Presbyterian Minister on Trial in Cincinnati: Soulforce Responds with Direct Action and Training April 7-9, to Support Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken and Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church

SOULFORCE Press Release:
Updated March 26, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592

(Cincinnati, March 19, 2003) – The trial of Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, minister of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church (USA), begins on April 8, 2003 in the Cincinnati Presbytery. Soulforce, a national interfaith organization committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will be in Cincinnati April 7-9 to support Rev. Van Kuiken and the congregation of Mount Auburn.

A complaint was filed against Rev. Van Kuiken last year because he publicly stated that he will not abide by the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) constitution’s ordination standard of fidelity in marriage/chastity in singleness, or the denomination’s prohibition against marrying same-gender couples. Charges were then filed by the investigating committee, calling for a trial.

Soulforce received an invitation from Mount Auburn to conduct a nonviolence training and spiritual preparation at the church prior to the trial. Mount Auburn is located at 103 William Howard Taft, in Cincinnati. Soulforce then plans to conduct a silent vigil during the trial, the location of which has not yet been announced by the Presbyterian Church.

"I am deeply honored that Soulforce is standing with me during the trial," said Rev. Van Kuiken. "We have laws in the Presbyterian church that enforce a single, narrow interpretation of the Bible upon the whole church. I must oppose these unjust church laws because they inflict a spiritual violence upon us that intimidates and threatens gay, lesbian and progressive members into silence and secrecy."

An anti-gay member of the PCUSA has filed over twenty complaints against Presbyterians for these reasons all over the country. These are the first complaints to result in a trial.

"Charges were filed against Rev. Van Kuiken for not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in ordination or gender in marriage," said Chris Purdom, a life-long Presbyterian and a supporter of Soulforce. "It is sad and disturbing that the Presbyterian Church would put a minister on trial for treating all the members of his congregation equally."

Soulforce Schedule of events:

Monday, April 7:
* 7:00 pm – Soulforce Nonviolence Training – based on the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 8:
* 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm – Spiritual Renewal and Preparation for Action, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church.
* 4:00 pm – Press conference and Vigil at trial location
* 6:00 pm – Trial Begins Immanuel Presbyterian Church at 3445 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati

Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities, and is asking supporters to join together in Cincinnati to support Rev. Van Kuiken and members of his congregation.

For more information about Soulforce and/or additional details about the trial, see http://www.soulforce.org . Information about Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church can be found athttp://www.mtauburnpresby.org/index.html

Soulforce Statement of Support for Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church

(March 23, 2002) – Soulforce, Inc. commends and affirms the action taken by the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church (USA), Cincinnati, Ohio, and applauds the courage of conviction by the Session (governing body) of the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church as evidenced by the Statement of Dissent and Non-Compliance, passed on February 27, 2002. The Session reaffirmed for the tenth year that "gays and lesbians are part of God’s good creation and that they, no less than heterosexuals, are meant to enjoy God’s gifts of love, joy and intimacy." The Session also issued a Statement on Inclusive Marriage last year on February 28, 2001.

The stand taken by Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church is truly in the spirit of faithful dissent, especially in light of the defeat of Amendment A on February 19, 2002. Charges have been filed against the pastors, Rev. Harold G. Porter and the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken for allegedly defying the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and we stand in solidarity with them.

(Amendment A was a measure to delete a section of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order that states that "those called to office in the church" are required to "live in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness," or can not be ordained as elders, deacons, or ministers. That section will remain in the denomination’s Book of Order.)

The spirit of justice and hope that the actions of the Session of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian display creates a ripple effect that will be felt beyond the walls of the church. The spiritual violence that is committed by the PC (USA) when it denies the sanctity of the call of gays and lesbians and the holiness of relationships is being loudly challenged by Mt. Auburn. Gays and lesbians will be healed and affirmed by this courageous and just act.

The full inclusion of gays and lesbians in church and society will not happen until more ministers like the Rev. Harold G. Porter and the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken take a stand and become faithful dissenters and commit acts of ecclesial and civil disobedience (spiritual obedience).

Again, we applaud the courage and commitment of the Session, the Congregation, and the pastors of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church. We must likewise, stand up and support their stands for justice.

Cincinnati Clergy Letter to the Editor in Support of Rev. Steven Van Kuiken

March 31, 2003

Dear Editor:

In the past year, the congregation of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church (Cincinnati, Ohio), and their pastor, the Reverend Stephen Van Kuiken, have struggled with the Presbyterian Church (USA). On April 8, 2003, the Reverend Van Kuiken will appear in church court to face charges that he violated church law by marrying same sex couples and ordaining practicing gays and lesbians into congregational leadership positions.

As members of a local interfaith clergy association, we have come to know and respect the Reverend Van Kuiken for his intellectual honesty, and deeply held religious convictions. We commend his personal and professional integrity in a time of challenging denominational conflict. We affirm his vision that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of their religious communities.

The role of contemporary clergy is a complex and unique calling. It requires respect for tradition, as well as a vision for the future. One of the clergy’s great responsibilities is to recognize when a vision of a more just and equitable future out weighs traditions of the past. Clergy may be called to take prophetic, controversial positions. As in the Reverend Van Kuiken’s case, this is an act of faith, personal conscience, courage, and extraordinary risk. Change comes when there are those strong enough of mind, heart, and soul to challenge problems.

Thus it is with great respect and admiration that we, the Reverend Van Kuiken’s colleagues, offer him our support and prayers.

Rabbi Robert B. Barr
Reverend Sharon K. Dittmar
Reverend Doris G. Hoskins
Reverend Bonnie Meyer
Reverend Jerry L. Murphy

Soulforce Anti-War Stance

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the principles of non-violence, Soulforce has joined with the ELCA, the National Council of Churches, PAX Christi USA, Sojourners, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and many others in the "Win Without War Coalition."

You can find out more about it at www.winwithoutwarus.org

Read our Peace Statement at www.soulforce.org/article/733

You can read a first hand account of being in Bagdad during the war by clicking on Kara’s Iraqi Diary. Kara is a supporter/volunteer for Soulforce who saw some of the war first hand.

Soulforce Peace Statement

March 20, 2003

The day the war began.

Dear Soulforce Supporters,

This is a grave time for our nation and the world and we mourn the lives that this war will eliminate, the families this war will destroy, and the nations this war will devastate.

No one has any idea how far the ripple effects of this war will reach, and we understand the pain people are feeling, but we need to remain strong and dedicated to peace and nonviolence, especially when confronted with violence and war.

We encourage people to be involved in nonviolent expressions of their conscience, whether it is putting a candle in the window, participating in prayer vigils, or taking part in thoughtful acts of nonviolent resistance.

We pray that these forms of expression do not lead to more violence.

As we seek to make sense of the chaos around us, we hope you can direct the pain in positive ways and focus on working for peace, justice, and equality.

We encourage people to use this as a motivation to become adherents of nonviolence, and to study the works and the words of Gandhi and King, who have taught us that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Peace,

Soulforce