Alert #1 to Soulforce Participants at the United Methodist General Conference 2004

Alert 1: March 29, 2004 – Introduction and hotel information

Dear Soulforce Volunteers:

We are so glad that you have decided to join us in Pittsburgh!!!! The trial in Bothell is over and now all of our attention is focused on the General Conference. (For photos and stories of Soulforce’s time in Bothell, for Karen Damman’s trial be sure to check out http://www.soulforce.org/article/23.)

Marylee Fithian and Steve Webster are our two co-chairs for our Methodist Denomination Team as well as this direct action. The Denominational team has been meeting regularly to plan for the events in Pittsburgh for some time now. The Direct Action Team has now joined those conference calls to plan the specifics of our direct action in Pittsburgh, and we’re excited about the plans. You will hear more specific information in future alerts, as plans are further developed.

For those of you needing housing in Pittsburgh, Carolyn Glass is coordinating that. She can be reached at: carolynjglass@hotmail.com

For those who will be staying in hotels, our main hotel will be: the Ramada Plaza Suites & Conference Centers at
One Bigelow Square (downtown), Pittsburgh, PA 15219
The rooms are $109.95/nite for 1-4 people (no breakfast) Deadline for making reservations: April 4, 2004 Reservations: 1 800 225 5858 Group: "Soulforce, Inc." www.plazasuites.com. If you need help in finding roommates, contact Kara@Soulforce.org.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism urged his followers to:

Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.

As Soulforce gathers in Pittsburgh to be with the once-every-four-years United Methodist General Conference, we remind United Methodists and ourselves of the spirit of John Wesley. We come to Pittsburgh celebrating the good which United Methodists did this past week in the Seattle area where a church jury courageously refused to strip the Rev. Karen Dammann of her ordination because she sought to be open and honest about her committed relationship with her partner (now spouse!) and the son they are raising together. We come to Pittsburgh aware that others are angered at this verdict, and will seek to respond by extending and elaborating church laws and teachings that do spiritual violence to God’s LGBT children.

We come to Pittsburgh to actively resist this spiritual violence, meeting this evil with good.

We will review our Soulforce teachings attuning ourselves to the truth force at the center of the universe. We will reject the violence of heart, of tongue and of fist. We will engage in constructive dialogue with allies and adversaries. We will share gifts with those United Methodists doing good for folks in need in Pittsburgh. We will take action, as necessary, to end the spiritual violence the United Methodist Church does to LGBT persons. We will speak the truth in love relentlessly. We will do all the good we can. . . . as long as ever we can.

Steve Webster

Co-Chair, Soulforce United Methodist Denominational Team

Soulforce to ‘Shut Down’ the Church Trial of United Methodist Minister Rev. Karen Dammann in an Act of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience

Trial near Seattle is “Blatant Hypocrisy” and an “Act of Spiritual Violence” against all GLBT people.

Press Release, March 1, 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592 Laura@soulforce.org

(Lynchburg, VA) – On March 17, 2004, in Bothell WA, the United Methodist Church will hold a church trial against Rev. Karen Dammann, an openly lesbian pastor in the Seattle area, who admitted to church leaders that she is in a covenantal relationship with another woman, and they are raising a child together. Rev. Dammann is being charged with violating the United Methodist Book of Discipline because she is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, is planning a nonviolent civil disobedience prior to the start of the trial.

The trial takes place at Bothell United Methodist Church, 18515 92nd NE, in Bothell, WA (near Seattle). Jury selection is scheduled to begin at 9:30am, but Soulforce will be blocking the entrance of the church to prevent jurors and church officials from entering. A press conference and civil disobedience is scheduled to begin at 8:45am in front of the church.

“It is so heartbreaking that the United Methodist Church, my church, is sending a message to the world that, ‘if you are gay or lesbian, and you lie about who you are and who you love, you can serve in silence, but if you tell the truth, we are going to punish you,’” declared Marylee Fithian, co-chair of the Soulforce United Methodist Denominational Team from California. “We feel we have no choice but to try to prevent the trial from taking place.”

Those taking part in the civil disobedience are required to participate in a nonviolence training to be held the night before at 6pm at the IUOE Local 302 Union Hall, 18701 120th Ave. NE, in Bothell. Soulforce emphasizes that it teaches and employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual minorities.

“It is not a crime to admit to being in a committed relationship. It is not a sin to be homosexual. God’s greatest commandment is to “love one another,” said Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, Inc. “We believe that the crime here is being committed by the United Methodist Church, because the church is denying the worth and dignity of Karen Dammann and all of God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.”

Rev. White is available for phone interviews any time, and will be available for in-person interviews in the Seattle area beginning March 12, 2004. Interviews can be arranged by calling 717-278-0592. For more information on Soulforce see www.soulforce.org. For information on the Dammann trial, see www.soulforce.org/denomination/umc/dammanntrial/.