In Orlando, Florida on May 18, Northland, A Church Distributed, one of the largest evangelical churches in Orlando, hosted a public conversation on how churches can be more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ people in and around Orlando. This “Elevating the Dialogue on LGBTQ Inclusion and Understanding in the Church” event came almost a year after the Pulse nightclub shooting, the worst attack on the LGBTQ community in American history.
Too often, conversations about LGBTQ Christians in the church can descend into bitter debates that divide rather than build up. Consequently, many Christians are reluctant to engage the conversation, wary of generating more heat than light.
The Reformation Project firmly believes that it is possible to have better, more loving, and more Christ-like conversations about LGBTQ inclusion in the church that acknowledge the diversity of viewpoints that exist while also respecting and honoring one another as committed Christians regardless of our views on the topic.
This panel conversation featured Pastor Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor at Northland; Bishop Kelvin Cobaris, founding pastor of The Impact Church of Orlando; and Reverend Terri Steed Pierce,, senior pastor of Joy Metropolitan Community Church. The panel was moderated by Amelia Markham, the Atlanta organizer for The Reformation Project, and the Q&A session was facilitated by Matthew Vines, The Reformation Project's executive director.
While the panelists' theological views on marriage and sexuality varied, they are all committed to making the church a more loving, supportive place for LGBTQ Christians.
"All too often, conversations about LGBTQ Christians in the church descend into bitterness and acrimony,” says Matthew Vines, executive director and founder of The Reformation Project, the organization that convenes the church discussions. “Again in Orlando, we hope to turn down the volume as we model genuine Christian love, humility, and forbearance in this conversation,” he says.
Love the Sinner, a short documentary film, that explores the connection between Christianity and homophobia in the wake of the shooting at Pulse nighclub in Orlando, was also shown ahead of the conversation. This documentary was directed by Jessica Devaney and Geeta Gandbhir and premiers at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this month (May 2017).
“This is not meant to be a debate, but a learning time for all who attend,” said Pastor Hunter. “I need to be confronted with how I unintentionally hurt people, or communicate a lack of respect. We all need to stop blaming others and start searching our own hearts for solutions to community divisions,” he said.
Elevating the Dialogue: Orlando is one in a series of public conversations held in churches around the country, to encourage meaningful dialogue among affirming and non-affirming Christians. The discussions are organized by The Reformation Project, a Bible-based, Christian grassroots organization that envisions a global church that fully affirms LGBTQ people.
Want to see what people are saying about this event? Check out #ElevateDialogue across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.