressive alternative schools that can really serve the community. The same thing can happen here -and at least there is a budget for this work and a direction -not just to study same sex relationships but to develop a plan for lifting the ban.

So those are my ramblings on the event. And here is an event to put on your calendar: June 11 & 12 or there abouts – the Southern Baptist Convention meets in St. Louis. It is the next scheduled Soulforce action and I really hope all of you will prayerfully consider participating. The soulforce principles and community have been incredibly enriching and I think are a key to making lasting change. If you can’t attend, please check the website regularly because there are other ways to participate in this movement in meaningful ways.

Jane

50 Soulforce Protesters Arrested at ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Indianapolis

Restrictions against Gay and Lesbian People Called to Ministry Left in Place during 4 Year Study Period

Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-951-7712 soulforcemedia@aol.com

Indianapolis, IN – Fifty people were arrested yesterday during a civil disobedience outside the Indianapolis Convention Center at the Evangelical Church in America Churchwide Assembly. The protesters were disheartened because a ban requiring gay clergy to vow celibacy in the ELCA will remain in place while the church studies the issue for four more years.

Indiana ActionThose arrested were supporters of Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce was working in cooperation with the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, which includes The Network for Inclusive Vision, Wingspan, Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Lutherans Concerned/North America.

"I am greatly saddened that our church has voted not to end the suffering caused by this tragic policy of discrimination and is delaying full participation of gays and lesbians," said The Rev. Jeff Johnson, who was among the first openly gay Lutheran pastors to be "irregularly" ordained in violation of the official policy of discrimination. "As a gay man, I am tired of being studied. It is time for our church to take action to end this spiritual violence against God’s children."

ELCA policy demands that gay/lesbian individuals vow celibacy in order to be eligible for ordained ministry. Those who refuse to lie about their significant relationships or who renounce a vow of celibacy are excluded from official consideration for ministry within the ELCA. Currently, 27 clergy/candidates have refused to pledge celibacy.

After it became obvious that the church was not going to change this policy, 150 people who were vigiling outside the convention center proceeded to a nearby park and held a press conference. After the press conference, protesters got on their knees on a sidewalk in front of the convention center. Police ordered protesters to stop blocking the sidewalk on which they were kneeling for prayer. After 3 warnings, a large group of protesters remained. Arrestees were charged with failing to obey a police order (to disperse), fined $100 then released.

Those arrested included Rev. Johnson; Bishop Emeritus Paul W. Egertson, who resigned from the office of Bishop last month a consequence of participation in the irregular ordination a lesbian pastor in a committed relationship; Rev. Jimmy Creech, a former United Methodist minister who was defrocked for performing a holy union for two men; Jacob Reitan, a 19-year old openly gay Lutheran youth, and his parents Randi and Phil from Eden Prarie Minnesota; Robert and Jeannie Graetz, a couple who stood with Martin Luther King during the Montgomery Bus Boycotts; and Rev. Mel White, co-founder and Executive Director of Soulforce.

"We had hoped that our presence at the Churchwide Assembly would end up being a celebration that justice has been done at last," said Rev. Mel White. "Instead, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are being denied the opportunity to serve the church in the capacity they have been called. We pray that their continued study will prove to the leaders of the ELCA what we already know, that God loves gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people just the way they are and they are ready for ministry now!"