Second Letter to Bishop Fiorenza

October 31, 2001

Dear Bishop Fiorenza:

A month has passed since our letter of September 19, but you have not yet responded to us. We know that your time for correspondence has been compromised by your recent trip to the Vatican for the Bishops Synod, but we continue to hope that you are willing to meet with us when you and the bishops gather in November in Washington, D.C., for your national conference.

Soulforce is committed to continuing our dialogue, and while you are in Washington, we will stand in silent vigil and pray that you will meet with us and begin the healing process. Our requests are straightforward and are intended to bring greater understanding between you, the bishops and Catholics who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. As we stated in our first letter:

We ask that you meet with us and hear our stories. To date, Catholic authorities have not taken the time to listen and learn from the life-stories and the tremendous suffering of Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

We ask that you create and publicly announce the appointment of a national "blue ribbon" committee of clergy and laity to re-examine the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. This committee must include Catholics who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, both those who are single and those in loving, committed relationships.

Since our first letter, we have come to feel that it is important for us to pray together, so we will be attending the Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Monday evening, November 12. We will bear ourselves with dignity and will not disrupt the sanctity of the service in any way. We also will respect the Catholic’s position on the sanctity of the Eucharist. So that you can easily identify us, we will wear Soulforce shirts over our dress shirts. Those of us inside the Shrine will sit together in pairs while some of us remain outside the Shrine and stand in respectful, silent witness.

You know from your previous dealings with us that we are guided by the nonviolent principles of Gandhi, King and Jesus, and that we are people of our word.

If, however, you would prefer to meet with us and have a private prayer, we would be receptive to that idea. Prior to arriving in Washington, D.C., each Soulforcee has written or attempted communication with specific bishops. Some have graciously replied, others have not, and we would be willing to meet with them privately for prayer. Or, perhaps you would like to meet with us collectively for prayer. Since we are staying at the Holiday Inn directly across the street from where you are meeting at the Hyatt, gathering privately could be easily arranged.

Meet with us. Hear our stories. Pray with us. And, with those acts, begin the spiritual healing of Catholics who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, who love the church but who are suffering as a results of its policy.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. Mel White, Co-Founder, Soulforce
Karen Weldin, Director of Operations
Kara Speltz, Catholic CoChair
Richard Murphy, Catholic CoChair

cc: Bishop Wilton Gregory

Soulforce to Protest Anti-Gay Policies of Southern Baptist Convention for Third Year in a Row

Soulforce to Protest Anti-Gay Policies of Southern Baptist Convention for Third Year in a Row
June 7 – 11, 2002 in St. Louis

Arun Gandhi to Keynote and Lead Training in Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592
email: soulforcemedia@aol.com

(Laguna Beach, CA) – Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, will once again be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting. The SBC annual meeting will be held in St. Louis this year. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meeting in Orlando in 2000 and New Orleans in 2001.

Supporters of Soulforce from all across the United States will be joining with residents of St. Louis from June 7 – 11 to take part in nonviolence trainings, workshops, vigils, non-violent civil disobedience and possible arrests. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker on June 8 and facilitate a workshop on nonviolence for Soulforce supporters. Civil rights leaders from the 1960’s will also participate, as will other experts in the field of non-violent resistance.

"We are working to recruit over 1000 people to stand with us in solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families who have been hurt by the tragic untruths taught by the SBC," said Karen Weldin, Director of Operations for Soulforce. "We want to spread the truth in love to Southern Baptist youth and families who feel trapped in a vicious cycle of condemnation by the church. The truth is that God loves gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people just the way they are."

On several occasions, Soulforce leaders have attempted to dialogue with Dr. James Merritt, President of the SBC. He responded that he refuses to enter into dialogue about the issue, and will not change his position that homosexuality is a "sinful lifestyle." The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and has no organizations within the SBC that advocate for GLBT individuals.

Advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are also participating.

"The Southern Baptist Convention continues to wreak havoc on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families both inside and outside the church," said Mel White, executive director and co-founder of Soulforce, Inc. "Soulforce will continue its relentless campaign to challenge the untruths perpetuated by Southern Baptist religious policies and teachings against God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. This spiritual violence has to stop!"

Join Soulforce on a Journey to Justice with Arun Gandhi and 1000 Others at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, June 7-11, 2002

St. LouisSoulforce will once again be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, this time in St. Louis in June of 2002, and we are asking you to be there too. In fact, we are planning for more than 1,000 Soulforcees to join us.

Why? Because the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) continues to wreak havoc on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) individuals and their families both inside and outside the church – no one within the church is advocating for them. Because we have tried to communicate with Dr. James Merritt, President of the SBC, and he responded that he refuses to enter into dialogue with us about the issue, and will not change his position that homosexuality is a "sinful lifestyle."

We are asking you to join with us because gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth who are trapped in Southern Baptist churches have nowhere to go, no role models to guide them, and no one to turn to in this crucial time in their lives. Few people in their churches dare to say it is OK to be gay and God loves them just the way they are; in fact, most Southern Baptists hold the opposite view. Individuals who may stand up in their churches and fight for their rights get shunned.

Over the past two years, Soulforce has helped mobilize and motivate thousands of people to action, and their lives were transformed by the experience. Hundreds of people have taken part in vigils, non-violent acts of civil disobedience and arrests as we live out the principles of non-violence as taught by Gandhi and King.

In fact, Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, will be our keynote speaker on June 8 and lead us in a weekend of speakers and training workshops in nonviolence. Civil Rights veterans will also be present as well as other noted experts in the area on nonviolence to help us reach the people in the SBC who don’t have anyone to stand with them. It is time to stand up for those who have no one to turn to, and nowhere to go.

If you are interested in joining us and being part of this exciting experience, let us know now. Sign up today. We will keep you updated and aware of all the exciting things taking shape regarding this action.

As the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the SBC is one of the biggest challenges to the truth because of their discriminatory policies and misguided teachings. The fact that the Southern Baptists voted in 2000 to disallow the ordination of women provides a case in point and their interpretation of the Bible on women’s issues parallels their position on homosexuality, ignoring current medical, genetic, psychological and even scriptural evidence:

  • The SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message states that "In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."
  • A resolution was passed in 1996 by the Southern Baptist Convention states that even the "desire to engage in a homosexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted."
  • At the 2000 meeting, delegates (called "messengers") overwhelmingly approved a motion to commend Dr. Laura Schlessinger for her "courageous stand and opposition to homosexuality."

The examples go on and on, but we’ll stop there. You canread more about the Case Against Southern Baptist Teaching.

We are asking supporters, volunteers, and leaders and groups from other organizations and denominations to join with us to be those role models, to be that voice for justice for Southern Baptist youth and families. We are asking you to stand in solidarity with Soulforce and 1,000 other people at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in June of in St. Louis. We are asking you to show the truth to those who are shackled to the untruths taught to them in their churches — that they can live with honesty and integrity and walk with God as healthy and happy gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals.

Already, advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are joining together with many others to support one another in this important event. All these people realize the importance of supporting our brothers and sisters, no matter what our faith or our creed.

You do not have to take part in the arrests, but do come stand with us. Be part of Soulforce. Join us in the nonviolence trainings and workshops. It is time for change, and we can be the change we wish to seek in the world. Your life will be transformed, and your spirit will be renewed.

We hope that you will stand with us to help stop spiritual violence and spread the word to Baptist youth and their families that God loves gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people just the way they are.

Rev. Mel White
Co-Founder and Executive Director

Karen Weldin
Soulforce Director of Operations
Co-Chair Soulforce St. Louis
Karen@cwis.net

Rev. Doug Donley
University Baptist Church
Co-Chair Soulforce St. Louis
Pastor@ubcmn.org

P.S. You can also support these efforts by contributing to Soulforce. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Karen Weldin Letter to Dr. James Merritt, President, Southern Baptist Convention

October 5, 2001

Dr. James Merritt, President, Southern Baptist Convention
First Baptist Snellville
PO Box 647
Snellville, GA 30078

Dear Dr. Merritt,

Once again I have to tell you that I disagree when you say there is no reason for us to meet. There are people suffering and dying as a result of the teachings and resolutions of the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe that is reason for us to meet, talk and work together to come to some conclusion and plan that we both can live with and that will stop the violence and suffering against God’s gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender children.

I will not give up on believing that you and many other Southern Baptists are caring compassion persons and that you really are pained when something you do or say causes other people harm.

My heart breaks for the people trapped inside your churches who are shackled with fear and confusion in their struggle to be all that God has created them to be and at the same time try to remain loyal to their faith heritage.

I am asking you again to meet with me. I believe we can work together to stop violence against gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people.

I am hoping that the treatment towards us in kindness and love will begin with you. I hope to hear from you soon.

In love and peace,

Karen Weldin

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