First Letter to Bishop Gregory

August 22, 2002

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017

Dear Bishop Gregory:

Thank you for your January 14, 2002 response to our November 2001 letter. As you care for the victims of sexual abuse, the people of Soulforce have been praying for healing and reconciliation within the Catholic Church. While we respect your sense that there is no basis for us to meet or dialogue with you, we believe there is much that we can discuss and learn from each other.

Soulforce is also working to protect, care for and advocate on behalf of those who feel silenced within their faith communities. We are people of many faiths. Some of us are Catholic. Some of us are former Catholics who love the Church. We are ordinary folks working in the trenches for the faith and beliefs we cherish deeply.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people of faith have long been misunderstood (at best) and abused (at worst). We believe that faith communities like the Catholic Church, as they come to understand the real lives of GLBT people, will stop at nothing less than full inclusion and support.

As you know, Soulforce has for three years called attention to the suffering experienced by God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. Our actions have included:

* Praying in vigil outside last year’s USCCB meetings
* Our trip to the Vatican for the close of the Year of Jubilee
* Building a Habitat for Humanity home in Jerry Falwell’s home town of Lynchburg, VA
* Marching jointly with Dignity/USA outside the Catholic Shrine in Washington
* Demonstrating outside and inside the recent Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis

As we approach the USCCB convention in November, we make these requests of you:

* Denounce the July 23, 2002, Open Letter to the Bishops from members of the Catholic Medical Association regarding homosexuality. Their findings are contrary to the best science of our time and are not substantiated by any other recognized members of the professional medical, psychiatric and psychological community.

* Meet with Soulforce to help draft a statement reflecting the Conference’s commitment to support the civil rights and end church involvement in the denial of civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as part of your commitment to social justice which has historically been the cornerstone of the NCCB/USCCB.

* Publicly retract statements blaming gays for the sexual abuse and abuse-of-power scandal. Agree not to explicitly or implicitly take any action that links homosexuality and child abuse.

In each of our actions, we also plan nonviolent civil disobedience as a last measure if our efforts are not successful. We cannot stand silent while our brothers and sisters suffer. In St. Louis, that escalation included entering the convention hall and attempting to speak directly to those who damned and demonized us. Our action prevented us from joining our brothers and sisters in Dignity USA in their outreach to you at the bishops’ meeting in Dallas. We will consider intensifying our direct actions during the upcoming session, as well, if it is not possible to work for the well-being of marginalized Catholics by other means.

We call on you to join us in working to protect all of God’s children. In our individual journeys with Soulforce, we each seek to understand how our most deeply held beliefs call on us to respond. We understand that you are doing nothing less. Let us come together as people of integrity, bringing peace and justice to all people.

Sincerely,

The Soulforce Catholic Planning Team

DC 2002 – Alert #1

8/22/02

Dear Friends: Our action at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is less than two months away. The next two months will be interesting and challenging times. We have two direct actions within two weeks of each other.

Richard Murphy and I are co-chairing again this year and have invited one of our newer folks to join us. He’s Philippe Beaudette, from the Oklahoma City local group. We’re looking forward to working together. Philippe has been handling the assignment of Bishops and doing some of the important research work.

Since Lynchburg and D.C. are only two weeks apart we anticipate a smaller, more intimate group in D.C. similar to last year. Current registration is a relentlessly committed and spirited three dozen souls. Needless to say, that could easily multiply as we get closer to November 10. Like last year, we’ve reserved 25 rooms at the Holiday Inn conveniently located across from the Hyatt, where the Bishops meet. We’re also working on creative ways for people who can’t join us to still be "non-present participating partners" with us in D.C. More on that in the next Alert.

Here’s the information from the website concerning the housing situation at this point:

Holiday Inn Washington DC – On The Hill
415 New Jersey Avenue, NW, WASHINGTON, DC, 20001
Tel: +1 202 638 1616, Fax: +1 202 638 0707
(be sure to let them know you are with SOULFORCE to get the reduced rate)

We encourage you to share rooms whenever possible. (Many of us have had four to a room at past Soulforce events and it’s lots of fun.) If you would like help finding a roommate, e-mail Kara, Soulforce Administrative Coordinator, at kara@soulforce.org.

If you’d prefer less expensive housing, we’ve found these two other possibilities:

William Penn House
515 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 543-5560
dirpennhouse@pennsnet.org
$35/night
Reservations requirements are here:
www.quaker.org/penn-house/lodging.htm

Hostelling International – Washington, DC
1009 11th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 737-2333
reserve@hiwashingtondc.org
$29/night (non AYH members) $26/night (AYH member)
Reservations requirements are listed here:
www.hiwashingtondc.org/reservations.htm

Although we currently do not have a local community housing coordinator in D.C., if you require this accommodation assistance please contact us and we will do our best to arrange something.

Important: If you haven’t already done so, please write your bishop ASAP and send us copies of your letter along with permission to post on the website (or keep confidential).

Lastly, but most especially, remember that we NEVER do this work of justice alone. It is only with spiritual preparation that we can do this. The leadership team is currently reading a book by John Dear, S.J. called "The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience." We recommend it highly. It can be ordered thru the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack, New York: www.forusa.org/About/default.html

Looking forward to seeing, being and "doing justice" with you in D.C.

Kara Speltz
Richard Murphy
Philippe Beaudette
CATHOLIC CO-CHAIRS, 2002

Letter from Andy Tatom, First Christian Church

August 22, 2002

Dr. Mel White
Soulforce
P.O. Box 4467
Laguna Beach, CA 92652

Dear Mel,

Thank you for your letter of July 3, 2002 and for the update of your plans for the October 2002 return of Soulforce to Lynchburg. We are honored to once again offer our hospitality for you and Soulforce to use our facilities at First Christian Church. We felt blessed to have been a part of your Journey to Lynchburg in 1999 and have welcomed the continued opportunities that we have had to join you in ministry.

Your letter did not indicate what kind of activities Soulforce might wish to hold at First Christian Church. As your plans develop, it would be helpful to know what you might be expecting of us and what help we can provide.

The Spirit brought us together in 1999 and our congregation has been blessed by Soulforce in many ways. We supported your efforts to reach out in love to those who disagree with you and to tone down the rhetoric and hateful speech that is all too common in our community. We were impressed with Soulforce’s call to dialogue openly and honestly with those who may view things differently, to refrain from name-calling and hurtful language and to seek understanding. Your commitment to the principals of love and nonviolence is a welcome breath of fresh air that our society truly needs.

May God bless you and guide you as you continue to seek ways to bring this message to a hurting world. I look forward to seeing you in October.

Sincerely,

Andy Tatom
President of the Congregation

cc: Rev. Roger Zimmerman
Mary Weisman, Board of Elders
Jennifer Riddel

Soulforce, Inc. Announces Sixteen Local Groups Nationwide

Grassroots groups take ‘Soul force’ message and tactics to the local level

August 2, 2002

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

(Laguna Beach, CA) – Leaders of Soulforce, Inc. recently announced the existence of a network of local licensed affiliated Soulforce groups all across the United States. The purpose of the local groups is to support and carry out the struggle for justice and equality that Soulforce volunteers are doing nationally, and at the same time, take that struggle for justice to the local level.

Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, announced that already there are 16 licensed affiliated Soulforce local groups active in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

"So much physical and spiritual violence against sexual and gender minorities flows out of the misguided religious teachings heard in local congregations each Sunday," said Mel White, executive director and founder of Soulforce, Inc. "We need to work at all levels to stop the source of misinformation that leads to suffering and death."

All local groups are autonomous; however, members agree to abide by the basic "soul force" principles of non-violent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King and to work relentlessly to apply those principles for the liberation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In the past two years, over 5,000 people have been trained through Soulforce in the principles of nonviolence, and over 500 people have been arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience.

Soulforce, Inc., web pages have been redesigned to include news and updates about each of the licensed local groups, and can be accessed at http://www.soulforce.org/main/localgroups.shtml . Each group must go through a licensure process in order to become a licensed local group.

Soulforce in Oklahoma is currently conducting monthly Sunday morning vigils in front of a Southern Baptist church. Over 95 have participated in these vigils, which started in January after the minister refused to dialogue with Soulforce in Oklahoma leaders

Soulforce South Florida leader, Richard Murphy, conducted a third vigil Easter weekend outside of Coral Ridge Ministries, the church of D. James Kennedy. Kennedy, a leader of the Religious Right, refuses to follow through on a previously made promise to appoint a committee to discuss homosexuality with Soulforce South Florida.

Soulforce Alabama was recently formed to bring truth to Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore, who stated in a recent legal opinion that the state has the power of the sword, which includes confinement and even execution, and should use that power to keep homosexuals from influencing children. Soulforce Alabama sent a letter to Justice Moore requesting a meeting with him. Justice Moore is a Southern Baptist and a friend of D. James Kennedy.

Soulforce Lexington (KY) is conducting ongoing meetings with two Baptist ministers in Lexington. Last summer, a silent prayer vigil was conducted at the church of one of the ministers, and on July 14, 2002, Soulforce in Kentucky stood vigil for nearly five hours outside Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Information on all local groups can be found at www.soulforce.org/article/102

"Every national civil rights movement begins locally," said Karen Weldin, Soulforce, Inc. director of operations and local group coordinator. "Therefore, we must work locally and nationally to stop the violence that is committed against GLBT people in the name of religion. And, we must work relentlessly to insure that the source of misinformation doesn’t go unchallenged!"