Influential civil rights activist and religious leader adds depth to PFLAG's outreach to faith communities and ethnically diverse groups
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) PFLAG National--Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays--is pleased to announce that the Reverend Gilbert H. Caldwell of Asbury Park, N.J., has been elected to its national Board of Directors. Caldwell, a straight, African-American minister (retired) in the United Methodist Church, will focus his work with PFLAG on outreach to faith communities and to LGBT people and their families in the African-American community.
"I have always been committed to the freedom struggles of all people," said Caldwell. "I hope that my experiences as a minister and as a person of color will help me serve as a bridge between PFLAG and the communities where I have done my life's work."
"Gil Caldwell is an exceptional straight ally and leader of change," said John R. Cepek, PFLAG National President. "PFLAG is very lucky to have the support and leadership of someone with Gil's history of activism and advocacy."
Rev. Caldwell is a founding member of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, and the Church Within a Church Movement. He is also a member of the Board of Preachers and Scholars of the Martin Luther King International Chapel at Morehouse College, and the author of two books and numerous book chapters, newspaper, and magazine articles. He was born in Greensboro, N.C., and is a graduate of North Carolina A & T University and Boston University School of Theology, and did graduate study at Harvard Divinity School.
A self-described foot soldier during the March on Washington in 1963, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, and the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery, Caldwell's activism in civil rights spans more than four decades. In addition to serving as senior pastor for churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York (Brooklyn and Harlem), Pennsylvania, and Denver, Colo., Caldwell's leadership in the United Methodist Church includes work as a District Superintendent in both Boston and West Chester, Pa.; Associate General Secretary, United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race; and Executive Director of the Ministerial Interfaith Association of Harlem.
In addition, he has served as adjunct faculty at Harvard Divinity School, Boston University School of Theology, Yale Divinity School, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and New York Theological Seminary. He and his wife of 51 years, Grace, a retired public school teacher, live in Asbury Park, N.J. They have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and one granddaughter.
Caldwell's connection to PFLAG extends back to 1997, when he became the first African American Senior Pastor of multi-racial Park Hill United Methodist Church in Denver. Among his parishioners were PFLAG National President Elinor Lewallen and her husband Tom. Caldwell credits his understanding of LGBT issues to Elinor Lewallen, and says, "I developed a deep appreciation and respect for the parents of lesbian and gay people who, in many instances, had to not only live with the prejudices of their families and friends, but also had to wrestle with and overcome their own prejudices."
Lewallen sent her congratulations to Caldwell upon his election to the PFLAG Board of Directors. "I am thrilled, both for Gil and for PFLAG," she said. "In the years since I have known him, Gil has expanded his concern for all kinds of discrimination and I can see him helping tremendously to inspire more people of color to realize that PFLAG is a healing place for families, saving lives over and over."