Soulforce Releases Video of Bishop Harry Jackson

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 30, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

******************************************

(Friday, May 30, 2008) Today Soulforce posted a video of Bishop Harry Jackson’s closing remarks at a dinner meeting with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families at his Beltsville, Maryland church on May 24, 2008.

"I want to thank you for the spirit in which you have said you were going to operate and in which you have operated thus far," Jackson said to the assembled families.

The conciliatory and grateful tone of the remarks offers a sharp contrast to Jackson’s recent appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network News, where Jackson characterized the families as "irrational," "heathen," and "aggressive."

The meeting was part of a nationwide fellowship outreach called The American Family Outing, which aims to open dialogue by inviting families at six American mega-churches to share a meal and conversation with LGBT and straight-ally families.

Prior to the meeting, a press release from Jackson’s High Impact Leadership Coalition mistakenly suggested that members of The American Family Outing planned to protest outside Hope Christian Church and that Jackson had invited the family members in to "hear the truth of the Gospel."

Jackson’s remarks to the LGBT families clarify the nature of the meeting: "I want to thank you tonight for coming. Again, if you had not invited us originally, if you had not insisted on the dialogue, it never would have happened."

Jackson concluded his remarks by saying "I believe that we have learned quite a bit from this time together."

View Jackson’s complete closing remarks. View the CBN interview.

Speaking to the discrepancy between the two videos, Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director said, "Sometimes, when our interlocutors are in the grip of profound misinformation, they do not treat us with respect and integrity."

"It is tempting to withdraw or become defensive — and yet we persist in our witness. Why? Not because we are naive, but because we believe that, ultimately, no misinformation or slander can obscure the goodness and authenticity of our families and our quest for justice," Schilt continued.

In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston and The Potter’s House in Dallas. In these successful visits, American Family Outing participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship. In weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Birth to Meet with LGBT Families

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 30, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

******************************************

(Atlanta, GA) Steve Parelli is a former Baptist minister. His partner, Jose Ortiz, also studied for the ministry and spent several months as a Southern Baptist lay minister. Since meeting and falling in love at an "ex-gay" support group in Manhattan, the couple has learned a thing or two about faith, family, rejection, and redemption.

And that’s why Parelli and Ortiz are leading a group of gay and lesbian families and clergy who will meet with members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church this Sunday, June 1.

"At some point, at some place, constructive conversations must begin between the church and the gay son or gay daughter who grew up in that church," explained Parelli, who was spurned by his family and lost his ministry upon coming out. Parelli has since found a new calling in supporting LGBT-affirming ministries around the world.

Atlanta-based minister Troy Sanders, founder of Preach2me.com, concurs:

"I have a personal investment in this visit, because my family is in New Birth. And when I say family, I mean both kinds.

"I have biological family who are still caught in the conflict between their theology and having an openly gay clergy person as kin, and I have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters who — for whatever reason — have chosen to make New Birth their church home," Sanders explained.

The visit to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is part of a nationwide fellowship outreach called The American Family Outing, which issued an invitation to Bishop Eddie Long and members of his Lithonia, Georgia, church to share a meal and conversation with LGBT families and clergy.

The American Family Outing (AFO) is a collaborative project of Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The AFO aims to open dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston, The Potter’s House in Dallas, and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD. In these successful visits, American Family Outing participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship.

Parelli and Ortiz also participated in the visit to Hope Christian Church. For Ortiz, who grew up in an evangelical church, it was a homecoming of sorts:

"In the presence of my fellow AFO brothers and sisters, I was able to affirm myself as a child of God created just as God intended, fully belonging to God AS I AM, fellowshipping with God as his gay child," said Ortiz.

In weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.
###

 

 

 

 

 

Washington Blade, "Church’s Gay Rights Debate a ‘Baby Step’ Forward"

Church’s Gay Rights Debate a "Baby Step" Forward

JOSHUA LYNSEN

Friday, May 30, 2008

The National Black Justice Coalition is hailing a local church’s gay rights debate as "a baby step" forward.

Dr. Sylvia Rhue, the organization’s religious affairs director, said the May 24 debate at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., was a valuable meeting between Bishop Harry Jackson and gay rights supporters.

"Bishop Jackson did say that this is the first time that he’s heard such cogent answers to these questions and that he had heard things he’d never heard before," she said. "This is a baby step thing."

The meeting, coordinated by the National Black Justice Coalition and Soulforce, took months to organize.

Soulforce first contacted Hope Christian Church in December to see if local same-sex couples could meet privately with Jackson. Rhue said plans were made so all involved could hold a "civil discourse on common ground."

But in an unexpected twist three days before the meeting, Jackson’s anti-gay High Impact Leadership Coalition issued a press release saying Soulforce had "targeted" the church "for protest and demonstration."

Soulforce responded by calling on Jackson to share a "heart-to-heart" conversation with gay rights supporters, and Rhue said an agreement was reached to hold the meeting along with a debate.

Rhue said about 60 people attended Saturday’s debate, and she and other gay rights supporters returned to the church for Sunday service.

Spring 2009 Catholic Action – Local Leaders

The following cities have signed on to participate in the Catholic action this spring through solidarity actions. Listed below are the email addresses of the local leaders so you can get in direct contact to find out how to participate.

Los Angeles, CA contact Vince at Vince_sfca@soulforce.org
Durham, NC contact Brandy_sfca@soulforce.org
New Haven, CT contact Delfin at Delfin_sfca@soulforce.org
Little Rock, AR contact Lance at Lance_sfca@soulforce.org
Detroit, MI contact Jen at Jen_sfca@soulforce.org
Dallas, TX contact Kelli at kellibusey@yahoo.com
Twin Cities, MN contact Haven at Haven@Soulforce.org
Phoenix, AZ contact Melissa at Melissa_sfca@soulforce.org
Turtle Creek, PA contact Joe at Joe_sfca@soulforce.org
Central Ohio contact Deniray at Deniray_sfca@soulforce.org or Karen at Karen_sfca@soulforce.org
Denver, CO contact Kasper at Kasper_sfca@soulforce.org

People around the country are working in solidarity with the direct action in New York City because this is a conversation that must be had everywhere. Solidarity actions are varied and creative, accomplishing what is necessary in every local context. Some are directing their energy toward local Catholic leaders, some are voicing their support for the declaration directly to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and some are using this as an opportunity to build their local progressive community. Here are some great ideas coming out of solidarity groups:

candle vigils
fasting
petitions, asking local groups and individuals to sign on to the support statement
call-ins to the Archbishop
creating conversations at church
pilgrimages from cathedrals to basilicas
volunteering at Catholic charity organizations
rainbow ribbons
notes in the offering plate
messages tucked into Bibles
and many others

If you would like to work on the local level to express your support for transformation of the Roman Catholic Church and the outreach to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, please contact Katie Higgins at Katie@Soulforce.org to find out more about becoming a local leader.

LGBT Families Share Their Witness with Hope Christian, Bishop Jackson

Dinner Builds a Bridge to Future Dialogue

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 27, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

******************************************

(Washington, D.C.) On Saturday, May 24, a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and straight-ally families shared dinner and conversation with families from Bishop Harry Jackson’s Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

According to The Washington Times, Bishop Jackson, who is known for his opposition to marriage equality and hate crimes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, called the meeting with same-gender-loving families "historic."

Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition and a lead organizer of the meeting said, "We knew that there were distinct theological chasms between Hope Christian and our group of lesbian, gay and bisexual folk, and those differences were not expected to be breached in one meeting. However, the purpose was for Hope Christian church families to get to know our families and see that the commonalities we share are greater that the differences."

The dinner was part of a nationwide fellowship outreach called The American Family Outing, which issued an invitation to Bishop Jackson and members of his Maryland church to share a meal and "heart-to-heart" conversation with LGBT families and clergy.

The initial invitation to fellowship was issued in letters dated December 1, 2007, and March 20, 2008. The letters were released last week in response to a press release from Jackson’s High Impact Leadership Coalition, which mistakenly suggested that members of The American Family Outing planned to protest outside Hope Christian Church. (See links to letters below.)

The event was comprised of about 30 people from Hope Christian Church and about 30 people from The American Family Outing (AFO). The conversation began with opening statements from each group. Then moderators from each group accepted questions from those assembled. Rev. Phil Lawson, Soulforce board member and veteran African American civil rights activist, acted as the moderator for the AFO.

Some of the topics discussed were hate crimes protections, free speech, marriage equality, civil rights, and attitudes toward gay and lesbian sons and daughters who come out in evangelical families and churches such as Hope Christian. Many of the AFO families were able to share their experiences of discrimination and spiritual violence in the one-on-one conversation and the larger forum.

"Where do we go from here?" asked Sylvia Rhue. "There is a mutual agreement to continue the conversation."

The American Family Outing is a collaborative project of Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The AFO aims to open dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston and The Potter’s House in Dallas. In these successful visits, AFO participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship. In weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

To read the full text of the letter dated December 1, 2007, go to: www.soulforce.org/article/1368

To read the full text of the letter dated March 20, 2008, go to: www.soulforce.org/article/1369

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) is an international fellowship of Christian churches with a special ministry to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The National Black Justice Coalition(NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. The Coalition works with our communities and our allies for social justice, equality, and an end to racism and homophobia.

COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy.
###

 

 

 

 

Spring 2009 Catholic Action

St. Peter's photoSPRING 2009 CATHOLIC ACTION

RECAP of our actions at the Vatican’s embassy

In December, 2008, France introduced a Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality at the United Nations Assembly in New York City. The Statement condemned violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  It also condemned killings, executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights noting that in 77 member countries, homosexuality is illegal; 7 countries declaring it punishable by death.

Almost immediately following the Declaration’s introduction, the Vatican issued a statement opposing it and suggesting that it could lead to same gender marriage acceptance. 

In response, Soulforce pulled together a team to confront the Vatican. We sent a letter to the Ambassador’s office asking them, to withdraw its opposition to the Declaration and to meet with us in order to begin a dialogue on the destructive nature of heterosexism.  By late March, Soulforce had negotiated a meeting with two of our representatives with Father Bene, an assistant to Archbishop Migliori, the Ambassador.  Fr. Bene, while friendly, appeared surprised to hear that American gays and lesbians experienced any kind of discrimination.  During the meeting we pressed for a meeting directly with the Ambassador and were told they would get back to us, which they never did.

Our Soulforce team decided to vigil at the Vatican’s embassy in late April.  For two days, the Vatican’s response was to shut down the embassy.  We were told by people in the neighborhood that they had never seen the offices closed down in the middle of the week and were offered no explanation by Vatican officials. 

Several weeks later, as we persisted in trying to meet with the Ambassador we were able to persuade the Ambassador to sit down with our representatives. The meeting was again, cordial and the Ambassador indicated that he would be discussing the Statement with the UN when they meet in Switzerland this summer for their summer sessions. This meeting was significant in that after eight years of trying to negotiate with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church this was the first time we were able to sit down with a high ranking representative of the Vatican. 

Given the years of hostile rhetoric between the Vatican and the LGBT community, we are hopeful about the improvement we have made in helping the Vatican understand the sacredness of LGBT lives.  Soulforce will continue to monitor the situation and will keep people up to date. 

See video footage of April 22, 2009 and April 23, 2009

Please join us this spring in calling on the Vatican to support the safety and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are working to gain support from the Roman Catholic Church for the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The United States, as of Wednesday March 18th, has signed on to the declaration. This is a great shift in U.S. policy, and we hope that you will work with us to continue the focus on the Vatican.

There are many ways to participate, if you are not able to join us in New York City.

Send us your story! We will be delivering the personal testimonies of those who want to share why it matters to them that the Vatican support LGBT by endorsing the UN’s declaration. We will be delivering all our stories to the office in New York City, and we would be honored to include your story. Contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org with your statement.

If you want to join us on the ground in New York City, next week, read details and register here.

Our introductory training will be on Tuesday, April 21 from 8 to 10pm at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, www.spsanyc.org, 263 West 86th Street @ West End Avenue. Subway 86th Street on the 1, B or C line. If you have questions, contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org or 212-203-5774.

You can join the growing group of local leaders organizing solidarity actions where they live. We will work with you to support efforts in your hometown. All are welcome at any experience level. If you are interested in being a local leader or a participant, click here for a list of participating cities, ideas for action and contact information.

You or your organization can also join the campaign by signing onto the following statement of support. Click here for contact information, the text of the statement, and the growing list of supporters.

The background of this campaign:

For the first time ever at the United Nations in December 2008, a statement was heard on the support of equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade began the effort in early 2008 to create U.N.-backed protections for LGBT people. The Netherlands signed on as a co-sponsor on behalf of the European Union, and on December 18, 2008 Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina read out the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, some countries have not yet signed on in support of safety for all. The Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, was among the first to oppose:

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations. For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

Read the official statement on the declaration from the Holy See here.

We have sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against defamatory language regarding LGBT people and work in open and good faith to bring the Vatican toward supporting safety for all humans.

We are inviting you to work with us this spring in solidarity actions across the country and internationally to unite our voices. Based on the idea of pilgrimage, we are looking for local leaders and participants who want to help create conversations about faith and LGBT equality and get active in their community. No experience is required – just the desire to work in solidarity with activists in a localized action with global impact to make justice the standard.

Download the text of the declaration

Read some of the actions and statements of the Roman Catholic Church

With questions or feedback about the campaign, please contact:
Haven Herrin at Haven@Soulforce.org or Kara Speltz at Kara@Soulforce.org

 

Spring 2009 Catholic Action

St. Peter's photoSPRING 2009 CATHOLIC ACTION

UPDATE: See video footage of April 22, 2009 and April 23, 2009

Please join us this spring in calling on the Vatican to support the safety and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are working to gain support from the Roman Catholic Church for the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The United States, as of Wednesday March 18th, has signed on to the declaration. This is a great shift in U.S. policy, and we hope that you will work with us to continue the focus on the Vatican.

There are many ways to participate, if you are not able to join us in New York City.

Send us your story! We will be delivering the personal testimonies of those who want to share why it matters to them that the Vatican support LGBT by endorsing the UN’s declaration. We will be delivering all our stories to the office in New York City, and we would be honored to include your story. Contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org with your statement.

If you want to join us on the ground in New York City, next week, read details and register here.

Our introductory training will be on Tuesday, April 21 from 8 to 10pm at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, www.spsanyc.org, 263 West 86th Street @ West End Avenue. Subway 86th Street on the 1, B or C line. If you have questions, contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org or 212-203-5774.

You can join the growing group of local leaders organizing solidarity actions where they live. We will work with you to support efforts in your hometown. All are welcome at any experience level. If you are interested in being a local leader or a participant, click here for a list of participating cities, ideas for action and contact information.

You or your organization can also join the campaign by signing onto the following statement of support. Click here for contact information, the text of the statement, and the growing list of supporters.

The background of this campaign:

For the first time ever at the United Nations in December 2008, a statement was heard on the support of equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade began the effort in early 2008 to create U.N.-backed protections for LGBT people. The Netherlands signed on as a co-sponsor on behalf of the European Union, and on December 18, 2008 Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina read out the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, some countries have not yet signed on in support of safety for all. The Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, was among the first to oppose:

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations. For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

Read the official statement on the declaration from the Holy See here.

We have sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against defamatory language regarding LGBT people and work in open and good faith to bring the Vatican toward supporting safety for all humans.

We are inviting you to work with us this spring in solidarity actions across the country and internationally to unite our voices. Based on the idea of pilgrimage, we are looking for local leaders and participants who want to help create conversations about faith and LGBT equality and get active in their community. No experience is required – just the desire to work in solidarity with activists in a localized action with global impact to make justice the standard.

Download the text of the declaration

Read some of the actions and statements of the Roman Catholic Church

With questions or feedback about the campaign, please contact:
Haven Herrin at Haven@Soulforce.org or Kara Speltz at Kara@Soulforce.org

 

Spring 2009 Catholic Action – Statement

St. Peter's photoSPRING 2009 CATHOLIC ACTION STATEMENT

The following is a statement to which we are asking individuals and groups to sign on in support. It reflects the spirit and demands of the original letter sent to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations. If you would like to add your or your organization’s name to the list of supporters, or if you have questions, please contact Haven Herrin at Haven@Soulforce.org.

We are reaching out to many individuals and organizations to build solidarity in continuing to call for change from the Roman Catholic Church. At the appropriate time, we will make the list of supporters publicly known. Please let us know if you have any concern regarding the public use of your name.

 

With the recent announcement, that the U.S. will now sign on to the UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, we urgently invite the Vatican to do the same.

We continue to be deeply concerned regarding the Vatican’s lack of support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

First, we call on Archbishop Migliore to work openly and diligently to move the Roman Catholic Church towards endorsing the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Second, we call on Archbishop Migliore to take a personal stand against defamatory and hurtful language from leaders in the Roman Catholic Church that harms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

It is our hope that the Roman Catholic Church will speak, stand, and act for justice and safety for all human beings.

See a list of signers of this statement