July 19, 1999 (Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles, CA.)
Mel White has resigned as the volunteer Justice Minister for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. “I’m almost sixty,” he said. “In another sixty years they’re going to bury me. Until then, I want to spend my time helping people of faith to discover and apply the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance, not just on behalf of sexual minorities, but for all God’s children who suffer injustice.”
White, his partner, Gary Nixon, and a distinguished group of Co-Founders and advisors are launching Soulforce, Inc. to help mobilize and train people of faith to do justice guided exclusively by the principles of truth, love, and voluntary redemptive suffering as taught by Jesus, Gandhi, and King.
Dr. White fears that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activist community is nearly exhausted from fighting two wars at the same time: the political war being waged against sexual minorities and the personal war against HIV/AIDS. “Soulforce offers us a new way to renew our own tired spirits,” White explains. “And at the same time, it offers us a powerful old way to bring truth to our adversaries.”
“We spend most of our time healing our wounded and defending ourselves against the avalanche of antigay actions at the ballot box, in the legislatures and the courts,” White said sadly. “We must continue fighting the antigay political actions. We must continue helping those who suffer. But we must also work to cut off that suffering at its source.”
“Speech has power,” White says, quoting Rabbi Abraham Heschel. “Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound ends in a deed.”
For six years, White has monitored and archived the antigay rhetoric. “The toxic words flows endlessly into the nation’s minds and hearts,” he explains. “Most of them from misinformed religious leaders. These false and inflammatory words that poison the national discourse lead directly and indirectly to divided homes and churches, ruined families and wasted lives. We must do our best to stop that flow of poison at its source and the ‘soul force’ rules of relentless nonviolent resistance show us how.”
Already Soulforce, Inc. has two “direct actions” in process. White is currently training five thousand people of faith in nonviolent resistance through an eight-week, seventeen-email Journey into Soulforce. The focus of this first email journey is to bring truth to Jerry Falwell. Mel and Gary are inviting people of faith to sign up for the complimentary email Journey and to consider joining them in Lynchburg, October 22-24, 1999. In preparation for that visit, Mel is writing a series of Open Letters to Jerry Falwell.
In Los Angeles, Soulforce, Inc. is working to bring truth to Pat Robertson and the Fox Family Channel. This Soulforce direct action is led by an executive committee of nearly a hundred clergy, co-chaired by Mel and the Rev. Dr. James Lawson, the distinguished African-American civil rights leader who trained the young people who integrated lunch counters, rode Freedom Ride busses, faced police dogs and fire hoses. Clergy and lay people of faith across the nation are encouraged to contact Mel for more information about confronting the 700 Club rhetoric heard twice daily on Fox.
White, and his partner, Gary Nixon, describe themselves as “accidental activists” who found themselves “in the front lines” after the publication of White’s autobiography Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay And Christian In America. Once a ghostwriter and filmmaker for leaders on the “religious right,” White has become a primary spokesman against their antigay rhetoric and antigay political activism.
Recently, Dr. White and his partner received the “Distinguished Service Award” at the Nineteenth General Conference of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in Los Angeles. “We are celebrating Mel and Gary’s six years of service,” said the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson who presented the award. “Together, they have traveled to forty states on our behalf, speaking, organizing, and demonstrating for justice. We thank them for helping to change minds and hearts across the nation and we promise them our love and support in their new Soulforce ministry.”
“We aren’t ending the relationship with our UFMCC friends,” White explained in an interview after the ceremony, “We’re just taking our message of relentless nonviolent resistance to the larger ecumenical and interfaith communities. Ending the flow of antigay rhetoric and reconciling with its primary sources will take all of us working together.”
White’s new Soulforce web page offers a “Four Step Journey into Soulforce” and a wide variety of other resources, including three “almost free, OK to copy” Soulforce videos. To sign up for the more extensive but still complimentary email Journey into Soulforce, contact Mel and Gary. Dr. White is also available to teach Soulforce workshops and seminars, to speak in churches and synagogues, on college and university campuses, and at pride and justice events.