Two homosexual groups plan to launch a national campaign targeting the most influential megachurches and its leaders in an attempt to change their views on gays and lesbians.
Soulforce, which promotes "pro-gay" interpretations of Scripture, and COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) are currently recruiting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) parents and their children along with other supporters for "The American Family Outing" in 2008. Selected families will visit six major megachurches to "educate" the public on the issue of homosexuality.
"Through our visibility we hope to peacefully challenge the false stereotypes about LGBT people and same-gender families, and educate the public through authentic and personal conversations - real parents sharing their stories and describing the hurtful effects of prejudice and religious condemnation," said a statement describing the national campaign, which will run from Mother's Day weekend in May through Father's Day weekend in June.
Churches being targeted are those led by Joel Osteen, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dr. Rick Warren, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., Bill Hybels and Bishop Eddie Long. Along with most Christian leaders, all have expressed to some degree an opposition to the homosexual lifestyle.
Soulforce contends that these younger generation evangelical leaders "are striving to change the tone of the national political debate with messaging that is less punitive, therefore making religion-based discrimination seem more palatable to the mainstream American public."
The upcoming campaign comes at a time when more evangelical churches are showing compassion toward the homosexual community. While still rejecting homosexual behavior as sin, Christians are increasingly welcoming and loving homosexuals, departing from the hateful and homophobic labels often attached to churches.
Still, churches continue to struggle with the issue of homosexuality in a culture that is more open to gay and lesbian lifestyles.
Participants of The American Family Outing plan to attend a worship service at each of the megachurches and also request time for panel discussions and a chance to engage in informal conversations with congregants of the churches.
Before the visits, 40 recruited families are required to attend a weekend of training in Austin, Texas, in February to prepare for theological dialogue and nonviolent direct action.