Soulforce to table and present at Minnesota Out Campus Conference

Soulforce will be presenting at the upcoming Minnesota Out Campus Conference (MOCC). Over 500 college age students are expected to attend from 4 states. Soulforce will present a workshop covering principles of Non-Violence Resistance, as well as working within faith communities to affirm LGBTQ identities. 

Presenting the Soulforce material will be Equality Ride Alum Amanda Lee Genaro and Soulforce Director of Programs Jason Conner. Soulforce will also have a table giving out literature and encouraging people to look into the Equality Ride and other programs. 

Check out more info about MOCC on their website. If you aren’t in the Minneapolis area and would still like to support Soulforce in this and other programs, please donate today!

Soulforce to hold rally in Philadelphia

by Matthew E. Pilecki
EDGE Media Network
Original article

LGBT activists from across the country will gather in Philadelphia on Friday, Nov. 5, to rally against homophobia in support of subjugated LGBT youth.
Soulforce, a non-profit that hopes to end political and religious oppression against LGBT people through nonviolent resistance, will sponsor the ‘Life Rally’ in Love Park. The event is part of a two-day initiative , which will include a symposium that is aimed at "debunk[ing] the myths that plague [the national conversation about homosexuality."

The Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, executive director of Soulforce, told EDGE the recent media attention surrounding LGBT teen suicides and Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project offers an opportunity to end bullying once and for all.

"While we completely support the idea of It Gets Better, we also know that young people need tools that help them get better right now, not someday," said Love. "The only good news about the recent focus on teen suicide is that everyone now knows something has to be done. We hope that our symposium is a catalytic event in the lives of individuals and our community so that concrete steps are taken to better support and empower young people."

The idea for the rally came after Jason Connor, community director for Soulforce’s, came out to his family during their annual Equality Ride, a bus tour that addressed anti-LGBT legislation at college campuses across the country. Connor’s Mormon family consequently disowned him, spurring him to address the alarming number of LGBT suicides within the faith-based community.

"He found a way out for himself and wanted to create a safe and vibrant space where we could not only think about our losses but also think about the ways in which we can celebrate our lives," said Love about Connor. "It was his idea to create the rally and our cohort of Equality Riders in Philadelphia joined with him to bring the event into being."

Love works closely with religious traditions to establish safe spaces for LGBT youth and conduct workshops on inclusion even when the places of worship have no intention of changing their ideology. She is confident networking with faith-based organizations can bring reform providing comfort to LGBT youth at odds with their faith.

"Fundamentalist religious belief is at the root of patriarchy and, therefore, at the root of sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, misogyny and the exclusion of LGBTQ people from full citizenship in society and in the church," said Love. "People in the faith-based communities are in the best position to advocate for the elimination of polity and policies within denominations that are harmful to the lives of LGBTQ people. They speak the language of the oppressor while not having to choose to be the oppressor."   

New Jersey lawmakers recently introduced an Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights that would create school safety teams and require annual reporting on bullying instances from school and district administrators. Furthermore, Garden State schools would be graded on how they handle bullying, harassment and intimidation.

While Love believes instances of bullying need to be addressed on an individual basis, she thinks the law will encourage some teens to stand up to their aggressors.

"I believe that we always need a law to enforce what is right when people don’t choose to do what is right in the absence of law," she said. "I also believe that the law is simply a tool to encourage people to think differently-perhaps to hesitate before they commit a crime of bullying. We only stop cruelty and rejection on a one-on-one basis when one person says ‘no more.’ I believe that laws support people who choose to stand up and be courageous and do what is right."

Equality Ride alumns launch Legalize Trans* campaign

Black shirt with white writing which says 'Legalize Trans*'Asher Koleiboi, co-director of the 2010 Equality Ride, launched the Legalize Trans* campaign in July with the help of 2007 Equality Rider Brian G. Murphy. The Legalize Trans* campaign is an artistic and educational campaign intended to create dialogue and draw attention to the lack of inclusivity within the popular American Apparel "Legalize Gay" campaign. Legalize Trans* serves to emphasize the need for Transgender inclusivity within the dominant national Lesbian and Gay rights movement, and provide public education and resources that focus on navigating legal resources for Trans/gender non-conforming people. 

Since the campaign and product line launched in July, over 100 shirts have been sold. In addition to the original black shirt, the campaign now includes shirts in red and blue and an assortment of buttons, as well as a pay-what-you-want computer desktop wallpaper. Legalize Trans* is nearing 1,000 fans on Facebook and has received press coverage from The Advocate, Bilerico, and other local and international news outlets.

Soulforce is extremely pleased with the work Asher and Brian are undertaking to raise awareness of trans* issues, critique exclusionary LGB politics, and empower trans* people. After production, transaction, and web costs, the proceeds from the sale of all Legalize Trans* items go to fund medical, living, and other expenses for trans* people.  Trans* individuals and trans-focused individuals can signup as affiliates (for free) to sell shirts to earn money for themselves, their organization, or other trans* folks.

You can buy a shirt at www.legalizetrans.com
You can apply to be an affiliate at: www.legalizetrans.com/sell

Soulforce announces Ray Boltz as honorary spokesperson

Ray BoltzThe Board of Directors of Soulforce is deeply honored to announce that Ray Boltz has been named Honorary Spokesperson for our organization effective September 3, 2010.  In this role, Ray will introduce Soulforce to concert audiences around the world and encourage attendees to volunteer and contribute to the mission of Soulforce in the world.  In addition, he will assist with the promotion of the Soulforce Equality Ride 2011 which has been expanded to include a Town Hall meeting in the cities where college campuses are visited by the Ride.  Ray will host a celebration concert in selected cities along the route.  Before Ray came out as a gay man, he served as Spokesperson for Missions of Mercy and raised millions of dollars for orphanages outside the United States.  He developed a very effective witness through music and stories that helped enroll people in these projects.  He plans to use a similar approach in his work with Soulforce. His opening act, Azariah Southworth, was the host of a popular Christian TV series before coming out and went on to be a rider on the 2008 Equality Ride.

Ray Boltz was born in 1953 in Muncie, Indiana, United States) and was a singer songwriter who first came to wide notice in contemporary Christian music. Many of his songs tell stories of faith and inspiration. He was raised by his parents William and Ruth Boltz, and was married to his wife Carol Boltz for over 30 years prior to coming out as gay in 2008. They have four children.  They are now divorced but Carol remains a huge supporter of Ray. 

Boltz wrote "Thank You", which won the Song of the Year prize at the 1990 GMA Dove Awards. After the release of Songs from the Potter’s Field in 2002, and his last tour in 2004, Boltz retired from the music industry and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In a September 2008 interview with the Washington Blade, Boltz came out of the closet and announced that he was gay.  Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, then Executive Director of Metropolitan Community Church, co-led a worship service with Ray at MCC Washington D.C. as part of his coming out process. At that same service, Ray introduced the song "Who Would Jesus Love?" at that service.  Ray says the song was inspired by his reading of the book Would Jesus Discriminate? written by Dr. Love. He also stateed that he was further inspired by the work of Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce and Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches. Boltz is also well known for the 1986 song "Watch the Lamb" which has played to millions of people around the world during Easter services.

Biography adapted from Wikipedia
Photo by Howard Zucker

Award-Winning Documentary on Soulforce’s Equality Ride, Equality U, Released to DVD Format June 1

Cinevolve Studios announced that Equality U, the award-winning documentary on the first-ever Soulforce Equality Ride in 2006, will become available in DVD format June 1. According to Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce, the film provides an opportunity to educate people on LGBTQ equality issues. She sees Equality U as a “sleeper” with the potential to rudely awaken administrators of religious based colleges and universities and their affiliated denominations.

Arlington, VA (PRWEB) June 1, 2010 – Cinevolve Studios announced that Equality U, the award-winning documentary on the first-ever Soulforce Equality Ride in 2006, will become available in DVD format today (available in the Soulforce store).

The film, from director Dave O’Brien, is a feature-length documentary that follows a group of 33 young activists from Soulforce, a national non-profit organization dedicated to nonviolently confronting and ending anti-LGBTQ discrimination, on its first-ever Equality Rider. The initial Equality Ride is a two-month tour across the United States to 19 conservative religious and military colleges, to confront policies that ban or discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and faculty.

Any of us who are working or worshiping within mainstream religious institutions need to watch this film and pay attention to its message.
– Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director, Soulforce

According to Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce, Equality U is a “sleeper” with the potential to rudely awaken administrators of religious based colleges and universities and their affiliated denominations. First tagged as a movie about gay young adults tackling "the establishment," this film is now understood as a critical lens into American culture where young adults are now half as likely to attend church weekly or more (15% of 20-year-olds and 20% of 30-year-olds attend church weekly or more, compared to about 40% of older adults). Lower rates of attendance may signal a long-term trajectory of reduced religious participation, effectively “shrinking” mainstream religious institutions and their affiliated colleges and universities.

Love notes when young adults do elect to participate in organized religion, they are characterized, by some sociologists, as the catalyst for new, consciously postmodern, nonhierarchical and radically inclusive churches. These young people are much more inclined to support a multicultural and pluralistic community-type congregation that is very fluid in its racial/ethnic and sexual/gender composition.

“While it is too soon to know what kind of emerging adult spirituality or religious practice will dominate the United States throughout the next century,” Love notes, “there is sufficient evidence to indicate that exclusionary and discriminatory policies toward women, people of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will not get high marks.”

Love says, “Any of us who are working or worshiping within mainstream religious institutions need to watch this film and pay attention to its message. Young adults are edgy and have little patience with traditional paternalistic or patriarchal attitudes or expressions of authority. When it comes to matters of the spirit, they want to live their lives out in the same way they communicate on Facebook, where barriers are few and far between, and in this, they are quintessentially American.”

The movie has already gained attention since its debut at a number of top gay and lesbian film festivals in 2008. The movie has won numerous awards, including Outstanding Emerging Talent at Outfest 2008 and several Best Documentary and Best Feature awards. It also has aired on cable channel Logo a number of times since debuting there in January 2009.

The movie is available for purchase or rental through Amazon.com, Netflix, direclty from Soulforce, or hundreds of online and physical retailers nationwide.

Soulforce Symposium: Philadelphia 2010

Soulforce Symposium: Philadelphia, PA November 5 - 7, 2010

More information: Speakers, Presenters & Contributors

We had an amazing experience in Philadelphia at the 2010 Soulforce Symposium. More than 300 people gathered over the two-day scheduled events, including the Life Rally on Friday night and the Symposium on Saturday. Seventy percent of these individuals were at theirfirst Soulforce event of any kind.  I want you to hear some of their feedback so you know what you have helped create with your support.

@Jaybakker It was awesome to see you this past weekend at the Soulforce event. Thank you for being more than an ally. #ss2010less than a minute ago via txt

 

The soulforce symposium was stupendous – Everyone did great n totally professional job, so proud of my joyful diverse family! Thanksless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

 

We needed 3 pages for all the words people had to describe the conference. Pretty inspiring stuff. #ss2010.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story by Jay Bakker while he was with us as a plenary speaker.  NPR interviewed him.  The EPDN and Edge covered the events.  Journalists from France and Norway stayed with us all day interviewing participants.

Bill Meyer from Duke Medical Center had a standing room only crowd for his incredible research about the unholy partnership of media and religion in the historical abuse of non-gender conforming people (LGBTQI).

Christine Bakke’s workshop participants produced amazing life stories in art that will be reproduced on our site.

Making ex-gay survivor art

Rev. Jeffrey Jordan’s MCC Philadelphia members held a vigil at NARTH and then joined us to share what they saw and heard.

Petersen Toscano presented a cabaret on Saturday night that combined segments from several of his plays—deeply moving, incredibly funny and inspiring.

Six panelists and a facilitator Kevin Jones, Vincent Cervantes, Melanie Martinez, J Mason, Amanda Lee Genero, Jeffrey Jordan, and Cathy Renna responded to a question in ways that had all of us thinking again about what it really means to operate at the intersections of justice.

Dr. Daniel Helminiak took us on a spiritual journey at the closing session, reminding us that at the Spirit level of our lives, labels mean nothing.
We captured video of sessions and people’s stories that live on now as encouragement and catalysts for nonviolent resistance.

We learned so much about what is real in the lives of people who have experienced religious abuse and spiritual violence from brilliant activists and writers.  We explored the "bullies in our own minds" that Mel speaks of so beautifully in his new "It Gets Better" video.

I think we gave real hope to people and created safe space for intense conversations about their lives and how to move forward in the midst of oppression.

We already have requests to bring the Symposium experience in the Spring to the West Coast and the Appalachians. More will follow.

We hope you will help us continue this work throughout the United States. In 2011, we are planning to take Symposium-like panels to at least five of the colleges and universities where the Equality Riders have gone and hold our EQ Leadership Camps to train at least 50 young advocates who apply for the Equality Ride in 2012.

You can help ensure the success of future Soulforce programs by donating today.

Sponsored in part by
COIL Foundation
COIL Foundation

Announcing Our New Executive Director: Rev. Dr. Cindi Love

Rev. Dr. Cindi LoveRev. Dr. Cindi Love begins her new duties as Executive Director for USA based nonprofit, SOULFORCE, Inc. on April 22, 2010. Throughout its 12-year history, SOULFORCE has used the principles and practices of Mohandas Gandhi’s and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s relentless nonviolent resistance and direct action to bring attention to and achieve freedom from religious and political oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people.

Founded by Rev. Dr. Mel White and Gary Nixon in 1998, the first gathering of the SOULFORCE community of volunteers was held in 1999 to protest the anti-gay rhetoric of Rev. Jerry Falwell. Soulforce Equality Riders are currently on a 16-city tour across the south, northeast, and midwest of the USA to bring a message of hope and affirmation to students at colleges with oppressive policies toward LGBTQ students. In July 2010, SOULFORCE will attend the 219th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly and bring its unique witness for truth and justice to the voting members and other attendees.
__________________________________________________________________
Dr. Cindi Love brings a wide range of leadership, management and organizational experience to her new role as SOULFORCE’s Executive Director. From January 2005 until April 2009, she served as the Executive Director of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). Prior to MCC, she served as an Executive Dean in the third largest community college system in the United States, as a Senior Executive of The Toro Company (NYSE:TTC) and CEO and Founder of several award winning corporations, including one named to the INC 500 in 1990. In 1990, Dr. Love was named one of the "Top 50 Entrepreneurs" in North America by Inc. Magazine, the Young Entrepreneur’s Organization, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Love is the creator of the Would Jesus Discriminate? campaign and author of a book by the same name.

"I am really excited that Dr. Cindi Love has accepted the call to serve as Executive Director of SOULFORCE," said the Reverend Dr. Mel White, co-founder of SOULFORCE. "She is the ideal person to continue to lead our non-violent struggle to end misuse of scripture and religion to discriminate against God’s LGBTQ children."

Chuck Phelan, Chair of the Board of SOULFORCE said, "As SOULFORCE transitions from its entrepreneurial stage of development, we are delighted to have Dr. Love in this crucial position of leadership. She brings a unique sensitivity to the issues facing both the LGBTQ rights and civil rights movements. She fully embraces the essential need to engage people in understanding the intersectionality of oppression, particularly within the context of organized religion and its contributions to institutionalized and systemic racism, heterosexism, classism and sexism."

Rev. Gil Caldwell, member of the SOULFORCE Advisory Board, said, "I am convinced as never before that the nation, faith community and beyond needs SOULFORCE! The alienation between and among persons for racial, gender, sexual orientation, political, religious, regional, class, age and other reasons is as great today as I have seen in my 76 years. I am thrilled to hear that Soulforce is committed to challenge anti-black racism as an important component of the fulfillment of its mission. We welcome Rev. Dr. Love to this work and to our SOULFORCE community of activists." Rev. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who participated in the "Mississippi Freedom Summer" of 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, and the March on Washington.

More of Rev. Dr. Cindi Love

Cindi speaks to C-SPAN regarding her book Would Jesus Discriminate?

Rev. Love delivered the 2009 Clergy Call for Justice & Equality in Washington, DC

Cindi with the 2010 Equality Riders
Rev Dr Cindi Love with the 2010 Equality Riders

Leave a message for Cindi

We invite you to welcome Cindi Love into her new role as Executive Director by leaving a comment on our blog.

Press Inquiries

To Arrange Press Interviews,
Phone (888-326-5610)
cindi@soulforce.org

Equality Ride visits Houghton College

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 10, 2010
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jennifer Luu, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 410 493 3539 jennifer_luu@equalityride.com
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(Houghton, NY) — Yesterday, the 2010 Soulforce Q Equality Ride visited Houghton College, bringing a message of hope and affirmation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. The second stop on the traveling forum’s sixteen college tour, Houghton College administration has been working with Equality Ride leadership for months on a day of learning, growth, and productive dialogue.

The Equality Ride is a national bus tour to faith-based colleges. The 18 to 29-year-old Equality Riders advocate safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

On Tuesday, March 9th, the Soulforce Q Equality Riders arrived at Houghton College for a full day of rigidly scheduled events. Equality Riders joined with assigned “Houghton hosts” chosen from the faculty, staff and student body of the college for a campus tour, individual and group discussion, and communal meals.

“There were certainly some concerns and difficult compromises during the planning process. Yet despite disagreements between the institutional perspective of Houghton and that of the Equality Ride, I think today was a time of growth and fruitful discussion," said Equality Rider and former Houghton student, Andrew Langdon. “Many students expressed their desire to be an ally to the LGBTQ community or their need for safe spaces and an affirming message.”

Houghton also hosted a formal panel about how the Christian community should respond to issues of sexuality and gender. Participants included Houghton Professor Rich Eckley, Kathleen J. Elliott of the local Agape Counseling Associates, Inc, and Emily Zahn, Equality Rider and West Virginia Wesleyan junior. The forum was moderated by Dr. Michael Lastoria and was very well attended by hundreds of members of the student body, as well as some members of the community.

“I think it was a really wonderful time to share my perspective as a Christian lesbian with the Houghton community who may not feel that homosexuality and Christianity can be compatible. All the panelists were able to find common ground and come to an understanding that the two are not mutually exclusive and that the Christian church needs to be responding in a more loving and responsible way to its LGBTQ members,” explains Emily Zahn, the Equality Ride panelist. The Equality Ride bus is on the road through April 24, 2010, bringing dialogue, hope, and change to schools across the country. Future stops include:

March 12 Affirming community visit Knoxville, TN
March 15 Oakwood University Huntsville, AL
March 17 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Wake Forest, NC
March 18 Campbell University Buies Creek, NC

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Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com.

Frequently Asked Questions for Reporters about the Equality Ride

What is Soulforce Q?
Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce. Soulforce Q works to uplift the lives and liberties of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, working primarily with individuals between the ages of 18 and 28.

What is the Equality Ride?
The Equality Ride is a project that takes young LGBT advocates to colleges and universities in order to have meaningful conversations about fairness and diversity. Traveling by bus, Equality Riders, as they are called, engage their peers and promote open dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality. Schools they visit are contacted months in advance and invited to host the Equality Ride. Some schools choose to work with them, and they go on campus for presentations, panel discussions, classroom visits, and meals together. Some schools, however, choose to reject dialogue. In such cases, civil disobedience becomes a possibility, which can result in arrests.

Who are the Equality Riders?
They are young adults, age 18 to 28, from all over the world. Some are Christian, some are from other faith backgrounds, and some do not identify as religious. Some are students and some are not affilitated with any institution. The Co-Directors are full time Soulforce Q staff. Other Equality Riders are volunteers; they are not paid for their work.

What are the primary goals of the 2010 Soulforce Q Equality Ride?

  1. We often hear on campus, "I have never met any LGBT people." The Equality Ride accomplishes this first and most important step towards reconciliation: making the humanity and spirituality of LGBT people real to students across America. With dignity and scholarly dialogue, Riders convey to students and administration that real lives are affected by the harmful rhetoric promoted by many campuses.
  2. The Equality Ride and other campaigns of Soulforce Q work with young adults to build community and nurture leadership. The Equality Riders give voice to students that are silenced on campus. We draw together LGBT students and allies to form communities of informed dissent and safety.
  3. There are a handful of scriptures used to condemn LGBT people. We discuss the Biblical scholarship that affirms LGBT people, heard less often if at all, on conservative campuses.

How can I schedule an interview with the Equality Riders or students?
Contact the Equality Ride Co-Directors:

Andi Gentile, andi@soulforce.org

Asher Kolieboi, asher@soulforce.org

What happened today on the Equality Ride?
Each day participants will update the Equality Ride website with accounts of their time on campuses, podcasts and video when able.

Can I use the photos that are posted on the website?
Yes. If you visit our Resources for the Media page, high-resolution photos are available. Please attribute photo credit to the Soulforce Q Equality Ride.

2010 Equality Ride Route: Malone University

The Equality Ride stop at Malone University is April 23, 2010.Malone University

The Equality Rider organizing the stop at Malone University is Sabrina Diz.

Sabrina Sabrina Diz
sabrina_diz@equalityride.com

If you are a student at Malone University, an alum of Malone University, or a concerned citizen in the Canton, OH area and would like to help with the Soulforce Q Equality Ride’s visit to Malone University, please register below.

Register to help with the 2010 Equality Ride’s stop at Malone University