Spiritual violence is the misuse of God, the Bible and pastoral or church authority to sanction condemnation, rejection, abuse or discrimination against any of Gods children. United Methodist policies are a source of spiritual violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. This spiritual violence sends a message of support to those who justify psychological, legal and even physical violence against LGBTpersons. Fred Phelps gives a blatant voice to spiritual violence when he screams God hates fags. The United Methodist Church conveys the same message in more subtle and sophisticated ways, but the result is the same - support for a spiritual atmosphere that undermines LGBT persons sense of worth as beloved children of God and leads to self-loathing, feelings of failure, self-destructive behavior and even suicide. This same anti-LGBT message supports a political and social atmosphere that denies basic human rights and even encourages physical assault and murder.
But doesnt the United Methodist Church affirm that homosexual persons . . . are individuals of
sacred worth? Doesnt the church implore its members and churches not to reject or condemn their
lesbian and gay members and friends?
Yes, those words are in the churchs Discipline, but The United Methodist Church is a divided church which
sends a mixed message reflecting an unresolved thirty-year debate between United Methodists of
progressive and classical points of view. Progressive bishops and pastors defend the integrity and human
rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Yet, when LGBT members in their care seek a
blessing on their committed relationships or try to respond to Gods call to Christian service, church law
requires these same bishops and pastors to violate their own consciences and practice the discrimination
they preach against. So they become both victims and tools of the spiritual violence they oppose.
On the other side of the divided church classical pastors interpret church teaching and law as justifying a
conditional welcome to LGBT persons requiring them to repent and end their committed relationships
with their life-partners and to seek to be healed of their sexual identity or to commit to a life of celibacy.
Only then may LGBT persons enjoy the same responsibilities and privileges of membership enjoyed by
non-LGBT persons. Church law permits pastors and local churches to deny membership to unrepentant
LGBT persons, to restrict their participation and even to refuse baptism to infants and children presented
by same-gender parents who desire to raise their children in the church.
The anti-LGBT Christian teaching which the United Methodist Book of Discipline (church law) invokes, but
never explains is nothing other than a biased view which interprets a few, isolated scripture texts as
describing a violent God who destroys whole cities for the abomination of homosexuality, who authorizes
the death penalty for homosexual practice, and commits LGBT persons to eternal damnation.
This is defended by some United Methodists as classical Christianity, as Methodists in the past (despite the
teaching of John Wesley!) justified slavery and the subordination of women as classical Christianity.
What Do We Request?
Soulforce Wisconsin has requested of a leader of WACUM (the Wisconsin
Association of Confessing United Methodists) that we begin discussions centered on how WACUM,
together with United Methodist friends of LGBT people, might agree to support a change to the United
Methodist Book of Discipline that would acknowledge the truth that United Methodists are not of one
mind on questions related to homosexuality and Christian teaching. Although our request has so far been
refused, we remain committed to opening negotiations with leaders of WACUM. This is why we vigil.
What is a vigil?
A vigil is a devotional watching, maintaining a state of spiritual wakefulness in anticipation of positive
change. A vigil expresses faith and hope in the spirit of love.
Why do we vigil?
We vigil for our own spiritual renewal and for the transformation of society. We vigil seeking the power and
presence of God to renew our resolve to follow Gods call for love, justice and mercy. Our vigil anticipates that
hearts and minds will change as we bear witness to the truth.
When do we vigil?
We vigil when the power of our inner soul force,* in tune with the Soul force at the center of the universe
(God), calls us to vigil. Sometimes we vigil to provide information or to open (or re-open) dialogue and
negotiations with an adversary.**
How does Soulforce conduct its vigils?
We seek reconciliation, not victory and conduct ourselves in a spirit of love and nonviolence, observing rules of courtesy with allies and adversaries alike.
*Soul force is the name Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. used to describe their nonviolent
resistance movements against injustice in South Africa, India and the United States. Soul force is the English translation of Gandhis word satyagraha meaning force of truth or soul force.
**Soulforce believes that our adversaries are not our enemies, but victims of misinformation, as we all have
been. We believe we and our adversaries are members of the same human family, children of God, brothers and sisters in need of reconciliation. Together with our adversaries, we seek the truth, which we individually know only in part. This truth holds the power to liberate us all.