Conferences abound to reconcile faith and sexuality

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Few things frustrate me more than to hear our community say things like, “the church just doesn’t accept me,” or “the church hurt me, so I’m never going back.” I understand there are church congregations that may disapprove of us. I realize there are individual church members who may disapprove of us. But to block out the entire church with blanket statements, based on the statements of a few, is as wrong as they are when they say “all gays are going to hell.” 

There are plenty of organizations and conferences that have been developed to reach out to our community and love us where we are on our journey to Christ. This month, I’m featuring several organizations that are making tremendous strides to embrace our community.   

During the last weekend of August, the More Light Presbyterians held their biennial national conference in Atlanta. Participants were greeted with large hand-painted banners declaring “All are welcome!” More than 200 people attended and everyone truly was welcome and respected as children of God within the embrace of this conference. More Light Presbyterians is a group working toward the full inclusion of GLBT people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). As a group, they believe that God continues to open new understandings of the Scriptures. 

Dr. Jack Rogers, author of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Explode the Myths, Heal the Church was a keynote speaker. A variety of breakout sessions were offered where topics like “Marriage Equality,” “Christian Sexual Ethics” and “Coming Out Journeys” were discussed. 

Trice Gibbons, a member of Second Presbyterian Nashville attended the convention.

"About three years ago, I worked with other Presbyterians in Nashville to organize a local chapter. The local chapter includes ministers, church members and elders from the Nashville area who are interested in GLBT issues as they relate to the Presbyterian Church," Gibbons said.

While Gibbons attended the National Convention, he was fortunate enough to be elected to the National Board. The National Board consists of 15 members from across the country who will organize the next national convention. 

“It was an honor to be at this convention and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with this organization on a national level," added Gibbons.

It is easy to see why Gibbons would be honored to associate with this group. They are proactive, valiantly working to strengthen and unite our community and our faith. For more information, visit www.mlp.org. 

During the first week of August, the Ninth-Annual Reconciling Convocation was held at Vanderbilt University. This convention is based in the United Methodist Church. Approximately 500 people attended. 

When I first walked into the opening session of this convention, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of those attending. You could easily feel the energy in the room as those gathered anxiously awaited for the opening session to begin.   

Workshop sessions included “Countering Homophobic Use of Scripture,” “Living Openly in Your Place of Worship” and “Creating a Church Home for Christian Transgender People.” 

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine was a featured Bible study leader. Dr. Levine is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and Gradate Department of Religion. She describes herself as a “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle on the Bible belt.” She easily combined historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and an amazing amount of humor with a commitment to eliminate anti-Jewish, sexist and homophobic theologies. 

Troy Plummer, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network , who cosponsored the conference said, “There are United Methodists working every day to help the local church welcome everybody. We believe Christ invites all. Period. This conference is about extending God’s love to everyone, and we want Nashville to know there are faithful people in the Methodist Church working to help everyone live a life in Christ. "

For more information on this organization, visit www.rmnetwork.org.

While these two conferences have passed, fortunately there is another opportunity to attend one more conference this month. October 19-20, Holy Trinity Community Church will host a conference entitled “God and Gays.” 

For years, there has been a tremendous gap between the gay community and our faith. This conference promises to address that gap and begin to build a bridge of reconciliation between the two.   

Friday night will feature the movie God and Gays: Bridging the Gap followed by a question/answer session with film producer Kim Clark and special guest Darlene BogleIt looks at a variety of people wanting a relationship with the very religion that rejects them – Christian (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist) Mormon, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Muslim and more.  

On Saturday, Darlene Bogle will speak and share her journey from national leader of Exodus to national leader of the Reconciling Movement. She’ll describe the process she went through to reconcile her faith and orientation. There will also be a workshop entitled “Comfort Zones are Slow Dream Killers.” Those attending will look at what comfort zones are, and how to move beyond them. 

You may get tickets for one or both days of this convention. Tickets will be available at the door.  Visit www.godandgaysthemovie.com/conference for more information.  

You say the church doesn’t love you? The church doesn’t accept you? Three conferences in less than three months. All about God. All about the gay community…and all about reconciling the two.