May 31, 2008

Next Up for American Family Outing: Atlanta

From the Southern Voice:

Soulforce wants to worship and break bread with New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, in hopes of having a conversation with Bishop Eddie Long.

As of press time, New Birth had not responded to the organization’s repeated attempts to make contact.

“What has happened with other churches is we have collaborated to work out something that is appropriate for each congregation, but we haven’t heard anything back from [New Birth],” Soulforce spokesperson Paige Schilt said. Soulforce first began to contact New Birth in December.

William Turner, New Birth’s senior director of marketing, said he wasn’t aware of specific plans to receive the group. Turner referred questions on the church’s position on the American Family Outing to Dan Renee, who works with a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. Marketing director? PR Firm? Is this a church or is Bishop Long a bit too much into his celebrity status? He is also resisiting inquires from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley into his church's finances, so he's a very busy man these days.

“They have tens of thousands of people who worship on Sunday. If a couple more people show up, they show up,” Renee said. “I don’t think there is any reason for the church to be concerned or scared.”

Renee did not make Long or any member of the church available to discuss the church’s positions on lesbian and gay issues.

Dr. Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, is one of the planners of the American Family Outing. She will help lead the New Birth outing, and said Soulforce would not consider it a success just to worship.

“It’s not that we just want to worship, we want to meet with Bishop Long, and have an official meeting, or outing or a picnic with the church,” Rhue said.

If the church does not respond, Soulforce participants would still attend services but not be disruptive or wear clothing to identify themselves as gay families, Rhue said.

“Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth is someone we would like to have dialogue with to see where our common ground is, especially because he led that march basically against marriage rights several years ago,” Rhue said.

Again, I can't praise Soulforce enough for this initiative. God bless the people who are making this trip, as well as those ahead to Saddleback Church (The Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren's church) and Willow Creek Community Church (led by author Bill Hybels).

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