Anti-Heterosexism Conference Hotel

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy


Crowne Plaza Hotel, The Place to Meet!
1601 Belvedere Rd
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Tel: 888 689 6892
Fax: 561 683 7150

Complimentary high speed wireless internet in guest rooms, complimentary self parking, and complimentary airport shuttle to and from PBI. Hot Breakfast Buffet $10 (regularly $19) and Continental Breakfast Buffet $5 (regularly $16)

Guest Rooms (King or Double): $79 + 11.5% tax = $88.09/night
Suite (King Only): $89 + 11.5% tax = $99.24/night
These rates available 11/18/09 thru 11/23/09
To make reservations: Call 877-701-9250 with group name SOULFORCE


Main Page Register


Why in the world would we put "ANTI" in the title of our conference?

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy

Why in the world would we put "ANTI" in the title of our conference?


Jeff Lutes

A special note from the Executive Director

Let’s All Be "Anti" So No One Else Ever Has To Be "Ex"

On August 5, 2009, a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.

Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of "change") has any credibility.

In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is "Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?" The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.

Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.

When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?

I believe "change", "repair", and "conversion" are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people.

But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be "anti" so that no one ever again has to be "ex." Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become "ex-gay" in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.

So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Beyond Ex-Gay, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins August 20 and continues through November 5.

It’s our moral obligation to be "anti" and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.

Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!

- Jeff Lutes, MS, LPC
P.S. For a little pre-conference reading, please click here, then click on our special link, and search for Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect, by Marvin M. Ellison and Judith Plaskow. By following this link, Soulforce will earn Soulforce 4-8% of the total amount of your purchase. Thanks and see you at the conference!


Main Page Register


Sundays of Solidarity

Sundays of Solidarity:  How Soulforce Celebrated Stonewall

On Sunday, June 28, Jeff Lutes (Executive Director of Soulforce) and two of his three children met with John Hagee and his wife, Diane, after the 11am worship service at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Jodie Eldridge (Executive Director of Atticus Circle) was also in attendance, along with a few other members of the Hagee family and church staff.

In the roughly thirty minute meeting, Lutes shared his concerns about the way in which Hagee and others falsely claim that LGBTQ people are a danger to children, marriage, and society, and explained the damage such rhetoric can cause to the lives of LGBTQ people and their families. Hagee listened, said that he was moved by the gracious tone of Lutes’s June 4 letter, and asked Lutes to serve as his point of contact to the LGBTQ community in the future. Both sides listened respectfully as the other shared stories and personal experiences.

Lutes asked Hagee to consider an ongoing series of conversations about this topic within a yet-to-be-determined framework. Hagee agreed to this possibility and asked Lutes to email a proposed format for such continued dialogue. The differences between us were clear and transparent; yet the courage to have this conversation also produced a connection based on our common humanity.

Click here to see photos of Sunday’s action

Hagee Action

Meanwhile, a delegation of approximately sixty LGBTQ people and their straight allies conversed at a reception with dozens of Cornerstone pastors and leaders in the church’s chapel. Soulforce and Atticus Circle delegates looked for common ground while letting Cornerstone leaders know why LGBTQ equality is so important.

Cornerstone Church is one of the largest single congregrations in Texas and John Hagee has been named one of the country’s most influential religious leaders. Coverage from the event included this San Antonio Express-News article, looking at both parties’ views on how the conversations went; this WOAI-AM article, which called the meeting "historic," and this Austin American-Statesman article from Saturday, previewing the meeting.

This visit to Cornerstone marks the launch of Sundays of Solidarity, a joint program of Soulforce and Atticus Circle that encourages groups of LGBTQ and allied people around the country to train themselves in nonviolent direct action and communication, and then attend worship services and seek conversation with leaders at a church of their choice – a church that is not welcoming and affirming of openly LGBTQ members and guests.

Washington Times, "Christians, Gays, Not of One Accord"

Christians, Gays, Not of One Accord

Julie Duin

It was a meeting of opposites: 30 conservative black Pentecostals from Hope Christian Church in Beltsville dining with 30 activists from Soulforce, a pro-gay religious group.

While there was no rancor or overt anger, there also was no meeting of minds. After nearly 90 minutes of debate Saturday night, no one on either side of the question of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality would admit to changing their minds.

"It was noncombative, nonpunitive dialogue," said the Rev. Troy Sanders, a gay black pastor from Atlanta who was one of the Soulforce speakers. Soulforce members queried after the dinner said they were pleased with their reception, and several said they would attend Hope Christian’s Sunday service.

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of the 3,000-member church, acknowledged the evening was "historic" but made no promises about any changes in teaching or policy. "We’ll have to pray about discrimination issues in the gay community," he said.

Soulforce has targeted six megachurches with its gospel of "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual and all transgender people," and Hope Christian was their third stop on a six-week nationwide tour called the "American Family Outing," Soulforce’s campaign to showcase gay couples with their children.

On Dec. 1, Soulforce leaders contacted Bishop Jackson, asking for a "dialogue on homosexuality and Christianity."

"Even though we disagree on the Bible," said Jeff Lutes, Soulforce’s executive director, "we can relate about our kids. We’re trying to reach out across that divide, make a connection and see what happens from that. Typically, fear goes down when people make connections."

Soulforce got a chilly reception May 18 from the Rev. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston; He refused to meet with the group. The reception was better May 11 with the Rev. T.D. Jakes and members of the Potter’s House Church in Dallas. Coming visits include the Rev. Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

Bishop Jackson was chosen because of his high profile among the religious right. He heads the High Impact Leadership Coalition of conservative black church leaders, instigated the 2005 "Black Contract with America on Moral Values" and co-authored the recent book "Personal Faith, Public Policy."

The Beltsville church hosted Soulforce at a dinner Saturday night, along with a debate in which each side asked the other eight questions. The church posed queries such as "Why do you think gay marriage is sanctioned by God?" and "Why do you think pastors who preach against gay rights are bigots?"

Soulforce questions included "If your child came out to you, how would you want your child to be treated?" and "What programs do you have in place for same-gender-loving couples?"

"We have no programs," Bishop Jackson quickly responded. Rather, they use the services of the ex-gay group Exodus International because homosexuals "need ministry," he said.

That comment did not go over well, judging by the stony looks on the faces of Soulforce attendees.

The bishop acknowledged he was suspicious when Soulforce first wrote him to say they were showing up, uninvited.

"Some of the history of your organization has confrontation with it," he said. "I have been threatened with physical harm by people who are openly gay."

Soulforce representatives got incensed at one question that mentioned survey data on the relative wealth of the gay community and asked why homosexuals "have hijacked the civil rights movement."

Michelle Freeman, a Houston resident attending the dinner with her lesbian lover, informed the group they could not marry, nor get tax breaks, "so in the eyes of the law, we are not equal," she added. Homosexuality "is not a choice, it’s biology. So it’s a civil rights violation."

Dallas Morning News, "Gay Rights Group Visits the Potter’s House"

Gay rights group visits the Potter’s House

Saturday, May 24, 2008
By Sam Hodges

Dallas megachurch the Potter’s House had the welcome mat in place last Sunday for a visiting gay rights delegation but didn’t give ground on such issues as gay marriage.

"We were treated very well," said Jeff Lutes, executive director of Soulforce, a national group that pushes for full inclusion of gay people in churches.

"I think it was an important first step."

Soulforce and three other groups with a gay rights focus have had members visiting prominent megachurches, including Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, in a campaign called the American Family Outing.

A 30-person contingent, consisting in part of gay couples with children, attended the 11 a.m. service at the Potter’s House, a 30,000-member congregation.

"They seated us on the third row, and there were no questions or issues around the fact that some of us were clearly couples," said Deneen Robinson, an elder in Living Faith Covenant Church, a predominantly black church in Dallas that is "welcoming and affirming" to gay people.

After the service, some of the visitors met with staff of the Potter’s House. Bishop T.D. Jakes, the well-known founder and pastor of the church, was recovering from back surgery and did not attend. But he did call Mr. Lutes.

"Bishop Jakes responded favorably to our request for ongoing conversation," Mr. Lutes said.

Both sides agree that they have differences, including on gay marriage.

"Our theology is based on the Bible, and in the Bible it states that a union is between a man and woman," said Curtis Coats III, a spokesman for the Potter’s House.

Mr. Coats and Mr. Lutes said the visitors and church staff found common ground on such issues as the importance of HIV testing, something Bishop Jakes has promoted as part of an extensive outreach ministry.

Shayne Lee, a Tulane University sociologist, said Bishop Jakes’ pragmatism was clear in how the meeting was handled.

"It does show on his part a willingness to engage with people who are different, and, strategically, to keep that dialogue low key," said Dr. Lee, author of the book T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher.

Reports from the American Family Outing

The American Family Outing

Reports from the American Family Outing


Photos from the Saddleback Church visit

Photos from the Willow Creek Community Church visit

Other Sheep’s Photos from the New Birth visit

Photos from the Hope Christian visit

Other Sheep’s Photos from the Hope Christian visit

Photos from the Potter’s House visit

Photos from the Lakewood visit

Email Alerts

Email Alert 6/20/2008
American Family Outing Concludes with Visit to Dr. Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church

Email Alert 6/13/2008
American Family Outing visits Bill Hybels & Willow Creek

Email Alert 6/6/2008
Report on the American Family Outing Visit with Bishop Eddie Long

Email Alert 5/30/2008
A Spirit of Integrity and a Gospel of Deception: The Starkly Different Theologies of Bishops T.D. Jakes and Harry Jackson, Jr.

Email Alert 5/22/2008
Bishop T.D. Jakes Agrees to Ongoing Dialogue with LGBT & Straight-Ally Families

Email Alert 5/15/2008
Jay Bakker Meets with Joel Osteen on Mother’s Day

Email Alert 5/9/2008
American Family Outing to Six Mega-Churches Has Begun

Press Releases:

Press Release 6/24/2008
"Gay Days" at the Mega-churches: LGBT Families & Allies Reflect on the American Family Outing

Press Release 6/4/2008
Gay Dads to Celebrate Father’s Day at Saddleback Church

Press Release 6/2/2008
Bishop Long Meets with LGBT Families: A Story of Family Reconciliation

Press Release 5/30/2008
Soulforce Releases Video of Bishop Harry Jackson

Press Release 5/30/2008
New Birth to Meet with LGBT Families

Press Release 5/27/2008
LGBT Families Share Their Witness with Hope Christian, Bishop Jackson

Press Release 5/22/2008
Soulforce Releases Letters to Bishop Jackson, Seeks to Dispel Misinformation

Press Release 5/20/2008
"A Real Exploration of Common Ground": AFO Opens Dialogue with The Potter’s House

Press Release 5/15/2008
LGBT Families to Meet with The Potter’s House

Press Release 5/12/2008
American Family Outing Begins Dialog with Lakewood

Press Release 5/7/2008
LGBT Families to Host Families from Lakewood Church

Press Release 4/24/2008
Soulforce Releases Letter from Bakker to Osteen

Press Release 4/8/2008
American Family Outing Seeks to Dispel Divisive Tactics

Press Release 2/15/2008
Jay Bakker to Join Gay and Transgender Families at Austin Training

Press Release 1/8/2008
LGBT Families Ask Six Mega-Churches "Can We Talk?"

Back to the American Family Outing

Soulforce Releases Letters to Bishop Jackson, Seeks to Dispel Misinformation

For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771


(Thursday, May 22, 2008) Today Soulforce released letters to Bishop Harry Jackson and staff at Hope Christian Church. The letters, which were written on December 1, 2007, and March 20, 2008, invite Bishop Jackson and members of his Maryland church to share a meal and "heart-to-heart" conversations with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families as part of a nationwide fellowship effort called The American Family Outing.

The letters were released in response to a press release from Jackson’s High Impact Leadership Coalition, which mistakenly suggests that members of Soulforce plan to protest outside Hope Christian Church on Sunday.

"We have had a series of conversations with Bishop Jackson and his staff that would not warrant the tone of their press release," said Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC).

"As the letters show, The American Family Outing is about conversation between families and civil discourse on common ground," Rhue continued. "The letters document that we have reached out to Hope Christian Church in good faith, and we will continue to do so with integrity."

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

In the letter dated March 20, 2008, Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes wrote: "we want to assure you that we intend to engage you in the same way we believe you will seek to engage us – with Christ-like love and respect. We believe Hope Christian Church and our families can model the kind of hospitality and concern for others that is mandated by Scripture and our shared faith values." (Links to full text below.)

Today Lutes indicated that the families of The American Family Outing will attend the planned dinner with Hope Christian Church on Saturday, May 24.

The American Family Outing (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 weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

For more information, go to

To read the full text of the letter dated December 1, 2007, go to:

To read the full text of the letter dated March 20, 2008, go to:

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to 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 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.



Creator’s Syndicate, "A Gay Friendly Message to Mega-churches"

"A Gay Friendly Message to Mega-churches"

by Deb Price

When Michelle Freeman fell in love with a woman 12 years ago, she felt compelled to leave her predominantly African American church.

"The last sermon I heard as a practicing Baptist was very anti-gay," recalls Freeman, 42. "I had internalized homophobia. But when I met Georgia, I wanted us to worship in a place where we could be ourselves."

Her partner, Georgia Chambers, had also grown up in a predominantly African American church with anti-gay messages. The Texas couple transferred their spiritual gifts and needs to the Metropolitan Community Church, a gay-friendly denomination.

Strengthened by their relationship and spiritual growth at MCC, the couple recently decided to join an outreach mission that, between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, will visit six influential mega-churches. "I am taking a stand for the God I love, who I know made us all equal," explains Chambers, 39.

The "American Family Outing" has four sponsors: Soulforce, which adapts the principles of nonviolence honed by Mohandas Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to challenge anti-gay messages in places of worship; the National Black Justice Coalition; MCC; and COLAGE, whose members have gay parents. (To participate, go to

The sponsors have asked the six mega-churches to welcome Outing’s gay and gay-friendly families for meals, conversation and worship.

But even if the mega-churches don’t extend the hand of fellowship, they will be visited. Respecting the six mega-churches’ work on such issues as poverty and AIDS, the Outing visitors hope to sow seeds of love and understanding so that, one day, mega-churches will help to end physical and spiritual violence against gays.

The outreach comes at a pivotal moment in the evangelical movement: the passing of the old guard — signaled by the deaths last year of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. D. James Kennedy — and the rise of a new generation of mega-church leaders, who reach mega-millions through massive worship services, TV and radio shows, books and CDs.
The new generation tends to be less fiercely anti-gay. Their subtle softening of anti-gay rhetoric and shifting of priorities reflects polls showing that evangelicals in the pews care more about issues like health care and the Iraq war than about gay marriage.

Three mega-church preachers to be visited largely avoid gay issues: Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America, Lake Wood Church in Houston; Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of a Christian classic, "The Purpose-Driven Life"; and Bishop T.D. Jakes, the African American senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Texas, who was dubbed "America’s best preacher" by Time magazine.

Two others serve up a more familiar anti-gay message: Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., the African American pastor of Hope Christian Church in Maryland, and Bishop Eddie Long, the African American pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia.

In between is Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois.

Freeman, who plans to visit New Birth and Hope Christian with her partner, wants to worship and talk with families there.

"Our relationships are just as sacred to us as yours," she plans to say. "The only difference, at the end of the day, is instead of a man and a lady, we are two ladies."

Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues. To find out more about Deb Price and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Dallas Voice, "Dallas Pastor to Meet with LGBT Group"

Dallas Pastor to Meet with LGBT Group

John Wright

Soulforce representatives to attend Potters House services on Sunday, attend meeting afterwards

Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potters House in Dallas reportedly has agreed to meet with local LGBT families and representatives from the national gay rights group Soulforce on Sunday, May 18.

Paige Schilt, a spokeswoman for Soulforce, said this week that a contingent of 50 people plan to attend services at the Potters House on Sunday. Following the services, Jakes, staff members and congregants from the Potters House have agreed to meet with them, Schilt said.

Representatives from the Potters House didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

The Potters House, which has upward of 30,000 members, is one of six megachurches Soulforce plans to visit this year in an effort to initiate a dialogue with prominent Christian evangelists on LGBT issues.

"The idea is that we feel called to love each other across differences, and we feel that not knowing each other breeds fear on both sides, so this is just an opportunity to get to know one another as families, as people of faith, and to get beyond the divisiveness," Schilt said. "We’re not saying you need to change what you believe. We’re saying get to know us and our families, and let’s see how that changes the conversation."

Last week, Soulforce visited Lakewood Church in Houston to meet with Pastor Joel Osteen. Osteen initially ignored the group’s request, but he later agreed to meet with Jay Bakker, the son of the late Tammye Faye Bakker Messner, who led the visit on behalf of Soulforce.

Schilt said the visit to the Potters House will be led by the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a 74-year-old retired black minister who’s a veteran of the civil rights movement. Caldwell participated in the "Mississippi Freedom Summer" of 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 and the March on Washington.

In an interview with Dallas Voice, Gill said although he and Jakes are apparently at "different places" on LGBT issues, he’s a fan of Jakes’ preaching.

“He’s an important force within the church community," Caldwell said. "What a magnificent ministry it would be if Bishop Jakes could help the black church and other churches deal with the heterosexism, the homophobia, the kind of anti-gay feelings that seem to be endemic. What a shaker and mover he could be if he dared step out on faith on this."

Although he’s been largely silent on LGBT issues, Jakes once called being gay a "brokenness" and has said that he wouldn’t hire an openly gay person.

Caldwell said he believes many blacks feel threatened by the gay rights movement.

"There’s this great concern that another group is sort of piggybacking on the [civil rights] movement when in fact we are still struggling in terms of black equality," Caldwell said. "If in fact the gay community could express some real overt understanding of the racial struggle, that in fact could open the door for conversation vis-塚ィヘ -vis gay rights."

Also on hand for the visit to the Potters House will be Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group. The visit is being facilitated by Living Faith Covenant Church, an LGBT-affirming black church in Dallas.

In addition to Lakewood Church and the Potters House, Soulforce plans to visit Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md.; New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.; and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

Schilt said pastors at all but one of the churches have agreed to meet with Soulforce.

"We’re feeling very happy with the interest and the positive response that we’ve gotten from these congregations," Schilt said.

In addition to Soulforce, the visits are being organized by the National Black Justice Coalition, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and COLAGE, a group for children with LGBT parents.


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