to United Methodist 'Holy War'
Soulforce Activists, Gandhi, King, & 2 Bishops Participate
Rights Groups Planning Presbyterian & Episcopalian Events
Those arrested included United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague (Northern Illinois) and Bishop Susan Morrison (Northern New York), civil right leaders from the '50s and '60s, members and clergy of The United Methodist Church, and Soulforce activists from 24 states.
It also marked a first arrest for Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, who traveled to Cleveland to help launch the ecumenical, interfaith Soulforce campaign to end the "holy war" against homosexuals being waged by Catholic, Protestant, and Mormon churches.
The May 10 civil disobedience coincided with an ecumenical worship service addressed by the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury and attended by 5,000 United Methodists and heads of 20 other denominations with anti-homosexual policies in place.
“For three decades Catholic and Protestant leaders have debated our issue,” explained Dr. Mel White, Soulforce Founder and the last person to be arrested.
“Each debate ends with another act of injustice. They've declared our lives 'incompatible with Christian teaching.' They've refused to ordain us for ministry, to bless our loving relationships, or to budget funds for programs that assist or welcome our sisters and brothers.
“We're blocking this exit to say to the 1,000 Methodist delegates and their ecumenical guests, 'This debate is over. The suffering has gone on too long. Stay in there this time until you do justice. And if you don't, we give you fair warning that we love the church too much to stand by in silence. We are launching a plan today in the loving, nonviolent spirit of Jesus, Gandhi, and King that will demonstrate our determination to end the injustice forever.”
The 191 Soulforce delegates who were arrested spent the day in jails across Cleveland. They were fingerprinted and photographed. Some were handcuffed. By evening, each person had appeared before a local judge to pay a $155 fine.
Soulforce activists paid almost $30,000 in fines and court costs to take this stand for justice. Thursday, May 11, when the delegates voted to maintain their anti-homosexual policies twenty-seven United Methodist leaders were arrested the second time after staging a Pray-In on the stage of the Convention Center.
At a press conference and debriefing held Thursday, May 11, Greg Marlan and Karen Weldin, Co-Chairs for the Soulforce action in Cleveland joined Dr. White to announce a four-year Soulforce strategy to help end discrimination against sexual minorities by the United Methodist Church.
Soulforce will be working for justice at the upcoming Presbyterian and Episcopal Conventions later this summer. See www.soulforce.org for details.