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Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries

Soulforce Announces Direct Actions At ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 10-13

Meeting with Lutheran Executive Representatives Also Set to Discuss "Full Participation" of Gays and Lesbians in the Church

Soulforce Press Release, August 6, 2001
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell:717-951-7712, soulforcemedia@aol.com

(Laguna Beach, CA) In the spirit of the principles of non-violence, Soulforce supporters and members of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation will be conducting training sessions, negotiations, celebrations, vigils, and direct actions at the Indianapolis Convention Center August 10 13 during the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The purpose of these actions are "to bear witness to the suffering and spiritual violence caused by exclusionary policies and to urge the ELCA to remove unfair and discriminatory restrictions against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals called to ministry," according to Karen Weldin, Director of Operations for Soulforce.

Current ELCA 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.

"This policy of discrimination is an affront to the promises made at our Baptism in which we were welcomed and affirmed unconditionally as full participants," said the Rev. Jeff Johnson, who was among the first openly gay Lutheran pastors to be "irregularly" ordained. "We hold the church accountable to these promises. Ordain us or stop baptizing!"

A press conference and civil disobedience are planned for Monday, August 13, at 12:15pm, outside the Convention Center near the corner of Maryland and Capitol. The civil disobedience will be announced at the press conference, and will take place immediately afterwards, depending on the outcome of the ELCA's decision regarding lifting the celibacy ban.

Those speaking at the press conference include Rev. Mel White, Executive Director of Soulforce; Rev. Jeff Johnson, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel, Berkeley; Jake Reitan, a Lutheran gay youth activist, and Randi Reitan his mother; Rev. Daphne Burt, Soulforce Co-chair for this event and Associate Dean, Rockefeller Chapel - University of Chicago; Rev. Bob Graetz, a retired Lutheran pastor, father of a gay son, and active participant in the Montgomery Bus Boycott with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks; and Bishop Paul Egertson.

Additionally, supporters of Soulforce and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation will be holding a celebration of Lutherans who have refused to take the vow of celibacy and those who have spoken out in favor of lifting the ban. The Celebration will be taking place on Sunday, August 12 at 4pm at the Capitol Ballroom of the Westin Hotel on Maryland Ave.

A request by Soulforce and the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation to meet with 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 take steps to remove standing policies of discrimination was denied. Instead, a conciliatory meeting was set up with ELCA Executive Representatives. This meeting is scheduled to take place on August 9.

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Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangender people, is working in cooperation with 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.

MEDIA PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: The Press conference and civil disobedience will provide excellent photo opportunities. Silent vigils will take place throughout the days Sat Mon. To find out if people from your area are participating, to get access to photos, or to arrange personal interviews, call 717-951-7712. Registration will take place at 5 pm on August 10 at the Comfort Inn & Suites City Centre, 530 South Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis. For more information or to register, see http://www.soulforce.org