The final panel featured participants from the various institutions that supported this conference. Each were given an opportunity to offer an answer to the question, Where do we go from here? What does the church have to do to more effectively address this issue?
Barry Bussy spoke from his experience in Canada. He believes that we are reaching a tipping point in Western democracies where a particular norm is replacing another norm. In this context, be believes that the dissonance between church and society will get louder and we will have pressure put on us by society to conform. He said that the important thing in this context is to deal with the mistakes of our past, continue living our faith, and accept whatever legal and societal pressures may come. He maintains that people will be watching how we react to these issues.
Ron Woolsey spoke next of his experience upon reentering the church. He said that he read one thing in the Bible and heard another thing in church. He read in Ellen White that one of Satan's greatest sophistries is convincing people that they cannot over come sin, and then he would come into the church and get shot down for reading that. He says we need to be very consistent with our message, because what he needed was something rock solid to hold on to. He asked us not to ask the homosexual to overcome and give other sins a pass.
Trevor Frasier was concerned about the weight we have placed on demonstrating our biblical stance. He thinks we have done a good job of that, but his concern is pastoral with regards to where we go from here. He feels that the question of how we care for homosexuals is a burden that needs to be put on us all. He proposes a whole conference on how to deal with these issues.
Bill Knott shared that he has been thinking about how to report on this conference in the Review and has come up with two salient points: (1) The clarity of our biblical stance, and (2) how far we have fallen short of a gospel ethic in our treatment of homosexuals. He believes the implication of this for church leadership is not just to make statements on public policy but the need to teach a people not well trained in compassion how to relate to homosexuals.
Edward Woods III told us a few things that stood out to him. He appreciated Dr. Yarhouse's statement [Yarhouse disputed making this statement here.] that when you're dealing with these issues you can separate the sin from the person. Love the sinner hate the sin doesn't work with homosexuals [because they perceive hatred of the sin as hatred of the sinner]. Woods also referenced Bill Knott, who said that when we were a movement, we spoke out against social problems. He has friends who have left the church because it isn't doing this. Woods thinks the church ought to be a love laboratory where we help all kinds of people who come to us. He is very concerned as more and more of his friends leave the church over its failure to do this.
Wayne Blakley said he's been very blessed by this conference. Today was the first day that he began to feel bruising. He suggested tongue-in-cheek that we have a conference soon to discuss heterosexual sin by way of helping us empathize with how the morning panel affected him. He advised us not to forget to love people to Christ. He suggested that we don't have to take extra effort to point out a homosexual's sin, because they are only coming to you because they're already aware of it.
Inge Anderson stated that we have nothing to offer the homosexual community unless we have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. She asked if we had talked to Jesus before we came to the conference today? She believes that is what someone needs to do to overcome sexual compulsion, and that is what she needs to overcome sin in her life. She firmly declared that if you're surfing the internet for pornography, you've got nothing to offer homosexuals. She believes that if Jesus were here he would be spending time in the homosexual community, and they would flock to him because he exuded love. She believes people need to see love with skin on it before they will trust Jesus enough to give their sexuality to God.
Greg Hamilton addressed the issue of what the church should do in the realm of public policy. He said Alan Reinach was left dangling in the wind without much guidance on what to say or do about Prop 8. He worries that by the time the church comes up with a public policy statement, the legal and political battle over homosexual marriage will be over. He believes we must not dither, and argues for a public policy statement based on the GC statement on homosexuality.
Lincoln Steed asserted that same sex marriage is not a religious liberty issue. But he said that the church would be lax and corrupt if it did not speak to it, much like the church's stand on the temperance movement. He views himself as fighting a rear guard action with people in our church who believe that we should not oppose homosexual marriage. He believes, based on Ellen White, that the greatest threat to the Adventist Church is from within. He cited the Ford movement and, though not by name, Alden Thompson's Inspiration as examples of this eschatological threat. He believes that we must defend sola scriptura as a strong source of authority against secularism in order to counter the Catholic Church's strong claims of authority. He doesn't believe that right now the church would have the backbone to close Andrews University if the government gave it the choice to accept a practicing homosexual professor or shut down.
Greg King shared how he did not have resources he needed when working with a homosexual and feels this conference is a step forward in that regard. He pointed to Jesus final words to the woman caught in adultery as a paradigm in our dealings with homosexuals. Jesus forgave her past and provided moral clarity for the future. He believes that speaking the truth in love is also a key to our relationships.
Esther Knott said she felt as if she was at a revival meeting. She feels that this conference has been a call to holiness in the lives of homosexuals and in the rest of us as we respond to them. With regards to moving forward, she feels that we need to be very careful in the way we address singleness. On the way home from one of the meetings, her daughter told her she had a friend who is gay. She said that before listening to Dr. Yarhouse, she wouldn't have known what to say to her daughter, but because of this conference she was equipped. She believes that we need to undertake an equipping of all pastors and members of the Body of Christ on this issue.
Nicholas Miller fears for our church if we don't handle this question properly. He believes that if we are to have credibility on issues of church and state in regards to a future Sunday law, than we cannot be seen to have abandoned the field on a prior issue of public morality. He believes that we need to clearly articulate the difference between legislation that relates to the first and second table of the law and act on that difference in order to be taken seriously in the public square.
Disclaimer: I have summarized the views of the presenters to the best of my ability, however my summary should not be conflated with their actual views. For this reason, any attempt to debate the presenters views in the comments section will be deleted. Comments that seek clarification are welcome.
Blogging the Homosexuality Conference (other posts)