Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Into the Shadows

The "Out of the Shadows Into the Light" conference started yesterday afternoon at the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado. I attended a bit of the conference, and though organizers billed it as an open-ended dialogue on human sexuality and the church, my initial impression is that it fell short of that mark.

The first speaker, Marvin Ellison of Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary, made an impassioned plea for the church to drop its fear and loathing of human sexuality and abandon the "politics of oppression." He was initially concerned that speaking at this Colorado Springs conference might expose him to "toxic" levels of anti-gay rhetoric, referring to Focus on the Family by name. He said that Christians need to understand that the Bible has some "spiritual deadwood," and that the Ted Haggard story is really about "overcoming self-hatred."

"What about Mr. Haggard, should we ask, needs healing?" he asked attendees.

Ellison's talk hit home for many of the conference-goers, who murmured and chuckled their agreement throughout. But it was a curious keynote to launch a conference that's intended to start a cross-philosophical dialogue on the issue -- one intended to engage both the Ellisons and Focus on the Familys of the world. This was not a "let's sit down and talk about this" speech: This was a "let me tell you what's wrong with the church today" speech.

This was just one of many talks scheduled for the conference, and most of the heavy lifting of the conference will take place in small groups, where attendees will have a chance to speak with one another. I was not allowed into the small-group scene as a journalist, so perhaps the conversations there are taking a different tack.

But initially, at least, the conference struck me as a swing and a miss: You can't hold a culture-changing conference on human sexuality -- at least not in Colorado Springs -- without bringing the conservatives to the table, too.


Anonymous zen said...

The event is being held at the Gay & Lesbian Fund facilities. Is that neutral? What if the same conference been held at Focus on the Family headquarters?

Yes I know, the building shouldn't matter. But it does. The artwork on the walls and books on the shelves and pamphlets on the entry tables shouldn't matter. But they do. The little things add up.

If these parties really want to have a serious meeting of the minds in the interest of finding common / neutral ground, they first need to start by finding a neutral meeting place.

4:35 PM  

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