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Soulforce to Approach
Evangelical Lutherans in Indiana

Hundreds to Gather August 10 Opposing Anti-Gay Bigotry

Large Scale Non-Violent Civil Disobedience May Take Place

Compiled By GayToday

Indianapolis, Indiana--Hundreds of people from all over the United States will be coming together in Indianapolis on August 10-13, 2001 at the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to urge the Assembly to remove unfair and discriminatory restrictions against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals called to ministry.

Soulforce supporters and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation will be holding a celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Lutheran heros/sheros, daylong vigils, trainings in non-violence, and a possible civil disobedience.
A Soul Force protester speaks out in New Orleans. The group next marches on Indianapolois, home of the 2001 Evangelical Lutheran Church conference

Current Assembly policy demands that gay/lesbian individuals vow celibacy in order to be eligible for ordained ministry. Those who refuse to lie about their significant relationships or who renounce a vow of celibacy are excluded from official consideration for ministry within the ELCA. Currently, 27 clergy/candidates have refused to pledge celibacy.

"We are prepared to put our bodies on the line to help end the suffering caused by this tragic policy of discrimination by participating in civil disobedience and risking arrest," said The Rev. Jeff Johnson, who was among the first openly gay Lutheran pastors to be "irregularly" ordained in violation of the official policy of discrimination. "However, we hope that our presence at the Churchwide Assembly will end up being a celebration that justice has been done at last."

Groups within the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, which includes The Network for Inclusive Vision, Wingspan, Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Lutherans Concerned/North America, encourage congregations to defy official policy by interviewing and hiring openly, non-compliant, GLBT people as their pastors.

The congregations they serve risk Evangelical Lutheran discipline for extending "irregular calls". Soulforce, an interfaith network of GLBT individuals and their families, friends and allies committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities, is working in cooperation with the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation.

On July 13, 2001, a letter was sent to the Rev. H. George Anderson, Presiding Bishop, Dr. Addie Butler, Vice President, and the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, Chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, asking them to takes steps to remove standing policies of discrimination. The letter was signed by leaders representing Soulforce and members of the Lutheran Alliance, including the Rev. Jeff Johnson.

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"We who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and our allies can no longer justifiably wait," the letter states. "Since the early 50's, Lutherans have been studying gay and lesbian persons. The time for this technique of postponing action through study has come to an end."

Rev. Mel White, Founder and Executive Director of Soulforce, added, "We celebrate the fact that the ELCA is working for 'full participation' of gays and lesbians in the church. However, they have been 'working for' and talking about full participation for too long while our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are being denied the opportunity to serve the church in the capacity they have been called. The debate must stop and the ELCA must stop requiring celibacy and begin ordaining their gay and lesbian children."

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