SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: April 24, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
"As a child growing up, I saw a side of the church that to me did not always reflect God’s grace. This experience has led me to be concerned for our brothers and sisters in Christ who sometimes may feel rejected and left out of the church." -Jay Bakker
(Houston, TX) Today Soulforce released an open letter from Pastor Jay Bakker of Revolution NYC church to Rev. Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Originally mailed in January 2008, the letter invites Osteen and families from the Lakewood congregation to share a meal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight-ally families over Mother’s Day weekend.
Bakker is one of the clergy leaders of a nationwide fellowship effort called The American Family Outing. Co-organized by Soulforce, COLAGE, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the project aims to create dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches.
Several mega-church congregations, including Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, which is ranked the most influential congregation in America by Church Report magazine, have responded to similar invitations with interest and graciousness.
"We remain hopeful that the congregation and staff at Lakewood will extend true Christian hospitality and share a meal and conversation with our families," says Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director. "Our faith requires us to reach across the aisle, have difficult conversations with those with whom we might disagree, and take a stand for fairness."
Jay Bakker is the son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, and the co-founder of Revolution Church. His non-traditional approach to ministry achieved national attention in the Sundance Channel documentary One Punk Under God, which documented his journey to become an LGBT-affirming Christian. Jay is dedicating the Mother’s Day visit to Lakewood to the memory of his mother. (Full letter below.)
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.
The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) is an international fellowship of Christian churches with a special ministry to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The National Black Justice Coalition(NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. The Coalition works with our communities and our allies for social justice, equality, and an end to racism and homophobia.
COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy.
From the desk of
190 Bedford Avenue, Suite 211
Brooklyn, New York 11211
January 17th, 2008
Rev. Joel Osteen
3700 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77027
Subject: The American Family Outing
Dear Rev. Osteen and the congregation of Lakewood Church,
My name is Jay Bakker. I am pastor of Revolution Church in Brooklyn, New York. You
may know me as the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
As you might have heard, I lost my mother this year after a long battle with cancer. This
has led me to reflect on the importance of family, as well as the lessons my mother
taught me regarding the unconditional love of God. It is in her memory that I write you
this letter today.
As a child growing up, I saw a side of the church that to me did not always reflect God’s
grace. This experience has led me to be concerned for our brothers and sisters in Christ
who sometimes may feel rejected and left out of the church.
It is for these reasons that I have decided to be a part of a plan to bring dozens of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families from around the country, as well as
heterosexual families that support them, to visit your congregation on Mother’s Day
Weekend (Saturday May 10 and Sunday May 11th, 2008) to create meaningful dialogue
about homosexuality and Christianity.
This visit is part of the American Family Outing, a collaborative project between
Soulforce, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the National
Black Justice Coalition, and COLAGE. It is my understanding that the Executive
Director of Soulforce, Jeff Lutes, sent you an initial letter, dated December 3, 2007.
I wanted to follow-up to let you know of my involvement in this important effort to
bring true hope and prosperity to all God’s children.
So many look to you for leadership, and therefore you and your congregation have an
exceptional opportunity to advance respectful and Christ-centered conversation on a
topic that too often divides our families and our nation. As Jeff expressed in his letter,
we hope that you will collaborate with us in structuring our time together at your
church. I invite you to match the families I bring, with a roughly equal number of
families from your congregation, and ask that we arrange to share a meal together on
Saturday, May 10th or Sunday, May 11th, followed by structured and educational
conversation. We are also planning to attend your worship service on Sunday, May 11th.
Together, we can make this an experience that will bless the lives of so many. Please
contact me or Jeff Lutes so that we can work together on planning the details.
In John 13:35, Jesus said that your love for one another will prove to the world that you
are my disciples. I invite you to reflect Christ’s unconditional love and participate with
us in this event.
In Grace and Hope,
Jay Bakker, Pastor
cc: Victoria Osteen, Paul Osteen, M.D., Dodie Osteen, Kevin Comes, Lisa Comes,
Duncan Dodds, Marcos Witt.