Soulforce American Family Outing Project Mention as CNN investigates Bishop Eddie Long

Soulforce received a mention by CNN’s Anderson Cooper during coverage on his show, Anderson Cooper 360, of the allegations against Bishop Eddie Long.

 

In 2008, Soulforce engaged in the American Family Outing campaign which visited anti-gay megachurches around the US in an attempt to meet with the pastors and congregations. Soulforce visited Eddie Long’s church and Rev. Troy Sanders, interviewed by CNN, participated in that visit. Photos from the visit are available at Other Sheep.

You can donate today to ensure that Soulforce will be able to continue bringing truth and justice to counter misinformation which fuels the oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.

Gay Dads to Celebrate Father’s Day at Saddleback Church

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 4, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

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(Lake Forest, CA) This Father’s Day, June 15, a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and straight-ally families will spend their holiday in a way that is simultaneously extraordinary and profoundly commonplace: they will attend services at Saddleback Church, the mega-church founded by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

The following day, the families will join leaders from Saddleback Church for a private meal and conversation. Warren and his wife Kay are expected to attend.

The visit is the conclusion of a six-week journey, a gay-friendly family road trip, to initiate dialogue with mega-church congregations across the nation. In December 2007, organizers of the project — which is called The American Family Outing — invited the leaders of six major mega-churches to match families from their congregations with LGBT families for a meal and conversation. Then, on Mother’s Day 2008, the outing began with a visit to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

As of June 16, 2008, The American Family Outing will have met successfully with all six of the churches. The meetings have ranged in size and depth; Lakewood Church welcomed the families to worship but would only meet privately with one of the Family Outing’s clergy leaders, Pastor Jay Bakker. In contrast, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia met personally with LGBT families from Atlanta and around the country.

"The meetings have been an occasion to clear up misperceptions on both sides and to begin to focus on what we have in common," says Jeff Lutes, Executive Director of Soulforce and one of the organizers of the American Family Outing.

Lutes and his partner, Gary Stein, along with their three kids, will be participating in the visit with Saddleback Church. Members of the Lutes-Stein family have also visited Lakewood Church and The Potter’s House in Dallas. They will also join families visiting Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois on June 8.

"It’s not your average summer vacation," says Lutes. "But it has been an amazing experience. In the end, we’re doing it to make a safer world for our kids, so it’s all worth it."

Clergy leader Jay Bakker will also join the families for the visit with Saddleback.

To read press coverage of The American Family Outing, go to: https://soulforceactionarchives.org/article/1367

To find out more about California dads participating in the visit to Saddleback, contact Paige Schilt, paige@soulforce.org.

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.

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Southern Voice, "Soulforce Worships With New Birth"

Soulforce worships with New Birth

Long says his anti-gay stance ‘mischaracterized’ by press
By MATT SCHAFER, Southern Voice | Jun 4, 6:46 PM

After weeks of negotiation and anticipation, the gay Christian activist group Soulforce peacefully met June 1 with Bishop Eddie Long, the leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, the largest church in Georgia.

Long, who returned to the U.S. that morning after a weeklong trip to Dubai, met with Soulforce members after 17 hours of travel followed by an emotional sermon.

Long made national headlines in 2004 when he led thousands of people through downtown Atlanta in a march protesting several issues, including gay marriage.

Soulforce met with Long for roughly 30 mintues after the 10:30 a.m. worship service. The meeting was closed to the press, but both New Birth and Soulforce representatives said it was a productive, civil and sometimes emotional conversation.

"From the respect of New Birth, I can tell you that they thought it was productive. They were happy to have them worship with them," New Birth Spokesperson Dan Renee said.

Soulforce member Dr. Dionne Bates, an Atlanta area psychologist, attended the meeting with her partner Dr. Kathi Martin, a pastor at the First Metropolitan Community Church in Atlanta.

"Not only was [Long] open with regards to talks about homosexuality, he was able to say that there are some things that he does not know, and some things that he has to learn," Bates said.

"One of the things that he expressed is that his name has really been bashed in the media as far as the gay and lesbian community," Bates said. "What I would like to walk out of this meeting with is that people’s consciences are changed. We don’t want to go back, but we want to go forward."

Long reportedly told Soulforce and the New Birth leaders at the meeting that several of his actions and comments have not been understood.

"It’s not just the gay community, there are a number of issues that he feels the press has mischaracterized," Renee said.

The church has repeatedly declined to schedule an interview with Southern Voice, but Renee said he would pass along a new invitation.

During the meeting, Rev. Troy Sanders, an Atlanta pastor of preach2me.com, said his estranged godmother made a public apology to Sanders and the larger gay community.

"We haven’t worshiped together in five years, and had not talked in two," Sanders said. "Our relationship was strained because of LGBT issues. When I tried to come out to her she kind of shut down and pulled away."

The meeting ended with Soulforce members offering to lead workshops at New Birth on human sexuality. Renee said the church is considering its options.

"There’s not going to be a sudden change of everything. I think you’re going to see a gradual exploration of those topics," he said.

Bishop Long Meets with LGBT Families: A Story of Family Reconciliation

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 2, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

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(Atlanta, GA) — Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, attended a Sunday meeting with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families. The meeting, which also included New Birth elders and staff, was part of a nationwide fellowship project called The American Family Outing, which aims to create dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2008.

At least one family was literally reconciled through the meeting. Rev. Troy Sanders, an openly gay minister from Atlanta, was surprised to find his estranged godmother, a member of New Birth, in the meeting. The two shared a public and emotional reunion.

"Before, she didn’t know how to talk about me being an openly gay man," said Sanders, "and I interpreted that as rejection."

"Yesterday she was clear that, while she doesn’t agree with everything theologically, her love for me is not negated as a result of that. For both of us, there is a desire to remain connected," said Sanders.

For Sanders, who has participated in three of the American Family Outing visits, this one had a special character: "The element of family and connectedness seemed to come across very clearly. Whether or not we see eye-to-eye, that connection is not destroyed."

According to several participants in the meeting, Bishop Long made a special effort to be present, in spite of having just returned from Dubai.

In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston, The Potter’s House in Dallas, and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD. In these visits, American Family Outing participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship.

Next week, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. The American Family Outing concludes at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, on Father’s Day.

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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New Birth to Meet with LGBT Families

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 30, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

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(Atlanta, GA) Steve Parelli is a former Baptist minister. His partner, Jose Ortiz, also studied for the ministry and spent several months as a Southern Baptist lay minister. Since meeting and falling in love at an "ex-gay" support group in Manhattan, the couple has learned a thing or two about faith, family, rejection, and redemption.

And that’s why Parelli and Ortiz are leading a group of gay and lesbian families and clergy who will meet with members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church this Sunday, June 1.

"At some point, at some place, constructive conversations must begin between the church and the gay son or gay daughter who grew up in that church," explained Parelli, who was spurned by his family and lost his ministry upon coming out. Parelli has since found a new calling in supporting LGBT-affirming ministries around the world.

Atlanta-based minister Troy Sanders, founder of Preach2me.com, concurs:

"I have a personal investment in this visit, because my family is in New Birth. And when I say family, I mean both kinds.

"I have biological family who are still caught in the conflict between their theology and having an openly gay clergy person as kin, and I have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters who — for whatever reason — have chosen to make New Birth their church home," Sanders explained.

The visit to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is part of a nationwide fellowship outreach called The American Family Outing, which issued an invitation to Bishop Eddie Long and members of his Lithonia, Georgia, church to share a meal and conversation with LGBT families and clergy.

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

The AFO aims to open dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston, The Potter’s House in Dallas, and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD. In these successful visits, American Family Outing participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship.

Parelli and Ortiz also participated in the visit to Hope Christian Church. For Ortiz, who grew up in an evangelical church, it was a homecoming of sorts:

"In the presence of my fellow AFO brothers and sisters, I was able to affirm myself as a child of God created just as God intended, fully belonging to God AS I AM, fellowshipping with God as his gay child," said Ortiz.

In weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

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.
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American Family Outing Seeks to Dispel Divisive Tactics

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 8, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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On Thursday, April 3, 2008, The Gay City News reported on a Family Research Council (FRC) fundraising letter devoted to the American Family Outing, a project that aims to create dialogue between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) families and members at six American mega-churches. The letter, dated March 2008 and signed by FRC President Tony Perkins, asks for $50,000 to create “Church Crisis Response Teams” to react to same-sex couples and their children who have expressed a desire to attend church and share a meal with families at the mega-churches between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2008.

“The frantic tone of the letter is a testament to the vital need for the American Family Outing.  For too long, fear and dehumanization have kept people of faith divided over issues of sexual-orientation and gender-identity,” says Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director.  The American Family Outing is a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

In late 2007, the four partner organizations wrote letters to:

  • Rev. Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
  • Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
  • Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
  • Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

The letters propose a date when the LGBT families will attend a worship service.  The letters also invite each Pastor “to match our families with an equal number of families from your congregation” for a meal and conversation.

In contrast to the alarm bells sounded by Perkins, reaction from the churches and America’s diverse evangelical community has been more positive.

“We want those Christian brothers and sisters who have read terrible untruths about us to meet us and to know who we really are.  We are those children of God who happen not to be straight and their straight allies like myself, who grieve the fact that those who judge us do not really know us,” says Peggy Campolo, Baptist author and editor. 

Campolo is one of several Christian leaders who are helping The American Family Outing reach out to the six mega-churches.  Other clergy supporters include Rev. Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker-Messner, Rev. Gil Caldwell, Rev. Phil Lawson, and Rev. Troy Sanders.

Although The American Family Outing is a collaborative effort, the Family Research Council fundraising letter named only COLAGE, a social justice organization for children, youth, and adults with LGBTQ parents.

“Tony Perkins probably knows, as well as we do, that when children, youth and families speak truth to power, we expose the injustice of the Family Research Council’s discriminatory agenda,” shared Beth Teper, COLAGE Executive Director. “His letter and fundraising ploy demonstrate the great significance of a simple invitation — for six mega-church communities to meet our members and hear our message of acceptance and unity.”

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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The American Family Outing

The American Family Outing

Soulforce, the National Black Justice Coalition, COLAGE and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches are proud to present …

The American Family Outing

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People & Their Families Create Dialogue with Six of America’s Most Influential Evangelical Leaders & Their Mega-Churches

Reports from the American Family Outing

Meet the families taking part in the American Family Outing

Find out how your family can participate!

Between Mother’s Day Weekend and Father’s Day Weekend, 2008, diverse families from around the country will create meaningful conversations about faith, family, and LGBT people. We seek first to understand, and then to be understood, as we engage the families at six of America’s leading mega-churches. We visit these churches because we recognize the enormous influence each has within Christianity and the larger culture, through ministries, radio and television programs, and books that reach millions. We believe these churches have the potential to be a positive force in ending the physical and spiritual violence perpetuated by some religious voices against LGBT people and their families. Some of these churches have exercised inspirational leadership on social issues such as poverty and AIDS, and we believe they can exercise comparable, courageous leadership in ending spiritual and physical violence against LGBT people.

Same-gender couples with or without children, supportive straight couples and families, single-parent families, and single individuals who want to participate with a member of their extended family, are invited to apply for one or more church visits. To apply and learn more about the clergy and families leading each visit, please visit the AFO page for each church below.

Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church

Friday, May 9 – Sunday, May 11, 2008 (Mother’s Day Weekend) Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas

Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Lakewood is North America’s largest and fastest growing church averaging more than 42,000 attendees at weekly services, and a television program reaching over 100 million households in over 100 nations. He was featured as one of Barbara Walters’ "10 Most Fascinating People of 2006" and was named "Most Influential Christian in America" in 2006 by the readers of The Church Report Magazine. His television ministry is the most watched inspirational program in the United States.

Read more on the visit to Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church.

Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter's House

Friday, May 16 – Sunday, May 18, 2008 Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas

Bishop T.D. Jakes, founder and senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas, a multiracial, nondenominational church with over 30,000 members, nearly 400 staff members, and more than 50 outreach ministries to millions around the globe. A best-selling author, Jakes has been featured on the cover of TIME Magazine and was named "America’s Best Preacher" by the magazine.

Read more on the visit to Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House.

Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church

Friday, May 23 – Sunday, May 25, 2008 (Memorial Day Weekend) Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland (near Washington, D.C.)

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., the African-American pastor of Hope Christian Church with 3,500 members in Beltsville, MD, just outside Washington, D.C. Jackson was named one of the top 50 most influential Christians in 2005 by the Christian Post. His radio commentary can be heard daily on 400+ stations nationally. Jackson is a fervent opponent of gay rights and founded the High Impact Leadership Coalition to promote his "Black Contract With America on Moral Values," a six-point platform which includes the prohibition of same-sex marriage.

Read more on the visit to Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church.

Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

Friday, May 30 – Sunday, June 1, 2008 Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia (near Atlanta)

Bishop Eddie L. Long, the African-American pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church with over 25,000 members and 40 ministries, frequently teaches that "homosexuality is a manifestation of the fallen man" and that God can "deliver" homosexuals. Bishop Long was honored by the Center for Disease Control and the National HIV/AIDS Partnership (NHAP) for his outstanding work in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. He was chosen by the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2006 to host and officiate the funeral of Mrs. Coretta Scott King, which was attended by four Presidents.

Read more on the visit to Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church

Friday, June 6 – Sunday, June 8, 2008 Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois (near Chicago)

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois with 30,000 members. The church has been listed as the most influential church in America the last several years in a national poll of pastors. Hybels started the Global Leadership Summit in 1995 as an annual training event broadcast live from the Willow Creek campus in suburban Chicago to 100+ video sites across America, plus later via delay for another 70 international sites. 80,000 attendees were part of the 2006 Leadership Summit.

Read more on the visit to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church.

Rick Warren and Saddleback Church

Friday, June 13 – Sunday, June 15, 2008 (Father’s Day Weekend) Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California

Dr. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America’s largest and best-known churches with a membership of over 16,000. Warren was named one of "America’s Top 25 Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report in 2005. He was elected by TIME Magazine as one of "15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most" in 2004 and one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2005.

Read more on the visit to Rick Warren and Saddleback Church.

More Information:

Frequently Asked Questions about the American Family Outing

The American Family Outing: Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church

Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church

The American Family Outing

Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois

Friday, June 6 – Sunday, June 8, 2008

Clergy Leader for Our Families:

Jay Bakker Jay Bakker
Pastor of Revolution NYC

Lead Families:

Learn more about the following families leading the visit to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church. Find out how your family can join them!

Wallner Family Wallner Family
Mary Lou and Bob
Berry-Sapp Family Berry-Sapp Family
Dotti and Roby
Lutes-Stein Family Lutes-Stein Family
Jeff, Gary, and children Niko (11), Trei (5), and Jole’ (4)
Eggleston-Brindle Family Eggleston-Brindle Family
Mark and Darrin
Ritterbeck-DeCanio Family Ritterbeck-DeCanio Family
Johna and Elaine
Gray-Reed Family Gray-Reed Family
Di and Robin
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter
Director of National Actions
Soulforce

 

Back to the American Family Outing

Join us on the American Family Outing

The American Family Outing

Join us on the American Family Outing

Consider joining us on the American Family Outing as we work to create meaningful conversations about faith, family, and LGBT people with six of America’s largest churches. Fill out an application form today!

  1. Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church
    Houston, Texas
    May 9 – May 11, 2008
  2. Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House
    Dallas, Texas
    May 16 – May 18, 2008
  3. Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church
    Beltsville, Maryland
    May 23 – May 25, 2008
  4. Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church
    Lithonia, Georgia
    May 30 – June 1, 2008
  5. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church
    South Barrington, Illinois
    June 6 – June 8, 2008
  6. Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church
    Lake Forest, California
    June 13 – June 15, 2008

Back to the American Family Outing

The American Family Outing: Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

The American Family Outing

Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia

Friday, May 30 – Sunday, June 1, 2008

Clergy Leader for Our Families:

Troy Sanders Rev. Troy Sanders
The Fellowship

Lead Families:

Learn more about the following families leading the visit to Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Church. Find out how your family can join them!

Freeman-Chambers Family Freeman-Chambers Family
Michelle and Georgia
Parelli-Ortiz Family Parelli-Ortiz Family
Steve and Jose
Rasmus-Ford Family Rasmus-Ford Family
Amy, Kim, and daughters Madison (5) and McKenzie (2)
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter
Director of National Actions
Soulforce
Sylvia Rhue Dr. Sylvia Rhue
Director of Religious Affairs
National Black Justice Coalition

 

Back to the American Family Outing