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Posts for June, 2011

Petition Calls On Southern Baptists To Apologize

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2011

A large group of Southern Baptists will gather in Phoenix this week for their annual convention. As leading proponents of ex-gay ministries, they have been front and center of a larger anti-gay political movement. Several LGBT advocacy groups plan to greet the convention with a gathering of their own. Faith in America, Soulforce, Truth Wins Out, Get Equal, and the Association of Affirming and Welcoming Baptists will join a local group of Phoenix-area clergy known as Believe Out Loud for a demonstration calling on the Southern Baptist Convention to apologize for the harm its teachings have caused the LGBT community, particularly to the youth. There is an online petition which will be hand-delivered following a protest outside the SBC’s annual meeting in Phoenix on Wednesday, a day that marks the religious group’s historic apology to African Americans for supporting slavery and Jim Crow laws.

So far, more than 5,000 people have signed the petition calling on the SBC to apologize. You can add your name to the petition here.

KC Vigil To Tell Lou Engle to Stop Exporting Hate to Uganda

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2011

Lou Engle addressing a rally in Kampala, Uganda.(Marc Hofer/New York Times)

Soulforce and the Human Rights Campaign have announced a vigil this Sunday morning outside of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, to ask fundamentalist pastor Lou Engle to “abandon his hateful and dangerouls anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions.”

The vigil appears prompted by the recent murder of Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato. Last summer, Engle traveled to Uganda where he voiced his support for the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would impose the death penalty of LGBT people under certain circumstances. He denied supporting the death penalty itself, but he did confirm that he does support the criminalization of consensual same-sex relationships between consenting adults. According to an updated press release from Soulforce and HRC, Engle has agreed to meet with the group “at a date to be determined.”

Click here to read the full press release from Soulforce and HRC

Time’s Running Out For Early Registration for 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2009

Time is running out to save on early registration for the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism conference scheduled for Nov 20-22 in West Palm Beach, Florida. You can save $50 by registering by Monday, October 5th. On October 6th, conference fees go up from $145 to $195. This conference is sponsored by Soulforce, Beyond Ex-GayTruth Wins Out, Equality Florida, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Box Turtle Bulletin.

So what is this “heterosexism” we’ll be talking about? Jeff Lutes, Executive Director for Soulforce, describes the conference this way:

First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual. Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.

One way we see heterosexism come into play is in the attitudes which lead LGBT people to try to change their sexual orientation.These efforts are nearly always futile. The American Psychological Association recently issued a rigorous review of 83 studies on efforts to change sexual orientation conducted between 1960 and 2007, and they now advise psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight. With great effort, they may be able to modify their behavior, and they can always change their identity (“I’m not ‘gay’ anymore, even though I still like guys.”) But practitioners who offer ironclad promises to change sexual attractions are not only hiding the truth, but they are violating APA recommendations as well.

Mark Yarhouse, one half of the Jones and Yarhouse ex-gay study team whose work has been hailed by NARTH and Exodus as proof that “change is possible,” has conceded that the APA’s stance is correct.

“For me, in my own practice, I would not focus on change of orientation,” said Yarhouse, a psychologist and counselor who teaches at Regent, an evangelical Christian school.

…Yarhouse’sstudy focused on those who said their same-sex attractions collided with their religious beliefs. He said his research found that there was “modest” movement away from homosexuality among some Exodus participants, but categorical conversions to heterosexuality were rare.

Yarhouse recommended that counselors avoid uniformly steering struggling gays toward heterosexuality and focus instead on the best outcome for the individual.

That could include celibacy or exploring different faith groups with various attitudes toward gays and lesbians, he said.

NARTH completely rejects that finding, and are instead holding a conference in West Palm Beach to push their unscientific worldview. They are very skilled at getting media attention and putting on a professional face. And you can bet that they won’t exercise the kind of candor exhibited by Mark Yarhouse.

That’s why it’s extremely important for us to be there to present the facts behind efforts to change sexual orientation. Many of those in attendance will include those who tried to change but failed, including some who were former patients of NARTH co-founder, Joseph Nicolosi.

I hope you will join me and BTB contributors Gabriel Arana and Daniel Gonzales for three days of inspiring and informative workshops on the issues surrounding attempts to change sexual orientation and the heterosexist attitudes which underlie many of those attempts. Featured speakers are Dr. Sylvia Rhue, interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries. Through the weekend, the conference will equip attendees from all across the country on ways in which they can challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, understand the harms of conversion therapy efforts and the unscientific principles which propel them, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.

Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”

Jeff Lutes

August 20th, 2009

Note from Jim Burroway: I am very excited to be a co-sponsor of an exciting conference scheduled for November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida. I will be there, as will BTB contributors Daniel Gonzales and Gabriel Arana. I hope you will too. Here’s Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes to tell you all about it.

Two weeks ago a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.

Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of “change”) has any credibility.

In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is “Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?” The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.

Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.

When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?

I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).

But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.

So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins today at www.anti-heterosexismconference.org and the conference features powerful keynotes by Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Dr. Jack Drescher, and Rev. Deborah Johnson, plus an exciting line-up of concurrent workshops that will be announced in September.

It’s our moral obligation to be “anti” and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.

Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!

Hope to see you there.

2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Called to Counter NARTH Annual Conference

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2009

The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) will hold its annual conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, in November, where they will push their claim among themselves and in the media that people can and ought to “change” their sexual orientation. In pushing their message, they have already pointed to examples from the 1950s through the 1980s when gays and lesbians underwent torturous electric shock aversion therapy. Is this what NARTH would have for our future?

We believe there is a better way. That’s why we are pleased to announce:

On Friday, November 20, Beyond Ex-Gay will hold a pre-conference institute for ex-gay survivors and allies. The conference itself will begin Friday evening and continue through Sunday morning. A full day of speakers and workshops are being planned, with topics touching on:

  • Understanding the Harm Caused By Heterosexism
  • Best Practices for Undoing Heterosexism
  • The Dangers of Reparative Therapy, Ex-Gay Ministries, and Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation
  • History & Practices of Reparative Therapy and Ex-Gay Ministries
  • Therapeutic Models for Helping LGBT People in Health and Mental Health Care
  • The Connection Between Religion, Heterosexism, and Reparative Therapy
  • Intersections Between Heterosexism, Racism, Sexism, Capitalism, etc.
  • The Healthy Reconciliation of Sexuality and Spirituality
  • Reflections on the Ex-Gay Experience
  • Impacting the Media: Strategies for Sharing Your Story with Confidence
  • Building Healthy Relationships After an Ex-Gay Experience
  • Ethical Dilemmas Associated with Reparative Therapy & Ex-Gay Ministries
  • Social Science Research on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
  • LGBT Families and Parenting
  • Nonviolent Activism and Advocacy Strategies
  • Becoming a Powerful Ally

If you are interested in conducting a workshop, you can find an application with instructions at the Soulforce web site. Deadline for applications for workshops is August 29. Information on registration will be available in a couple of weeks. I hope to see you there.

Hagee and Soulforce Meeting Goes Well

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2009

The San Antonio Express-News had a write-up on the visit that Soulforce and Atticus Circle made to The Cornerstone and their meeting with John Hagee.

Hagee addressed them at a reception after the 11 a.m. service and later spoke privately with LGBT leaders.

If any of them expected fireworks from the gatherings, none erupted. Everyone seemed surprised there were no surprises.

The visit, initiated by two Austin-based groups, Soulforce and Atticus Circle, were portrayed as groundbreaking. It was the first in a series of meetings called Sundays of Solidarity, in which the LGBT community will meet with faith communities. Its goals are to have tough conversations, but Sunday’s was to connect with people on a personal level.

Cornerstone members reacted positively.

“We really enjoyed the people we met,” said Buzz Park. “It was a pleasant experience.”

Kelli Busey, who traveled from Dallas, said Hagee’s welcome “couldn’t have been nicer, more heartfelt and productive. He opened the conversation in a very positive way.”

As expected, this visit did not coincide with Rev. Hagee’s miraculous reunderstanding of the scriptures that have been used to alienate, denigrate, and demonize his gay neighbors. But perhaps the next time he finds the hand of God in a natural disaster he may at least have faces to go with the denunciations he is making.

Small steps, but necessary steps.

LaBarbera Award Winner Hagee Meets With Gay Supportive Group

Timothy Kincaid

June 27th, 2009

NOTE: The original title of this commentary was “LaBarbera Award Winner Hagee Meets With Gay Christian Group”. At the request of the Jeff Lutes, we have revised the title to be more accurate. See update below.

John Hagee, pastor of the Austin San Antonio mega-church The Cornerstone, is well known for his nonsensical rants about gay people. For example, he announced that Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on New Orleans for a planned gay event (he failed to explain why God chose to spare the French Quarter – but maybe God just has bad aim).

It was nutcase hatery like that which won him our coveted LaBarbera Award for the “most outrageous, offensive, malevolent, crazy or excessive statement or claim.”

Well, proving that the best policy is to never confuse the unlikely with the impossible, gay groups have scheduled a sit-down discussion with Hagee this Sunday. (Statesman)

Members of [Austin-based advocacy groups Soulforce and Atticus Circle], which support equal rights for the LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — community, wrote to the senior pastor of the church, the Rev. John Hagee , in early June to ask for a meeting.

Hagee invited them to services Sunday and agreed to sit down with organizers afterward.

I don’t think Soulforce or Atticus Circle are fooling themselves into believing that they will change Hagee’s theology. And Hagee seems mostly to be patting himself on the back for even meeting with them.

In an e-mail statement this month about his decision to meet with Austin advocates, Hagee said, “We gather in the spirit of Christ that commands us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’ ”

But if this helps rachet down some of the hateful rhetoric then my hat is off to these groups.

Update: Jeff Lutes, the Executive Director of SoulForce, has provided clarification about my miscategorizing them as a gay Christian group:

One very important point of correction is that neither Soulforce or Atticus Circle identify as “Gay Christian” groups. Soulforce members include a diverse array of folks who simply believe in nonviolent direct action as a method to achieve social justice; Atticus Circle focuses on recruiting straight allies to join in the fight for equality. Because we challenge religion-based discrimination, we are frequently mistaken as religious organizations – which automatically excludes many LGBTQA people who don’t identify as people of faith. We want all those who seek justice to get involved in our efforts, so anything you can do to help us undo the “Gay Christian” misnomer would be greatly appreciated.

Saddleback Church To Welcome Gay Dads?

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2008

Not quite. But that’s one half of two conflicting messages coming from Timothy Egan’s New York Times blog. Egan reports that:

This Father’s Day, one of most popular pastors in America will open his megachurch to homosexual dads, an event that would usually signal an extreme weather alert from old guard Republican evangelical leaders.

But by welcoming gay fathers into his Southern California flock, Rick Warren, author of the “The Purpose Driven Life,” is not just living up to the highest standards of Christian fellowship, he’s turning the page on a particularly embarrassing part of our politics.

Which would be great news, if the story were accurate. Egan uses that story to launch a celebration of conservatives generally appearing to abandon the culture wars. But then after he’s done celebrating, Egan has this little postscript appended to the end of his post:

POSTSCRIPT: Following news of the plan by gay fathers to attend Saddleback Church this coming Sunday, the church’s pastor, Rev. Rick Warren, has issued a statement clarifying the church’s role. “We did not invite this group, and I will not be meeting with them,” he said, adding that he had a previous commitment and would not be in church on Sunday.

So much for celebrating.

Denver Marriage Sit-In Particpants And Ex-Gay Survivor Activists To Speak Sunday At Soulforce Event

Daniel Gonzales

May 29th, 2008

Denver residents Kate Burns and her partner Sheila Schroeder will be speaking Sunday at MCC of the Rockies about last year’s sit-in at the county clerk’s office. Since the focus of the gathering is on Soulforce activism also speaking will be ex-gay survivor activists Daniel Gonzales and Christine Bakke.

MCC Of The Rockies
(10th & Clarkson in Denver)
Sunday, June 1st from 1-3pm

This forum is after the normal Sunday service so there won’t be any religion for those of you averse to such things.

Jay Bakker and Soulforce Meet With Joel Osteen

Timothy Kincaid

May 14th, 2008

jay3.jpg For Jay Bakker, growing up as the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker was more than a little chaotic. Until the collapse of their Christian media empire in 1987, his parents were superstars. But at age 13, his father went to prison, the family’s closest friends denounced them, and Jay’s world changed completely.

Perhaps it is this unique experience of having been at the crest of the conservative Christian world only to feel betrayed that has allowed Jay to question the purpose and meaning of his Christian faith. And Jay’s openness has left him with conclusions and direction that are unlike many others in that world.

One area of disagreement is with whom God accepts and welcomes. A careful study of scripture led Jay to conclude that many of those who are not welcome in the pews of most churches are those whom God most seeks to know. And in revisiting scripture and the nature of God, Jay came to believe that homosexuality is not sin.

Jay now is joining Soulforce to take that message on the road in an effort called The American Family Outing. And because of his history and his connections, Jay has access to religious leaders that most gay people cannot dream of.

The first stop was in Houston, TX at the megachurch of Joel Osteen. There Bakker was able to arrange for a meeting with Osteen. From the Houston Chronicle

Bakker said Osteen was most gracious, had chairs reserved for the LGBT community Sunday morning and made time to meet after the 11 a.m. service.

During their chat, the two men agreed to disagree.

“I don’t think homosexuality is a sin, and they do,” Bakker said, “but it was very nice of Joel to introduce me to his family. I met Joel’s wife and mother, and they were just great. … I’m really grateful.”

Don Iloff, Lakewood’s chief of communications, agreed the visits and meetings went well.

“Dodie Osteen, Joel’s mother, wanted to meet Jay,” Iloff said.

“She knew him as a little boy. And everybody liked Tammy Faye and Jim, Jay’s dad. He has his flaws but … ”

Iloff said it was a pleasure to host members of the LGBT community at Lakewood. “They’re very, very sweet people. They’re the nicest people. I didn’t expect anything else, really.”

The communications chief also said members of the LGBT community are welcome at Lakewood, but he and the Osteens don’t have much more to say on the subject of sexuality.

While it would have been phenomenal had Osteen take the opportunity to requestion his theology, his response is nonetheless encouraging and to be welcomed. As more people in the conservative evangelical Christian movement come to know gay people and their allies, the stereotypes can drop away and the animosity diminish. And while we can differ on the interpretation and application of Paul’s conflation of Greek words in an epistle to a church in Rome 2,000 years ago, I hope we can do so without engaging in Culture War.

I am very appreciative of the work that Soulforce does. And I am very appreciative that a straight preacher is willing to see that his mission to spread the Gospel includes using his family name to gain access to some religious leaders who would drive gay men and women away from their faith.

I wish them much continued success in their campaign.

Why Does Focus Fear the Snakeywolves?

Timothy Kincaid

January 23rd, 2008

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This spring, Soulforce will follow their successful campaign to bring awareness to conservative campuses with a campaign to bring Good News to evangelical mega-churches. They have identified six pastors and churches that they wish to approach and seek dialog:

• Rev. Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
• Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
• Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
• Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia
• Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
• Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California

They have sent letters to each of these pastors

The letters inform each pastor that a delegation of families with two moms and two dads, as well as supportive heterosexual-parent and single-parent families, plans to visit each church. The letters invite their congregations to collaborate in creating opportunities for meaningful conversations. Over the next several weeks, staff from Soulforce, UFMCC, NBJC, and COLAGE will negotiate peaceful forums with members from each of the congregations.

Some might think that such efforts are futile, but history shows us that it if we don’t speak to those who oppose us we cannot have any hope of influencing them. And we have also seen some who have been willing to allow God to shift their thinking on issues surrounding sexual orientation.

Polls have also shown that those who are familiar with gay people are far more likely to support gay civil equality. We also know that it is far easier to condemn the person whom you don’t know than it is to look someone in the face and offer them cruelty.

Perhaps it is the potential for true communication that has frightened Focus on the Family. FOTF’s Caleb Price has sent out a warning against the churches meeting with or listening to Soulforce. And Price expresses his concerns in the most fearful and demonizing of ways.

“As with any temptation to disregard God’s clear word on any given matter, this attempt by Soulforce and their allies is a classic example of what we see in Genesis Chapter 3, when the serpent tempts Eve by [asking] ‘Did God really say …?’” says Price. “And I think perhaps the biggest lesson we can take from that account is it’s best not to talk to snakes. Scripture clearly teaches that there will be a great falling away in the last days and there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing who will try to enter into the fold and deceive even the elect.”

Portraying Soulforce as snakes and wolves (or perhaps snakeywolves), Price seeks to keep churches from seeing Soulforce’s members as human, as children of God. Accusing them of being tempters to a false doctrine, Price aligns Soulforce with forces of evil.

“These churches that have been targeted by Soulforce need to be clear about the real agenda behind these staged actions,” he says. “It’s not for dialogue and greater understanding — it’s to tempt them to embrace a false doctrine, which will keep many from the gospel message of hope and transformation for those who are trapped in homosexuality.”

However, there is hope that with such obvious and blatant fear-mongering, Price’s efforts may not be effective. We have faith to believe that some within the mega-churches will be able see beyond snakeywolves and emissaries of Satan and will hear the message brought by sincere and devout Christians seeking to spread the Good News of a loving and inclusive God.

Soulforce “Focus On The Facts” Action Over The Weekend

Daniel Gonzales

November 11th, 2007

Since moving to Denver I’ve been involved with the very active chapter of Soulforce here. Over the weekend as part of their ongoing “Focus On The Facts” campaign a group of LGBT individuals, led by music-artist and hottie James Roy, paid a visit to Focus’s HQ. This video of the action I created addresses everything else you might want to know about the event.

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Photos From Denver “Seven Straight Nights” Soulforce Vigil

Daniel Gonzales

October 13th, 2007

I attended the Seven Straight Nights vigil here in Denver this evening and present the following photos:

Click each thumbnail to view full size images

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We started with a silent march from a Unitarian church in Capital Hill and proceeded down Colfax towards the Capital Building.

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A group called Singing For Equality lead some songs and did a few numbers on their own.

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There were a few speakers ranging from politicians to various types of families.

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After the prepared remarks people were free to leave their hand-drawn luminaria on the steps of the Capital.

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Also during that time participants were encouraged to take the mic and share their reason for participating.

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Seven Straight Nights For Equal Rights

Daniel Gonzales

October 13th, 2007

Soulforce and Atticus Circle’s Seven Straight Nights campaign wraps up this weekend and I’ll be attending the vigil in Denver this evening. (Update: See my photos from the vigil here.)

Since it’s the weekend take some time and enjoy news coverage of Seven Straight Night events earlier this week:

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