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PASSAGES Civil rights foot soldier Rev. Dr. Gilbert H. Caldwell
--From press releases
2020-09-06

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From Truth in Progress and the From Selma to Stonewall film community:

HELENA, MT—Our hearts are heavy with the loss of The Rev. Dr. Gilbert Caldwell on Sept. 4, 2020, in New Brunswick, NJ. He was the co-executive producer and co-principal for the documentary From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet? A retired United Methodist pastor, Civil Rights Movement foot soldier and LGBTQ ally, Gil was an unstoppable force for justice.

You could not spend much time with Gil and not hear his favorite quote of Martin Luther King Jr., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The spirit of these words and his faith in God fueled his fight against the evils of racism, in its many forms, and to speak out against LGBTQ bigotry and discrimination in the United Methodist Church and throughout our country. He embodied theologian Karl Barth's advice to carry the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

Marilyn Bennett, director of From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet? shares some reflections.

"Gil and I started our journey together while working together to change the anti-LGBTQ policies and practices of the United Methodist Church, including being arrested during a peaceful protest at the denomination's 2000 General Conference in Cleveland, OH. In 2003 we engaged in a conversation between Gil, an older black, non-LGBTQ, retired pastor and Civil Rights Movement foot soldier and myself, a younger white, lesbian, author and activist. Our dialogue via letters addressed racial and LGBTQ topics, which led us to founding Truth in Progress. The documentary From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet? was released in 2016. What started as an exploration of the past and present Civil Rights Movement and the LGBT equality movement soon brought us to the stories of those who live in the intersection of these identities.

"For the past four years Gil and I have had the honor to travel to screenings throughout the country and engage with local activist organizations to continue the fight. At every stop, Gil inspired and empowered audiences with his keen, engaging, humor and intelligence.

"Our last event together was in Anacostia in D.C. in May 2019, a screening followed by a panel discussion. We created a second, newly released film from that event, From Selma to Stonewall: Navigating the Way. The pandemic changed its release date from February 2020 to October 2020. Gil's spirit lives on in many forms, through his writing and speaking and especially through From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?. His voice, visual presence, humanity and fight for justice will take the revolution forward. To his last breath, he held the vision and hope for the Beloved Community.

"Gil called us the "odd couple" and going forward I will greatly miss my odd partner. I believe he is now in the presence of the Divine, has exchanged his cane and freed both hands one for the Bible and the other for today's New York Times. You have broken our hearts Gil with your departure but not our spirits. No, we are still here and will move justice forward with your presence ever near."

To learn more about Truth in Progress and From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?", please visit www.fromselmatostonewall.com .

From PFLAG:

WASHINGTON, DC—PFLAGers everywhere today mourn the death of former PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Dr. Gilbert H. Caldwell. A retired United Methodist Church minister and true foot soldier in the fight for civil rights, Rev. Caldwell participated in the 1963 March on Washington, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer, the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, the March in Boston protesting public school segregation, and the 1968 Poor People's Campaign.

His work within the civil rights movement inspired him to focus on issues beyond race—including LGBTQ+ equality. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church ( UMOC ), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. Rev. Caldwell then joined the PFLAG National Board in 2009. Rev. Caldwell continued his work to change the United Methodist Church's position on LGBTQ+ inclusion, and as a UMC minister, officiated his first same-sex wedding on the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day in 2014.

Of his work with PFLAG, Rev. Caldwell said:

"One of the joys of my long justice journey is to have been invited to be a member of the Board of Directors of PFLAG National. The inspiration I get from working alongside the loved ones of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people fuels my advocate soul, and their commitment to the well-being of all LGBTQ individuals—be it their children, family members, friends, or co-workers—is an example that all of us should follow."

Former PFLAG National Board President Jean Hodges said:

"I considered Rev. Caldwell a real role model for how to do the work within faith communities, and within communities of color. As a Methodist—and the mom of a gay man—I was moved and inspired by all that he did to bring more allyship and engagement within the UMC. I will miss my dear friend, and PFLAGers everywhere have lost a real champion for inclusion."

PFLAG's thoughts are with Rev. Caldwell's family and all who knew and loved him.


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