Dallas Voice, "Dallas Pastor to Meet with LGBT Group"

Dallas Pastor to Meet with LGBT Group

John Wright

Soulforce representatives to attend Potters House services on Sunday, attend meeting afterwards

Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potters House in Dallas reportedly has agreed to meet with local LGBT families and representatives from the national gay rights group Soulforce on Sunday, May 18.

Paige Schilt, a spokeswoman for Soulforce, said this week that a contingent of 50 people plan to attend services at the Potters House on Sunday. Following the services, Jakes, staff members and congregants from the Potters House have agreed to meet with them, Schilt said.

Representatives from the Potters House didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

The Potters House, which has upward of 30,000 members, is one of six megachurches Soulforce plans to visit this year in an effort to initiate a dialogue with prominent Christian evangelists on LGBT issues.

"The idea is that we feel called to love each other across differences, and we feel that not knowing each other breeds fear on both sides, so this is just an opportunity to get to know one another as families, as people of faith, and to get beyond the divisiveness," Schilt said. "We’re not saying you need to change what you believe. We’re saying get to know us and our families, and let’s see how that changes the conversation."

Last week, Soulforce visited Lakewood Church in Houston to meet with Pastor Joel Osteen. Osteen initially ignored the group’s request, but he later agreed to meet with Jay Bakker, the son of the late Tammye Faye Bakker Messner, who led the visit on behalf of Soulforce.

Schilt said the visit to the Potters House will be led by the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a 74-year-old retired black minister who’s a veteran of the civil rights movement. Caldwell participated in the "Mississippi Freedom Summer" of 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 and the March on Washington.

In an interview with Dallas Voice, Gill said although he and Jakes are apparently at "different places" on LGBT issues, he’s a fan of Jakes’ preaching.

“He’s an important force within the church community," Caldwell said. "What a magnificent ministry it would be if Bishop Jakes could help the black church and other churches deal with the heterosexism, the homophobia, the kind of anti-gay feelings that seem to be endemic. What a shaker and mover he could be if he dared step out on faith on this."

Although he’s been largely silent on LGBT issues, Jakes once called being gay a "brokenness" and has said that he wouldn’t hire an openly gay person.

Caldwell said he believes many blacks feel threatened by the gay rights movement.

"There’s this great concern that another group is sort of piggybacking on the [civil rights] movement when in fact we are still struggling in terms of black equality," Caldwell said. "If in fact the gay community could express some real overt understanding of the racial struggle, that in fact could open the door for conversation vis-塚ィヘ -vis gay rights."

Also on hand for the visit to the Potters House will be Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group. The visit is being facilitated by Living Faith Covenant Church, an LGBT-affirming black church in Dallas.

In addition to Lakewood Church and the Potters House, Soulforce plans to visit Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md.; New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.; and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

Schilt said pastors at all but one of the churches have agreed to meet with Soulforce.

"We’re feeling very happy with the interest and the positive response that we’ve gotten from these congregations," Schilt said.

In addition to Soulforce, the visits are being organized by the National Black Justice Coalition, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and COLAGE, a group for children with LGBT parents.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

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LGBT Families to Meet with The Potter’s House

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: May 15, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

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(Dallas, TX) This Sunday, May 18, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight-ally families will attend worship and meet with staff and families from The Potter’s House, a 35,000-member multiracial, nondenominational megachurch in Dallas, Texas. Lead by Bishop T.D. Jakes, The Potter’s House is nationally recognized for its advocacy on social issues such as domestic violence, poverty, and HIV/AIDS.

The visit is part of a nationwide fellowship effort called The American Family Outing, which aims to create dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. Last week, LGBT and straight-ally families attended Lakewood Church in Houston and had an opportunity to speak with Rev. Joel Osteen. In the weeks to come, the families of The American Family Outing will meet with Hope Christian Church in Maryland and Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois.

"Meetings like this are important because they create an opportunity for us to discuss our differences, see the ways that we are the same, and break down the barriers in the body of Christ" says Elder Deneen Robinson of Living Faith Covenant Church in Dallas. Robinson, a mother of two young adult daughters, is one of the family members who will participate in Sunday’s visit.

"If I don’t know you, I can ignore you or write you off. This is a chance to be known," Robinson continues.

The American Family Outing is a collaborative project of Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

"We are very pleased that The Potter’s House has agreed to be part of this dialogue and to match our families with families from their congregation for fellowship and conversation," says Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes.

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.

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Houston Chronicle, "Jay Bakker, Son of Tammy Faye, Finally Gets Meeting with Osteen"

Jay Bakker, son of Tammy Faye, finally gets meeting with Osteen

American Family Outing Begins Dialog with Lakewood

Research shows the impact when Houstonians know gays and lesbians

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: May 12, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

(Houston, TX) — On Mother’s Day, Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, brought a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families to worship at Lakewood Church — the largest mega-church in the U.S. After the service, Bakker met privately with Lakewood’s pastor, Joel Osteen, to talk about faith, family, and LGBT people.

The visit is part of a nationwide fellowship effort called The American Family Outing, which aims to create dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. Several prominent mega-churches, including Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, and Hope Christian Church in Maryland, have agreed to meet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.

Earlier in the week, Lakewood officials had expressed an unwillingness to meet with Bakker and The American Family Outing. A tip from a Lakewood Church member led Bakker to seek out Osteen after the Saturday evening service, during the time when the pastor greets new visitors to Lakewood. The two exchanged remembrances of Bakker’s late mother, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, and arranged to meet privately the next day.

Bakker’s conversation with Osteen came just a day after The American Family Outing hosted a picnic in a Houston park for families from Lakewood Church. A handful of Lakewood members attended the picnic and expressed their appreciation for the effort to start an open conversation about the status of LGBT people at Lakewood.

Opportunities to connect one-on-one and family-to-family are the goal of the American Family Outing, which was created in the belief that it is possible for families to have meaningful conversations in spite of perceived differences.

In Houston, Rice University Professor Stephen L. Klineberg’s data can confirm the impact of simply getting to know someone who is gay or lesbian:

"One of the most powerful predictors of area residents’ attitudes toward gay rights, as powerful among religious fundamentalists as it is for the more secular respondents, is the simple question, ‘Do you have a personal friend who is gay or lesbian?’

"It seems clear that the opportunity to get to know someone who is homosexual helps to break through the stereotypes and fears, and to reinforce the sense of common humanity," says Klineberg, who is a Professor of Sociology and the founding-director of the Houston Area Survey (1982-2008), which has tracked Houston’s demographics and public attitudes for the past 27 years.

"Support for gay rights (e.g., allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, or to teach in the public schools, or to be legally permitted to adopt children) has continued to increase steadily and consistently among Harris County residents over the past two decades," Klineberg continued.

The American Family Outing is a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

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.

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San Antonio Express News, "Gay Couple Looks for Welcoming Church"

Gay couple looks for welcoming church

Jeorge Zarazua

Publication Date : May 11, 2008

San Antonio mom Della Nagle thought it would be a simple task: Go to some of the nation’s largest churches, visit with members and prove to them that she and her wife – yes, wife – can be part of a Christian family, too. But with the first church visit scheduled today in Houston, Nagle and her lesbian partner, Ruth Pinkham, whom she married in Canada, are facing a rude awakening.

Of the six mega-churches contacted to participate in the nationwide crusade, the American Family Outing, only two have agreed. The first church they are to visit, Lakewood Church of Houston, ignored its repeated requests until last week, when a spokesman said the church couldn’t accommodate the group. "We just don’t really have the staff," said Don Iloff, who said five or six other groups already are scheduled to visit the church this weekend.

The American Family Outing was to kick off its campaign at Lakewood today to coincide with Mother’s Day. The movement was to continue until Father’s Day, with gay families and their clergy supporters visiting megachurches throughout the country from California to Maryland to promote "meaningful dialogue" about homosexuality and Christianity.

Jeff Lutes, executive director of Soulforce, the Austin-based civil rights and social organization spearheading the outing, said the group was essentially asking churches: Can you show hospitality to strangers with whom you disagree?

"Having a meal and talking with us does not mean that you support our beliefs," he said. "It’s simply people coming together and bridging a divide. We’re just hoping that somehow, someway we can get a little bit past the divisiveness around this issue."

But just getting a chance to talk has proven difficult. The effort has been assailed on the Internet and has provoked the Family Research Council, a conservative group that opposes gay marriage, to launch a crusade of its own, asking supporters to form "Church Crisis Response Teams." "Pray these churches will be girded up, each member protected from unclean spirits and false doctrine," states a council-written prayer. "May God give their leaders wisdom to instruct them how to deal with these sadly deceived people who propagate sin and deception!"

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, called the effort a mere publicity stunt, adding he doesn’t see the purpose of such dialogues when the differences are irreconcilable. Sprigg also criticized the campaign’s self-proclaimed goal of dispelling "divisive tactics." "It seems to me in this case they’re the ones trying to create division," he said. "They’re the ones that are being very confrontational, and I think it’s unfortunate that they’re the ones who are bringing this confrontation into the sanctuary of churches."

The reaction has floored the San Antonio couple, both schoolteachers in Northside Independent School District and parents of eight children, four of whom continue to live with them at their Northwest Side home. "I’m just awestruck," Nagle said. "The way it was explained to us is we want them to see we don’t have three heads and horns. We’re just normal people. We get up every morning and take our kids to school, and work and come home and take them to church and do all the things we’re supposed to as parents to help them be raised right."

Pastor Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker-Messner, is the clergy supporter helping gay families try to reach out to Lakewood Church. Bakker said he’s somewhat shocked Lakewood hasn’t agreed to participate, especially because its pastor, Joel Osteen, preaches about inclusion when it comes to other social matters.

"How can we make any change if we’re not even sitting down and talking?" he asked.

But Lakewood spokesman Iloff said the church doesn’t have the necessary staff to arrange dinners between members of its congregation and visitors. Iloff also said he was unclear as to what Soulforce meant by "meaningful dialogue," and he expressed concern that the organization was trying to politicize the issue. He did, however, say Lakewood welcomes all visitors. "It doesn’t matter who they are," Iloff said. "They’re more than welcome to come worship with us."

The two churches that have agreed to participate in the American Family Outing said they don’t see anything wrong with meeting with gay families and sharing meals with them.

"I think we’re OK with having a discussion with an organization no matter who the organization is, regardless of their position," said Ron Ercoli, staff psychologist at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. "It’s simply having a dialogue."

Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said while he’s against same-sex marriage, he is respectful of gay people. "I’m not surprised that many of the churches are shrinking away from this, because it is controversial and it is volatile," Jackson said.

Lutes said a third church, the Potter’s House of Dallas, also agreed to participate, but Ann Fields, a spokeswoman for the church, said she couldn’t confirm that and declined further comment. And, Lutes said, there’s ongoing discussions with a fourth church, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The fifth, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, near Atlanta hasn’t responded to the group’s request.

Nagle and Pinkham both said even if Lakewood doesn’t participate, they still plan to attend worship services at the church this weekend with their children. "I don’t think God will give us more than we can handle," Pinkham said. "So, wherever we go, whatever we do, I believe we will be in God’s protection."

 

LGBT Families to Host Families from Lakewood Church

Jay Bakker Attempts to Deliver Personal Invitation to Osteen

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: May 7, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

(Houston, TX) At a press conference today, Jay Bakker, star of the documentary series One Punk Under God, issued an open invitation to families from Lakewood Church — the largest church in the U.S. — to share a picnic with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families in Houston’s Levy Park on Saturday, May 10, 2008.

Bakker’s invitation is part of a nationwide fellowship effort called The American Family Outing. The project, which aims to create dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches, began reaching out to Rev. Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church with a letter in December 2007. The initial invitation was followed by a personal letter to Osteen from Jay Bakker in January 2008, as well as phone calls from Bakker and noted evangelical speaker Peggy Campolo. Project organizers sent two more letters to Lakewood staff in March and April 2008.

At present, Osteen and Lakewood Church have not yet agreed to sit down with the families for a meal and conversation. After today’s press conference, Bakker attempted to deliver his invitation in-person, but Lakewood staff told him that no one was available to accept the letter.

However, several prominent mega-churches, including The Potter’s House in Dallas, Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, and Hope Christian Church in Maryland, have agreed to meet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families through The American Family Outing.

Bakker’s direct invitation to the families at Lakewood Church was delivered at the site of Saturday’s picnic, Levy Park, which is less than a mile from Lakewood.

What: American Family Outing Picnic in Levy Park, featuring Jay Bakker and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families from Houston and beyond.

When: Saturday, May 10, 2008 from 11am-2pm
Where: Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St., Houston, TX, 77098. (Just off of Richmond, between Buffalo Speedway and Kirby).

Who: All families or individuals who attend Lakewood Church are welcome.
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.

The American Family Outing is a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

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.

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