Civil Disobedience and Direct Action Planned May 6-7, 2004 during United Methodist Church General Conference in Pittsburgh, PA

Soulforce Challenges Delegates to “Open Minds, Hearts, and Doors” to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People

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Press Release: April 14, 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592
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(Lynchburg, VA) – The United Methodist Church General Conference opens in Pittsburgh April 27, with over 1000 delegates from around the world responsible for making church policy on a myriad of issues. Homosexuality is one of the most controversial topics to be discussed.

Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, will be present in the final days to challenge delegates to accept gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in to the full life of church. A direct action and non-violent civil disobedience are planned, depending on the actions of the delegates.

“We can not sit idly by and watch as the United Methodist Church degrades, demeans, and destroys the lives of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters,” said Steven Webster, co-chair of the Soulforce United Methodist Denominational Team. “If the delegates refuse any of all of our requests, Soulforce will publicly hold delegates of the UMC accountable in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience.”

In a letter to the delegates (www.soulforce.org/pdf/delegateletter.pdf), Soulforce leaders are requesting that the delegates 1)remove ‘incompatiblity” language from the Social Principles, which states: "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. . . .”, 2) oppose resolutions that would support codifying discrimination against GLBT people in any state or federal legislation or amendment to the Constitution, 3) oppose any effort to discriminateagainst transgender people, and 4) oppose any effort to reverse the Dammann trial decision or punish the Pacific Northwest Conference.

In March 2004, Rev. Karen Dammann, an openly lesbian minister in the Pacific Northwest Conference was acquitted of violating church law, and reactionary forces in the church intend to bring the verdict into question.

“As the second largest protestant denomination in the US, what happens during this General Conference has a tremendous affect on peoples’ lives, not only in the church, but in our society as well,” said Rev. Jimmy Creech, former United Methodist minister and Chair of the Soulforce Board of Directors. “The delegates have a tremendous obligation to redeem the church from past wrongs against GLBT people and live up to the church’s motto of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

For more information on Soulforce, see www.soulforce.org.