An upcoming conference hosted by Andy Stanley's church for ministry leaders and parents of LGBTQ children is being called a "clear and tragic departure from Biblical Christianity" by a prominent evangelical leader, who says the lineup of speakers reveals the event's theological position.
Stanley's North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., is hosting the Unconditional Conference, a two-day event Sept. 28-29 "for parents of LGBTQ+ children and for ministry leaders looking to discover ways to support parents and LGBTQ+ children in their churches," its website says. Stanley is one of the speakers.
"You will be equipped, refreshed, and inspired as you hear from leading communicators on topics that speak to your heart, soul, and mind," the website says. "We deeply desire this time will bring about healing and restoration. No matter what theological stance you hold, we invite you to listen, reflect, and learn as we approach this topic from the quieter middle space."
But Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says advertising for the conference "indicates clearly that this event is designed as a platform for normalizing the LGBTQ+ revolution" while "claiming that the conference represents 'the quieter middle space.'" Mohler critiqued the conference in a new World Opinions column.
Scheduled speakers include:
- David Gushee, a professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University who, supports same-sex marriage and has argued for "full LGBTQ inclusion" within the church, saying Christianity has been historically wrong on the issue. Gushee will deliver a breakout session titled "Wrestling with Theology, Pointing toward Jesus."
- Justin Lee, the executive director of Nuance Ministries and a "Christian voice for LGBTQ affirmation," according to his website. His breakout session is titled, "What is happening to my faith?" Lee is gay.
- Brian Nietzel, a gay man who co-founded Renovus, an "organization that helps LGBTQ+ individuals rediscover Jesus," according to his website. Nietzel is leading a breakout session titled "LGBTQ+ Faith Stories: Hope for & Insights about Your Kids."
- Greg and Lynn McDonald, the authors of the book Embracing the Journey: A Christian Parents' Blueprint to Loving Your LGBTQ Child and co-founders of the ministry Embracing the Journey. Their breakout session is titled "Embracing your Journey: Moving through fear to surviving and thriving."
Embracing the Journey is sponsoring the Unconditional Conference. (Nietzel is on the ministry's board of directors.) Among the books recommended on the Embracing the Journey website is Gushee's Changing Our Mind, in which he explains how he transitioned from a traditional, orthodox understanding of LGBT issues to an affirming one. Another book the website recommends is God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines.
"This conference is not really 'quiet,' nor is it 'middle space,'" Mohler wrote. "It is structured as what most evangelicals would quickly recognize as a departure from historic normative Biblical Christianity. "... Maybe the conference will surprise us, and Stanley will present a resounding affirmation of Biblical authority and the Christian church's longstanding convictions concerning sexuality, marriage, and gender. But that would require a reversal of Stanley's trajectory and a bold correction of his platform guests. To state the obvious – that is not what is advertised. He has been working in this direction for years now. Sadly, it looks like the train is about to leave the station."
Photo courtesy: Drahomir Posteby Mach/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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