Loving LGBT+ People with the Gospel (Fall 2017 Conference Highlights)By Darrell Yoder on October 31, 2017
At least once a year, we host a Talking Points event designed to provide a venue in which ministry professionals can engage in conversations about theology, culture and vocation. The hope is to leverage the resources of the academy in order to support and challenge those serving in the community as pastors, ministry leaders and counselors.
We took on a pressing topic this semester, one that Christians are actively wrestling with. The fall conference focused on "Loving LGBT+ People with the Gospel." We wanted to ask the question: How can churches with a historical, global and Christian view of sexuality and gender become places where LGBT+ people can find love, care and community? How can we cultivate ministries where people can share honestly and know they will be loved well?
We have not always done this well in the church, and as I interacted with attendees throughout the day, I really sensed a hunger to do better. Many of the people I heard from felt that the experience was a "breath of fresh air," because the speakers "just went there" on so many challenging issues. They really did. The speakers shared honestly from their own journeys and how they're seeing God work in people today.
- Preston Sprinkle, author and President of the Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender, opened the day with a passionate and pastoral appeal to see and love people—not just respond to an issue. He told stories of LGBT+ people who have been hurt by the church, and he shared what they long for most from communities of faith. He also gave a compelling case for the historical, Christian view of sexuality, gender, and marriage. He noted that we don't need to change our theological position in order to love LGBT+ people well, but we may need to change our posture. (Click here to listen)
- Laurie Krieg, Founder of Hole in my Heart Ministries, shared her story of broken same-sex sexuality and how God has met her in her darkest moments. She called on pastors and church leaders to take the risk of speaking up on issues related to sexuality because people are often walking alone, unsure if they can be honest about their struggles. (Click here to listen)
- Matt Krieg, Director of Counseling at Caring Well Counseling, shared his story of broken heterosexual sexuality, how addiction to pornography threatened his and Laurie’s marriage, and how we need to see sex for what it so often is—an idol we worship even in the church. (Click here to listen)
- Marvin Williams, Lead Pastor of Trinity Church in Lansing, shared during a panel discussion about his experience as a pastor, realizing he needed to approach this topic relationally and directly, and sharing what it was like to break the silence in his church. (Click here to listen)
- Gerald Longjohn, Vice President for Student Development at Cornerstone University, moderated the panel discussion and shared from his experience giving leadership in this area for Cornerstone University. (Click here to listen)
Two Big Themes From the Conference
One of the main themes of the conference was challenging attendees to educate themselves and to take the risk of opening the conversation about how churches with a historical, global and Christian view of sexuality and marriage can be places that love and care for LGBT+ people well. "It starts with you," said Pastor Williams. "It's so important to first wrestle with this question for yourself. Then, encourage your leaders to wrestle with it and engage in conversation together regarding what this should look like in your church."
A second theme of the conference was that when we talk about LGBT+ people, we're not talking about people out there. We're talking about us—middle-schoolers in our youth groups, friends in our neighborhoods and members of our churches. The problem is that we don't always feel safe sharing our struggles with sexuality, especially when they involve same-sex attraction or gender identity. Church leadership must be willing to speak openly and compassionately in order to create a safe environment. We can do that from within a historical, global Christian view of sexuality, if we are willing to be humble learners and provide space for people to struggle.
Over the next few weeks, we will be posting a series of blog posts that will go deeper into each of the five sessions. In addition, each post will provide a list of resources (e.g., books, teachings, counseling services) that were highlighted at the conference.
I hope you will step into the conversation and ask God how He is calling you to face your own struggle with sexuality and how you can walk with others who struggle as well.