Gilbert Caldwell is a founding member of United Methodists of Color for a fully inclusive Church. He was an early and active campaigner on issues of racial equality, and when he saw the inequality around issues of sexuality he also started working and writing on that as well. This is a collection of sermons and articles he has written in the 38 years to 2007.
A 2005 Press release from Rev. Kevin A. Johnson, Bloom in the Desert Ministries
HE WALKED WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
NOW MINISTER SEES GAY RIGHTS AS SAME FIGHT
CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER SPEAKS TO PALM SPRINGS RELIGIOUS SERVICES
Palm Springs, California, January 17, 2005 -- A civil rights advocate and a man who was at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s side in the 1960s confronted the new racism – injustice towards gays and lesbians in churches and society during a series of appearances in Palm Springs on January 16.
During the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, who first heard King speak in 1957, said that King would be marching for gays and lesbians if he were alive today.
On Sunday, January 16, 2005, Rev. Caldwell delivered the sermon at the 9:30 a.m. regular worship service of Bloom in the Desert Ministries, and then spoke at an 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. catered “Soul Food Brunch.”
Both events were open to the public and held at the Family YMCA of the Desert –Palm Springs, at3601 East Mesquite Avenue.
In addition to his memories of King and the civil rights struggle, Caldwell spoke on the current fight against racism and injustice toward gays and lesbians in church and society.
Caldwell’s advocacy for equality in church and society today includes issues about sexual orientation. He testified on behalf of a lesbian minister at a 2003 United Methodist Church trial inWashington State, telling the court, that as the United Methodist Church now brands “the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching,” there was a time when blacks and women were thought to be “incompatible” in the life of the church.
He has spoken against amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. “I am an African American clergyman who with thousands of others protested and was arrested, challenging racist legislation that violated our national ideals of equality,” Caldwell said at a press conference held by Colorado Clergy for Equality in Marriage. “Today, I declare that I believe ‘laws and habits’ that negate the right of same-sex couples to marry, contradict the ideals of our nation.”
Caldwell, a founding member of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, helped develop the group’s statement on issues of racism, sexism and heterosexism. In part it says, “We see the truth in the words of Coretta Scott King when she says that the struggles for inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people are part of the ‘continuing justice movement’ for which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life, a movement that ‘thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion.’”
Caldwell is currently one of the national coordinators of the Church Within A Church Movement in the United Methodist Church. The grass roots group's mission is "To BE church in a fully inclusive way."
Some blacks have argued that fighting for inclusion and justice for gays as a civil rights issue hurts the movement for racial justice. Caldwell recalls that King “took all kinds of guff from the black civil rights community and others” when he raised economic issues and spoke out against the Vietnam War. “I want to explore what would Martin Luther King say and do if he were here today, on a plethora of issues,” Caldwell says. “I say God cares about justice.” Caldwell adds, “One does not have to major in one area and minor in other areas.”
Caldwell, 71, retired in 2001 after 45 years of ministry serving churches in Massachusetts,Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado. He says he is looking forward to his visit and dialogue at Bloom in the Desert Ministries in Palm Springs.
Caldwell says he first heard King at a “prayer pilgrimage” rally in 1957 that commemorated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the “separate but equal” concept in public schools. While in seminary in 1958, he invited King to speak to several classes at King’s alma mater, Boston University School of Theology. Caldwell was present for King's “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
In 1964, Caldwell joined in the Mississippi Summer Project, an effort to set up freedom schools for black children and register black voters. Caldwell participated in the 1965 march from Selma toMontgomery for voting rights. As a Methodist minister in the city, Caldwell was an organizer and the emcee of a rally in Boston where King spoke.
Based on his observations of King, Caldwell describes him as “a quiet reflective person, an introspective person” who “came alive in a unique way on the platform” as he spoke. He says that King used his academic experience and intellect, yet “related to the struggle of real-life people.”
At a meeting on April 4, 1968, of the National Conference of Black Churchmen in Chicago,Caldwell heard about King’s assassination in Memphis and rushed to Boston to patrol the streets with other black clergy to discourage violence.
Bloom in the Desert Ministries is a progressive, interdenominational Christian ministry committed to full inclusion of all persons and the celebration of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identities. As a liberal protestant church, the congregation has connections to the UnitedMethodist Church and United Church of Christ. For additional information, contact Rev. Kevin A. Johnson at (760) 333-1221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visitwww.bloominthedesert.org.