Soulforce Executive Director Rev. Dr. Cindi Love is now in Hong Kong for the 2013 Amplify conference. The meeting of LGBTQ-affirming churches, pastors, and laypeople is expected to attract more than 300 people. Cindi will be a workshop presenter and keynote speaker, and will be preaching at the Sunday worship service on June 9th.
Cindi’s teaching will focus on the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote that “Every wall is a door,” and on Ephesians 2:14. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (NIV). Cindi says the obvious parallels in the Emerson text and biblical text struck her, as well the correlation between Ephesus at the time of Paul being a thriving Asian port city and contemporary Hong Kong. But mostly she sees the text as providing instruction to overcome barriers to full Christian fellowship that are based on arbitrary and unloving notions of religious “purity”—most recently that have affected LGBTQ people.
As LGBTQ-inclusive Christians in Asia begin to find each other and form community, Soulforce will be there offering encouragement, solidarity, and lessons learned from our own resistance of fundamentalism.
Keep in touch with Cindi’s trip on Facebook and through blog postings on this site and on Huffington Post.
Monday June 24th promises to be an unforgettable night of fun at Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis, as Soulforce teams up with RECLAIM, an LGBT Youth Services organization to raise funds for social services and social justice!
The event will include a Happy Hour and Silent Auction starting at 5PM, with special live-singing entertainment! Then enjoy Esmé’s Glitter Lung Drag Cabaret from 7-10 PM. Chat with the performers, take pics with friends in the Gender Bender photo booth, treat yourself well at the self-care silent auction, and learn more about
SOULFORCE and RECLAIM’s work!
But for this magnificent event to occur, we need a few things from you!
1.) If you will be in Minneapolis on June 24th, first of all, RSVP here!
2.) If you can be there from 4PM-10PM, we could also use your help as a volunteer. Tasks will be simple, and will be doled out by Soulforce’s very own Esmé Rodríguez (Don’t worry, she has a light touch.) Contact Esmé if you can volunteer (esme@soulforce,org).
3.) We need donations of items and services for the self-care silent auction. Think products or gift certificates which support inner and outer beauty (e.g. alternative health professionals, body workers, salon, etc.) If you have items to donate, again, please contact Esmé (email@example.com).
4.) Finally, if you can’t make it on June 24, and you would like to donate to this fundraiser online, please go to Soulforce’s online donation page. Make sure you specify in the note at the bottom of the online form that this donation is for the Reclaim Your Queen fundraiser!
All proceeds will be split between Soulforce and RECLAIM. RECLAIM is a youth services organization in Minneapolis that aims to increase access to mental health support so LGBT youth may reclaim their lives from oppression in all its forms.
Some of the performers for RECLAIM Your Queen!
L-R: Chase Chance, Martina Marraccino, Nocturna Lee Mission, Sara Tonin
“As one of those students, I’m so incredibly encouraged by this, I’m drawing tears.”
– Student from Biola Queer Underground, commenting on Cindi Love’s Huffington Post article.
Dr. Erik Thoennes of Biola University
Two weeks ago, Soulforce collaborated with a remarkable group of students, the Biola Queer Underground, to call out a professor, Dr. Erik Thoennes, at the conservative Christian Biola University for comments in which he compared the “sin” of racism to the “sin” of being LGBTQ.
We asked that you write to Dr. Thoennes and to the president of Biola, Dr. Barry Corey to confront them about the pain they are causing LGBTQ students who are being asked to choose between obeying their school’s policies and their awareness of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
It appears many of you responded.
One letter from Soulforce delegate Ellie Ash-Bala was particularly moving, as it spoke to her experience as a graduate of another evangelical Christian school. Ellie wrote:
Dear Dr. Thoennes,
“…I urge you to accept the BQU’s request for a public forum on campus where more than just one side of an issue can be discussed in the context of Christian community and in the spirit of Christian love. There are students on your campus right now who are trying to hold onto their faith and wrestle with their sexuality at the same time. They want to do so with integrity. Please do not push them away from their faith community at the time when they need it the most.”
If you’ve written a letter to Dr. Thoennes and/or President Corey, thank you so much for showing solidarity with these brave students, and witnessing to God’s love for LGBTQ people everywhere.
Now we’d like you to take one more step. If you wrote a letter to Dr. Thoennes or President Corey, we ask you to go to the Soulforce Facebook page and post those letters.
Share with the world your hope for more inclusive dialogue on the issues of LGBTQ students at Christian colleges and universities. As the quote above shows, sharing your stories of overcoming the oppression of false biblical teaching and bad theology gives great encouragement to LGBTQ young people.
If you didn’t get a chance to send a letter, it’s not too late. Here’s an update about what has happened so far.
We asked that Soulforce supporters familiarize themselves with an open letter written by Biola alum Jos Charles critiquing Dr. Thoennes’ views, as well as a recording of his comments, and Soulforce Executive Director Cindi Love’s article about the Biola Queer Underground on the Huffington Post.
In response to this evidence of oppression, we asked that Soulforce supporters write Dr. Thoennes (firstname.lastname@example.org) and President Corey (email@example.com) about Biola’s policies of exclusion of LGBTQ students, and to ask them to hold a public forum with the Biola Queer Underground on the common roots of racism, homophobia, and transphobia.
As with all Soulforce actions, we asked that letters be written according to our principles of nonviolence–that is, without violent or abusive language.
Although Dr. Thoennes and the Biola administration have refused to answer the open letter or respond directly to the Biola Queer Underground, the administration did schedule a meeting with some individual LGBTQ alumni about reports of bullying by professors and students on campus. Certain blog postings from Biola alumni sympathetic to Dr. Thoennes’ positions have also attempted to defend him from what have falsely been labeled “campaigns” by Soulforce and GLAAD. (Anything not to admit that the criticisms of Biola’s policies are coming from its own students and alumni.)
These responses do not meet the demands of the open letter that the administration hold an open forum on campus with members of the Biola Queer Underground.
But the tentative steps by the administration to address bullying and evidence of Dr. Thoennes feeling pressure from a student group he publicly mocked and refused to acknowledge as having any validity, suggest that next school year the environment might be incrementally better and safer for LGBTQ students on one Christian college campus.
For too long, Christian colleges and universities have placed the weight of the Bible, longstanding church traditions of homophobia and transphobia, the false and dangerous claims of “conversion therapy,” and the public shame of family and friends on the shoulders of LGBTQ students–suggesting these young people had an “identity crisis” about their sexuality or gender identity. Now, thanks to your support, and the hard work of Soulforce volunteers, staff members, board members, and Equality Riders, it is becoming clear to these schools that they have the identity crisis, as they unsuccessfully attempt to align their policies of oppression with their missions as Christian institutions.
So keep writing those letters and share them with the Soulforce community on Facebook. Soulforce will keep you updated with further developments.
Click here to see video about the Solandres online community!
Solandres is adding to our online presence by building out a community space for activists. We are committed to our same values as always – challenging fundamentalism – but bringing in a fresh look at how social justice movements are linked. We do stronger work when we work in partnership, and that’s what Solandres is all about.
We have our first retreat this weekend to establish the architecture for this community, but we have one really important practical matter to solve:
We need a sign language interpreter to make this retreat accessible for one of the participants. After pulling strings and calling in favors, we can get interpreters for 33 hours at $40 an hour, when it is usually twice that.
Can you make a gift of one hour of interpretation today? Just $40, and you ensure we do not miss out on the valuable perspective of our friend and fellow activist.
Thanks so much for rising with us to the standard of full inclusion.
-The Soulforce Team
RECLAIM is a youth services organization in Minneapolis that aims to increase access to mental health support so LGBT youth may reclaim their lives from oppression in all its forms. Soulforce is teaming up with RECLAIM for an unforgettable night of drag cabaret to raise funds for the essential social services and social justice work these organizations do. RSVP here.
Soulforce has selected nine bright, accomplished leaders to begin visioning the new Solandres online community. We are so honored, privileged, and excited to be working with such a fabulous cast of characters. We have gathered a unique mix of folks from across the country – from sunny California to the urban jungle of New York – who are eager to work in promoting an analysis of fundamentalism and white supremacy via anti-racism and anti-oppression work. Solandres leaders have already begun their preparations for a six-day retreat in Minneapolis, starting May 30. Please take a peek at the bios of the individuals who will be working on Solandres, our new online community meant to engage future and current social justice activists in the power of solidarity and resistance. –Zachary Pullin, Soulforce Director of Online Community
King Chan is a rising junior at Long Beach City College, with plans to transfer and pursue degrees in global governance and economics, with a concentration in theology. Raised by immigrant parents in Long Beach, California, King’s introduction to activism began with a successful grassroots effort to halt the demolition of his city’s biggest library. King worked in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Congresswoman, now U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); has worked with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute; and has just finished efforts on behalf of the Trevor Project’s National Youth Advisory Council and the California Department of Mental Health’s LGBTQ Disparity Project. King is an elected Delegate to the 78th Assembly District of the California Democratic Party, and serves as Vice-Chair on the California Young Democrats’s LGBTQ Caucus. Z[H]e also facilitates programs and trainings on behalf of the California Conference for Equality & Justice (CCEJ), to a wide array of audiences, from elementary school students, to elected officials and corporate leaders.
King swears he is never too busy and somehow manages to attend community events with his closest friends, read up on current affairs, watch indie/foreign films, work on political/issue-based campaigns, and is both an avid public transportation user and enthusiastic café connoisseur.
Jos Charles is a southern California writer and founding-editor at THEM – a trans* literary journal. After a Bachelor of Music from Biola University they had queer mystical vibrations; Jos is making amends with their situation. They are published (and/or publications forthcoming) with literary journals BLOOM, Radioactive Moat, EOAGH, as well as variously online. Sometimes they write for BitchMedia.
Amanda Lee/A.L. is a 28 year old, fat, deaf, disabled, bigender/trans*, bi*/pan/fluid/queer, poly, partnered, part Native, more Southern, poor Christian activist that has an abnormally large heart and a love of people, words, and stories. Amanda Lee first encountered Soulforce when the Equality Ride came to North Central University (Minneapolis) in 2006. After reaching out on Soulforce’s online forum, they came out, and A.L. was eventually expelled from North Central in May 2009 for their sexuality, gender expression, and involvement in activism. Amanda Lee then became a 2010 Equality Rider to share that first message that the 2006 Ride shared with them: “God loves and affirms you as you are, without reservation.” This message has been central in their life and many others’: A.L. writes, “This message saved my life; pulled a gun out of my mouth many times, as long as I was able to remember it it had a profound influence on my thoughts and actions. I was lucky to be reminded many times by my Soulforce Family who loved me through my questioning, my low Gay-is-Okay Meter, my dealing with loving hatemail from my former church family, and my many new experiences… they were with me through it all, loving me until I was able to start to love myself more and more. I am here today to work in solidarity with others because Soulforce was there with me. I’m honored to be a part of this new campaign.”
A.L.’s current heartwork is centered around a small community of folks working on disability justice, class justice, and making a dent in r*pe culture. Amanda Lee imagines those folks and those stories wearing capes around the Cities to stir up hearts and minds who are ready to lay their hands to this good work… tearing down walls, connecting us to the land and each other, and shining light on fear… “Fear is an evil, corroding thread; the fabric of our lives is shot through with it.” -A.A. Big Book, p67
Drew Heckman is a graduating senior at Brown University with majors in Sociology and Gender & Sexuality Studies. He served as the Head Chair of Brown’s Queer Alliance and also chaired the 2012 iteration of IvyQ, an annual pan-Ivy League conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) students. Since founding The Queer Nebraska Youth Networks in 2010, Drew has been returning to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska during his school breaks to continue to build this community group that provides peer-led social events for LGBTQ+ youth under 25 in Nebraska and connects them to relevant resources and opportunities in their local communities. The QNYNs have provided over 500 youth members with about 30 peer-facilitated events and was supported by both a 2012 C.V. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship and a 2013 Sustaining Impact grant from Brown’s Swearer Center for Public Service. When home, Drew also serves as a Speakers Bureau panelist for the local chapter of national organization PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and recruits and teaches the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Popular Opinion Leader class at Nebraska AIDS Project, where he interned in 2011. Drew also founded and co-facilitated Comprehensive Allyship Network at Brown, a student group that seeks to provoke productive discussions about identity and equip people with the skills they need to confront racism, classism, heterosexism, sexism, and other forms of oppression in society.
Jeffrey Hoffman is a New York City-based composer, conductor and keyboardist. An accidental activist, he is the founding Executive Director of BJUnity, the affirming alternative for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Affirming Straight alumni and students of Bob Jones University. As an alumnus of Bob Jones Elementary School, Junior High and Academy, Jeffrey knows firsthand how fundamentalism has resisted desegregation and gender equality. He knows the deep pain and despair of growing up (secretly) gay in an environment where the spiritual leadership regularly mocks “homosexuals” and calls for public stoning of gay and gender-non-conforming people. He is a full-time Episcopal church musician whose faith in Jesus Christ informs his desire to see the Church exchange the spiritualized politics of a bygone era and the superficial moralizing of fundamentalism for a profound new ethic living out the Great Commandment of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you.”
Jeana Huie is a 28 year old community organizer with 15 years of grassroots activism experience and a life-long passion for social justice. Currently ze is a full time student at the University of Arkansas and volunteers with CAR (the Center for Artistic Revolution). Jeana is the Safe Schools Coordinator and Trainings and Curriculum developer for CAR. Previous roles Jeana has filled at CAR include Youth Program Coordinator, board member and board chair. Jeana represents CAR in several national and regional working groups. Jeana draws from her experience in the social justice movement as well as her work in several other fields including childcare, emergency medical work, 911 dispatching and summer camp organizing to approach all aspects of their life as holistically as possible. Jeana lives in Little Rock, Ar. with their wife Brett, three children, 2 dogs and some of the best friends they could ever imagine.
Diana Law: Diana’s professional background is in diversity and social justice education, particularly in the context of higher education, student affairs, and youth development. She is committed to the Christian faith communities around her and in all of these endeavors, she is dedicated to the promotion and practice of intersectional justice. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Diana presently resides in Brooklyn, NY where she continues to grow her love for music, food, and people from all walks of life.
Sylvia Niedner is an Interfaith Minister through the Order of Universal Interfaith. Sylvia has worked with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, West Ohio AIDS Ministry, Planned Parenthood, Equality Ohio, and MoveOn.org. Sylvia was national co-facilitator of the Portland/American Heritage Caravan of the Campaign to End AIDS. Her first Soulforce action was at the United Methodist General Conference in Cleveland in 2000, and she has participated in several other national and local actions since then. Important aspects of her spiritual practice include facilitating and teaching reiki, and sharing peace and healing energy through origami and gemstone beadwork.
Sakara Remmu’s passion for social justice, public policy and community organizing guide her efforts as an advocate, ally, and writer. She has worked for over 15 years in Washington state as a program manager and advocacy trainer for grassroots, county and state-wide organizations to increase sound policy and stable funding for critical human services including programs to end and prevent hunger, homelessness, and domestic violence, and organizations supporting immigrant families, workers’ rights, and LGBTQ youth and families. During the 2012 election, Sakara worked with grassroots organizations across Washington to increase voter registration in low-income and communities of color.
Sakara is the founder of Confronting Intersections, a website created to identify, explore, and increase awareness of the connections between systemic, social, and cultural “isms,” and social justice, civil and human rights issues. Sakara has contributed as a featured commentator for KBCS Radio, Real Change News, and as a guest columnist for the Seattle Times.
When not working, Sakara is otherwise boringly normal; she is mother to 3 and lives in the greater Seattle area. She is unabashed in her love for birds and her cat, is a bookworm and news wonk. If chocolate is a verb, she does that too.
After Homophobic/Racist Comments by Top Faculty Member, It’s Time for University to Give LGBTQ Students a Voice on Campus.
Dr. Erik Thoennes of Biola University
The Biola Queer Underground is a brave group of students and alumni of Biola University, a conservative Christian college outside Los Angeles. The mission of the group, which is not recognized as an official student organization by the University, is to provide support and resources for students at a school where publicly being LGBTQ can lead to expulsion.
Last fall, in a campus forum and panel discussion on human sexuality, faculty member Dr. Erik Thoennes singled out the Biola Queer Underground for mockery, attempting to compare the sin of racism to the “sin” of being queer, reading the group’s mission statement and substituting “racist” wherever the word “queer” occurred.
He concluded his castigation of the students with his opinion that while Biola faculty and students freely condemn racism, they feel “far less freedom” to condemn the “sin” of being queer. When a student asked why there were no pro-LGBTQ Christian voices present at the panel, Thoennes answered, “Because we think it’s sin. I wouldn’t want a pro-racist person on this panel if the question were racism.” You can hear all of Dr. Thoennes’ comments here .)
Dr. Thoennes is not an adjunct or junior member of the Biola faculty. He is the Chair of the Department of Biblical Studies and Theology and has twice won Faculty Member of the Year. In many ways, Dr. Thoennes comments represent the perspective of Biola University.
Jos Charles, a Biola alumnus and affiliate of the Biola Queer Underground, has penned an open letter outlining the problems with Dr. Thoennes’ comparison, and is asking Dr. Thoennes to dialogue publicly with Biola Queer Underground students about racism, homophobia and transphobia. (Read the full letter here.)
Soulforce Executive Director Rev. Dr. Cindi Love has written a Huffington Post article commenting on the bravery of the Biola Queer Underground and on Jos Charles’ open letter.
As supporters of Soulforce, we would like you to take two action steps to address this situation.
The letter could read:
Dear Dr. Thoennes and President Corey:
I was shocked when I read Jos Charles’ open letter describing the racist, homophobic, and transphobic language Dr. Thoennes used to denounce the Biola Queer Underground. I ask you heed their call for a public forum on campus with speakers representing their group to discuss the common roots of racism, homophobia, and transphobia, for the benefit of your students and faculty.
You can add to the letter as you see fit. Just remember that Soulforce practices nonviolence in thought, word, and deed. Abusive language or writing with a tone of violence is not appropriate. If you cannot follow these restraints, please do not send a letter to these individuals.
- Read Cindi Love’s Huffington Post piece to learn more about the Biola Queer Underground, and leave comments of support for their brave actions, which Cindi will pass along to them.
Let’s work to amplify the power of these brave young people!