The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Over the weekend of October 15-17, 2009, a conference called “Marriage, Homosexuality and the Church” was held on the campus of Andrews University. This conference was sponsored by several church organizations, particularly the Religious Liberty Association, the Biblical Research Institute, and the Seminary. Organizers stated that the reason for the conference was twofold: to provide a response to the book, Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives, and to respond to those who were part of the group Adventists Against Prop 8 (a voter initiative in California designed to repeal same-sex marriage). The conference was not intended to present a balanced view of the topic of homosexuality. It definitely lived up to that goal. The presenters included conservative scholars, several of whom were asked to write response chapters for the book, but who declined the invitation.
Let’s start with the Ugly. I actually expected more of the ugly than there was. The most Ugly was not from an Adventist presenter, but from Dr. Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburg Theological Seminary. He is a Presbyterian and often presents the minority dissenting viewpoint about homosexuality at their General Assembly. In spite of the fact that he is a New Testament scholar, he drew very heavily on Old Testament references, especially Leviticus, to declare that homosexuality is an abomination to God both for Jews and for Christians. Those who were anxious to have someone say what they wanted to hear loved his presentations, in spite of the fact that members of his own denomination do not agree with his views.
The Bad included testimonies from someone who claims to have changed his orientation and a man who claimed that he has now been celibate for six months. The presentation from Dr. Yarhouse, who was there to share research on reparative therapy and who presented his views to the American Psychological Association (APA) this past summer, must have been disappointing to many. He indicated that he is not sure of anyone who has actually completely changed from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one, though he does know there are some who have moved down the continuum and have become less homosexual and more focused on becoming “Christlike.” The Andrews administration refused to let the Seventh-Gay Adventist team film any of the conference and sent a warning out to students not to speak to anyone with a camera. However, there were a number of people willing to be interviewed. (Shouldn’t this be a new paragraph?)
Surprisingly, there were some Good aspects to the conference. We were able to identify several faculty members who are prepared to provide safe places for students who are gay on the AU campus. Because members of our group all wore pink carnations, we had a number of people ask us why we were wearing the carnations. Their curiosity gave us opportunities for conversations.
I talked personally with several of the conference organizers. They indicated that while they felt it was important for their segment of the church to respond to Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives, they only see this conference as a first step. They agreed that we need to begin more discussions and that future discussions should include members of Kinship. If this happens, then the book and this conference will become a valuable first step in creating the dialogue we have been requesting with the denomination for many years. Let’s pray that that happens.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2011 21:52|