Soulforce and the Methodists
To the Editors:
Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, according to the Methodist Book of Discipline, reaffirmed May 4 at the United Methodist General Conference in Pittsburgh, Penn.
I was not there for the vote, but I was there afterward, standing humbly with a sign that said “Stop Spiritual Violence” and praying that the Methodists would have a change of heart.
Seven Oberlin students traveled to Pittsburgh with Queers and Allies of Faith to join a Soulforce Direct Action. “Soulforce is an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people” (found at their website at www.soulforce.org). The founder of this movement and executive director of Soulforce is Rev. Dr. Mel White, former ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell and author of Stranger at the Gate: to be Gay and Christian in America. Soulforce is based on the non-violent principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
At first, Soulforce was a dream come true. I met people I had studied in textbooks, researched for class and idolized ever since I became involved in the Queer Faith movement. I was standing side by side with Phil Lawson, Jimmy Creech and Mel White. I felt affirmed and loved in my journey through faith and sexuality. I stood tall with these people and made sure every delegate going in and out of the conference saw me standing there, queer and faithful, standing up for justice.
Though the intensity never wore off, the joyous feeling in my heart depleted slowly as I realized that this was not a celebration. LGBT children commit suicide every day because churches tell them that they are sinners. Every law, ordinance and anti-gay political statement is rooted in the church. Why else would people have a reason to condemn homosexuals?
Soulforce teaches that our adversaries are not enemies or bad people. Rather, they are victims of misinformation. I no longer blame these people for the destruction of LGBT faith, but I vow to make them aware of the consequences of the untruth. People committing suicide, ex-gay ministries and the dechurched are examples of where misinformation can lead us.
On Thursday morning around 50 Soulforces marched into the Methodist Conference, which is set up similarly to Congress and is actually larger than the United Nations. We held up signs, sung and asked people — delegates, bishops, lay-people — to stand up with us and be a witness.
The surge of emotion running through me as David Reese and I walked up and down the aisles of delegates asking people to join us was almost more than I could handle. I saw people stand up with tears in their eyes and smile at me. I saw people hesitate for several minutes and finally pull up out of their chairs. I saw bishops march with us and our crowd of 50 turned quickly into 200. There was hope in that march.
But four more years remain until the Methodists vote again on this issue. This means four more years of LGBT children being told that their sexual orientation is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Our action, though beautiful, was not successful. I have been telling people that my time in Pittsburgh was incredibly amazing and very sad.
I am a changed person. I refuse to sit and complain about the church while others are being affected by it. Though my sexuality and Christianity are secure, many people are in a deep struggle for their place in that spectrum. It is my calling to try to change that, with information, prayer and non-violent activism.
I will stand with Soulforce at the Southern Baptist Convention in June. I will stand at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in November. I will do whatever I can and more to welcome everyone into the kingdom of God. More locally, I will be at Queers and Allies of Faith to welcome those who need help, and to recruit those who want to stand with me.
Love, acceptance, inclusiveness — those things are compatible with Christian teaching. LGBT people are part of that compatibility.