Gil Caldwell: Of Rights and Rites

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

Of Rights and Rites

By Gilbert H. Caldwell
Special to the Star-Telegram

Eight years ago, at the age of 66, I was arrested at the United Methodist General Conference in Cleveland. I was arrested twice: first as part of a demonstration outside the meeting place, and later with my fellow United Methodist clergy and lay persons who disrupted the legislative session inside.

This was by no means my first demonstration at General Conference. But in the past, issues of racial justice motivated my protest.

At the 2000 conference, I joined many others in seeking justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Standing up for LGBT rights did not always come easily to me.

As a young "foot soldier" in the civil rights movement, I was inspired by the writing and activism of Malcolm Boyd, a white Episcopal priest who wrote Are You Running With Me, Jesus? One day I read that Boyd had come out as a gay man.

As I digested the news, I discovered some unsettling emotions. Although I was deeply committed to civil and religious rights for black people, I realized that I had reservations about those rights being granted to gay people. I wondered, "Do I deny the impact his life had upon me, burn his books, turn from being an advocate to an adversary?"

After a day of reflection and prayer, my faith, reason, and common sense came alive! I could not and would not deny his influence. Just as so many white people became allies of the civil rights movement for racial justice, I determined that I would be a black, straight advocate of civil and religious equality for LGBT people.

These issues came to the forefront at the 1972 General Conference, when new legislation affirmed that "homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are persons of sacred worth." When this proposal reached the floor, a last-minute amendment added the words, "… though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."

In the decades that have followed, the "incompatibility amendment" has become the basis for undermining the very equality that was affirmed in 1972, and lesbian and gay people have gradually been excluded from the life of the church: first from ordained ministry (1976), then from marriage (1996), and finally from membership (2006).

Since my first ordination as a deacon in the Methodist church in 1956, I have seen us move from racial segregation to racial integration, and from excluding women from the clergy to ordaining them. In each of these instances of progress, the state preceded the United Methodist Church in extending equal rights.

Today, slowly but surely, civil rights for lesbians and gays are becoming a reality. Civil unions are legal in many states, and marriage equality is the law in Massachusetts.

Whole denominations now affirm the equality of gay and transgender people. The United Church of Christ declared full equality five years ago and recently announced growth in both membership and giving for the whole denomination.

Equality is possible — in churches and society. But to get there, we must quell our fears that the church or society will collapse if we treat others fairly. To get there, we must die to old ideas.

In 2000, I nearly died from a brain tumor. I survived with a nerve-damaged leg, a cane and a drive to use my time well. Since then, my ministry has centered on writing and speaking about the connections between different forms of discrimination. Simply put, my message is about justice.

Some ask if I will get arrested at this General Conference. I don’t know, but I do know that I will act in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Now more fervently than ever, I pray that this General Conference will lead the way in doing justice for those it has so long denied.

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist minister and an active member of Soulforce, a national LGBT social justice organization. He is a former chairman of Black Methodists for Church Renewal and a co-founder of United Methodists of Color.

This op-ed originally appeared in the April 30, 2008 edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, www.star-telegram.com/245/story/613555.html.

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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

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Schedule for the Direct Action at the 2008 UMC General Conference

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

Schedule for the Direct Action at the 2008 UMC General Conference

This schedule is subject to change, so please check back frequently.

Updated 4/18/2008

Friday, April 25, 2008
12:30pm – 2:00pm Picnic in the Park with Transgender People of Faith featuring Soulforce Board Member Judy Osborne, UM Affirmation Spokesperson Diane Delap, Rev. Drew Phoenix, and many others. Join us for lunch, listen to moving personal stories, and ask questions in an informal environment. Free lunch for GC delegates and volunteers sponsored by Soulforce, Transgender Advocates of Central Texas, UM Affirmation, and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources.
General Worth Square (9th and Main, across from the Convention Center)
6:00pm Registration
Marriott Dallas/Fort Worth Airport South – 4151 Centreport Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas
7:30pm Soulforce 10th Anniversary Reunion
Celebrating a Decade of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance!
Marriott Dallas/Fort Worth Airport South – 4151 Centreport Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas
Saturday, April 26, 2008*
6:00am Bus Departs Marriot Dallas/Fort Worth Airport South for downtown Fort Worth
7:00am – 7:30am Training in Nonviolent Resistance – General Worth Square (corner of Main & 9th Street – directly across from the Fort Worth Convention Center – site of the UMC Conference) – featuring Rev. Jimmy Creech and Rev. Dr. Mel White
7:30am – 11:00am Vigil outside the Fort Worth Convention Center – 1201 Houston Street.
11:00am – 1:00pm
(tentative)
Join Haven Herrin and her team from Soulforce Q for the Youth and Young Adult Rally and March of the Reconciling Ministries Network. Details TBA.
1:00pm Bus departs to return to hotel.
2:00pm – 5:00pm Soulforce Volunteer Forum – "Envisioning the Second Decade Together" – led by Marsha McDonough, Ph.D. (Be part of the planning process as we discuss our goals for the future)
6:00pm
(optional event or dinner on you own in downtown area)
Soulforce to join the Affirmation OUT Awards Dinner in Fort Worth (Intermodal Transportation Center, 1001 Jones Street). The dinner is $20, payable at the door, and is available to the first 75 Soulforce volunteers that make a reservation (due to space constraints at the dinner). To reserve a space at the Affirmation dinner, please type "Affirmation Dinner" in the comments box when you register for the Soulforce 10th Anniversary. If you plan to attend the dinner you need to do this by no later than April 18. (If you have already registered for the Soulforce 10th Anniversary and want to attend the dinner, please send an email to kara@soulforce.org.) Come help Soulforce support the great work of Affirmation!
8:00pm Free outdoor screening of For The Bible Tells Me So (General Worth Square – corner of Main & 9th Street). Soulforce will sponsor dessert for the Methodist delegates and the Dallas/Fort Worth community and begin the free screening of this prize-winning film at dusk. Producer Dan Karslake, Rev. Dr. Mel White, Rev. Jimmy Creech, and Mary Lou Wallner (all featured in the film) will be in attendance.
Sunday, April 27, 2008*
6:00am Bus Departs for Downtown – Fort Worth Convention Center – 1201 Houston Street
7:00am – 11:00am Vigil outside the Fort Worth Convention Center – 1201 Houston Street (site of the UMC General Conference).
11:00am – 12:30pm Lunch on your own in downtown area
12:30pm – 1:30pm The Struggle Continues: Racism and Heterosexism in the Church – a panel discussion featuring Rev. James Lawson, Bishop Melvin Talbert, Rev. Phil Lawson, and Rev. Gil Caldwell – General Worth Square (corner of Main and 9th Street)
2:00pm Reconciling Worship with Reconciling Ministries Network, First United Methodist Church, Preacher: Don Guest of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church
Conclusion of worship service Bus returns to hotel. Those staying the weekend only will depart.
Monday, April 28, 2008*
7:00am – 9:30am Vigil outside the Fort Worth Convention Center – 1201 Houston Street. Sign up to vigil here.
9:30am – 12:30pm Break
12:30pm – 2:30pm Continue vigil outside the Forth Worth Convention Center. Sign up to vigil here.
2:30pm Return to hotel – evening free
Tuesday, April 29, 2008*
7:00am – 9:30am Vigil outside the Fort Worth Convention Center – 1201 Houston Street. Sign up to vigil here.
9:30am – 12:30pm Break
12:30pm – 2:30pm Continue vigil outside the Forth Worth Convention Center. Sign up to vigil here.
2:30pm Return to hotel – evening free
Wednesday, April 30, 2008*
7:00am – 9:30am Vigil outside the Fort Worth Convention Center – 1201 Houston Street. Sign up to vigil here.
9:30am – 12:30pm Break
12:30pm – 2:30pm Continue vigil outside the Forth Worth Convention Center. Sign up to vigil here.
2:30pm Return to hotel – evening free
Thursday, May 1 and Friday, May 2, 2008*
  Soulforce will provide supportive collaboration in planning activities with the Reconciling Ministries Network. Details TBA. Sign up to vigil here.

*Scheduled activities are tentative and subject to change based on the events that occur within the UMC General Conference. Schedule changes and updated times will be reviewed and communicated to Soulforce volunteers on a daily basis. If possible, please plan to stay all week and help us to peacefully challenge the injustice within the United Methodist Church.

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A Call to Action From Gil Caldwell

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

A Call to Action From Gil Caldwell

A few years ago I saw the Slave Narratives, a presentation of some of the stories that were told by my African ancestors who were slaves. There were nine words in that presentation that I will take with me to my grave; "They used the Bible like a stick against us". This was a graphic way of saying that Christian slave masters living in what is called the "Bible Belt", used the Bible to commit unspeakable crimes against slaves. Paul’s, "Slaves be obedient to your Christian masters…" became justification for demanding obedience and exerting punishment, whenever a Black slave did not please the wishes and needs of his/her master.

When I heard those words I reflected upon how anti-Semitism, sexism, classism, punishment of Methodist clergy who smoked and consumed alcohol, and of course slavery and racial segregation, all of this and much were perpetrated by those who used sections of Scripture as justification for their prejudices and acts of discrimination. In time most Methodists realized it was a desecration of the Bible to use it to support and sustain personal and cultural prejudices. But sadly, the United Methodist Church continues to utilize a narrow Biblical literalism and prejudicial interpretation of Scripture to justify its Book of Discipline language that demeans same gender loving persons.

I first heard Martin Luther King, Jr. at a Prayer Pilgrimage in May of 1957 in Washington, DC. That exposure to him motivated my participation in the Civil Rights Movement. I am convinced that Dr. King who spoke out against the Vietnam War and initiated the Poor People’s Campaign and spoke so many times of the necessity to create the "Beloved Community", if he were alive today, would challenge the Church and Government for their insensitive judgmental approach to LGBT persons.

I will be participating with Soulforce at the General Conference in Ft. Worth as we seek to contribute to the liberation of the United Methodist Church, urging it, "To be the Church". Martin Luther King asked more than once, "Why is the Church always the taillight and not the headlight" (on issues of human justice)? I am saddened that as a fourth generation Methodist, my United Methodist Church (in the 21st century!) desecrates the mission and ministry of Jesus in its attitudes and actions toward LGBT persons.

I invite all persons, especially persons of color and women who have awareness and experience of the Church "using the Bible like a stick" upon those before them and upon them personally, because of race and gender, to be present with me and Soulforce in Ft. Worth.

-Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell (retired)

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A Call to Action From Phil Lawson

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

A Call to Action From Phil Lawson

Fifty-eight years ago, in 1950, I attended my first non-violent direct action with Bayard Rustin and George Houser who organized the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) so that youth and young adults would come to Washington D.C. to confront the discrimination and segregation laws in the nation’s capital.

In April 2008, as a proud Board Member of Soulforce, I will participate in non-violent direct actions at the United Methodist Church General Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas.

In my many years of ministry in the United Methodist Church, from welfare rights organizing, to the Black Panthers in Kansas City, to living wage marches, from jail in Kansas City protesting police injustices, to jail in Oakland for anti-apartheid, to jail in Cleveland at the 2000 United Methodist General Conference, to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, it has been my great honor to be in solidarity with the pain and suffering of LGBT-Queer communities. The oppression of LGBT-Queer communities by the United Methodist Church through its false Declaration that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings, that such persons are not eligible for membership, or to the rights granted heterosexual persons such as the right to marry and the right to become ministers – indeed, the church denies LGBT-Queer communities the Right to Be!

Christian teachings have been historically wrong about many human conditions, from slavery, to poverty, to drinking strong drinks, to divorced persons being ministers, to women’s rights to be full human beings, from domestic violence, to war. According to Christian teachings, Blacks were not even human beings!

The United Methodist Church is in sin as long as it continues to oppress the LGBT -Queer communities. As long as the church is in sin, I will be in solidarity with my sisters and brothers of Soulforce in non-violent direct action declaring Justice – Not Just Us!

-Rev. Phil Lawson

Photo courtesy of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO)

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Soulforce to Mark 10th Anniversary in 2008 with Direct Action at United Methodist General Conference

Planning Team Affirms "Global Vision of Justice"

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: January 2, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

Today the Soulforce United Methodist Planning Team released a statement announcing a planned direct action at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 26-27. Signers of the statement include co-chairs Steven Webster and Dotti Berry, as well as Reverends Gil Caldwell and Phil Lawson. The complete text of the statement is included below.

"In 2008, the world will commemorate several watershed events in the history of human rights, including the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 40th anniversary of The Poor People’s Campaign that King initiated before his death. Observing these anniversaries provides an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come — and how far we have to go — in achieving equal dignity and rights for all human beings.

"The confluence of these anniversaries can also serve as a reminder of the connections between struggles and spur us to reaffirm a broad commitment to justice for all, regardless of economic status, race, nationality, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

"Ten years ago, in 1998, Mel White and Gary Nixon began laying the groundwork for a new social movement. Under the auspices of "Soulforce," a name adapted from the teachings of King and 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.

"When the first Soulforce delegates began preparing for the journey to Lynchburg, they believed that true justice could only be achieved by addressing the misinformation about LGBT people that circulated under the guise of Christian doctrine. Just as King argued that legal desegregation alone could not end racial segregation, so the first Soulforce activists understood the need to confront the underlying beliefs that justify civil discrimination.

"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. However, religion-based bias still exerts enormous cultural and institutional power in the United States and around the globe. Although much progress has been made, backlashes against the recognition of LGBT people as clergy and church members are dividing some major Christian denominations.

"For almost forty years, the United Methodist Church has struggled with fundamental issues of fairness and inclusion, including same-sex unions, LGBT clergy, and the status of LGBT lay members. In 2006, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church — led by Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger — issued Decision 1032, which granted sole authority to local pastors to deny church membership to gay men and lesbians and made a mockery of the official slogan of the United Methodist Church: "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors."

"Now, as 1,000 delegates prepare to meet for the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, some conservative groups within the church are attempting to portray justice for LGBT people as a distraction from important issues such as fighting global epidemics or ministering to children and the poor. Others are portraying fairness and inclusion for LGBT people as inevitably at odds with fairness and inclusion for African churches.

"At Soulforce, we affirm a notion of justice in which all are connected. In the words of Dr. King, we believe that "we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality." In order to affirm that vision of global justice, Soulforce will join with progressive Methodist voices in a direct action at the United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth on April 26-27, 2008.

"In the same spirit, Soulforce will celebrate ten years of nonviolent direct action. We invite past and future Soulforce activists to come together in Fort Worth on April 25, 2008, to remember our accomplishments, to celebrate the love at the heart of our movement, and to re-commit to the struggle for dignity and justice for all members of the human family."

Steven Webster, Co-chair
Dotti Berry, Co-chair
Rev. Gil Caldwell
Bill Carpenter
J. Michael Herrington
Rev. Phil Lawson
Jeff Lutes
Paige Schilt
Kara Speltz


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.

Hotel Info for the Direct Action at the 2008 UMC General Conference

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

Hotel Info for the Direct Action at the 2008 UMC General Conference

Important: Deadline for reservations is Friday, April 18th.

MARRIOTT DALLAS/FORT WORTH AIRPORT SOUTH
www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dfwam-dallas-fort-worth-airport-marriott-south

4151 Centreport Boulevard
Fort Worth, Texas 76155 USA
Phone: 1-817-358-1700
Fax: 1-817-358-1800
Toll-free: 1-800-228-9290
Group Code is: SOULFORCE

For online reservations, follow this link: http://marriott.com/dfwam?groupCode=sousoua&app=resvlink

Rate is $99 plus 15% tax (1-4 p/room) – does not include breakfast

Free shuttle to/from airport

Update: For those attending the UMC action from Sunday through Friday (4/27 – 5/1), a small block of rooms is reserved at the DAYS INN on University Drive. You may contact the hotel directly to make your reservation (there is no group name…just make your own individual reservation) or you may contact Kara Speltz at kara@soulforce.org).

Days Inn Fort Worth
1551 S University Drive
I-30, Exit #12A-Univ Drive S
Fort Worth, TX 76107 US
Phone: 817-336-9823
Fax:817-348-0134
Online reservations

Note: The 2008 United Methodist General Conference is being held April 23 – May 2, 2008 in downtown Fort Worth at the Fort Worth Convention Center, 1201 Houston St., Ft. Worth, TX 76102. For more information, visit the conference website at: www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2336161/k.1E1C/General_Conference_2008.htm

Transportation from the Marriott Dallas/Fort Worth Airport hotel to the Fort Worth Convention Center is available on the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) at a fare of $1.50 each way. For maps, schedules and more information, go to the TRE website at www.trinityrailwayexpress.org

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

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

A Soulforce Open Letter to Members of the United Methodist Church

Gil Caldwell: The United Methodist Church, it’s deja vu all over again [pdf]

Photos from the 10th Anniversary Reunion & Direct Action

Reconciling Ministries Photos at flickr.com

Soulforce Tenth Anniversary Video

Video from "The Struggle Continues: Racism and Heterosexism in the Church"

Celebrating a Decade of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance

April 25 – 27, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas

Soulforce 10th Anniversary & Reunion Gala
Friday, April 25, 2008, at 7:30pm

Soulforce is pleased to announce our 10th Anniversary & Reunion Gala at 7:30pm on Friday, April 25, 2008, at the Marriott Dallas/Fort Worth Airport South Hotel (hotel info) – near Fort Worth. The evening will be an opportunity for us to connect with old friends, share stories from direct actions during Soulforce’s first decade, and think ahead about the challenges we face in the next decade. This upbeat evening will include refreshments, video, music, and guest speakers, with an opportunity to celebrate our history before we join together to begin the more serious and focused work of challenging the injustice within the United Methodist Church on Saturday and Sunday. More details coming soon! Register now!

Direct Action at the 2008 UMC General Conference

Saturday & Sunday, April 26-27, 2008

Schedule of Events

Read the personal invitation from Rev. Dr. Mel White.

Read the call to action from civil rights leader Gil Caldwell.

Read the call to action from civil rights leader Phil Lawson.

Soulforce will continue our history of resisting injustice within the United Methodist Church with a direct action at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. The decision makers that Soulforce needs to reach are the 1000 clergy and lay delegates of the General Conference. Most of the delegates are from the U.S., but many come from Africa (the two largest regional conference delegations), Europe, Asia and elsewhere around the world.

The United Methodist Church, a global denomination, is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States (after the Southern Baptist Convention). The neoconservative, Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), based in Washington, D.C., has played a key role in fomenting misinformation about LGBT persons and same-gender families within the United Methodist Church.

United Methodists who are prominent in U.S. politics include Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, John Edwards and Dick Cheney. The denomination expresses its openness to a broad range of viewpoints in the church with its official slogan of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors". Many United Methodists recognize the insincerity of this declaration in light of the exclusion of LGBT persons.

The current Surgeon General nominee, James W. Holsinger, a leader of an IRD-backed renewal group, the "Confessing Movement," presides over the Judicial Council ("Supreme Court") of the United Methodist Church which issued "Decision 1032" in 2006. In Decision 1032 the highest church court in the United Methodist Church granted sole authority to local United Methodist Church pastors to deny church membership to LGBT persons.

Progressives and moderates in the United Methodist Church have rallied in opposition to Decision 1032. But progressives are now on the defensive — with little hope of pressing for LGBT ordination, they are now forced to petition General Conference to overturn the anti-LGBT membership "law" established by the UMC Judicial Council.

Your presence is vital to creating a visible presence and strong voice for justice. Come to Fort Worth and be a part of continuing Soulforce’s history of seeking justice within the United Methodist Church. Register now!

The Soulforce History of Seeking Justice within the United Methodist Church:

1999 – Soulforce staged a direct action at the UMC Church Trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech who was defrocked for performing same-gender marriages.

2000 – At the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, almost 200 Soulforce volunteers were arrested in a nonviolent direct action. Prominent participants included Arun Gandhi, Yolanda King, the Rev. James Lawson, and the Rev. Phil Lawson. Two United Methodist Bishops were among those who volunteered to submit to arrest.

March 2004 – Soulforce conducted a direct action at the UMC Church Trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann, put on trial for being a "self-avowed" lesbian, but found "not guilty."

May 2004 – Soulforce was at the 2004 General Conference. Church legislation was passed supporting civil legislation banning same-gender marriage. More anti-LGBT language was added to the church’s Book of Discipline (book of church laws), especially related to church trials. Attempts to recognize dissenting opinions in the church were rejected. In response, Soulforce led a nonviolent mass disruption of the General Conference during its final days.

December 2004 – Soulforce vigiled at the UMC Church Trial of the Rev. Beth Stroud. Beth was stripped of her clergy credentials by the Trial Court, but has continued to be employed by her local congregation as a lay minister.

June 2007 – President Bush nominated Dr. James W. Holsinger as Surgeon General. Soulforce issued a press release exposing Holsinger’s history of anti-gay bigotry in his official roles as a member of the United Methodist Committee to Study Homosexuality (1988 to 1992) and as President ("Chief Justice") of the United Methodist Judicial Council ("Supreme Court").

More Information:

Press Release 4/23/2008
Black Clergy Allies to Show Support for LGBT Methodists

Press Release 4/11/2008
Soulforce Events Urge Methodists to Open Hearts, Minds, and Doors

Press Release 1/2/2008
Soulforce to Mark 10th Anniversary in 2008 with Direct Action at United Methodist General Convention