Remarks of Rev. Scott Ritchey, speaking on behalf of No Longer Silent at joint SoulForce, Gay Southern Baptists, and NoLongerSilent press conference at Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, Monday, June 16, 6:00pm

In the United States alone, over 7,000 hate crimes have been reported in the past few years as a result of the victim's sexual orientation, with many of these crimes resulting in death. A gay teenager is four times more likely to commit suicide. Our sisters and brothers face job loss, eviction, harassment, pain and exclusion, based solely on who they love. We will not be silent.

We are here to stand up against discrimination, bigotry, hatred, and violence. We are Christian clergy, more than 100 of us, raising our voices against Christian intolerance that promotes condemnation, intolerance and loathing. We are advocating justice for all, especially Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered persons.

We are here to witness an alternative reality to the one of hate, bigotry, and discrimination. These are not the family values we hold. Instead, we offer a vision of hope, appreciation, acceptance, and inclusion. The verdict is in and we call for all churches, especially Christian communities, to treat our LGBT persons with respect, dignity, and acceptance. Homosexuality is not a sickness, it is not a choice, and it is not a sin. We affirm that LGBT persons are distinctive, holy, and precious gifts to all who struggle to become the family of God.

We will not be silent and we will not be forced to take a narrow and erroneous view of the Scriptures. Those who supported slavery and discrimination against women also used Scripture passages to justify their position. Our LGBT sisters and brothers have painfully suffered long enough from social inequality, from religious discrimination, and from poor biblical scholarship. The violence must stop, and we will not be silent until all people are fully welcome to participate in our communities of faith.

Finally, No Longer Silent wants to give praise and thanks to God for all who have refused to let the voice of intolerance speak for Christianity. The determination of these people, especially our LGBT sisters and brothers, is an inspiration to us all, and provides a concrete prophetic witness of God's activity in our world.

Therefore, Clergy for Justice will not be silent until everyone is allowed to live fully and love joyfully.