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.
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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

Soulforce: A Brief History, 1999-2006

Cover of the Soulforce History Book
Order

This 76-page book covers the beginning of Mel White and Gary Nixon’s dream of Soulforce through the fall of 2006. Included are many voices and hundreds of photos of Soulforce events.

Free Download
You can download a PDF file of Soulforce: A Brief History, 1999 – 2006.

Order Hard Copies Online
You can order hard copies of Soulforce: A Brief History, 1999 – 2006 at the cost of $10.00 per copy from the Soulforce Store.

Order Hard Copies by Mail
Indicate the number of copies needed and send a donation of $10.00 per book to:

Soulforce
PO Box 3195
Lynchburg, VA 24503

Bulk Orders
For inquires about discounted bulk orders (more than 20 copies) please send an email to gary@soulforce.org.

Soulforce Turns 10!

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 27, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) This spring, Soulforce celebrates 10 years of relentless nonviolent activism for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) freedom. In keeping with Soulforce’s "take it to the streets" ethos, a mix of formal events and grassroots action will mark the milestone anniversary:

  • On Saturday, April 5, Equality Virginia will present the Fifth Annual Commonwealth Award to Soulforce Co-founders Rev. Dr. Mel White and Gary Nixon.
  • On Friday, April 25th at 7:30pm, Soulforce hosts a 10th Anniversary Gala and Reunion at the Marriott Dallas/Fort Worth Airport South.
  • On Saturday, April 26th, at 7:00 am, Soulforce invites all who care about justice for LGBT people to gather in downtown Fort Worth’s General Worth Square for a training in nonviolence and a vigil outside the United Methodist General Conference.

Looking Back

Ten years ago, Rev. Dr. Mel White and his partner Gary Nixon began laying the groundwork for a new social movement. Under the auspices of "Soulforce," a name adapted from the teachings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, White and Nixon began to organize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans to study the principles of nonviolent direct action. This course of study led to the first Soulforce direct action, a historic 1999 dialogue between 200 members of Soulforce and the congregation of Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Selected Soulforce Timeline

1998: White and Nixon convene the first Soulforce Board of Directors.

1999: In Lynchburg, Virginia, 200 Soulforce members attend an unprecedented meeting with 200 members of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church; later that year, 74 are arrested for blocking the entrance to the United Methodist church where Rev. Jimmy Creech is being tried for marrying same-sex couples.

2000: In Cleveland, Arun Gandhi and Yolanda King lead civil disobedience inside the United Methodist General Conference to protest the denomination’s anti-gay policies. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas, is among the 191 arrested.

2001: In Rome, Soulforce and Dignity/USA bring photographs representing the gifts of faithful LGBT Catholics to the Vatican for The Epiphany.

2002: In St. Louis, Soulforce activists disrupt business at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to call attention to the suffering caused by the denomination’s anti-gay teachings.

2005: In Colorado Springs, more than 1,000 people join Soulforce outside Focus on the Family headquarters to hold James Dobson accountable for his ant-gay rhetoric. The Reitan family is arrested for trespassing, as documented in For the Bible Tells Me So.

2006: Nationwide, the first Soulforce Equality Ride bus brings hope and truth to 18 colleges that silence or exclude LGBT students. Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, is born.

2007: In Irvine, California, 200 ex-gay survivors come together for the first Ex-gay Survivor Conference, a powerful rebuttal to the annual meeting of Exodus International. Three former Exodus leaders issue a formal apology for the harm caused by ex-gay programs.

Looking Ahead with Hope

As Soulforce prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the landscape of religion-based bigotry is shifting. Recent research by the Barna group suggests that young Christians are increasingly uncomfortable with church-sanctioned hostility toward LGBT people. But in spite of these positive changes, an old guard of radical right-wing organizations continues to use sexual orientation and gender identities as wedges to divide mainline denominations and our nation. In April 2008, the Soulforce Vigil for Justice at the United Methodist General Conference will stand up to these divisive voices, encouraging the United Methodist Church to live up to its slogan "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors," by including LGBT people in marriage rites, ministry, and membership.

Then, between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2008, delegations of LGBT families will initiate dialogue with a new generation of Christian leaders. The American Family Outing will ask nationally known pastors, including Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes, to exercise positive leadership in ending physical and spiritual violence against LGBT people.

In fall 2008, the Third Annual Equality Ride will visit the American South. The itinerary will include seminaries and several faith-based Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Through education, outreach, and direct action, these courageous young activists will illuminate the destructive effects of religion-based bigotry and sow the seeds of a more inclusive campus culture. A true youth movement, the Equality Ride is empowering a new generation to challenge tradition and secure a brighter future for everyone.


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. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.
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A Personal Invitation From Rev. Dr. Mel White

The Soulforce 10th Anniversary Reunion and Direct Action at the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church

A Personal Invitation From Rev. Dr. Mel White

Gary and I are hoping that you will seriously consider joining us in Ft. Worth, Texas, April 25-27, and if you can, stay through the following week until Friday, May 2. You will have a rare opportunity to stand with us on the front lines of our struggle to end religion-based oppression.

On Friday evening, April 25, we will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Soulforce with laughter and tears, food and drink, special music and a documentary film looking back at the first ten years on the frontlines with Soulforce. The entire Soulforce team will be there to meet and greet you. Dan Karslake, the producer of For The Bible Tells Me So will be there to shake your hand, and we will sponsor a showing of that prize-winning film (featuring the work of Soulforce) on Saturday night, April 26. Former Soulforce Board Chairman, Jimmy Creech, who stood with us in the very first Soulforce actions, will be there to welcome you as well. We owe it to ourselves to spend this quality time together remembering the amazing work you have done to peacefully confront injustice during our first decade.

However, we are not going to Fort Worth just to party. Our Soulforce visit coincides in time and place with the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, with 8.5 million members – the country’s second largest denomination. Sadly, it is becoming more and more apparent that a majority of the more than 1,000 United Methodist delegates gathering at this historic General Conference are determined to keep in place their ban against the ordination and marriage of LGBT members. We expect a number of other discriminatory policies to be introduced that would signal a giant step backwards into intolerance and oppression.

Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27 will offer another of those rare opportunities to stand vigil with Soulforce as thousands of United Methodist – delegates, clergy, bishops and laity from across the US and around the world – converge on the Ft. Worth Convention Center for their weekend General Conference events. Soulforce will support the Reconciling Ministries Network, Affirmation, and other LGBT Methodist groups who are working tirelessly to end the injustice within their denomination.

Just standing in an elegant, silent, Soulforce vigil is guaranteed to change your life. How often do you have the chance to actually do justice, to put your body on the line, to transform your words into actions? Remember, both Gandhi and King remind us that taking this step may or may not change the minds and hearts of our adversaries; but standing in that vigil will change your mind and heart forever.

If you are feeling courageous on those weekend morning vigils, you and a partner, trained in nonviolence earlier in the day, will distribute our case against the antigay policies of United Methodist Church to the very men and women who create and enforce those policies. They are not evil. They are victims of misinformation as we have been. We are there to liberate United Methodists from the burden of their intolerance. We will stand vigil at the front doors of that Convention Center because we love United Methodists enough to spend time and money helping them discover the truth that homosexuality is not a sickness nor a sin and that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith serve as UMC clergy and laity across the country and around the globe.

During the weekend, you’ll also have a chance to spend some quality time brainstorming about the future of Soulforce with each other, with our esteemed board of directors, with me, Jeff, and the entire Soulforce staff. Through a carefully guided process, we invite you to share your vision as together we shape the next decade of our important future.

If you can stay with us Monday, April 28, through Friday, May 2, you will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of creative actions against the unjust and discriminatory United Methodist Church policies. Whatever powerful response we plan together you can be certain that our words and actions will be guided by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance as developed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. If you’ve ever considered taking that next step, this may be your chance. You’ll be part of our ongoing efforts to end the dehumanizing injustice within the United Methodist Church.

In 1999 in Grand Island, Nebraska, Soulforce stood vigil and engaged in civil disobedience at the trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was defrocked for marrying a gay couple. In 2000, more than 200 Soulforce volunteers were arrested during a peaceful protest at the UMC General Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2004 Soulforce conducted nonviolent direct actions at two trials of UMC pastors, the Rev. Karen Dammann and the Rev. Beth Stroud, who came out as lesbians in committed relationships.

Soulforce must continue to assist UMC members who are struggling against the advances of the antigay forces within their denomination. Check www.soulforce.org to register and for regular news updates.

Gary and I look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth!

-Rev. Dr. Mel White

Back to the Soulforce 10th Anniversary Reunion & Direct Action

Gary Nixon, Treasurer

Gary Nixon, TreasurerGary is the co-founder of Soulforce and has been with the organization before conception doing what has been needed from behind the scenes. Working as a team, he and Mel celebrated 28 years of life together in 2009. Gary and Mel live in Lynchburg, VA, where Gary manages the business office and fills orders for Soulforce videos, booklets, and other educational resources. Gary says "My wish for Soulforce is that eventually we are no longer needed, that we will have been accepted into the human family like the rest of the population and now we can get down to business to do what really needs to be done."

Soulforce Staff

 
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love
Executive Director

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.

 
Bill Carpenter
Director of National Actions

Bill grew up in Memphis, TN where in his early teens, he witnessed much of the civil rights movement, including nonviolent demonstrations and marches led by Dr. King, Rev. James Lawson and his brother Phil and other of his present day heroes. After graduating from the University of Alabama, he worked in business and marketing in retailing and real estate. Coming out as a 40 year old, he shifted his attention from a traditional business career to a life of service. Presently, Bill is an active student of Truth principles, active at his Unity church and as a trainer in welcoming diversity and in principles of nonviolence. Bill says one of his greatest Soulforce experiences was early in Soulforce history at the UMC convention in Cleveland, OH in 2000 hearing two of his s/heroes Bob and Jeanie Graetz tell about the "second time their house was firebombed" while living in Montgomery, Alabama.

Today, I call upon every LGBT person to reach deep within and connect with the joyous truth of who you are and declare, once and for all, I will not accept being treated as a 2nd class person or citizen of my country. Today, I stand with all oppressed peoples of the earth and declare: I am whole and worthy and loved – just as I am!

 

Gary Nixon

Director of Business

Gary is Co-Founder of Soulforce and has been with the organization before conception doing what has been needed from behind the scenes. He spends many hours each day managing donations and expenses, and filling orders for those who have requested one of Soulforce’s print or video resources. Working as a team, he and Mel have celebrated 28 years of life together and are looking forward to the next 28.

"My wish for Soulforce is that eventually we are no longer needed, that we will have been accepted into the human family like the rest of the population and now we can get down to business to do what really needs to be done."


Kara Speltz
Administrative Coordinator

Kara has been involved with Soulforce since 1999, prior to the first action in Lynchburg. Coming out of a Catholic Worker background she has been a peace and justice activist for over forty years. Her activities have ranged from participation in the Catholic left draft board and corporation actions of the late 60’s and early 70s, staffing Catholic Worker houses of hospitality, anti-racist work, prison work, and union organizing.

In March, 2002, she traveled to Iraq just days after the war started reaching Baghdad before the American occupation of that city and then returning two years later to witness the disastrous results of that occupation. As Administrative Coordinator her responsibilities involve being a "jill-of-all trades," so to speak; from assisting in research for Mel’s books and articles, writing and/or editing pieces for publication, to ensuring people who write to Soulforce get responses.


Haven Herrin Haven Herrin
Director of Development

I am a teacher, artist, activist and aspiring yogi and DJ.  I use "they" and "them" as my gender pronouns because I prefer words that locate me within the gender system with as little stability as possible.  Some days I am high femme, some days more trans. This flexibility and self-recreation is part of my queer existence.  The small things, like asking the busker not to sing songs that are anti-woman, and the big things, like helping to launch busfulls of activists, are all part of a life lived as an activist.  I think a lot about racism, international solidarity, and the myriad ways that the gendermonster is iterated in our lives.  I am happy to work with Soulforce as it grows into its intersectional justice skin and remains a place of infinite possibility. I also serve as a represntative of North America to the board for the International Lesbian and Gay Association.



Haven Herrin Jason Conner
Director of Programs

Jason Conner comes to Soulforce after completing the 2010 Equality Ride. Though he is from West Virginia, he has lived in various parts of the country, including Utah, California, and Florida. Jason was raised LDS (Mormon) and served a two year mission in the Florida – Orlando Mission. He left the church upon coming out joining the Equality Ride. Jason has worked with and for various non-profits over the past ten years – including United Way, The Red Cross, Utah Family Partners, The Central Florida Compassion Outreach Center, and the BSA. He was part of the successful campaign to elect Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia (2004). In the 2002 interim election, Jason was the youngest person on the ballot in the state of West Virginia, where he ran for the Democratic Executive Comittee. He served one term. Jason resides in Philadelphia and works full time as the Director of Programs for Soulforce.