United Methodist General Conference Votes Against Gay and Lesbian Equality in Church and in Society cause Dissent
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 6, 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
(Pittsburgh) Approximately 400 people joined in a peaceful protest today inside the Convention Center during the United Methodist Church General Conference being held this week in Pittsburgh, PA.
Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) people, led the action during the Thursday morning session that included hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allies from both inside and outside the church. United Methodist caucus groups Affirmation, Reconciling Ministries Network, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action joined in the direct action, which stopped proceedings for approximately 20 minutes.
In a series of decisions earlier this week, the United Methodist Church reconfirmed their misguided stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, strengthened their prohibition against ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” and voted on other anti-gay legislation designed to prevent gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from participating in the full life of the church and society.
Protestors sang songs, carried rainbow banners and signs with a variety of messages, including, “Remember our Baptism,” “God loves me just the way I am,” and “Not of one mind is better than being mindless.” Hundreds of people left the visitors bleachers and delegates and bishops stood in their seats in support.
“We want the delegates who voted against us to see the faces and the pain of those who they condemned this week,” said Rev. Marylee Fithian, United Methodist minister and co-chair of the Soulforce United Methodist Denominational Team. “If one person’s heart or mind has been changed through this incredible demonstration of love, we have succeeded.”
In any direct action, Soulforce works to dialogue and negotiate with their adversaries. Leaders had asked the bishops for the opportunity to go out on to the floor and ‘address’ the delegates. The request was not denied, therefore civil disobedience was not needed and the protest proceeded without incident.
After the interruption, hundreds of protestors and several delegates proceeded to a rally on the 3rd floor of the convention center.
Rev. Phil Lawson, retired United Methodist Minister, and Soulforce advisory board member, said, “The struggle for gay, lesbian bisexual, and transgender equality runs parallel to the civil rights struggle. The major difference is that we had the church and we had our families, GLBT people have neither. This is why I am part of this movement for equality for all God’s people, to support those who need it most.”
For more information about Soulforce, see www.soulforce.org