Soulforce to Protest Anti-Gay Policies of Southern Baptist Convention for Third Year in a Row
June 7 – 11, 2002 in St. Louis
Arun Gandhi to Keynote and Lead Training in Non-Violent Civil Disobedience
Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
(Laguna Beach, CA) – Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, will once again be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting. The SBC annual meeting will be held in St. Louis this year. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meeting in Orlando in 2000 and New Orleans in 2001.
Supporters of Soulforce from all across the United States will be joining with residents of St. Louis from June 7 – 11 to take part in nonviolence trainings, workshops, vigils, non-violent civil disobedience and possible arrests. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker on June 8 and facilitate a workshop on nonviolence for Soulforce supporters. Civil rights leaders from the 1960’s will also participate, as will other experts in the field of non-violent resistance.
"We are working to recruit over 1000 people to stand with us in solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families who have been hurt by the tragic untruths taught by the SBC," said Karen Weldin, Director of Operations for Soulforce. "We want to spread the truth in love to Southern Baptist youth and families who feel trapped in a vicious cycle of condemnation by the church. The truth is that God loves gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people just the way they are."
On several occasions, Soulforce leaders have attempted to dialogue with Dr. James Merritt, President of the SBC. He responded that he refuses to enter into dialogue about the issue, and will not change his position that homosexuality is a "sinful lifestyle." The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and has no organizations within the SBC that advocate for GLBT individuals.
Advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are also participating.
"The Southern Baptist Convention continues to wreak havoc on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families both inside and outside the church," said Mel White, executive director and co-founder of Soulforce, Inc. "Soulforce will continue its relentless campaign to challenge the untruths perpetuated by Southern Baptist religious policies and teachings against God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. This spiritual violence has to stop!"