(Indianapolis) – For the 5th year in a row, Soulforce volunteers stood vigil outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting to confront the untruths perpetuated by Southern Baptist resolutions and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. The annual meeting, which took place in Indianapolis, attracted about 80 Soulforce volunteers, who gathered in Indy to try to help change the hearts and minds of the Southern Baptists and empower GLBT people to stand up against their own oppression.
For three days, in the heat and the rain, Southern Baptist messengers encountered Soulforce volunteers at the street corners and sidewalks, handing out literature and booklets, singing songs, and talking about the spiritual violence wrought by Southern Baptist rhetoric and policies.
Southern Baptist Convention passed resolutions supporting the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which is intended to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution against GLBT couples and their children by defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Earlier in the day, President Bush spoke by satellite praising Southern Baptists for their conservative views, and urging them to support the FMA.
In addition, the Southern Baptist Convention pulled out of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) because the SBC felt the BWA was increasingly anti-American and too tolerant of liberal theology, by accepting the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a member in 2003.
On the final evening, Rev. Steve Gaines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Alabama, railed against homosexuality, by saying, “God characterized homosexuality as an abomination in Leviticus 18, and He sandwiched it right between adultery, child sacrifice and having sex with an animal.” He urged Southern Baptists to contact their congress-people to lobby for approval of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
“The SBC continues to be a primary source of spiritual violence against us. It saddens and sickens me that they are so full of fear and condemnation. I know God loves gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people just the way we are, and some day, full equality will happen, and the church will have to apologize to us,” said Karen Weldin, former Southern Baptist, graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, and Director of Operations for Soulforce. “We will be in Nashville in 2005 for the next SBC annual meeting to continue our relentless confrontation of the shameful untruths.
“Our hope in changing the SBC lies with the youth,” said Jamie McDaniel, co-chair of the Soulforce Southern Baptist Denominational Team. Soulforce volunteers distributed a 48 page study guide geared toward Southern Baptist youth, entitled: “Christian Youth: An Important Voice in the Present Struggle for Gay Rights in America.” The guide was written by Soulforce youth and young adults.
Activist and ally Laura Montgomery (Rutt) Williams has served as executive director of Equal Partners in Faith, communications and media coordinator for Soulforce, and media, publicity and logistics coordinator for the United Methodist Church trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was defrocked in 1999 for marrying same-sex couples. She is also co-founder of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable for LGBT Equality.