An Open Letter to American Pastors on Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill by Soulforce Founder Mel White

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AN URGENT OPEN LETTER FROM MEL
February 5, 2010

Open Letter from Soulforce to Jan and Paul Crouch, founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the Evangelical Christian broadcasters who are featured on Lighthouse Television, TBN’s affiliate in Uganda, including:  Matthew Crouch, Joyce MeyerAndrew WommackBenny HinnKenneth CopelandJoel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Franklin Graham:

By now you are well aware of the anti-homosexual bill pending before the Parliament of Uganda. We urge you to denounce this bill.  Use your personal friendships with President and Mrs. Museveni, with MP David Bahati (your Christian colleague who proposed this bill) and with Stephen Langa, (the Ugandan Christian organizer behind the bill) to take a public and passionate stand against it.

The media are blaming the visit to Uganda by three of your colleagues for this despicable and truly un-Christian law.  In fact, for years you have used your Lighthouse Television programs, your radio broadcasts and your massive public meetings to warn Ugandans of the so called “threat homosexuals pose to Bible-based values and the traditional African Family.”

In no small part, you are already responsible for the current call by Ugandan leaders to enforce the old law condemning lesbian and gay Ugandans to up to 14 years in prison. This new law increases that sentence to life imprisonment and even death by hanging.  Denounce this new bill or the blood of lesbian and gay Ugandans will be on your hands.

It isn’t just the “liberal media” who are condemning the bill.  In mid-November, Exodus International, the ministry that promises to assist homosexuals in overcoming homosexuality, warned,  "If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue.” While Soulforce does not agree with Exodus that lesbian and gay people need to be "cured," we wholeheartedly agree with their position on this hateful bill.

Warren Throckmorton, a member of the Clinical Advisory Board of the American Association of Christian Counselors warned that this legislation would make their mission “to extend the love and compassion of Christ to all” a difficult if not impossible task.

Your colleague, mega-church pastor Rick Warren, in a very public video appeal to his fellow clergy in Uganda, gives five reasons why Ugandan Christians should not support the bill: (1) it is “unjust, extreme and un-Christian; (2) it would “force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities; (3) “…it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting… homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported; (4)  “All life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God… It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others…” And (5) “the freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expression, are gifts endowed by God.” Warren reminds the clergy that Uganda is a democratic country “…and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up.” Warren concludes by urging them “to speak out against the proposed law.” *

The People of Soulforce urge you to take these warnings seriously.  It is very possible that your silence on this matter will convince the people of Uganda that it is God’s will to condemn homosexuals to life imprisonment or even death by hanging. Your powerful media voices have made you superstars to Ugandans. We implore you to use your power to denounce this bill. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this time you and the Christian community behaved in the manner of love and justice rather than fulfilling the stereotype of the “liberal media” as ‘hate-filled bigots?

You often ask others, “What would Jesus do?”  This is the perfect time to ask yourselves that question.

The People of Soulforce

Mel White, Founder | Bill Carpenter, Interim Executive Director | Chuck Phelan, Board Chair


* We wish to express our thanks to the Rev. Rick Warren for taking this rather courageous step on behalf of the lesbian and gay people of Uganda. Pastor Warren did everything in his power to avoid meeting with our gay and lesbian parents and their families in 2009 during the Soulforce American Family Outing. We have tried on many occasions to help him understand the tragic consequences of his own teachings about homosexuality and homosexuals. And though we continue hoping that he will meet with a Soulforce delegation to hear the scientific, historic, psychological and personal evidence that homosexuality is one of God’s gifts, we pause in our pursuit just long enough to give him thanks for reaching out to save the lives of our lesbian sisters and gay brothers in Uganda. Thank you, Pastor Warren. We are grateful!

ADDENDUM 1: EXAMPLES OF OTHERS WHO CONDEMN THE BILL

      This bill has been condemned by leaders of Western nations including the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, and Great Britain and the President of the United States. The European Parliament passed a resolution against the bill and threatened to cut financial aid to Uganda if it is enacted. They described the bill as “state-legislated genocide.”

      The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urge Uganda to shelve the bill and decriminalize homosexuality.

      The 16,000 members of the HIV Clinicians Society of South Africa and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS warned that excluding marginalized groups would compromise efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Uganda where 5.4% of the adult population is infected with HIV.

      The Sunday Times in South Africa warned Uganda that it is in danger of being "dragged back to the dark and evil days of Idi Amin.”
      The New York Times stated unequivocally “that such barbarism (in the bill) is intolerable and will make Uganda an international pariah.”
      The Washington Post labeled the bill "ugly and ignorant", "barbaric", and "that it is even being considered puts Uganda beyond the pale of civilized nations.”
      The Los Angeles Times warned that the bill would cause gay Ugandans to face an "impossible, insulting, historical, cruel and utterly false choice of having to choose between being gay and being African.”

      The Anglican Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha said that the Bill "would become state-legislated genocide.”

      The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has said in a public interview that he did not see how any Anglican could support it: "Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers."

      The Vatican legal attach塚ィヘ妺ィヘ塚蔘_妺見 to the United Nations stated that "Pope Benedict is opposed to ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay men and lesbians.”

ADDENDUM 2: AS IN THE U.S., PAUL CAMERON IS THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF THE HALF-TRUTH, HYPERBOLE AND LIES ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY AND HOMOSEXUALS UPON WHICH THE BILL IS BASED

      Stephen Langa, the March 2009 workshop organizer, specifically cited an unlicensed conversion therapist named Richard A. Cohen who states in a book that was given to Langa and other prominent Ugandans,

“Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.”

      These statements were based on faulty studies performed by Paul Cameron who has been expelled from the American Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. Cohen, himself, confirmed the weaknesses of these studies, stating that when the book will be reprinted, these statistics will be removed.

ADDENDUM 3: OUR SOURCES

Jeffrey Gettleman, writing for theNew York Times, January 4, 2010, reported on “Americans’ Role in Uganda Anti-Gay Push.”
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html

Erin Roach, posted on Baptist News, November 18, 2009, the news that “Exodus Opposes Uganda’s Proposed Anti-Gay Law.”
      http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=31715

Baptist Press, December 13, 2009, announced that “Mega-Church Pastor Rick Warren Condemns Uganda Anti-Gay Bill.
      http://www.opposingviews.com/i/mega-church-pastor-rick-warren-condemns-uganda-anti-gay-bill

The editors of Wikipedia have assembled the best history of this bill and the world’s response:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda_Anti-Homosexuality_Bill

YouTube carries the complete video of Rick Warren’s Open Letter to the Clergy of Uganda*
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jmGu9o4fDE

 

ADDENDUM 4: CONTACT INFORMATION

Trinity Broadcasting Network 
http://www.tbn.org
Business Office: (714) 832-2950
Trinity Broadcasting Network
P. O. Box A
Santa Ana, CA 92711

Matthew Crouch
matthewcrouch@matthewcrouch.com &
mwc@8c.com

Joyce Meyer  
P.O. Box 655
Fenton, MO 63026
Phone: 1-800-727-9673
(636) 349-0303 (outside the U.S.)

Andrew Wommack
850 Elkton Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Admin. Phone: (719) 635-2111
Fax: (719) 635-1777 ,  Andrew Wommack Ministries, Inc.
awommack@aol.com

Benny Hinn Ministries Headquarters
P.O. Box 162000
Irving, TX, 75016-2000
1-800-433-1900
  
Kenneth Copeland
Kenneth Copeland Ministries
Fort Worth, TX 76192-0001
Telephone: 800-600-7395
Fax: 817-252-3499
http://www.kcm.org

Joel Osteen, 1-888-567-JOEL
PO BOX 4600
Houston, TX 77210
http://www.joelosteen.com

T. D. Jakes Ministries, Inc.
The Potters House

http://www.tdjakes.com
P. O. Box 5390
Dallas, TX  75208

1.800.BISHOP.2   

Franklin Graham:
Samaritan’s Purse
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607
Phone (828) 262-1980
Fax (828) 266-1056
http://www.samaritanspurse.org/


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"Gay Days" at the Mega-churches: LGBT Families & Allies Reflect on the American Family Outing

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 24, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

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On Father’s Day 2008, a group of LGBT and straight-ally families attended services at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The next day, a smaller group of about 8 families met with pastors and other staff of the influential mega-church for lunch and an earnest conversation about faith, family, and the status of LGBT people in the church.

The visit was the conclusion of a six-week 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 mega-churches to match families from their congregations with LGBT and straight-ally 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.

"Through the American Family Outing, we were able to share our families and our lives as out and proud LGBT people of faith with some of the most influential religious leaders in America," says Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director and one of the lesbian moms who participated in the project. "Along the way, we learned a great deal about the state of mainstream evangelical culture."

"On the one hand, there’s still a tremendous amount at stake for high-profile churches to meet publicly with LGBT families. They took a lot of heat just for talking to us, and we appreciate that.

"We also learned that an openly gay or lesbian person cannot become a member or serve in most of the churches we visited. When LGBT people hear that ‘all are welcome’ at a mega-church, we encourage them to investigate the quality of that welcome.

"On the other hand, we also learned that support for reparative therapy and other kinds of ex-gay programs seems to be diminishing. We heard more talk about celibacy and less talk about change.

"We also heard, from many of the churches, a sincere interest in continuing the conversation with LGBT justice seekers," Schilt concluded. "We look forward to future dialogues, public and private."

Nationwide, more than 50 LGBT and LGBT-affirming families took part in this remarkable journey to build bridges with mainstream and conservative evangelical communities, which visited churches in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Illinois, and California.

One of the people who participated in the meeting with Saddleback Church was Bob Bednar, a straight, married father of two.

"Being there showed me in a powerful way exactly how brave my LGBT team members were to go into that kind of atmosphere and insist that church leaders recognize their pain and start to see it as their own pain, too," said Bednar.

"As a straight ally, it was inspiring to work alongside them. But the experience also showed me how far we have to go," Bednar concluded.

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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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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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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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

 

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Frequently Asked Questions about the American Family Outing

The American Family Outing

Frequently Asked Questions about the American Family Outing

1. What is the American Family Outing?

The AFO is a campaign between Mother’s Day Weekend and Father’s Day Weekend in which LGBT families and supportive straight families will seek peaceful and heart-to- heart dialogue with six of today’s most influential evangelical leaders and their mega- churches about faith, family, and LGBT people. We seek first to understand, and then to be understood, as we engage families and staff within these congregations.

2. Who are the sponsors of the American Family Outing?

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

3. Why is it important for LGBT people and our families to dialogue with these mega-churches?

The six pastors we plan to visit during the AFO have been ranked by Christian organizations as among the 50 most influential Christian leaders in America. In addition to pastoring large churches whose memberships often exceed tens of thousands, each has an enormous influence on American culture through best-selling books, radio and television programs that reach millions of homes, and frequent speaking engagements in packed churches and large coliseums in cities across the country. While some are actively involved in American politics, all have significant influence on public opinion and therefore, the rights of LGBT people and their loved ones. In some of these churches, LGBT people are welcomed – but they are not affirmed – often meeting resistance from church leaders when they offer their spiritual gifts and seek to take a more active role within the life of the church. Soulforce and our partnering organizations care deeply about the emotional, mental, and spiritual welfare of those in the LGBT community who choose to attend these churches. We want them to know that God loves and affirms them exactly as they are and that each of us can live lives of service filled with dignity and grace, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Our vision is that one day; every church sanctuary in America will truly be a sanctuary for ALL people.

4. Does Soulforce consider these churches and leaders to be our enemy?

Absolutely not. These churches are filled with good and loving people who want, as we do, to make the world a better place. The leaders of these churches are victims of misinformation, as we all have been, about sexual orientation and gender identity. Our ultimate goal is reconciliation – not victory. 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. We believe that each of these churches will grow and prosper by welcoming us; recent research shows that a majority of young Christians are alienated by some churches’ hostility to gay and lesbian people. More and more people of faith now understand that there are all kinds of families in America, and what really matters is our love and commitment to one another.

5. What are the requirements if my family wants to participate?

a) If you welcome and affirm all people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, then you may participate with your family. Couples with or without children, single-parent families, supportive straight families, and single individuals who wish to participate with a member of their extended family (a parent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, etc) may participate. All families must pre-register online.

b) Your family must attend a brief training in nonviolence prior to the church visit for which you register. The nonviolence training will be scheduled in the same city/area as the church we are visiting and will occur on the same weekend as our scheduled visit. The exact date, time, and location of the training will be emailed to each family once their online registration has been approved.

c) At the local training in nonviolence, each member of your family must sign the Soulforce Pledge to Nonviolence. Your signed copy of the pledge will be placed inside your name-badge holder during the meetings with the church. The Soulforce Pledge of Nonviolence was originally written by Martin Luther King, Jr., and was modified by Soulforce in 2003. "Soul force" comes from Gandhi’s term "Satyagraha" and the nonviolent principles for change taught by both Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Pledge to Nonviolence reads:

"As I prepare for this direct action, I will meditate regularly on the life and teachings of Gandhi and King and other truth-seekers. I will remember that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation-not victory. I will walk and talk in the manner of love and nonviolence. I will contemplate daily what I can do so that all can be free. I will sacrifice my own personal wishes that all might be free. I will observe with friend and foes the ordinary rules of courtesy. I will perform regular service for others and for the world. I will refrain from violence of fist, tongue, and heart. I will strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health. I will follow the directions of Soulforce leaders during this direct action."

6. What are the plans for caring for our children?

We believe that these churches will agree to loving and respectful conversations at all times, despite our differences. All of these churches care deeply about families and children, and we believe they want to engage in dialogue in a manner that honors the human dignity of all children, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender-identity of their parents. We seek to share a meal with representative families, clergy, and leaders at each of these churches. If we have a more in-depth conversation after the meal, we will negotiate to have our children placed in the church’s childcare facility, with supervision by both church members and some parents from our delegation. This plan should address the needs of our children, and the children from the church, especially younger ones who may not have the attention span for such an adult conversation. Our transportation will be waiting outside the church at all times with childcare volunteers in place, should parents decide to leave the conversation for any reason. Again, while the dialogue may be intense as we discuss our differences and seek common ground, we expect that each of these churches will engage us as we seek to engage them – with love and respect.

Additionally, for youth who are older than 11, COLAGE is providing training and support for those who wish to take part in the conversations with the churches. We recognize that the voices of young people are powerful and that they can authentically share their experiences as children of LGBT parents. COLAGE will help youth and young adult participants in the American Family Outing have the tools and support they need to participate in the outings.

7. Where will my family sleep during the weekend if we are traveling from outside the city?

Soulforce will negotiate a reasonable room rate at a comfortable hotel nearby. The details of these hotel arrangements will be emailed to approved registrants once finalized.

8. Do I have to be a Christian to participate in the American Family Outing?

No. However, most of our family leaders (whose profiles can be viewed on this site) do identify as strong people of faith. We are seeking families who know how to have respectful conversations about differences, and are able to take religion and the Bible seriously since our dialogue will often be based in Scripture. Each family must be willing to educate themselves and attend the local training in nonviolence.

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