The theme of this coming year’s EFCA Theology Conference (January 30-February 1, 2013, Southern Gables EFC, Littleton, CO) is “Sex Matters: A Theology of Human Sexuality.” It might be helpful to explain how we came to this title/theme and the focus of the Conference.
I had originally thought of just addressing the issue of same-sex marriage, and I believe I would be warranted in doing so. But that misses the big picture, which consists of God’s good design, not just one deviation or perversion of that design. This is what led me to this broader framework. I also thought it would be important to address the deviations from God’s good design more broadly, not just the sin of same-sex marriage. It must be addressed, but so must other sins. We live in a day that when morality is addressed, the sin of homosexuality and same-sex marriage must be addressed or one’s silence will be heard as support of it. But then when one does communicate it over and over, which is necessary as it is the moral issue of the day, then we are criticized for having only one note that we play incessantly on our moral instrument.
We are planning to address the whole realm of human sexuality more broadly, same-sex marriage being a sub-category under that larger one. There are huge issues related to human sexuality: creation, male and female, image of God, marriage, singleness, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, GLBT, GID, pornography, cohabitation among young (including evangelicals), older people living together and not married so as not to lose benefits, etc. Moreover, how will pastors respond as custodians of the state when they may be asked to perform same-sex unions? Should the pastor serve the dual role of civil and ecclesiastical in marriages? Should churches no longer perform weddings, but leave that to the state? This question is being raised quite often.
As you know, this is a very complex issue. It touches on all of the following: cultural, scientific, sociological, biblical, theological, pastoral. But this complexity does not mean there is question about this in the Word of God. We need to go back to God’s Word, be reminded of what He says, listen and learn about these issues, learn to get to the heart of these issues in the lives of people, and be equipped to stand firmly on God’s truth with humility and courage, knowing that God knows and cares and desires wholeness, according to His original design, not the personal whims and wishes of men and women.
We will focus on this important issue, and address the contemporary pressure point of same-sex marriage, from an interdisciplinary format (New Testament, Systematic Theology, Psychology, Medical, Personal Testimony). I am grateful to the Lord because it is only His providential hand that allowed us to get the speakers we did. They are key individuals who are on the front-lines of addressing this issue from an Evangelical perspective, seeking to educate and equip the church to know the Scriptures, to discern the times and to engage lovingly with those who struggle or out-right pursue the life and lifestyle.
You can read about the Conference at this link and the speakers at this link.
Here is the list of the speakers and topics and sessions, with some possibility of modifications.
Session #1: Ben Mitchell, Introduction: Human Sexuality – The Cultural and Ecclesiological Landscape
Session #2: Ben Mitchell, The Theology of Human Sexuality
Session #3, Robert Gagnon, Jesus’ View of Marriage
Panel Discussion #1
Session #4, Robert Gagnon, Paul on Homosexual Practice
Session #5, Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: A Personal Testimony, Theological and Ecclesial Reflections
- Robert Gagnon, Analogies and Their (Mis)Use in the Same-Sex Debate
- Wesley Hill, Spiritual Friendship: Recovering an Ancient Christian Practice for the Church Today
- Spiritual Heritage Committee, A Guide for EFCA Churches in Forming Policies Regarding Same-Sex Marriage
Session #6, Stan Jones, The Theology of Sexuality Applied: Teaching/Training of Youth in the Home and the Church
Session #7, Stan Jones, Science, Social Science and Sexual Orientation
Session #8, Dan Beals, What Can Medical Science Tell Us About Sexual Orientation?
Panel Discussion #2
We are praying the Lord will use this Conference to inform, educate and equip pastors and leaders to address these issues in a biblically faithful, theologically informed, and pastorally sensitive manner, all the while standing firmly on the Word of God. With this topic and with the incredibly gifted speakers joining us, this ought to be one of our largest attended Theology Conferences yet.