Several people have sent their experience of Indianapolis to us and we’d like to share them with you:
August 18, 2001
Several people have sent their experience of Indianapolis to us and we’d like to share them with you:
I was not in Indianapolis. My 16 year old son, who is the president of our synod’s youth organization, was.
He also got involved with many of you and with Soulforce.
I picked Jadon up at the airport last night and we had an incredible two-hour drive home.
All he wanted to talk about was his involvement with Soulforce people, the church’s actions, and the activities he had been included in.
I want to thank Jayne, Jane, Anita, Jeff, and others who made him welcome and included. Just a few months ago he, and his 14 year old brother were viciously, verbally attacked at our own congregation after standing up to an elderly man who had made a hateful statement about glbt members in our congregation.
His dedication to this (using Sitler’s phrase) cantus firmus cause in our church was strengthened and revitalized by your inclusion and by what he considers, the church’s "wishy-washy" and "cowardly" actions.
I still don’t know what he did at the meetings he went there for (SCYCLOPS?!?!). But his faith continues to be strengthened as it was stretched by those of you who do theology rather than simply read it.
I remember back thirty plus years ago growing up in a tiny, grape-growing town the San Joaquin Valley in California. One afternoon I was picketing a supermarket in my hometown, along with other folks who followed Chavez in attempting to bring an end to the inhuman farm labor practices. As I was being harassed by one of the farmers from my home parish, the Roman Catholic campus pastor at Fresno State, Monsignor Negro, stepped up beside me and silently waked at my side for the rest of the afternoon. While walking the road on which the Gospel called him, he walked with me on mine.
In my mind and heart, you honor Fr. Negro, and all who walk the path of the Gospel (and just so happened to walk with my son). Thank you for showing him that the web of action, concern and love spans beyond towns, states, nations, congregations, and denominations. Thank you for sharing your faith with him, and allowing him to act out his faith in Indianapolis with you.
Rev. Christopher D. Berry
RESIST! RESIST! RESIST!
My Lutheran Soulforce Story – Cindy Hadden / Seattle, WA
Once again, members of Soulforce gathered from around the country in Indianapolis to bring "truth in love" this time to the ELCA (Lutheran) Conference.
Primarily we went to assist the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation in the hope that they would vote to allow openly gay people to become pastors. The alliance is made up of five internal Lutheran groups.
They are Anita Hill’s WINGSPAN MINISTRY(firstname.lastname@example.org), LUTHERANS CONCERNED (LuthConc@aol.com), LUTHERAN LESBIAN AND GAY MINISTRIES (LLGM123@aol.com), EXTRAORDINARY CANDIDACY PROJECT (email@example.com), and THE NETWORK FOR INCLUSIVE VISION (firstname.lastname@example.org). I have never met a more loving, powerful & gifted resistance group as this. Together we trained in Soulforce principals, the signing of Martin Luther King’s pledge to non-violence and stood vigils in numbers of 200 or more. WOW!
As always, we respond to what is going on in the conferences around the country. This means "our agenda" for the day is continually subject to change. I have mentioned before in my stories of our Soulforce Journey since meeting Jerry Falwell in Oct. 1999 that Soulforce is a very fluid group. To "be"that (with a right and humble spirit) is testing, and true to past national Soulforce actions, this Soulforce/Lutheran Alliance Action understood that important component and we were "one."
On Friday and Saturday, Fred Phelps’ group showed up to do their part in God’s plan by showing the violence our community faces. One from that group was arrested Saturday. This time they were greater in numbers and they were louder, driving quickly up toward us as we marched to and from the vigil site, screaming and threatening as if to run us over. As people attending the conference and those on the city streets realized what Soulforce was doing there, they would come up to us and thank us. A man came up to me with a check in his hand so his group could give us a donation. A taxi driver drove up to me and asked if I had a bumper sticker or something so he could show the city his support of us. On Sunday Aug. 12th, we were invited into the Convention Center to attend service. A Presbyterian Pastor preached. In two’s we sat amongst them worshiping God and taking communion with them. We changed hearts and minds. The youth choir came from California and were key to the feeling of unity at the moment. They were so supportive. I gave many of them the traditional Soulforce cross necklaces that Seattle’s Jeaneanne Hill is so gracious to make and hand out at all our actions. One woman and young girl followed me out, tapping me on the shoulder to ask if I had just one more cross for the young girl who was also in the choir. I took off the one I was wearing and the smiles and interaction was life changing.
On Monday August 13, we stood in silent vigil from 7:30 am to about 12:30 pm, then marched to a press conference. Much time was spent inside the conference to "change" or "postpone" these issues on the agenda during the course of 3 days. At about 10:00 am Monday morning we got news that the "right" wanted again to change the agenda and talk about civil unions or marriage. Our focus was on ordination or gay pastors and this tactic was internally used to help confuse the issue of gay ordination and gays in the church. As a result, Lutherans decided for the THIRD TIME, to incorporate a 4 year study on us. As Bishops, Pastors, Visitors and the like left the conference weeping, they re-joined our vigil line and we wept together at the news. My new friend, Greg Egertson (co-chairman of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries in San Francisco) announced: "The Church still wants to treat us as an issue, instead of as real people. They want to talk about us, not with us. There has NEVER been a "study" as voted on at previous Lutheran conferences. When reporters pressed the newly appointed by 51% Bishop Hanson (an ally) what previous studies have shown, what this new study needs show, (what are they missing) he humbly fumbled in providing solid answers.
Gandhi said that direct action must only be taken when all negotiations have failed. We held a press conference, only to see the reporters, policeman and women, and others weeping as we taught truth. We knelt on the sidewalks and refused to obey an officer to leave. Forty eight were arrested.
Voting once more to study us was the WORST thing the Lutherans could have done. It serves only to postpone the decision that all churches face today: "Ordain us and Bless our Unions." While we all believed that the "train has left the station" on this issue from within the Lutheran Church, many of us also believed that we WILL NOT BUY INTO THIS "STUDY", but we will teach others, and we will STEP UP THE RESISTANCE. Also remembering not to support our churches our with tithes, offerings and gifts that contribute to suffering via law and bi-law language in the churches.
I asked my new Lutheran Alliance friends to consider keeping 3 of their 5 groups working in the Lutheran Church and to give up 2 of them to find a home in 2 other denominations to teach resistance.
Soulforce made many new friends and allies in Indianapolis. Dozens of Lutheran allies have promised to support us at the upcoming June 2002 Southern Baptist Conference.
United we stand in resistance and love. Watch the website often and come join us or help us with a donation to do justice work. www.soulforce.org
WA/Seattle Soulforce Contact
I have not been online for the last several days – since leaving for Indianapolis so I am not sure what discussion has ensued. So what follows are my first attempt to put into writing the amazing experience soulforce and the lutheran alliance just had. I am not sure what effect we had on the ELCA at large, but I do know that it was a powerful experience for us and for most of those to whom we spoke.
Thursday night the soulforce and Lutheran Alliance Leadership team met with Joe Wagner, Joanne Chadwick, and Charles Miller – Daphne correct me if I have missed anyone. While I was not there, it was clear that the meeting was more productive than most in the past and the fact that Joe would meet is something. I understand that Joanne Chadwick was largely responsible for making it happen from the ELCA side. I am not sure what to tone was at first but Mel came in with tootsie pops and most everyone took one – it is just hard to be all that contentious while trying to get to the chocolatey center of a tootsie pop.
Obviously since you have received the press releases you are aware of some of the discussion and outcomes. I am certainly disappointed at the maneuverer to recommend ‘study’ – and soulforce/alliance had a strong response to this between the press conference and act of civil disobedience. But between Thursday night and Monday afternoon so much good happened!
We stood vigil everyday, inside and out. We were told both by allies on the inside and those we didn’t know that our presence was powerful, needed and helped some understand the urgency obviously not everybody yet gets that with each study, time and lives are literally lost. But I think there are many within the ELCA who are almost as tired of and no longer willing to wait. So, I am reasonably sure that the tide has turned.
We stood with many vigilers and others wearing stoles from the stoles project. I stood next to Mel White the first morning and he received a stole that happened to be the one representing the Action for Reconciliating Ministry. It was moving to see so many familiar names – and some unfamiliar ones.
It was also moving to see Anita enter the assembly each day as a delegate (the censure for St. Paul-Ref doesn’t begin until September 1st which allowed Anita to participate as a delegate as elected – this kind of flexibility leads me to believe electing Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is a hopeful thing)accompanied by Jayne Thompson who wore one of my stoles. Both were tireless in their work.
We were also invited to join the assembly for worship on Sunday and all who could attend did. That was powerful and I have not felt so welcome in a lutheran setting (outside of St. Paul Ref & Pr. Hill’s ordination) than I have since my removal. Many of us felt anger, in some cases, hatred and pain melt away. That was incredibly healing. It does not excuse past action but is freeing. It is so much more productive to attempt to hold people and institutions responsible when it is done in love rather than anger. Soulforce prepares, supports and demands this approach.
All of this, of course made the tabling and other delays distressing and of course the decision on Monday. So many still think that the vote to study is progress. It is not. I hope the civil disobedience made that clear. I certainly do not take being arrested lightly -nor did anyone but anything that can make clear that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to pay the price for delay is worth the expense, discomfort and potential for subjecting ourselves to violence.
This is not to suggest police violence -they were respectful and quite frankly concerned for our safety. Of course the Phelps contingent was there but also an incredibly virulent group from Tennessee connected to the militia. The police had real concerns for our safety.
On a personal note, 24 hours earlier, I had reconciled myself to not being arrested because I couldn’t afford it. Miraculously, the money came through.
It is weird because the reason I wanted to be arrested was because I experienced a renewed love of the lutheran church. It is not my church any more but it is the church that raised me and planted so many of these ideas and so I still mourn when it makes decisions that are not life giving to itself or any members whether queer or straight. I am convinced the folks of the Alliance will be fine and continue to be strong but each delay eats at the heart of the church.
Probably the most powerful moments were kneeling in prayer and song. As I was arrested we were singing ‘The Church’s One Foundation’. Many non-lutherans in soulforce were not aware of its significance in the movement for justice but I am certainly grateful for those who sang it before.
The decision of the assembly is not as decisive as that one was but has much the same effect. For those who choose to respect it, I hope there is a way to hold the powers charged with this study accountable – as former Bishop Egertson intends to do- the next four years could be an incredibly rich time -with groups like the ECP and llgm continuing to move forward with an increasing number of supporters and participants AND MAKE the study positive. Based on the past call for study, it is hard for me to take it in good faith and believe this kind of attention is the only way anything substantive will occur.
I think of the way groups in Kansas City responded to the Charter School movement -they developed progressive alternative schools that can really serve the community. The same thing can happen here -and at least there is a budget for this work and a direction -not just to study same sex relationships but to develop a plan for lifting the ban.
So those are my ramblings on the event. And here is an event to put on your calendar: June 11 & 12 or there abouts – the Southern Baptist Convention meets in St. Louis. It is the next scheduled Soulforce action and I really hope all of you will prayerfully consider participating. The soulforce principles and community have been incredibly enriching and I think are a key to making lasting change. If you can’t attend, please check the website regularly because there are other ways to participate in this movement in meaningful ways.