Soulforce, an ecumenical group pushing for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians within church life, announced May 15 that the group has planned a civil disobedience protest during a worship service on Sunday, June 25.
The 2.5 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA)--the nation's largest Presbyterian body--will meet in Long Beach, Calif., for its General Assembly from June 24 to July 1. Pro-gay groups hope to change the church's bans on ordaining gays and lesbians and performing same-sex union ceremonies.
The United Methodist Church ended its General Conference in Cleveland on May 12. The church voted not to change bans on gay ordination and same-sex ceremonies, and retained a statement calling the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." Soulforce led a demonstration that blocked exits to the Cleveland Convention Center, and 191 people were arrested.
The Rev. Mel White, a former ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the leader of Soulforce, said he will train volunteers in nonviolent demonstrations and plans to be arrested again.
"Even while they've called us 'sick' and 'sinful,' we've played their organs, led their choirs, taught their Sunday School classes, and given our tithes and offerings faithfully," White said in a statement. "Those days are over. By making outcasts of sexual and gender minorities, the Presbyterians have broken Christ's heart. We come in his name and for his sake to help save the soul of the Presbyterian Church (USA)."
After protesters failed to sway delegates to the Methodist meeting, White announced a boycott of Methodist churches that do not welcome gay and lesbian members, and said protesters will picket those churches. The Episcopal Church will also tackle the homosexuality question in July, but White has not said whether he plans to protest that meeting.