Deem Weekend's 'Dialogue' with Falwell to be 'Historic'
Says 'World Watches Soulforce' in Lynchburg, Virginia
That will be the day when the Rev. Jerry Falwell, one of America's most conservative religious leaders, will meet with the Rev. Mel White, a credentialed MCC clergy and co-founder of Soulforce, Inc., an ecumenical group that applies principles of nonviolence to advance gay rights.
"They will discuss," says the UFMCC, "how to end the 'war of words' that has characterized the conversations between Rev. Jerry Falwell and the gay community."
Some, like Oral Majority activist Bob Kunst of Miami, believe that Falwell is incapable of reformation.
"He's a war criminal," insists Kunst, who is an activist for both gay and Jewish causes, "and he was losing in public opinion big-time after Tinky Winky brought him down. I can never forgive Falwell. He'll always be what he is: a smug, sly, strategic-minded war criminal who is responsible for having slowed America's response to the AIDS crisis.
While Kunst will be in a decided minority, a delegation of 200 individuals, brought by Rev. Mel White and Soulforce, and 200 of Rev. Jerry Falwell's Baptist friends and associates are also caught up in the midst of an international media frenzy.
The Rev. Mel White will appear on Good Morning America this coming Friday, October 22; he will be on the Saturday edition of the Today Show, and will also be on PBS. The New York Times, Washington Post and Village Voice have major stories on this event and he has met with editors from Time magazine and U.S. News & World Report.
Much of Soulforce's activities for that weekend will take shape in the form of community outreach. The Soulforce delegation is contributing $20,000 to Habitat for Humanity in Lynchburg and will donate cans and packages of food to Lynchburg food banks.
Members of the Soulforce delegation will reportedly participate in advanced training in nonviolence. They will also, they say, "be armed with the prayers and well wishes of thousands who were not able to attend this event." Vice Moderator of UFMCC, The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, says she's "thrilled that Rev. Mel White is bringing Soulforce to bear on one of this country's most outspoken conservative religious leaders, the Rev. Jerry Falwell. We applaud the willingness of both Rev. Jerry Falwell and Mel White to participate in this dialogue."
Reminiscing about her debate with Falwell several years ago on the Ron Reagan, Jr. Show, she said, "We must move from debate to dialogue. We believe this event will create a reduction in religious hate rhetoric. I applaud the 200 courageous people who are participating in this historic event."
Among the MCC dignitaries taking part in the Lynchburg proceedings is The Rev. Elder Hong Tan, Pastor of MCC London who represents both the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches' (UFMCC) Board of Elders and the General Council.
The Rev. Elder Hong Tan released a statement which says:
"UFMCC endorses and celebrates this courageous effort. We're very proud of Rev. Mel White, the former UFMCC Justice Minister and current MCCLA member. He and his delegation of 200 are sending a clear message to the world that peaceful and positive demonstrations, in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. can still get results even today."