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Merritt won't respond to letter from Soulforce

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    CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE From Associated Baptist Press - www.abpnews.com ... Merritt won t respond to letter from Soulforce By Bob Allen June 3, 2002
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2002
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      CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE

      From Associated Baptist Press - www.abpnews.com
      ------------------

      Merritt won't respond to letter from Soulforce
      By Bob Allen
      June 3, 2002
      Volume: 02-47-3225

      SNELLVILLE, Ga. (ABP) -- Southern Baptist Convention president James
      Merritt will ignore an invitation to meet with representatives of
      Soulforce at the upcoming SBC annual meeting, a spokesman said June
      3.

      A May 23 letter to Merritt threatened escalated protests this year in
      St. Louis, unless the SBC president joins Soulforce in denouncing
      views the group says promote violence against gays.

      Dan Greer, Merritt's associate pastor at First Baptist Church of
      Snellville, Ga., said Merritt has been traveling out of the country
      and didn't get a chance to read the letter from Soulforce founder Mel
      White until June 3.

      Greer said Merritt has responded to other letters from Soulforce in
      the past, however, explaining his position on the subject.

      "He feels like he has made his position clear to them and will not be
      responding to this particular letter," Greer said.

      In his letter, White had asked Merritt and at least five members of
      the SBC Executive Committee to attend part of a summit criticizing
      the denomination's anti-homosexual teachings, scheduled June 10 at
      the Centenary United Methodist Church in St. Louis.

      He also asked Merritt to join a press conference outside the
      convention meeting hall to repudiate a recent "legal opinion" by
      Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore saying the state must use
      "confinement and even execution" to prevent gays and lesbians from
      parenting children.

      Should Merritt refuse those invitations, White said the entire
      Soulforce delegation plans to kneel in prayer on the sidewalk at the
      entrances of the America's Center, while a small group of volunteers
      marches into the convention hall in hopes of addressing messengers
      directly.

      Merritt, who leaves office after completing his second one-year term
      as convention president at the close of the June 11-12 annual
      meeting, has in the past refused to meet with Soulforce, which has
      picketed outside the SBC annual meeting each of the last two years.

      Thirty-four demonstrators were arrested outside last year's
      convention in New Orleans upon trying to enter the meeting hall.
      Twenty-seven were arrested under similar circumstances in 2000 when
      the convention met in Orlando, Fla.

      Soulforce spokesperson Laura Montgomery Rutt said Merritt's refusal
      "to repudiate Justice Moore's statement that the state has the right
      to execute gays and lesbians to prevent them from being parents
      should horrify the 15 million members of Southern Baptist churches.

      "It is our hope that his silence is not a sign that all Southern
      Baptists condone violence against gay people."





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