But “don’t just stop there,” Shlemon warned. “To love Jesus would mean also to obey his commands.”
‘Quiet Middle’—A Theologically Neutral Space
The conference intentionally didn’t address the topic of sin or the biblical permissibility of homosexual and transgender acts. The focus of the conference was on relationships and navigating a child’s sexual journey.
“I wasn’t convinced at all that the conference was theologically neutral,” Shlemon reported, “because virtually every speaker, ever leader, every facilitator, every story told, every resource, every website, and every book recommendation seems to believe that homosexual sex and satisfying transgender ideation is morally permissible.”
Shlemon spoke of the sermon soon after the conference in which Stanley affirmed his (and North Point’s) belief in the traditional marriage. But after talking with staff and speakers at the conference, “I didn’t find a single person who held a view that homosexual sex was sin,” reflected Shlemon.
Brian Nietzel and Justin Lee, two speakers at the conference, are both openly gay and married to other men. Both Nietzel and Lee shared about their pursuit of Jesus while also being practicing gay men. Shlemon feared that attendees’ takeaway from the conference would be, “Wait a minute, so if they can get married to another man, then…I don’t have to worry about that because it seems to be okay.”
McDowell supported the idea of having speakers from within the LGBTQ+ community and the fact that each attendee had things to learn. But, McDowell argued, this should have been done with both theological sides being represented. Stanley “gave pastoral approval,” albeit indirectly, to the views presented by leaders of the conference.
Answering the Tough Questions
McDowell and Shlemon addressed two main questions surrounding the topic of the LGBTQ+ community and the church. McDowell asked whether or not the church should make accommodations for same-sex unions, similar to the church making accommodations for cases of divorce. Both McDowell and Shlemon agree that the Bible is pretty clear on the topics of marriage, divorce, and homosexuality.
The duo then discussed whether Christians should simply “agree to disagree” on matters surrounding same-sex sexual behavior. “The Bible doesn’t treat those as agree-to-disagree topics,” concluded Shlemon. The Bible not only shows the positive ramifications of God’s design for marriage but also specifically warns against sexual sin.
“That’s the way forward: making sure we emphasize truth as well as compassion,” said Shlemon.