Mary E. Hunt & Diann L. Neu’s Letter of Endorsement

October 28, 2000

Dear Soulforce Colleagues,

We write to wish you well on the activities surrounding the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Washington. We applaud your action for justice and hope that it will produce the changes in hearts and minds so needed in the kyriarchal Catholic Church. You join Dignity, the Conference for Catholic Lesbians, Women-Church Convergence, New Ways Ministry and the thousands of Catholic individuals and groups who together will "make all things new" for churches and society.

As you go about you work, we think of women from that tradition who have engaged in non-violent social change. Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement leaps to mind. Sister Theresa Kane’s prophetic words of welcome to Pope John Paul II in the very church where you will protest is another example. In the mid- 1980’s groups of Catholic and other activists were arrested at the Vatican Embassy protesting that "Women’s Rights are Human Rights." We look to the women of Greenham Common, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and others who, like Gandhi, Dr. King and all of you bring about justice through grace-filled means.

Warm wishes on your efforts. We will join you as our schedules allow over the weekend. Please be assured of our prayerful support.

Cordially,

Mary E. Hunt Diann L. Neu
Co-directors

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
WATER Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
8035 13th Street
Silver Spring, MD 20910 USA
301 589-2509 fax 301 589-3150
e-mail: mhunt@hers.com

Civil Disobedience and Vigils to Occur During National Conference of Catholic Bishops Meeting in November in D.C.

Dignity/USA joins Soulforce in Radical Action to Hold Catholic Church Accountable for Spiritual Violence Against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals

SOULFORCE – DIGNITY/USA PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 19, 2000
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt, Media Coordinator
Cell: 717-951-7712

Washington, DC – On November 12-14, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) individuals, and their families, friends and allies from all over the United States will join together in Washington, D.C. to protest the exclusionary policies of the Catholic Church toward GLBT Catholics, to ask the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE against sexual and gender minorities, and support the inclusion of GLBT Catholics into all aspects of church life.

Dignity/USA, the oldest and largest independent national lay movement of GLBT Catholics, families, and friends, and Soulforce, an interfaith network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender individuals and their families, friends, and allies, committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities, have joined their formidable voices to confront the NCCB.

Additionally, Equal Partners in Faith, a national network of religious leaders committed to diversity and equality has joined as a cosponsor of the event and is helping to host the trainings at National City Christian Church.

"The anti-homosexual teachings of the Roman Catholic Church have tragic consequences not just in the lives of Roman Catholics, but in the lives of millions of God’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender children around the world," stated Mel White, co-founder of Soulforce. "We are holding the churches accountable." Soulforce was involved in non-violent civil disobedience actions at several national denominational meetings this summer.

Hundreds of people, including prominent Catholics and Civil Rights leaders from the 60s, will be joining with Soulforce and Dignity/USA in silent vigil as a persistent and visible presence outside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Avenue NE, on Monday, November 13, from 3:30 – 6pm as Bishops and dignitaries from all over the world are gathering to celebrate Mass.

On Tuesday morning from 9am – noon, those same people will return to the Shrine in a nonviolent protest and civil disobedience against church policies of exclusion. Soulforce and Dignity/USA are demanding an apology for the oppression of GLBT people the church has caused, and the establishment of a bishop’s committee to engage in dialogue with GLBT Catholics. It is anticipated that this protest will culminate in the arrest of over 100 GLBT Catholics and allies from a myriad of faith traditions.

In a letter to Dignity members, Mary Louise Cervone, President of Dignity/USA said, "Through our actions, we are seeking an end to the teachings that demean and exclude us from full participation in our church as whole and holy people, without having to hide or deny who we are."

Currently, Dignity members are prohibited from meeting on Catholic property in virtually all dioceses throughout the country, and in many places, bishops have forbidden priests from celebrating Mass for Dignity, thereby effectively banning them from Eucharist. Additionally, the Catholic Church spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to support anti-gay legislation that denies GLBT people their civil rights.

Letters of support have come from prominent Catholics such as John McNeill a former Jesuit priest, expelled and silenced for his pro-gay theological writings;Michael Harank, a nationally known Catholic Worker; and Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, founder of The Center for Action and Contemplation, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Personal interviews can be made in advance by calling Laura Montgomery Rutt at 717-951-7712. For more information on Soulforce or to register for the action, see http://www.soulforce.org/article/46 or Dignity/USA at http://www.dignityusa.org.

Fr. Roy Bourgeous & Rosemary Ruether’s Letter of Endorsement

IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
NOV. 12-14, 2000

"We wish to express our solidarity with Soulforce in this very important gathering and action as we work together for justice and inclusivity, and equality for all people"

Fr. Roy Bourgeous, Roman Catholic Priest, long-time justice activist and founder of the School of the Americas’ Watch

Rosemary Ruether, well know author, and feminist theologian.

John J. McNeill’s Letter of Endorsement

"Please be assured that the actions of Soulforce and DignityUSA at your national conference are based in profound respect and love. We pray and hope that the same Holy Spirit who has graciously liberated us who are gay to self-respect and self-love will liberate in you, our Catholic leaders, a profound love for your gay brothers and lesbian sisters and melt away all prejudice and judgmentalism in your hearts. May you make us welcome as full members in your family in Christ!"
John McNeil (From the Open Letter Below)

An Open Letter to the American Bishops on the Issue of Homosexuality

In 1974, the delegates of Dignity’s first national convention requested in a letter, that a dialogue be opened between the American bishops and the members of the Catholic gay and lesbian community. With very few exceptions that letter was ignored.

Now, nearly thirty years later, once again I call upon the American bishops to open that dialogue.

For over thirty years, I have ministered as priest and psychotherapist to lesbians and gays. I helped found Dignity, New York to provide a safe and loving community within the Catholic Church for gay people. This June will mark the twenty-fifth year I have given retreats for lesbians and gays, at Kirkridge, an ecumenical retreat center.

I have written three books on gay spirituality: The Church and the Homosexual, Taking a Chance on God, and Freedom, Glorious Freedom. I also published an autobiography on my own spiritual journey as a gay priest. As a result of my experience, I have come to the conclusion that what is at stake at this point in time is not only the spiritual and psychological health of many gay and lesbian Catholics and other lesbian and gay Christians. What is at stake is your moral authority to teach on this issue.

In the past, when you undertook a listening process to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying through the People of God, you won our respect. We respected you when you made your statements on the economy, on nuclear warfare and, especially, your aborted effort to draw up a letter on the role of women in the Church. You listened carefully to what women had to say and, and drew up your statements responding to what you heard from women. These actions gave us gay and lesbians reason to hope that the Holy Spirit would lead you into a spirit of willingness to listen to us gay and lesbian Catholics.

What is at stake now is your own moral authority! Unless we gay and lesbian Catholics receive the message that you take us seriously and are willing to listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you through our lives and our experience, your judgments on homosexuality will be, for the most part, ignored and you will lose what authority you have left to deserve to be listened to with respect on this issue.

I have never heard the same level of courage from the American Bishops in dealing with the Vatican as that shown by the Major Superiors of Religious Men in response to the egregious document issued by The Congregation for the Defense of the Faith, entitled, "Some Considerations Concerning Homosexual Persons" as follows:

"We view (this document) as a hindrance to the Church leaders of the United States in this most difficult and sensitive area of human living. —We are shocked that the statement calls for discrimination against gay men and lesbian women. We find the reasoning for supporting such discrimination to be strained, unconvincing and counterproductive to our statements and actions to support the pastoral needs and personal dignity of such persons. Far from a help to the Bishops and other religious leaders in the United States Catholic Church, the statement complicates our already complex ministry to all people.

"Moreover we find the arguments used to justify discrimination based on stereotypes and falsehoods that are out of touch with modern psychological and sociological understandings of human sexuality. We regrets such actions by the CDF and we reaffirm our support for the human rights of all our brothers and sisters."

As a gay Catholic theologian and psychotherapist, I am fully aware of the enormous destruction recent Vatican documents have caused in the psychic life of young Catholic gays, and of the violence they will provoke against all gay people. I find myself in a dilemma what kind of faith and trust can I place in a teaching authority that I see clearly acts in an unloving, hateful and destructive way toward my gay family and is more interested in defending its institutional interest than it is in truth and justice?

In the name of the thousands of gay and lesbian Catholics and other Christians to whom it has been my God-given privilege to minister, I make this statement:

At this point, the ignorance and distortion of homosexuality, the use of stereotypes and falsehoods in official Church documents, forces us who are gay Catholics to issue the institutional Church a serious warning. Your ignorance of homosexuality can no longer be excused as inculpable; it has become of necessity a deliberate and malicious ignorance. In the name of Catholic gays and lesbians everywhere, we cry out "Enough!"

Enough! Enough of your distortions of Scripture. You continue to claim that a loving homosexual act in a committed relationship is condemned in Scripture, when competent scholars are nearly unanimous in acknowledging that nowhere in Scripture is the problem of sexual acts between two gay men or lesbian women who love each other, ever dealt with, never mind condemned. You must listen to biblical scholars to find out what Scripture truly has to say about homosexual relationships.

Enough! Enough of your efforts to reduce all homosexual acts to expressions of lust, and your refusal to see them as possible expressions of a deep and genuine human love. The second group you must listen to are competent professional psychiatrists and psychotherapists from whom you can learn about the healthy and positive nature of mature gay and lesbian relationships. They will assure you that homosexual orientation is both unchosen and unchangeable and that any ministry promising to change that orientation is a fraud.

Enough! Enough of your efforts through groups like Courage and other exgay ministries to lead young gays to internalize self-hatred with the result that they are able to relate to God only as a God of fear, shame and guilt and lose all hope in a God of mercy and love. What is bad psychology has to be bad theology!

Enough! Enough again, of your efforts to foster hatred, violence, discrimination and rejection of us in the human community. We gay and lesbian Catholics pray daily that the Holy Spirit will lead you into a spirit of repentance. You must publicly accept your share of the blame for gay murders and bashing and so many suicides of young gays and ask forgiveness from God and from the gay community.

Enough, also, of driving us from the home of our mother, the Church, and attempting to deny us the fullness of human intimacy and sexual love. You frequently base that denial by an appeal to the dead letter of the "natural law." Another group to whom you must listen are the moral theologians who, as a majority, argue that natural law is no longer an adequate basis for dealing with sexual questions. They must be dealt with within the context of interpersonal human relationships.

Above all else, you must enter into dialogue with the gay and lesbian members of the Catholic community. We are the ones living out the human experience of a gay orientation, so we alone can discern directly in our experience what God’s spirit is saying to us.

And for the first time in history you have gay and lesbian Catholic communities of worship and prayer who are seeking individually and collectively to hear what the Spirit is saying to them in their gay experience — what experiences lead to the peace and joy of oneness with the Spirit of God and what experiences lead away from that peace and joy!

God gave you the commission of discerning the truth. But there is no mandate from Jesus Christ to "create" the truth. We pray daily that the Holy Spirit will lead you to search humbly for the truth concerning homosexuality through dialogue with your lesbian sisters and gay brothers.

The only consolation I can offer gay and lesbian Catholics in the meantime is the profound hope that the very absurdity and hateful spirit of recent Vatican documents will lead gay Catholics to refuse them and recognize the contradiction of their message and that of Jesus who never once spoke a negative word concerning homosexuals.

I work, hope and pray that lesbian and gay Catholics and other gay Christians will exercise their legitimate freedom of conscience, discerning what God is saying to them directly through their gay experience. I hope, too, that they will be able to de-fang the poisons of pathologically homophobic religion, accepting the good news that God loves them and accepts them as gays and lesbians and refusing to be caught in the vortex of self-hatred vis-淼-vis a God of fear.

I believe that we are at the moment of a special "kairos" in this matter. The Holy Spirit is "doing something new." I was recently the guest at a gay ecumenical community that established homes for adult retarded people in the city of Basel in Switzerland. The extraordinary spirit of love and compassion that permeated that community was a foretaste of what lies in the future. I believe there is a vast reservoir of human and divine love that has remained until now untapped because of prejudice and homophobia. The Spirit is calling on you to help release that vast potential of human and divine love through your action sat this national conference.

Please be assured that the actions of Soulforce and Dignity at your national conference are based in profound respect and love. We pray and hope that the same Holy Spirit who has graciously liberated us who are gay to self-respect and self-love will liberate in you, our Catholic leaders, a profound love for your gay brothers and lesbian sisters and melt away all prejudice and judgmentalism in your hearts. May you make us welcome as full members in your family in Christ.

May God bless your efforts!

Sincerely in Christ
John J. McNeill
jjmcneill@aol.com

A Summary: The Teachings of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality

A Summary By Sr. Jeannine Gramick & Fr. Robert Nugent, recently silenced by the Vatican for their courageous support of sexual and gender minorities, from their Voices of Hope, CHE, 1995.

1.1975 Declaration on Sexual Ethics
(Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)

-distinguishes between homosexuality that is transitory or not "incurable" and homosexuality that is definitive and permanent from an "innate instinct" that is incurable
-homosexuals must be treated with understanding
-their culpability is to be judged with prudence
-no moral justification for acts because of the homosexual condition can be given -Scripture condemns homosexual acts as "grave depravity" and a consequence of rejecting God
-we cannot conclude those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible
-homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and cannot be approved

2. 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church
(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)

-inclination to homosexuality not a sin, but a tendency to an intrinsic moral evil; inclination itself, therefore, must be seen as an "objective disorder"
-clear consistency in Scriptures on the morality of homosexual behavior
-when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm in themselves " disordered sexual inclination" which is "essentially self-indulgent"
-a person who engages in homosexual behavior acts immorally
-when the practice of homosexuality seriously threatens the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved
-deplorable that homosexual people are object of violent malice in speech or action; such treatment deserves condemnation from pastors. It reveals a disregard for others endangering the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. Each person’s intrinsic dignity must be respected in word, in action and in law
-when it is claimed that homosexual condition is not disordered or when homosexual activity is condoned we should not be surprised when "irrational" and violent reactions increase
-all support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it or which neglect it entirely

3. 1992 Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons
(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, July 23)

-Sexual orientation does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination
-There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, e.g., adoption and foster care, employment of teachers and athletic coaches and military recruitment
-all persons have the right to work, housing, etc., but rights are not absolute; they can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct as in the case of the physically or mentally ill
-there is no right to homosexuality which, therefore, it should not form the basis for juridical claims
-the problem of discrimination does not usually arise if homosexual people do not publicize their sexual orientation
-it is inappropriate for church authorities to endorse or remain neutral toward adverse
legislation even if it grants exceptions to church organizations and institutions

4. 1994 The Catechism of the Catholic Church
-homosexuality refers to men and women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards the same sex
-homosexuality has taken various historical and cultural forms and its cause remains largely unexplained
-homosexual people must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity
-all unjust discrimination toward them should be avoided
-the homosexual inclination is "objectively disordered"
-homosexual acts are portrayed in Scripture as a "grave depravity;" Tradition has always declared them "intrinsically disordered" and contrary to the natural law because they (1) are closed to the gift of life and (2) do not proceed from genuine male/female complementarity. They can never be approved.

5. 1997 Always Our Children
(National Conference of [US] Catholic Bishops)

-Sexuality is a gift of God. Everyone should acknowledge and accept [his] sexual identity which helps us define the unique persons we are. One component, sexual orientation, is a deep-seated, relatively stable dimension of one’s personality experienced as a given and not something freely chosen
-homosexual people of God, "gifted and called" for a purpose in God’s design
-nothing in the Bible or Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors towards homosexual people
-the fundamental rights of homosexual persons must be defended and all must strive to eliminate injustice, oppression or violence
-homosexual persons have a right to be welcomed into the community, to hear the word of God and to receive pastoral care; homosexual people should have an active role in the Christian community; those who are leading a chaste life should have opportunities to lead and serve the community
-it is God’s plan that every act of sexual intercourse occur only in marriage between a man and a woman and be open to new life

Mary Louise Cervone’s Letter of Endorsement

October 12, 2000

Dear Dignity Member,

It is not often that we communicate directly with our members. We usually send information to our Chapters, and have the Chapter officers help us get the message out. However, Dignity/USA is currently involved in two very significant initiatives that we believe are important enough to warrant direct personal communication. I hope you will read the information in this mailing very carefully, and contact the national office with any questions.

First, we have reached a critical stage in the Re-Imagining Dignity process. In this packet you will find the progress report from your Board of Directors that represents our best thinking about how we might shape ourselves to carry out our mission effectively in the coming years. We are now seeking input from our members to help confirm and/or refine our thinking. In addition to a summary of the process and our recommendations, we have included a response form on which you can record your feedback and comments. Please take some time to think about the issues, and complete the response form. We really do value your opinion. (By the way, you’ll notice that in the Board’s proposal, this type of direct communication would be a hallmark of Dignity’s future, so tell us whether you find this valuable!)

Secondly, Dignity/USA and Soulforce (a national, interdenominational network of people learning nonviolence and seeking justice for God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people) have joined our formidable voices together, to ask the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE against sexual and gender minorities. We will be doing this through a series of actions held in conjunction with the NCCB meeting in Washington November 12-14.

Through our actions, we are seeking NCCB response to three simple demands. First, during this Jubilee year, we ask our bishops to "open wide the doors" of the Roman Catholic Church to God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children. We are seeking an end to the teachings that demean and exclude us from full participation in our church as whole and holy people, without having to hide or deny who we are. As a symbol of that exclusion we are holding up the teaching that prohibits Dignity from meeting on Catholic property in virtually all dioceses throughout the country. Soulforce stands in solidarity with Dignity and with millions of other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, asking the NCCB to end policies of exclusion.

Second, we ask that one of the bishops celebrate a Mass for Dignity members and other Catholics seeking justice for GLBT people at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This would be an act signaling the end of Church policies prohibiting priests from celebrating Mass for Dignity. Once again, this is not just about Dignity. This is about Church teachings that exclude and demean all Catholics who accept and celebrate their sexual orientation as one of God’s mysterious gifts. We are inviting the bishops to join lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics in a special Mass of reconciliation and thanksgiving. What a symbol it would be to the entire nation to see us kneeling in prayer together!

Third, in the spirit of Jubilee, we ask that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops offer an apology to sexual and gender minorities for their tragic treatment by the Roman Catholic Church for the past twenty centuries. We have asked that the NCCB appoint a national blue ribbon committee of clergy and laity (with openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, including those in loving, committed relationships) to reexamine official Church teachings against us and to begin a dialogue with us that will lead to hope and healing for us all.

These demands have already been outlined in a letter to Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, President of the NCCB. They will be repeated in rallies, press conferences and events over a three-day period. The complete schedule can be accessed at Soulforce’s website (www.soulforce.org), but the main events are:

Sunday, November 12 at 7:30 PM: Dignity/Washington hosts participants in the Dignity/USA-Soulforce witness for Liturgy.

Monday, November 13 from 3:30 – 6:00 PM: Vigil at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as the Bishops and guests arrive for Mass to mark the opening of the NCCB Meeting; 7:30 – 9:30 PM: Justice for All Civil Rights Rally.

Tuesday, November 14 from 9:00 – 12:00 AM: National press conference; An Act of Spiritual Resistance at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The demands and the actions have been shaped by Dignity/USA’s participation in their planning, and are totally consistent with our mission and ministry of over 30 years. They balance respect for our Church, our faith and our bishops with our responsibility to speak out against the injustice and oppression they perpetuate. We believe that now is the time to bring these concerns to the attention of the full Bishops’ council in a visible, forthright way, and are delighted to have Soulforce’s support in this effort.

I urge you to support this undertaking in any way possible. Can you join me in Washington, DC November 12-14, and bear witness personally to your truth? Can you be part of calling on our bishops to Stop Spiritual Violence? If so, please sign up via the Soulforce website, and note that you are a Dignity member in the comment section of the registration form.

If you can’t be there yourself, help support those who can. Please hold us in prayer as we prepare for this witness, and during our time in Washington. And, if you can help with financial support, we’d appreciate that as well. Please send a contribution of any amount to Dignity/USA, 1500 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 11, Washington, DC 20005.

As always, I am deeply moved by the presence of God in Dignity communities across the country and inspired by the courage and commitment of our members to transform lives and be catalysts for change. I hope to see you in Washington next month.

In Dignity,

Mary Louise Cervone
President

Second Letter to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops

October 10, 2000

Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, D.D.
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194

Dear Bishop Fiorenza,

Thank you for answering our letter of September 20, 2000. We are glad that you have been assured by other religious bodies that our Soulforce acts of spiritual resistance to injustice have always been conducted "in a non-violent and professional manner." That will be true again during our Soulforce vigil and direct action at the meeting of the NCCB, November 12-14, 2000. In fact, there need not be any Soulforce presence at all if we conclude our current negotiations with a few small steps towards understanding and reconciliation.

Although your letter was written to show your pastoral concern for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children, we were saddened to read that your pastoral concern only applies to "unjust discrimination." Our goal is to help you and your fellow bishops to realize that all discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender orientation is unjust. We were moved by your sincere desire to provide us pastoral care, but there is no way to pastor us when your teachings and practices are at the very heart of our suffering.

We understand that you can’t ignore let alone rescind the Vatican’s teachings that our sexual orientation is "objectively disordered" and that our loving relationships are "intrinsically evil." (Even though you know in your heart that those teachings are wrong assumptions about homosexuality based upon ancient prejudice and biblical misuse that ignore all the scientific, psychological, historical, pastoral, and even biblical evidence to the contrary.)

We understand that you can’t disregard let alone confront the Vatican’s teachings that we shouldn’t be married, adopt or teach children, coach children’s teams, or serve in the military. (Even though you know in your heart that we, too, live and love with integrity; that we are excellent parents committed to our families; that we are skilled teachers and coaches who are as trustworthy with our students as are our heterosexual colleagues; and that we serve in every branch and every rank in the military with honor and courage.)

We are not asking you to stop Papal attacks on legislation that would allow us to marry and adopt children. We are not asking you to quit using millions of dollars in Church funds to underwrite legislation that denies the 1,047 rights and protections that go with marriage. We are not even asking you to help reverse the recent decision to silence Sister Jeannine Gramick or brother, Fr. Robert Nugent who have demonstrated genuine pastoral concern. We are hoping that one day the Spirit of Christ will move you to end these and other unjust and discriminatory practices. But until that day, we are only asking you to take a few small steps towards reconciliation and understanding.

You end your letter promising to be in touch with us after you have had "an opportunity to consult further" with some of your brother bishops. That gave us hope that you were considering our requests by discussing them with your colleagues. But you also reminded us that your beliefs are sincere and that you are "not interested in purchasing favorable media coverage by compromising them." You say that you cannot agree with us "about morality of homosexual activity or engage in actions which would seem to suggest that we do." Does that mean you are officially refusing our requests?

"Will you not open the Shrine to embrace Dignity on Tuesday morning, November 14, signaling the end of their expulsion from Catholic space?" Will you not appoint a bishop to celebrate that precedent-setting Dignity mass? Will you not offer an apology for the way the Roman Catholic Church has treated sexual and gender minorities through the ages? Will you not appoint a national blue ribbon committee of clergy and laity (with openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, including those in loving, committed relationships) to re-examine official Church teachings against us or begin a dialogue with us that will lead to hope and healing for us all?

Perhaps you and your brother bishops are considering an alternative to our requests. You seem to be offering a joint press conference or a joint statement that condemns "…hatred and violence and unjust discrimination aimed at homosexual persons." How could we stand with you and make a statement that condemns only "unjust discrimination" and not discrimination of any kind? You are trapped by your teachings in an untenable paradox. You want with all your heart to protect us from hatred and violence and yet it is Roman Catholic teaching that helps motivate that hatred and gives license to that violence.

Whatever you decide, our Soulforce/Dignity delegation will arrive at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Tuesday morning, November 14, at about 10AM. We would like to hold a press conference on the steps of the National Shrine to present our case to Catholics and other people of faith across the nation. If our way is blocked, we will hold our press conference on the sidewalk and then begin our walk up the driveway to the National Shrine hoping that you will change your minds and "Open Wide the Doors to Christ."

We come in His name. If you reject us, you reject Him. Like you, we are His children, loved, forgiven, accepted unconditionally by His grace. Jesus loved outcasts best. He infuriated the religious leaders of his day by extending God’s welcome to the leper, the Samaritan woman, the Centurian, the woman with flow of blood. He would be the first to extend God’s welcome to us. You break the heart of Christ when you refuse us entry to His church, when you withhold His body and His blood from His people.

We’ve waited centuries for truth to prevail and for justice to roll down like a mighty stream. Let it begin Tuesday morning, November 14. If you cannot find it in your heart to join us in seeking truth and justice, we will take our nonviolent stand in the spirit of Jesus, Gandhi and King and place our lives and our quest for justice in your hands.

Sincerely,

Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce

SOULFORCE, Inc., P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
P: (949) 455-0999 F: (949) 455-0959 C: (949) 933-3592
RevMel@aol.com.

Read the first letter to the Bishop.
Read the Bishop’s reply to the first letter.
Read the Bishop’s reply to the second letter.
Read the third letter to the Bishop.

Rev. Jimmy Creech Joins Soulforce as Chairperson of the Board of Directors

Defrocked Minister Endorses Soulforce Methods of Civil Disobedience to End Spiritual Violence Against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals

PRESS RELEASE October 9, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt, Media Coordinator
Cell: 717-951-7712 Email: freedom4@voicenet.com

Laguna Beach – Rev. Jimmy Creech, the minister who was defrocked from the United Methodist Church a year ago for performing a same sex union, has officially joined Soulforce as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. Soulforce is an interfaith network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) individuals and their family, friends, and allies, committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

The announcement was made in Atlanta on September 23, when the newly formed twenty-one member Soulforce Advisory Board met to continue planning Stage Two in their campaign to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE. Rev. Creech is also the Chairperson of the Advisory Board. Karen Weldin of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Bill Carpenter of St. Petersburg, Florida, were selected as Vice Chairpersons for Soulforce National.

Soulforce supporters staged a non-violent civil disobedient protest against the United Methodist Church last year just before Creech’s trial in Nebraska. Dozens of people were arrested. The United Methodist Church had charged him with "Violating the Order and Discipline" of the church by performing a union ceremony for two men.

Then, Soulforce supporters held a weeklong vigil and civil disobedience outside of the United Methodist General Conference, where 191 people were arrested, including Rev. Creech. Similar protests took place during the Presbyterian General Assembly, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Episcopal Convention. Creech participated in several of these actions.

Rev. Creech plans to take a leading role in the Soulforce actions taking place November 12 – 14 in Washington DC during the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Vigils and Protests will be taking place outside the National Basilica.

"You don’t need to be a United Methodist to hold the United Methodist Church accountable for the Spiritual Violence against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. I don’t need to be a Catholic to hold the Catholic Church accountable. The Catholic Church hurts millions of people through financially supporting anti-gay legislation and initiatives that deny GLBT people of their civil rights," declared Rev. Creech. "I have decided to officially become part of Soulforce because I believe in the goals of this movement, to use relentless non-violent resistance to end Spiritual Violence."

"Unfortunately, Spiritual Violence against GLBT people originates from all parts of Christ’s body. As people of conscience, we need to hold churches accountable for their bigotry and their contribution to Spiritual Violence against God’s children," Creech continued.

"We are thrilled to have Rev. Creech as our Chairperson," said Rev. Mel White, Co-founder of Soulforce. "Soulforce is working to challenge the structures in the churches that perpetuate bigotry and work against equality for GLBT people both within the churches and society at large. Rev. Creech truly understands the principles of non-violence and how they apply to the GLBT movement for equality and what Soulforce is doing to stop Spiritual Violence."

Rev. Creech has become a folk hero among progressive religious and GLBT individuals and organizations, and has received many awards, including: the Triangle (NC) Business and Professional Guild Award (1997) for advocacy on behalf of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender persons; the Heart of Freedom Award (1998) presented by ANGLE/Omaha (Achieving New Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender Endeavors); the 1998 NC Pride Inc. Award; 1998 Saint award presented by Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco; one of OUT Magazine’s 100 for 1998; The Human Rights Campaign Equality Award, 1999; The American People Award from People for the American Way "for challenging bigotry and promoting tolerance within the church (1999); 1999 Dignity Award (Council of Churches, Santa Clara County, California); and, 1999 Pride Interfaith Coalition Award (Boston, Massachusetts).

All people of faith on any spiritual journey are invited to join Soulforce and take part in the DC Action November 12-14. People can register at the Soulforce web site.

Fr. Richard Rohr’s Letter of Endorsement

October 8, 2000

Brothers and Sisters of the Church:

What is more important than to follow Jesus? Is that not our final and fundamental authority for everything that we do, either as leadership or membership in the church?

Apart from understandable disagreements on specifics, details, how, when, and where, we all the know the WHAT. Jesus came to draw us all into union with God, whom he called his Father. How sad if the public image of our church continues to be a group of people that judge first, exclude easily, and use theological arguments to cover basic "political" stances of power, image, and management of constituency. These seem to be things that Jesus cared about very little, in fact, he flaunted them. This is clear in the Gospels which we all proclaim with joy.

At last we have a group of dedicated Christians who are willing to use disciplined and Christian means of nonviolent protest against its church’s failure to live the Gospel. Christians outside the mainstream did this in the abolitionist movement against slavery, in the civil rights movement against racism, and in the antiwar movement. Eventually, in each case, the church, like Peter running late to the tomb, acknowledged that these were indeed Gospel positions.

SOULFORCE must take the role of John the Beloved, who runs swiftly to the tomb, because that is what love always does. But both of us will find there the Risen Christ who always reigns and transforms human history, but never without our "let it be." Our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered brothers and sisters have been left outside of his realm of grace for far too long. We can do so much better, and we will. I thank SOULFORCE for its courage, dedication, and proclamation of Christian nonviolence in the pursuit of justice and truth.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

An Urgent Invitation to Our Dignity Friends

SOULFORCE, INC.

An Urgent Invitation to Our Dignity Friends,

The OPEN LETTER (link here) was received by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Friday, September 22, 2000. The letter describes why Soulforce volunteers from across the nation are conducting a vigil and an act of nonviolent spiritual resistance at the NCCB meeting in Washington, DC, November 12-14.

The letter and the actions described were carefully planned by Soulforce and Dignity TOGETHER. We are especially grateful for the wise counsel of Mary Louise Cervone (President, Dignity/USA) and Marianne Duddy (Executive Director, Dignity/USA).

Now, we come to you with this urgent request: WE NEED YOU IN WASHINGTON DC, November 12-14. Our dream is to have at least one person from every Dignity Chapter in the US in the front lines of our effort to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE by the Roman Catholic Church against God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children.

Read the letter prayerfully and then decide. Come early on Friday, Nov 10, or Saturday, Nov. 11. Enjoy the nation’s capital. See the GLBT sites on Dupont Circle and Connecticut Avenue. Airlines are offering low fall rates. We have $99 rooms for four at the Washington Plaza or will arrange a room for you in a private home.

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 12, You’ll be trained in the methods of nonviolence taught by Gandhi and King. That evening, you will join Soulforce and Dignity/ Washington in an exciting Mass and Reception.

On Monday, Nov. 13, you will tour the Holocaust Museum, stand vigil at the National Shrine, and attend a Civil Rights Rally with heroes and sheroes (and gospel and civil rights music) of the 50s and 60s that will inspire and inform your journey.

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, you will stand in the front lines of our national press conference and then take your stand for justice at the largest Catholic church in all of the Americas. If you decide to be arrested, it is just a misdemeanor and a small fine. Some of us will stay in jail until the Bishops respond. But you don’t have to be arrested or go to jail to be an important part of this civil rights team.

The prophet Micah said, "This is the ONE thing God demands of you: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly!" Gandhi added, "Until you join in doing justice, you will never really know who you are or the power in your soul waiting to be released."

Registration and all events are FREE! Get the full schedule and other important details by pre-registering on line or by phone at (949) 455-0999. Pre-register even if you’re not sure you can attend. That way we can keep you informed every step of this Soulforce Journey to Justice in DC, November 12-14, 2000.

And thanks! We are people of faith from every possible faith tradition. We admire Dignity and thank God for your work. It is a pleasure and a privilege for us to join you in this interfaith, ecumenical collaboration to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE.

Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce, Inc.

SOULFORCE, Inc., P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
P: (949) 455-0999 F: (949) 455-0959 C: (949) 933-3592
RevMel@aol.com.