Reluctantly, podcast host and Biola professor Sean McDowell and guest Alan Shlemon discussed what happened at the recent—and controversial—Unconditional Conference hosted by Andy Stanley and North Point Community Church.
Thrust into controversial topics such as abortion, evolution, and homosexuality throughout his career, Shlemon is an author and speaker for Stand to Reason. He personally attended the Unconditional Conference and shared his experience and the implications for the church.
“I’m frustrated by the conference suggesting that you either go with God or go with your kid, as if these are the only two options,” said Shlemon. “No, there’s a third way, and that is to maintain your biblical convictions and still love your friend or family member who identifies as LGBTQ+.”
LGBTQ+ Community and the Church: What Andy Stanley’s Unconditional Conference Sought to Address
Around 10 years ago, McDowell and Shlemon attended the Reformation Project hosted by Matthew Vines. As the event focused on leading a “reformation from within the church to an affirming position on same-sex unions,” the duo continued to research and observe the topic of the LGBTQ+ community and the church through a biblical lens.
Shlemon admitted, “I honestly didn’t want to do this interview. I did want to go to the conference and see what was being taught, but it’s not really my thing to go around being critical of pastors or churches.”
“For the last two decades, I’ve been teaching on sex, marriage, homosexuality, and, of course most recently, the transgender question,” Shlemon shared. “I’ve recognized that we as a church have made a lot of errors in the past with how we have addressed that topic and how we’ve specifically responded to people who’ve come out.”
Shlemon surmised, “I’ve sought to correct those errors and suggest a more compassionate way to respond that is still biblically faithful. And it’s precisely that aspect that I think this conference gets it wrong.”
What Happened at the Unconditional Conference Hosted by Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church?
According to North Point, “Parents of LGBTQ+ children often feel isolated and ill-equipped.” The church offers Parent Connect Groups and Events to connect “with other parents for support and equip you to love your child well.”
One such event is the Unconditional Conference, hosted on Sept. 28-29, by founder and senior pastor Andy Stanley of North Point and led by founders Greg and Lynn McDonald of Embracing the Journey. The conference itself sold out and drew an audience from outside the regular North Point congregation.
The conference was for “parents of LGBTQ+ children and for ministry leaders looking to discover ways to support parents and LGBTQ+ children in their churches.” The event promotion clarified, “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.”
A licensed professional counselor, Debbie Causey, led a main session on the “winter of this soul” and the “challenges that parents face when their kid comes out,” said Shlemon. Causey drove home the importance of supporting one another as people in the church community.
Shlemon continued to give a brief synopsis of the event. Causey also interviewed Stanley about his own experience interacting with those who are gay and wrestling with, “How do we respond to that?” Greg and Lynn McDonald led a third main session providing hope and looking toward “thriving again.”