Supreme Court Overturns Texas Sodomy Law

Soulforce Expresses Jubilation and Hope for the Future

Soulforce Press Release: June 26, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592

(Lynchburg, VA) – Leaders of Soulforce today express jubilation at the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas overturning Texas’s sodomy law. Until today, it had been illegal in 13 states for same sex couples to engage in certain types of sexual behavior in their own homes.

The Texas case began when police responded to a false report of a weapons disturbance and busted into John Lawrence’s home. Although the police found no weapons, they did find Mr. Lawrence with Tyrone Garner engaged in sex and arrested them both. Texas courts found both men guilty and today’s decision overturns those convictions.

“This is a fantastic day for all people because the Supreme Court has recognized that our government has no place in our bedrooms, nor a right to selectively single out people of minority sexual orientation for criminal punishment,” said Rev. Mel White, founder and director of Soulforce, Inc. “Maybe some churches that alienate and degrade us will see the light after today as well.”

Soulforce, a national interfaith organization dedicated to ending spiritual violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, signed on to an amicus curiae brief filed by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund urging the Court to strike down the Texas law as it did today.

Today decision overturned both the Texas court decision in Lawrence v. Texas and the1986 Supreme Court decision in the Bowers v Hardwick case that upheld Georgia sodomy laws. According to CNN, the late Justice Lewis Powell, the deciding vote in the Bowers decision, later said he probably made a mistake with his decision on that case. Today’s decision corrected that mistake.

“I’m free, I’m free, I am no longer a criminal for who I love, I am free to be who God created me to be,” said Karen Weldin, Soulforce Director of Operations. “I hope this gives people hiding in the closet the sense of freedom and courage to come out and be proud of who they are and who they love.”

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Soulforce Responds to the Report from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals

June 25, 2003

On June 17, 2003, while Soulforce was vigiling in the Phoenix heat outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, a report was released by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals.

The task force was formed in response to a motion at the 2001 SBC annual meeting, requesting the SBC to "establish a task force to inform, educate and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions."

In other words, the task force was formed to figure out how Southern Baptist churches can utilize ex-gay resources to “convert” homosexuals to heterosexuality, while “welcoming” gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people into their churches.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, summed it up when he said, "What we are calling Southern Baptists to do is to practice lifestyle-blind evangelism in the same way we have called upon our denomination to practice color-blind and ethnic-blind evangelism."

To the Southern Baptists leaders, evangelism means conversion to their way of thinking, believing, and being. In this case, they are calling for homosexuals to become heterosexuals, much in the same way they were calling for Jews to become Christian.

And although we believe that Southern Baptists are sincere, they are sincerely wrong.

In the past, Southern Baptist teachings have basically ignored the concept of sexual orientation, and instead concentrated on same-sex attraction and behavior. They throw around the word, “homosexual” and simply ignore the fact that homosexuality is not just an attraction and/or a behavior, but an orientation.

This lack of acknowledgement of a sexual orientation leads Southern Baptists teachings from one untruth to the next, without actually changing their policies about minority sexual orientations, only their approach.

While their new “welcome-convert-and-change-them approach” may seem less spiritually violent than the previous “condemn-malign-and-dismiss-them approach”, it is potentially much more damaging and destructive.

In order for them to implement the “welcome-convert-and-change-them approach,” Southern Baptists churches have to ignore several widely held facts and beliefs from the scientific and religious communities:

  1. Homosexuality is NOT a mental illness.
  2. The real problem lies in society’s refusal to accept GLBT people the way they are and grant equal rights to all people.
  3. Once GLBT individuals have come to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity, many lead healthy, happy lives.
  4. It is entirely possible to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, and be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, etc…
  5. Hate crimes and violence against GLBT people are on the rise, and religious fervor is the incentive for many assailants.
  6. Suicide among gay and lesbian youth is disproportionately high compared to non-gay youth, and many suicide notes left behind blame misguided religious teachings which condemn rather than accept.

Don’t be mislead by their “welcoming” rhetoric.

The effects of this disregard for the evidence can be damaging and destructive. It causes GLBT people to hate God and hate themselves.

Therefore, Soulforce warns and urges all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to stay away from churches that utilize ex-gay resources to condemn homosexuality.

Instead, we encourage all those struggling with their sexual orientation and their loved ones, friends, and family members, to seek out positive guidance from organizations that encourage acceptance, love, and compassion.

Rev. Mel White, Executive Director
Karen Weldin, Director of Operations
Laura Montgomery Rutt, Director of Communications

Resources include:

Soulforce, Inc.
www.soulforce.org

Al-Fatiha – GLBTQ Muslims
www.al-fatiha.net

Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB)
www.wabaptists.org

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
www.bpfna.org

Dignity USA (Catholic)
www.dignityusa.org

Evangelicals Concerned
www.ecwr.org

Interfaith Working Group
www.iwgonline.org

Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries
www.llgm.org

More Light Presbyterians
www.mlp.org

PFLAG – Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
www.pflag.org

That All May Freely Serve
www.tamfs.org

United Church of Christ
www.ucc.org

United Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network
www.rmnetwork.org

What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say about Homosexuality
www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible

World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews
www.glbtjews.org


Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. We teach and employ the nonviolent techniques of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities. www.soulforce.org

Media Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 (media only)

Statement by Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken to Presbytery of Cincinnati – June 16, 2003

Madame Moderator, Members of the Presbytery, Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We are here to decide not just whether I have broken a rule. You are being asked not just whether I have disobeyed the orders of the Permanent Judicial Committee. The real question before you is whether I have acted in obedience to Jesus Christ.

There is a collective wisdom in our Book of Order that we should honor and respect. The authority of our church government needs to be obeyed. However, there are rare circumstances when the decisions of the governing bodies of the church may conflict with the spirit of Christ.

As Presbyterians we always acknowledge this possibility, since we are aware of human depravity and our total reliance upon grace. As good as our rules are, they are not perfect. We know that there will be occasions when our rules inevitably conflict with the word of God. For the ultimate jurisdiction is Christ, and Christ alone.

If it is possible that I am following the call of Christ in my heart, then I have not renounced the jurisdiction of the Church. Indeed, I would be following the Church’s highest authority.

This is a very sad day. I grieve for my congregation, for this Presbytery and for our denomination. I wish that I were not here before you, and many of you do not want to be here, as well. We are caught up in something much larger than ourselves. This is not just about a pastor not following a rule. This is about a deep theological division in our church, a division with which we have been struggling for years. Simple majority votes have not resolved the issue of homosexuality and biblical interpretation. We need to acknowledge this.

It is an amazing contrast that earlier last week the Episcopal Church elected its first openly gay bishop and Canada now legally recognizes same-sex marriages! How can we say that this issue is settled?

Judicial and administrative actions such as the one before us tonight are premature. For this issue is far from settled in our church. Instead, these punitive actions will only exacerbate our pain and open the wounds in our body even more. Clearly, this is one example of when "the letter of the law kills." Tonight I urge us to seek the "spirit, which gives life."

The Presbyterian Church is caught in a terrible bind. Many, if not most, of its members believe that homosexuality per se is not sinful. But it is saddled with unjust laws that are based on the false premise that homosexuality is sinful. The Presbyterian Church is faced with enforcing laws it doesn’t wholeheartedly believe or want.

Because of this, the PC (USA) has settled on the unofficial practice of "don’t ask, don’t tell." And it appears that my offense is not what I have done; holy unions that are the same as marriages are being done all the time. No, it appears that my offense and the offense of my congregation is that we simply have been open and honest about what we have done. I am here because I’ve freely told others what I’ve done.

Some will view this as arrogance, an intentional flouting of the law. I assure you this is not the case. I have suffered greatly in all this, as have my family and congregation. I do not welcome an uncertain and harsh future. But for me, this is a matter of honor and integrity. I would feel dishonest not to tell. I really do believe that we should be truthful and let our "yes" be yes and our "no" be no, even if that should put us at personal risk.

Many of us in the church have found that we can’t live any other way. "Don’t ask, don’t tell" is a crushing, suffocating weight upon us. If I kept my actions secret simply to stay out of trouble, I would find it difficult to face myself in the mirror. To me, hiding these actions would be a form of lying, a sin of omission, that I could not bear.

Some have said that I have only brought this upon myself by being open about my actions and that I am disrupting the peace and unity of the church. But the peace from an imposed silence is false and superficial.

Performing same-sex Christian Marriage services is only our attempt to be truthful. This Presbytery’s PJC told me that we should be satisfied with holy unions for same-sex couples. However, according to the Benton decision of the General Assembly’s PJC in 2000, both same-sex marriage and holy unions that are considered to be the equivalent of marriage are prohibited. Currently in the PC (USA) holy unions are not only second-class, they aren’t even in the same league as Christian marriage. With Benton the Presbyterian Church told gay and lesbian members to "get to the back of the bus."

If we are honest, even if we were to use the term "holy union" for our ceremonies, we would still be in violation of church law, because we consider them to be the equivalent of a marriage ceremony. The issue has not been about just what we call our same-sex ceremonies. It is what we believe them to be and how we communicate this belief.

We at Mt. Auburn Church have always seen same-sex ceremonies as the same or the equivalent as marriage. Years before our "Statement on Inclusive Marriage," our practice, initiated by the former pastor, was not to distinguish between holy unions and marriages but list them all together in the Session minutes under the single category of "marital unions." We have always seen them as essentially the same, and this is why we cannot pretend to do the kind of holy unions that are allowed by Benton.

In Benton it says,

If a same sex ceremony were considered to the equivalent of a marriage ceremony between two persons of the same sex, it would be sanctioned under the Book of Order.

…it would not be proper for a minister of the Word and Sacrament to perform a same sex ceremony that the minister determines to be the same as a marriage ceremony.

But it would simply be dishonest to say that we don’t view them as the same. The PJC of Cincinnati ordered me to pretend that the two ceremonies are not the same. I can’t do that.

The Benton decision is explicitly based upon the premise that homosexual practice is sinful. Any ceremonies or pastoral care that we offer out of this context is shallow and damaging. In my heart, it would be contrary to the spirit of Christ. I quote again from the decision:

Such a same sex ceremony does not bless any specific act, and this decision should not be construed as an endorsement of homosexual conjugal practice proscribed by the General Assembly.

We have always considered these services to be equivalent of Christian marriage in every important way, including the blessing of sexual intimacy between the couple. Again, the primary issue before us is the ability and desire to be open and honest. We cannot hide the fact that when we do same-sex ceremonies, all the parties involved — the pastor, the couple and the Session — understand that we are celebrating Christian marriage.

The Benton decision states that there needs to be a theological and liturgical distinction between same-sex ceremonies and services of Christian marriage and one cannot confuse the two. It says,

Ministers should not appropriate specific liturgical forms from services of Christian marriage… in the conduct of such ceremonies.

But when we do same-sex ceremonies the liturgy is identical with that of Christian marriage — the same vows, the same exchange of rings, the same pronouncement. And so our congregation issued its "Statement on Inclusive Marriage" as a direct response to Benton and in an effort to be clear about what we believe these services to be.

Today, I am facing the removal of my ordination because I have implemented this policy of my congregation and performed Christian marriages my Session has approved. I am faithfully fulfilling my role as their Pastor.

When it comes to marriages, I am more strict that most of my colleagues. I usually only do them for active members, since I insist that a Christian faith commitment be evident. I require several premarital counseling sessions, using a professional inventory, which I became certified to administer. I take this pastoral role very seriously. I’m actually quite old-fashioned in this regard. I believe that sexual intimacy should occur within the covenant of marriage and that the bond of matrimony is something that couples need for the health of their relationship. As a pastor, I discourage casual cohabitation, and I encourage faithful, committed, permanent relationships. And as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, I have an obligation to declare, celebrate, proclaim and bless these same-sex relationships as Christian marriages.

Again, the issue before us is much larger than whether a single pastor has disobeyed a rule. It is about whether there is room in the Presbyterian Church for interpretations of the Bible that do not regard the practice of homosexuality as sinful.

From a biblical perspective, if we can ordain women, we can marry same-sex couples. It is exactly the same process of interpretation; it is the same logic. The Bible clearly says that women are not to teach or have authority over men, and in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 an elder "must be the husband of one wife," an elder must be male. When the Presbyterian Church decided to move beyond the literal level of those passages and ordain women, it didn’t call that ordination by a different name. It didn’t use a second-class ceremony.

What happened? The words of the Bible didn’t change, but our understanding of the world and women changed the way we interpret those words. Women were considered less than men. They had lower status and derived their identity from the male to whom they were attached. They were the property, the possession of the man. They were second-class. But that view has changed and so has our biblical interpretation.

In the same way, the Bible refers to marriage as something between a man and woman, and many feel it is time to move beyond the literal level of those verses. Just as women were considered second-class, so were same-sex relationships. There is a growing understanding today that the love between two women or two men can be just as real, just as true, just as good as the love between a man and a woman. It is not second-class, but it is fully blessed by God.

As a Christian, as a Pastor, as a Presbyterian, I pray for the freedom to proclaim this.

Stephen Van Kuiken (allotted 10 minutes to speak)
June 16, 2003

Presbyterian Minister Faces Punishment by Cincinnati Presbytery on Monday, June 16, 2003

Soulforce Supporters will stand vigil outside meeting in support of Rev. Van Kuiken who faces possible defrocking and expulsion for performing same-sex marriage ceremonies

Soulforce Press Release, June 13, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:soulforcemedia@aol.com

Cincinnati – On Monday, June 16, Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, minister of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, faces possible defrocking and expulsion from the Presbyterian Church (USA) for performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.

A special meeting of the Cincinnati Presbytery has been scheduled for Monday, June 16 at 7pm at Lakeside Presbyterian Church, 2690 Dixie Highway in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. The purpose of the meeting is to act and vote on the Committee on Ministry’s recommendation to “presume the Rev. A. Stephen Van Kuiken’s renunciation of jurisdiction." This recommendation is based on the fact that Rev. Van Kuiken was found guilty of having “performed and/or condoned and facilitated the performance by others of same-sex marriage ceremonies at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church.”

"This meeting is not a judicial proceeding, and it circumvents the due process afforded by the church courts,” declared Rev. Van Kuiken. "I am facing removal because I have simply implemented my congregation’s policy and performed marriages our Session has approved. I feel I have done nothing wrong, and I believe I am being obedient to the teachings of Jesus. "

In April, Rev Van Kuiken was put on trial for performing a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple. As a result of the trial, he was rebuked and directed to “perform marriage ceremonies only for a man and a woman.” He recently performed another marriage ceremony despite this order, with the approval of his church’s governing body (Session).

“Even if we called a marriage ceremony a ‘holy union’, we would still be in violation. The church says that we are not even allowed to consider it equivalent to marriage, and we do,” continued Van Kuiken.

Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, stood vigil outside the trial in April in support of Rev. Van Kuiken. Soulforce representatives will also be present at Lakeside Presbyterian Church on Monday to vigil in support of Rev. Van Kuiken, beginning at 6pm.

After the meeting at Lakeside Presbyterian, Rev. Van Kuiken will move outside to make a statement and will be available to press for questions and answers. Additionally, members of Soulforce and That All May Freely Serve, an organization which advocates for equal rights for GLBT people in the Presbyterian Church, will be available for additional comments.

“We are trying to shed light on an issue the Presbyterian Church would rather keep in the dark – because we know that we are all equal in the eyes of God, even if the church hasn’t come to terms with it yet,” said Bill Carpenter, Soulforce Rapid Response Team Coordinator.

Soulforce is encouraging members of press and those in other denominations to come and be witness to this meeting, which has national implications in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Phoenix Clergy, Gay Southern Baptists, and Soulforce to Hold Press Conference Outside Southern Baptist Convention – Monday, June 16, 2003 at 6:00PM

Booklet to be released comparing quotes by Southern Baptist leaders to anti-gay minister Fred Phelps

Soulforce Press Release, 06/11/03
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:soulforcemedia@aol.com

(Phoenix, AZ) – For the fourth year in a row, Soulforce, Inc. will be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting trying to dialogue with SBC messengers, handing out educational materials, and giving Southern Baptists the opportunity to meet out and proud gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) persons. Also present will be members of “No Longer Silent”, allies and ministers from the Phoenix area, and dozens of pro-GLBT supporters from all across the United States.

Soulforce, Inc. is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meetings in Orlando in 2000, New Orleans in 2001, and St. Louis in 2002. This year’s SBC annual meeting is being held at the Convention Center in downtown Phoenix.

WHAT: PRESS CONFERENCE

WHO: Representatives from SOUFORCE, NO LONGER SILENT, P-FLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and COMMUNITY CHURCH OF HOPE, as well as Gay and Lesbian Southern Baptists and others.

WHEN: MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2003 at 6pm

WHERE: AT THE PHOENIX CONVENTION CENTER at 3rd and MONROE

WHY: To promote a PRO-GAY RELIGIOUS MESSSAGE to counter the Southern Baptist anti-gay rhetoric and release plans for the protests and vigils.

Soulforce will also be releasing a booklet entitled, “Southern Baptists may not say ‘God Hates Fags’, but the Effect is the Same,” comparing quotes by Southern Baptist leaders to anti-gay minister Fred Phelps, best known for his pickets at funerals of hate crime victim Matthew Shephard and casualties of AIDS.

Also on Monday, June 16, beginning at 6:30pm, a training in nonviolence based on the principles of Gandhi and King will be held at the Days Inn, 3333 Van Buren in Phoenix. Those planning to participate in the vigils are required to participate in the training designed to “bring truth and justice” to the Southern Baptists.

Vigils will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, June 17-18 in front of the Convention Center starting at 8:15am, where gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally Soulforce volunteers will greet Southern Baptists. Soulforce is encouraging Southern Baptists to take the time to talk with Soulforce supporters.

MEDIA VISUALS: The press conference will provide visuals of pro-gay banners, clergy, and protesters in pro-gay T-shirts, standing in front of the Convention Center, where the anti-gay Southern Baptist Convention’s meeting begins the next day.

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.