Abilene pastor brings combination of business acumen and religious experience to activist organization
ABILENE —Cindi Love, former leader of the national MCC church, has been named executive director of Soulforce, the organization founded by the Rev. Mel White in 1998 to confront the religious right on LGBT issues.
White said Love, who recently stepped down after four years as executive director of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, brings a combination of business experience and spiritual and organizational knowledge.
"Let her show what can be done," White said. "I’m very grateful she’s willing to take over."
Love said that she hopes to forge alliances with other national and local groups to focus on acceptance. While some things can be legislated, she believes real equality will only be achieved when people believe God sees gays and lesbians as equal.
"We must stand together on this issue," she said.
Soulforce is perhaps best known for its Equality Rides. LGBT students travel by bus to campuses not normally seen as gay friendly to engage in dialogue.
"I love watching them work," Love said.
Last week, the equality riders visited two campuses in Abilene and were allowed only limited access to talk with students, Love said.
"No one was arrested or thrown out," she said, adding that neither is always a bad thing. "But we can’t heal while we’re afraid to talk."
Love said her approach to Soulforce will be a dual strategy of protest and dialogue. She likened it to ACT UP demonstrations balanced by community leaders talking to elected leaders.
"There were always people working behind the scenes," she said. "The two parts of the process are both equally important."
She referred to acceptance of gays and lesbians by churches as "consumer adoption." And she said she doesn’t believe that most religious people reject the LGBT community.
"We just allow fundamentalists to have the loudest voice," she said.
Love will maintain her office in Abilene. Some administrative functions, such as accounting, would continue in the Soulforice’s Austin office established during the tenure of Jeff Lutes, the previous executive director. White will continue his work in Virginia where he works and lives, across the street from Jerry Falwell’s church.
Love described Abilene as "the third most conservative city in America," making it a perfect home base for Soulforce.
From 2005 until April 2009, Love served as executive director of UFMCC, also based in Abilene. But before that her background was business.
She started several companies and INC Magazine named her a Top 50 entrepreneur in 1990.
She received a commendation from Gov. Ann Richards for bringing a computer-based education system developed in Israel to the U.S. The program was used in countries with a large influx of immigrants. She said it helped children in grades K- 4 increase reading scores by a year-and-a-half in just a few months.
Love encouraged dialogue on prejudice and discrimination in her book, "Would Jesus Discriminate?" about her experiences as a corporate executive and her entry into the ministry through her leadership of MCC.
While working as executive dean at Brookhaven College in Dallas, she completed her requirements for ordination by MCC. She said Rev. Margaret Walker of Exodus MCC in Abilene encouraged her.
"She saw something in me I never saw," Love said.
White said, "She’ll take the organization to new heights."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 16, 2010.