Soulforce to Demonstrate at Episcopal Conference in Denver

JULY 4 PRESS CONFERENCE AT 1:15 FOLLOWED BY CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Demonstration to Cap off a Summer of Civil Disobedience and Arrests All Across the United States in Protest of the Exclusion of God’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Children

MEDIA ADVISORY
June 26, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt, Media Coordinator
Cell: 717-951-7712

Laguna Beach CA – On July 4th, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender individuals, and their families, friends and allies will join together in Denver to protest the exclusionary practices by many churches in the Episcopal Church USA and support the full inclusion of GLBT individuals in all aspects the church. The protest is being organized by Soulforce, an ecumenical people of faith network committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

"The Episcopal Church (ECUSA), like other denominations, continues to debate whether LGBT persons are worthy of full inclusion and membership," declared Kate Bishop, Soulforce Co-chair in Denver. " The debate itself is harmful and damaging to those within and outside of the Church. Although the Church presents itself as "liberal" and far ahead of other denominations, if justice and how it is applied toward LGBT members is used as a measure, ECUSA fairs no better than other denominations."

People of faith from many denominations will be taking part in the protest and anticipated arrests. The day begins with gathering at 8am on July 4th at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 16th and Ogden. A Soulforce Training in Nonviolent Resistance to Injustice based on the principles of Gandhi and Martin Luther King will be led by Dr. Mel White beginning at 8:30am, followed by a picnic. The training is open to media.

As Bishops and Deputies arrive for their Opening Orientation Session at the Colorado Convention Center, 14th and California Streets in Denver, Soulforce supporters will be standing in silent vigil to greet them. A press conference will take place at 1:15 on the Convention Center steps, featuring distinguished Episcopalian leaders and other friends and allies. After the press conference, many of the participants are expected to take place in an act of non-violent civil disobedience leading to arrest.

"From the beginning of this tragic debate, Episcopal bishops, priests, and laity have taken courageous and costly stands for full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities," explained Dr. Mel White. "However, there are fundamentalist forces working within the Anglican Communion in this country and abroad that are trying to turn the entire denomination against God’s GLBT children. We are here to say that this debate must end! We hope that Bishops and Deputies will not be swayed by the dangerous and regressive voices nor by the toxic rhetoric of those who wish to oppress us."

To participate in the direct action, individuals must take part in the Soulforce non-violence training the morning of July 4 or in a brief training at the Convention Center, 12:45 p.m. All participants are required to sign, wear, and uphold the Soulforce "pledge to nonviolence" used by Dr. Martin Luther King and his marchers in 1963.

Similar acts of protest were held during the United Methodist General Conference in May, and the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian General Assembly earlier this month. In November, a Soulforce delegation will conduct another civil disobedience at the meeting of the National Council of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

Link here to additional information on the Soulforce action, or to sign up for the civil disobedience training and non-violent direct action, or call (949) 455-0999.

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

June 25, 2000

Dear Mel and Gary,

As I sit at home reflecting on today’s action at the Presbyterian Convention, I am reminded of the joy and laughter that we shared today. That laughter was shared not only with my Squad members, and friends, but with others on the "bleachers" that I had never met before, by the sly smile of the arresting officer who teased me softly, almost winking as he asked me if I was ‘absolutely sure that I didn’t want to leave the street" It was the laughter that we shared with the gentle police officer who stood in the back of our bus and shared with us that in his spare time he was a Pastry Chef, and that he loved to visit San Francisco for his vacations. It was the laughter that I shared with my ‘booking officer’ as I teased him about getting ‘double pay’ for sitting in the shade and writing out paperwork with a bunch of Christians on his day off. It was the laughter of relief felt by those members of the Presbyterian Church, who for so long felt alone on the front lines of their denominational fight, recognizing the support, strength and love of those they struggle for, and those they struggle with.

I sensed a small spirit of confusion, feeling the tug of mixed emotions when we were told to stand in silent vigil, recognizing the seriousness of the actions we were taking. When my friend Chuck asked my Colleague and I to look less happy for a photograph, I had trouble conjuring up an emotion that did not to me speak of the Glory of today’s action. In a small part of my heart I wondered if we were somehow cheating, or being cheated of the full impact of Civil Disobedience, by being in the presence of such joy and gentleness.

And, then, I thought about what you had told us yesterday, about that "magical moment" when we, like the company of Saints before us, put our lives and our bodies on the line, and cross over the boundary of ‘Legal behavior.’ Having never been arrested before, I had high expectations. And today, as always, when I allow God to be in control, I was not disappointed. When I smiled at that arresting officer, and told him "Thank you, but I prefer not to leave," I did feel those Saints uniting with me, and with all of us linked by our tightly held hands. With my butch MCCLA Colleague on my right, and my newfound transsexual friend on my left, I felt the company of all those who have gone before me. I felt the spirit of Matthew, and the Spirit of Billy Jack, and the Spirit of Martin, and the Spirit of all those who are physically gone. I felt the strong and powerful Spirits of my closest friends who now are visible only to my heart, my friends Don and Kath, who join me when I have the greatest need. And, through the wonder of the presence of my company of Saints, I felt their joy as well. I heard their voices raised in song with us. I felt the warmth of their smiling Spirits. And I knew that while today might be different, it was exactly as it was meant to be.

What I learned today is that it is OK to live in the Joy sometimes. What I felt today, is that sometimes we need to not only insist on greater and more complete change, but we must celebrate and center ourselves in the wonder, the joy, the love and miracle that we are changing the world.

As I reflect back on what parts of today’s experience will stay with me forever, and what has been transformative about this experience on a deeply personal level, I think of the older woman, dressed impeccably, with delightfully blue hair who walked around our circle hugging everyone and whispering her love. It will be of the woman in the blue dress that stopped me in the Hotel of the Weston to thank me for being there, and who promised me that she would work from within, while we worked outside, and who guaranteed me that she would not quit. It was seeing the joy on the faces of those who choose to remain in more traditional denominations finding the real and soul healing power of success and collegiality, and support. It was watching people see their dreams made real as the former head of the Church announced that he had ‘changed his mind.’ It was watching the crowd, and seeing that more people were supportive than argumentative. It was being part of a movement that is right, and knowing that more and more people are ‘getting it’ in new ways.

I wonder, if in part, the joy, the ease, and the playfulness of today was not a reminder from God that we need not always struggle. Having heard how difficult your most recent Soulforce experiences have been, I see the evidence of God in today’s action even more clearly. I celebrate with all of my new friends the wonder of today. I unite with all the Saints, those both living and dead in recognizing the power of the miraculous, and the Joy of my God.

I thank you Mel, and Gary, and all who rise with you time and time again, often not in such an atmosphere of joy, and insist that the Truth be spoken in love. I am honored to have shared this experience with you.

With Love and Blessings,

Rev. Barb Sagat
MCCLA

The Invitation to a July 4 Picnic in the Park

June 20, 2000

Sisters and Brothers,

For three decades we’ve waited patiently for Protestant and Catholic Church leaders to end their policies against sexual and gender minorities. Those same policies lead to discrimination, suffering, and even death. We cannot wait patiently any longer!

On Tuesday morning, July 4, Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church representing 2.5 million members and 7,500 parishes and missions in the U.S.A. will gather in the Denver Convention Center to begin their 73rd General Convention.

We respect their First Amendment Right to gather and we will not disrupt their meetings in anyway. In fact, many who enter the Center that afternoon will be our friends in the struggle for equal rights.

At a press conference at 1:30 p.m. we will thank those Episcopalians who have led the way to full acceptance. At the same time we will protest the great injustices suffered by sexual and gender minorities at the hands of other Episcopal leaders. And we will remind the media of the tragic consequences of this endless debate. At 1:45 p.m., the police will warn us that we are an unlawful assembly and arrest those who stay to pray.

On May 10, in Cleveland, Ohio, at a similar United Methodist event, 191 Soulforce volunteers were arrested in an act of spiritual resistance. On June 14, 100 Soulforcees held a Pray-In at the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando. Thirty-five were arrested. Sunday, June 25, 200 will join us in a similar protest at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Long Beach. July 4, we’re going to Denver. Spend the summer with Soulforce.

Put your body on the line. Tell the nation’s religious leaders: THIS DEBATE MUST END. THE SUFFERING HAS GONE ON TOO LONG. WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN, TOO!

We are working closely with the Denver Police Department to be sure our July 4 direct action is safe and non-disruptive. At this point it looks like those who are arrested will be given a summons (like a parking ticket) and be released. You may pay your fine by mail. Or you can support us and not be arrested, and even change your mind either way at the last minute. If you sign up, we will keep you posted each step of the way.

But you must be trained. Learn the full details at our training session, 8:30 – 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 4, at the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 16th & Ogden. We will provide a Fourth of July Picnic lunch and then move together to the press conference and direct action at the Convention Center at 12:30 p.m.

If you are interested in learning more, sign up today. The training is free and you are not obligated to join us even after being trained. But you must be trained and sign a pledge to nonviolence written by Dr. King in 1963.
Gandhi and King both remind us that we were "created to do justice" and that until we have taken one step in that direction we will never know the real power and purpose of our lives. Join us. Get a civil rights misdemeanor on your record and the joy of doing justice in your heart.

Jimmy Creech, Soulforce Chairman of the Board
Kate Bishop, National Co-Chair for Soulforce Journey to Denver
Carol White and Judith Nelson, Local Co-Chairs, Journey to Denver
Mel White, Co-Founder, Soulforce

Soulforce, P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
Phone: (949) 455-0999
Email: RevMel@aol.com

Update #2 for our Soulforce friends coming to Long Beach and the Presbyterian General Assembly

June 18, 2000

Dear Soulforce Friends:

This will be our final update to you before we see you in Long Beach. We’ve included the Saturday and Sunday general schedules, plus some important information about the arrest logistics and what to bring with you.

SCHEDULE FOR SATURDAY, JUNE 24

LOCATION: The Westin Hotel, 333 East Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA

Note that we have two different conference rooms for our trainings. The first two trainings will be in Salon C. The 7-10 PM training will be in the Barcelona/Casablanca meeting room. Please attend the training of your choice; they will all be identical.

SATURDAY EVENTS
8:30 AM: registration begins, Salon C conference room, Westin Hotel
9:00-12:00: First nonviolence training
12:00-12:30: Lunch on your own
12:30-1:00: Briefing on Presbyterian issues
2:00-5:00: Second nonviolence training
5:00-7:00: Conference room closes. Dinner on your own.
6:30 PM: Barcelona/Casablanca room opens for evening registration.
7:00-10:00 PM: Third nonviolence training

SCHEDULE FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 25
LOCATION: Outside the Long Beach Convention Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd. The outside of the Convention Center is painted with a mural. Our gathering spot will be in the circle beneath the mother and baby whale painted on the mural. If you can’t attend any of the Saturday trainings, come to the outside of the Convention Center early Sunday morning and look for the Soulforce people wearing white shirts.

SUNDAY EVENTS
7:00 AM: Gather outside the Convention Center.
7:30-8:30: Mini nonviolence training.
8:30-9:30: Silent vigil outside the Convention Center.
9:30: Soulforce revival and renewal service begins.
10:30: Soulforce squads line up for arrest Action.

ARREST LOGISTICS
As long as the arrest Action goes smoothly and peacefully, we and the Long Beach police expect that all arrestees will be handcuffed, bussed to a mass arrest location away from the Convention Center, charged with a minimal misdemeanor to be determined by the Long Beach court system, and "cited out". This means that you will receive a citation for the amount of your fine, which you must pay via mail. You won’t need to return to Long Beach at a later date for a court hearing. The Long Beach police department estimates the total fines and fees as about $200.

If for any reason the arrest Action does not proceed peacefully, Soulforce arrestees could face a night in jail and much more serious misdemeanor charges. It’s therefore very important that all arrestees follow the nonviolence vows which you’ll sign before you join a squad.

Remember that you always have the choice to opt out of an arrest action, even at the last moment. You can train with Soulforce, join the Sunday morning events, and choose to not get arrested even right before the arrests begin.

We will cover the Action and arrest logistics in more detail during our Saturday trainings, and your Soulforce Long Beach registration materials will contain a legal information handout.

REQUIREMENTS FOR ARRESTEES
If you intend to participate in a Soulforce arrest Action you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have no outstanding arrest warrants
  • Agree to follow the directions given to you by your squad leader.
  • Sign, wear, and uphold the Soulforce "pledge to nonviolence" used by Dr. Martin Luther King and his marchers in 1963.
  • Be able to keep your cool and remain silent even when people openly project hatred at you.

No children under 18 or infants may accompany anyone on an arrest action. If you have a child in your care at the time of your arrest, the police are required to take your child away to the local social services office, and you may then have legal difficulties regaining custody.

WHAT TO BRING

  • A photo ID such as a driver’s license.
  • A credit card or $200 in cash, in case the court system requires payment on Sunday.
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat with a visor, and a water bottle.

HOUSING
Soulforce is not coordinating housing or meals for the Long Beach Action. If you have not yet found a hotel or other accommodations, you should make those arrangements right away. Most of the hotels close to the Long Beach Convention Center are sold out for the weekend of June 24-25, but there are still rooms available at hotels a few miles away from the convention center.

We invite all of you to join the soulforce@onelist.com email discussion list to discuss room-sharing and similar arrangements. To subscribe to this email list, send any email message to Soulforce-subscribe@onelist.com.

We hope to see you all in Long Beach on Saturday and Sunday!

Peace,
Jean Holsten, co-chair, jaholsten@yahoo.com
Bruce Hahne, co-chair, hahne@netcom.com
Mel White, co-founder, revmel@aol.com