Lutheran Church Keeps its Promise to Gays and Lesbians to Issue Final Report on Study on Homosexuality in 2005 – Will Also Continue Relationship with Episcopal Church

Soulforce and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation conducted vigils and leafleting during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to help educate voting members

Press Release: August 16, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org

(Milwaukee, WI) – On the final afternoon session of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly, voting members rejected an amendment to a memorial that would have delayed the final report of a churchwide study on homosexuality. The Assembly voted in 2001 to set up a taskforce to enable churches to study the issue of homosexuality, and issue a final report in 2005.

Some members of the church had tried to delay the final report, which would have further postponed the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church. Several ordained ministers have lost their credentials because they have refused to abide by the church’s requirement of celibacy for gay and lesbian ministers.

“We are glad that the church has kept its promise to us. Now we only have two more years to have our lives studied and debated,” stated Greg Egertson, Co-Chair of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries. "However, then the church can move on and fully embrace us for who we are and who God called us to be, as full participants in the ELCA without requiring us to take a vow of celibacy or lie about our relationships.”

Additionally, voting members committed to continuing the relationship with the Episcopal Church, despite efforts by a minority to break that relationship because the Episcopal Church recently installed Gene Robertson as a bishop. Robinson is an openly gay man living in a committed relationship with another man.

The request for Soulforce to be at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly was made by the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, which includes five member organizations: Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, the Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision, Lutherans Concerned/North America, and Wingspan Ministries.

Soulforce and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, were prepared to conduct a respectful and peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience if the Assembly had voted to delay the study.

“What a difference two years makes, so many people stopped and hugged us and thanked us for caring and being at the Assembly!” declared Karen Weldin, Director of Operations for Soulforce. “What we set out to do from the beginning was accomplished – simply hold the church accountable for its promise to us. However, we were prepared in case they didn’t.”

Soulforce is known for nonviolent direct actions during the denominational meetings of many of America’s largest denominations, such as Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA) and more. In the past 3 years, thousands have been trained in nonviolence, and over 500 have been arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.

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 Report August 13, 2003 from ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee

Greetings from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee!

August 13, 2003

The past three days have been busy and empowering.

The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation develops daily flyers that we hand out each morning. Hundreds of Lutherans stop and thank us for our presence, look at our blown-up photos of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans who have been ostracized by the church.

We have given out hundreds of Soulforce crosses, and buttons, and rainbow sashes, that are our symbols for this direct action.

It is amazing to see hundreds of Lutherans walking in and out of the Churchwide Assembly with one of the several symbols of support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutherans.

Remember, the reason we are here is to be a presence at the Assembly at the request of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation. It is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005. A delay will postpone the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

Here is a paragraph or two from today’s flyer:

"As you look at the pictures of the children, remember that each child pictured is now an LGBT adult who dearly claims the gift of God’s grace received through baptism. Some of these grown-up children and other adults pictured are fortunate enough to experience love of family and congregations that have received them unconditionally. Some LGBT persons, pictured or not, love and are loved through strong family bonds of joy of a committed relationship. Sadly, others have been discarded by their families and denounced by their Lutheran congregational homes. Some, but far too few, who have been rejected by their Lutheran families or congregations, have eventually found other spiritual homes where they are valued as persons of faith. All who have heard the call to ministry have been deemed unworthy to honor those calls if they choose to live in a committed relationship that is not kept ‘invisible’.

"As you study, discuss, and debate the memorials and resolutions that are brought before this Assembly, let us also invite the Spirit of our God to give us the courage to act boldly now. Avoidance and delay may appear to preserve the image of church unity, but unless we can honestly work through our conflicts trusting that we will be guided by the Spirit, our unity is but an idolatrous illusion that perpetuates the exile and pain of so many of our sisters and brother in Christ."

This is but a snippet of the flyer we have been handing out. It is a powerful witness, and the ELCA Assembly has allowed us to stand in the walkways from the Hyatt and the Hilton.

We have been welcomed, and embraced.

Tomorrow, we will be on the skywalks and street corner handing out tomorrow’s pamphlet, In the evening, we will hold our nonviolent direct action training.

We still don’t know what the Assembly will decide to do regarding the timeline of the Study on Homosexuality, but we are prepared. It is anticipated that the vote will be Friday afternoon.

Each day, more and more Soulforce people arrive, and more and more Lutherans join with us and thank us for our presence.

Keep us in your thoughts and/or prayers as we go into the weekend with expectations of positive outcomes.

And thank you for your support of the work that Soulforce continues to do to change hearts and minds and end spiritual violence committed by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Love and Peace,

Karen Weldin
Director of Operations

Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications

Soulforce Report August 15, 2003 from ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee

Soulforce Greetings – Friday, August 15, 2003 from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee!

These past two days have been exciting, and at times challenging. For the most part, we have been welcomed and embraced, both literally and figuratively!

No matter how long we vigil, it is still amazing to see hundreds of Lutherans walking in and out of the Churchwide Assembly, reading our flyers and wearing our rainbow scarves, day after day, in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutherans.

Yesterday and today, however, we were joined outside by some people from Wisconsin Christians United, the very same group that showed up in Lynchburg at Out and About last year. They still have the same old tired sign that says, "Homosexuality is a sin."

We are pleased to say, that most Lutherans walked right past their sign without acknowledging it, and accepted our literature, smiled, and said, "Thank you for being here!"

Today, inside the assembly, it was originally anticipated that there would be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005. Our coalition stands together firmly against the delay, which will postpone the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church. This attempt to vote on a delay didn’t take place today.

During the sessions, we were standing in the back of the assembly hall, ready for a respectful and nonviolent action if the motion to delay was passed, however, our best information tells us that this motion got mired in a parliamentary procedure that doesn’t seem to have an easy solution.

So for now, we are sitting back, praying that we will not have to carry out an action, hoping that the Churchwide Assembly will decide to keep their promise and stick to the current timeline. In the words of the great Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Justice too long delayed is justice denied." We certainly agree!

A delay would be seen not only as a breech of trust, but as perpetuating a policy that hurts people and ruins lives by requiring gay and lesbian ministers to be celibate or lie about their relationships.

So, keep us in your thoughts and/or prayers on Saturday, as we try to make sense of what is going to happen. We pray that the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will do the right thing, and keep the promise it made in 2001 to report on the study in 2005 – at the Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Florida.

Regardless of what happens here, we will be supporting the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation in 2005 in Orlando.

And again, thank you for your support of the work that Soulforce continues to do to empower the oppressed, change hearts and minds, and end spiritual violence committed by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Peace be with you,

Karen Weldin
Director of Operations

Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications

THANK YOU for your support!

Nonviolence Direct Actions Take Place this Week in Milwaukee to Support Gay and Lesbian Lutherans

Soulforce and Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation to conduct Vigils, Leafleting, and Nonviolence Trainings during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 11-17 in Milwaukee

***************************************************
Press Release: August 11, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org
****************************************************

(Lynchburg, VA) – Soulforce is in Milwaukee this week at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly (August 11-17) at the request of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, to be a visible presence at the Assembly. The Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation includes Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, the Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision, Lutherans Concerned/North America, and Wingspan Ministries.

The request for Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, to be a visible presence at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly was made because it is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005. A delay will postpone the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

"Delaying the final report in an attempt to avoid conflict and decision-making for fear of ‘splitting the church’ denies the promise that God will be with us in all that we do," declared Dr. Mari Irvin, Co-Chair of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Soulforce Co-Chair for this event.

Soulforce is known for nonviolent direct actions during the denominational meetings of many of America’s mainstream denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic, and more.

WHO: Soulforce and Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation

WHAT: Vigils, Leafleting, and Nonviolence training

WHEN and WHERE:

* Leafleting and Vigils are taking place throughout the week at the Midwest Express Center, 400 West Wisconsin Avenue.

* Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Training will take place Thursday, August 14, at 7pm at Calvary Presbyterian, 935 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee.

WHY: It is thought that there may be an attempt to delay the final report of the study on homosexuality scheduled to be released in 2005, thereby postponing the decision on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians into the full ministry of the church.

“For us, the debate is over. We know God loves GLBT people just the way they are,” said Rev. Mel White, Founder and Executive Director of Soulforce, Inc. “Delaying even one more day is not acceptable to us. We believe it is time the ELCA recognizes that gay and lesbian Lutherans bring awesome gifts and talents to the church and deserve the capability to share their gifts and participate fully in the life of the church.”

Media are encouraged to attend the Civil Disobedience Training, please RVSP to 717-278-0592

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, Inc. Issues Policy Statement on Civil Marriage in Light of Comments by Religious and Political Leaders

MARRIAGE IS A CIVIL RIGHT

Soulforce, Inc. Policy Statement on Civil Marriage

August 1, 2003

Since the day the Supreme Court released its decision on the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case that decriminalized private sexual activity between consenting adults, the debate has turned to civil marriage.

Soulforce, Inc. strongly supports the civil rights of all people, including but not limited to the right to choose whether or not to voluntarily enter into civil contracts with one another.

Civil marriage is a civil contract between two people, who promise to honor, respect, and care for one another until death. This contract affords over 1000 government benefits to those who enter into it. Some people have the ability to choose this form of contract, others do not, because the United States government sanctions discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people when issuing civil contracts that we call "marriage."

Additionally, when this commitment between two people takes on religious connotations, we also call it "marriage," however it then becomes a religious ritual.

Soulforce also supports religious liberty, which guarantees people the right to choose their religion, and to choose a religion that honors their choices and decisions.

We do, however, look forward to the day when no one will choose a religion that discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Soulforce also supports the separation of church and state, a Constitutional principle based on the balance between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

Statements by religious leaders or politicians that are intended to entangle church and state, to blur the distinction between civil and religious marriage, and to deny equal rights to anyone based on the gender, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity are an insult and an injustice to America.

We strongly urge all elected officials and religious leaders to uphold the Constitution, honor the Supreme Court, support Freedom of Religion, by granting civil marriage to consenting adults regardless of sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, and to work to guarantee the ideals of Equality, Justice and Freedom for All.

# # #

Soulforce a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people. We teach and apply the nonviolent principles of M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King to the liberation of gender and sexual minorities.

For more information, see www.soulforce.org

Media Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt

717-278-0592 (media only)