<< Front page Commentary May 14, 2004

Soulforce meeting held in Pittsburgh

To the Editors:

“Can’t stop the Spirit,
She’s like a mountain,
Old and strong,
she goes on and on and on?”
(A song I learned from a member of my Soulforce Squad, who learned it in prison in 1983.)

A few days ago, I got back from Queers and Allies of Faith’s trip to join Soulforce (www.soulforce.org) at the United Methodist General Conference in Pittsburgh. Soulforce was there to protest the UM Church’s decision to keep anti-gay language in the Book of Discipline, their church law.

The seven of us spent only a few days in Pittsburgh, but it was a powerful experience. Many denominations are battling over the gay rights issue, and some suspect that the Methodist church will eventually face a schism. My time with Soulforce caused me to ask questions about justice and unity. When do we sacrifice justice for unity, when do we sacrifice unity for justice?

I met many amazing people. Faith communities have deeply wounded many of the queer people and allies that make up Soulforce. I find it remarkable that they love the church, and the queer people still in the church, enough to come back to try to change the church’s stance.

Some of them do it out of love for the church, or devotion to the gospel. Some of them do it out of desperation, intent on preventing any more suicides of people rejected by their faith communities because of their sexuality. Witnessing the deep pain of the leaders of Soulforce confirmed that I was in the right place.

We didn’t succeed on passing the resolutions that we hoped for, but I feel it is better to stand and make a witness to the human cost of the UM Church’s policy than it is to stay home. Throughout my time in Pittsburgh, other people of faith edified me. Old activists, who had worked on civil rights, peace and feminism, expressed their appreciation of us. They housed us and bought us dinner. Hundreds of delegates thanked us for our presence, and even some of those who disagreed with us expressed their love for us.

Ultimately, the decisions made at General Conference are secondary in importance to what happens here at home. I return to Oberlin feeling called out to make my own church and community welcoming to all people and affirming of diversity.

As I remember my baptism, God challenges me to remember the inherent dignity of every person and my call to treat them with infinite respect. I hope that Queers and Allies of Faith will continue to be a circle of companions to encourage me on my journey. For more information on QuAF, email us at quaf@oberlin.edu or me at david.reese@oberlin.edu. You can’t stop the spirit.

–David Reese
College sophomore
Peace Community Church
Student Intern


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