3 Christian conferences, 3 approaches to LGBT issues

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A crowd shot from the GCN conference in 2013. This year, they expect double the number of attendees. - Image courtesy of the Gay Christian Network

A crowd shot from the GCN conference in 2013. This year, they expect double the number of attendees. - Image courtesy of the Gay Christian Network

A crowd shot from the GCN conference in 2013. This year, they expect double the number of attendees. - Image courtesy of the Gay Christian Network

A crowd shot from the GCN conference in 2010. This year, they expect double the number of 2013 attendees. – Image courtesy of the Gay Christian Network

As debates over sexuality and marriage continue to heat up among American Christians, several groups have decided to convene what a Southerner might call a “Come to Jesus meeting.” Three Christian organizations will host conferences during the next three months representing the wide spectrum of views among believers.

Today, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention becomes the first off the block with the commencement of their national conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The ERLC is one of the leading organizations promoting the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage. They have 45 speakers scheduled to address their gathering, and have welcomed many prominent pro-gay advocates to attend the conference as well. It should create much conversation across social media. (Those who aren’t attending the event can live stream it here.)

Next month, The Reformation Project will host their event in Washington, D.C. to promote the full affirmation of same-sex relationships. (David Gushee, a leading evangelical ethicist, plans to publicly announce his support of LGBT relationships at the event.) And in January, the Gay Christian Network will host a conference in Portland, Oregon that they claim takes more of a “third way” by welcoming perspectives of affirming Christians and those who believe faithfulness requires celibacy for LGBT persons.

Below is a sketch of each conference with a short statement from the leader of the host organization describing the event’s goal in their own words.


October 27 – 29, 2014
Postion: Opposed to same-sex relationships
Speakers include: Russell Moore, Albert Mohler, Jim Daly, David Platt
Attendees registered: 1275*
Attendees predicted: 1300

“We wish to equip churches to engage a culture where we must articulate, and not just assume everybody understands, what we mean by marriage and family and sexuality. We want to discuss these issues in the context of the gospel, which means we speak clearly both in terms of sin and of mercy, of truth and of grace. And we want not merely to equip churches to articulate a Christian sexual ethic but to embody that ethic in healthy, gospel-reflecting marriage cultures that reflect the union of Christ and his church.”
– Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission


November 6 – 8, 2014
Position: Affirming of same-sex relationships
Speakers include: Matthew Vines, David Gushee, Gene Robinson, James Brownson
Attendees registered: 250*
Attendees predicted: 350

“The conference is primarily a Bible-based training event for Christians who are LGBT-affirming but who want and need the biblical tools in order to be able to go back to their pastors, their parents, their colleagues, and say, ‘I don’t just feel this way in my heart, but I can actually defend my beliefs from a Bible-based standpoint, and I’m not giving up on the authority of Scripture.'”
– Matthew Vines, Founder of The Reformation Project


January 8 – 11, 2015
Position: Third way (includes those who affirm same-sex relationships and those who do not)
Speakers include: Justin Lee, Jeff Chu, Vicky Beeching, Wendy Gritter
Attendees registered: 800*
Attendees predicted: 1400

“The annual Gay Christian Network conference is the only major conference where both sides of the sexuality controversy have a voice. Many groups preach to their own choirs and try to outshout the opposition, but we provide a unique, grace-filled space for Christians to meet one another, worship together, and work collectively to create a stronger, more compassionate church for all in spite of our disagreements.”
– Justin Lee, Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network

*These numbers were provided to RNS by the conference last week and may have changed.

  • Kyle

    A fourth just finished this past week at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis with Wes Hill, Mark Yarhouse and Julie Rodgers among others from spiritualfriendship.org.

    While it was also “opposed” to same-sex sexual relationships, I imagine its tone and position was somewhat different from what the ERLC conference will be.

    Also, this weekend there’s another conference with a more Catholic audience up at Notre Dame:

  • Kyle,

    Thanks a million for alerting readers to these. I hadn’t heard of them. I don’t personally know Wes or Mark, but Julie is a delightful human being. I wish I had known about it. Do you know what attendance was like?


  • Kyle

    It ended up selling out, somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 I believe.

  • Wowzers. I can’t believe I somehow missed hearing about this!

  • Kyle

    It was a predominantly “in house” conference for folks in the Covenant community as opposed to a public conference. I’d guess that was part of the reason it stayed under the radar.

  • Tim

    I’m encouraged that there is discussion going on. Some parts of it encourage me more than other parts.

    One thing that I just don’t get was embodied in a tweet from @baptist21 that read: “Marriage is a picture of the gospel, a King who came to redeem a bride! Gospel is at stake! #ERLC2014”. If that tweet reflects something someone said at ERLC2014, it reflects a lack of understanding of the gospel and horrible doctrine on God’s sovereignty.

    The gospel is not at stake, because a strong marriage is no more required for the gospel than a good grape crop is required for spiritual growth. The vitality of the gospel (and our spiritual growth, for that matter) is in Christ, not in whether marriage or any other part of life look a certain way.

  • DMB

    I’m about to share the story of how my orientation changed through Christ w/ the pastoral staff at my church tomorrow morning. It is very encouraging to see discussion of these important matters going on around the country. When we are closed off in conversation, it hurts everyone across the board.

  • rob

    there will be absolutely no discussions” ever” for confessional Lutherans world wide.. Since the bible is our pope who does not error and has already called homosexuality a sin ..

  • David Volsky

    There are a couple of insightful discussions with Mark Yarhouse in The Table Podcast archives at dts.edu (Dallas Theological Seminary). From my understanding he has done an extensive study on sexual orientation and identity. He’s published a few books related to his findings.

  • Frank

    Yes the SBC is holding true to Gods will and word the others are rejecting God and creating their own.

  • Floridahank

    I’ve been studying the Holy Bible seriously for the past year — for finding many answers I needed. But throughout the growing movement of the LGBT issue, I’ve not found any indication in the OT and NT writings that ever shows any type of acceptance of any marriage or relationship that was not heterosexual. Nowhere could I find any sort of writing that homosexuality was part of the Holy Scriptures. For a True follower of Christ Jesus, any kind of behavior or sin that does not fit in with Christ’s and the Apostle’s teachings cannot be condoned because the Holy Spirit can change anybody and everybody who relinquishes themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no sin or behavior that is stronger than that of the Holy Spirit because He is God and nothing is too strong for His power to overcome.

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  • jw

    You speak truth friend

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