June 25, 2003
On June 17, 2003, while Soulforce was vigiling in the Phoenix heat outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, a report was released by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals.
The task force was formed in response to a motion at the 2001 SBC annual meeting, requesting the SBC to "establish a task force to inform, educate and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions."
In other words, the task force was formed to figure out how Southern Baptist churches can utilize ex-gay resources to “convert” homosexuals to heterosexuality, while “welcoming” gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people into their churches.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, summed it up when he said, "What we are calling Southern Baptists to do is to practice lifestyle-blind evangelism in the same way we have called upon our denomination to practice color-blind and ethnic-blind evangelism."
To the Southern Baptists leaders, evangelism means conversion to their way of thinking, believing, and being. In this case, they are calling for homosexuals to become heterosexuals, much in the same way they were calling for Jews to become Christian.
And although we believe that Southern Baptists are sincere, they are sincerely wrong.
In the past, Southern Baptist teachings have basically ignored the concept of sexual orientation, and instead concentrated on same-sex attraction and behavior. They throw around the word, “homosexual” and simply ignore the fact that homosexuality is not just an attraction and/or a behavior, but an orientation.
This lack of acknowledgement of a sexual orientation leads Southern Baptists teachings from one untruth to the next, without actually changing their policies about minority sexual orientations, only their approach.
While their new “welcome-convert-and-change-them approach” may seem less spiritually violent than the previous “condemn-malign-and-dismiss-them approach”, it is potentially much more damaging and destructive.
In order for them to implement the “welcome-convert-and-change-them approach,” Southern Baptists churches have to ignore several widely held facts and beliefs from the scientific and religious communities:
- Homosexuality is NOT a mental illness.
- The real problem lies in society’s refusal to accept GLBT people the way they are and grant equal rights to all people.
- Once GLBT individuals have come to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity, many lead healthy, happy lives.
- It is entirely possible to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, and be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, etc…
- Hate crimes and violence against GLBT people are on the rise, and religious fervor is the incentive for many assailants.
- Suicide among gay and lesbian youth is disproportionately high compared to non-gay youth, and many suicide notes left behind blame misguided religious teachings which condemn rather than accept.
Don’t be mislead by their “welcoming” rhetoric.
The effects of this disregard for the evidence can be damaging and destructive. It causes GLBT people to hate God and hate themselves.
Therefore, Soulforce warns and urges all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to stay away from churches that utilize ex-gay resources to condemn homosexuality.
Instead, we encourage all those struggling with their sexual orientation and their loved ones, friends, and family members, to seek out positive guidance from organizations that encourage acceptance, love, and compassion.
Rev. Mel White, Executive Director
Karen Weldin, Director of Operations
Laura Montgomery Rutt, Director of Communications
Al-Fatiha – GLBTQ Muslims
Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB)
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
Dignity USA (Catholic)
Interfaith Working Group
Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries
More Light Presbyterians
PFLAG – Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
That All May Freely Serve
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network
What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say about Homosexuality
World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews
Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. We teach and employ the nonviolent techniques of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities. www.soulforce.org
Media Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 (media only)