May 7, 2003
Dr. Jack Graham
President, Southern Baptist Convention
% Prestonwood Baptist Church
6801 W. Park
Plano, Texas 75093
Dear Dr. Graham,
Soulforce volunteers from across Arizona and around the nation will be gathering on Sunday afternoon, June 15, to begin training for yet another nonviolent response to the anti-homosexual words and actions of the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptist influence continues to wreak grave injustice and spiritual harm to multiplied thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender peoples, sons, daughters, moms, and dads, and extended family members and friends. This seems so out of character to the historic Baptist commitment to world missions, and to the compassion I know you have for the precious souls of our people. So, I’m appealing to you to meet with me, and several concerned Baptists, and have a conversation about our differences. My great hope and fervent prayer is that such a gathering will preclude the need for any direct action at all.
Dr. Graham, I am fully committed to your First Amendment Right to gather with other Baptists and to speak freely and passionately. Indeed, I will do what I can to protect that very right, a basic principle of our constitutional way of life. Yet, I believe we agree, as Christian brothers, that we share a common stewardship for our decisions and behaviors. Words and actions often carry serious and tragic consequences. I’m proposing that we respect our sincere differences, bury the hatchet, and work together seriously and prayerfully to model the best in Christ-like relationships and behavior for the world to see. What a difference we could make, and God only knows the lives who could be redeemed!
Last week, I was stunned to learn that fellowship was being withdrawn from a Southern Baptist congregation because they baptized two gay men. Could that be true? Has it come to this? Isn’t it time to consider embarking on a bold new dialogue between us? Would you consider asking a small group of Baptist leaders to meet with us in Phoenix sometime between Sunday, June 15, and Wednesday, June 18? I know, talk often seems futile, and yet, according to Gandhi’s "soul force" principles, "to give up on your adversaries is an act of violence against them." We need to talk. Let’s not give up on one another.
For four years Soulforce volunteers, including many Baptists, have gathered at your Annual Meetings to plead with you to dialogue with us. We conducted nonviolent direct actions in Orlando (2000), New Orleans (2001), and St. Louis (2002). We distributed thousands of "Why We Vigil" pamphlets to your Messengers and to the general public. We held press conferences about Baptist teachings and actions, forewarning the Messengers and the public of their tragic consequences. We stood silent vigil in all three cities. Many godly men and women, parents, and entire families have been arrested simply trying to tell their stories to you. We’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars in fines, served time in local jails, and even sacrificed our careers, all to help you understand the tragic consequences of your harmful influence and confusing testimony.
Southern Baptist leaders can help us end this cycle of anger, hurt and misunderstanding by giving us a serious chance to tell our stories, to prayerfully listen to your concerns, and to move toward resolution. Will you pray with me about this, and then arrange a time for us to meet?