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Russell Moore, Rick Warren to join Vatican conference on marriage and family life

The speakers planned for a Vatican conference on the family.

(RNS) The Vatican will host religious leaders from across the religious spectrum later this month for a conference where they are expected to defend traditional marriage as between a man and a woman.

The speakers planned for a Vatican conference on the family. (photo a screenshot of conference website)

Photo courtesy of Humanum website

The speakers planned for a Vatican conference on the family.

While hosted by Vatican officials and scheduled to open with an address by Pope Francis, the conference will include Muslim and Jewish representatives, as well as American leading evangelicals like megachurch pastor Rick Warren and Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore.

The gathering comes just weeks after Pope Francis and senior Catholic leaders wrapped up a two-week Vatican Synod on the Family, which highlighted tensions within the Catholic hierarchy over gays and lesbians and cohabiting couples.

Despite initial overtures toward gay and lesbian Catholics and the “gifts and qualities” they had to offer the church, the final synod report scaled back that language. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics said any attempts to soften the church’s teaching on homosexuality was a “betrayal” and akin to heresy.

Organizers say the new conference will show that while the Catholic hierarchy is split on how to address contemporary challenges to marriage and family life, the church can nonetheless seek common ground with religious leaders outside the Vatican.

“I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled,” said Moore, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The Nov. 17-19 conference, “An International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman,” will feature about 30 speakers from 23 countries and 14 religions.

The conference has been in the works for at least a year, said Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University who is handling communications for the gathering. But the Vatican’s blockbuster family summit laid a good foundation for a larger discussion, she said.

“The drive we have for new language is a huge part of this,” Alvare said. “People fear complementarity means women are second, and their fears are somewhat justified. There’s a need to educate, to inspire, to show and tell about the beauty of the relationship between men and women.”

Cohabitation, nonmarital parenting and same-sex marriage are dominating the global conversation on the family, Alvare said.

“Same-sex marriage takes up a great deal of oxygen,” she said. “It’s a controversial question that’s going to be out there. Positive stories are difficult. But I’m hopeful because I’ve seen that with the work with Pope Francis.”

The conference will include Wael Farouq, a Muslim and president of the Tawasul Cultural Center in Cairo; Henry B. Eyring, a top-ranking apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Manmohan Singh of the World Sikh Council.

“Marriage is your personal project, but it effects the world,” Alvare said. “The message is aimed at those who are there, that those in their own religious traditions and societies can have more language to work with and also that they have more hope.”

The gathering will be sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.



About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • It’s good that Rick Warren is joining this conference because he preaches
    that sex before marriage is wrong/a sin and yet most people today still have
    premarital sex/sleep around before marriage not realizing that the Bible says
    flee from all sexual immorality/the sexually immoral go to hell which is clear
    in 1 Corinthians 6:9-12. Many have premartial sex/sleep around then they
    get married thinking that covered it up but never Repent/agree that havin
    premarital sex/sleeping around is wrong! We all must Repent/follow Him!

  • This, is beyond belief. The grown, adult human beings gathering at this conference honestly believe that A) They alone, channel the wishes of a God. Now. Unless they can provide evidence of such that belief is is one thing and one thing only. Madness, B) That this gives them the right to exclude same sex married people from said God while simultaneously damning them to eternal Hellfire. Sure, that makes complete, logical, reasonable and sanity-based sense in 2014. No actually,..actually it does not. Not remotely. This belief too, is madness. The conference that these people should actually attend ideally, is a mental health conference where instead of people shunning them because they are “different,’ (as they would do readily to others), they’ll be embraced by Psychology professionals and given the finest mental health treatment available and in doing so, perhaps they’ll learn what empathy and compassion for others truly is. One last reminder for these emissaries of “God,” this is 2014, not 1614.

  • It’s good Rick Warren is joining this conference because it was really lacking a writer of third-rate self-help books.

  • Voi, haven’t you heard? Rick Warren does believe that gays can go to heaven, that homosexuality “might” be sinful, and that “it wouldn’t bother me if there was a ‘gay gene’ found.” He also said he has lots of gay friends and is active in AIDS awareness. On the Huffington Post, he said “My wife and I have given millions of dollars to help people with HIV/AIDS and have worked with gay organizations on that.” Millions, eh? And where did those millions come from? Congregants of Rick Warren, ARE YOU HAPPY ABOUT THIS?? Actually, I think he and other Protestants should butt out of what the Catholics are doing to themselves; let the Pope bask in the failure! Although everything above is factual, Warren has said some pretty nasty things about gays, but always seems to apologize later when he’s not in front of his core audience. That’s hypocrisy, of course, but that’s what hypocrites do.

  • What the church has either lost or not communicated well are the meanings of marriage and God’s purposes for it as found in scripture. The church needs to stand on and articulate the creation of two sexes, the beauty of marriage as the union of the two, the purity of marriage, the bond it creates between a man and a woman, and how it spiritually represents the relationship that Jesus Christ has with his church. It is the closest relationship that two people will experience on earth and provides a picture of the dedication and closeness that Jesus has with his people. It is inseparable, pure, true and good. It brings joy, peace, blessings, contentment and purpose.

    The church must speak and authentically live God’s purposes in the middle of a world of cohabitation, divorce, and gay marriage. The church must be a champion for marriage and extoll its God designed virtues. Unfortunately, these issues have revealed the compromise and complacency of the church. But the response is to be one of repentance and renewed resolve to stand on God’s truth and show his love, not to give in cultural pressures just to be liked or falsely respected.

    I stand with thousands of years of traditional marriage across every culture. I stand with the clear message of scripture and the theology of marriage as created with forethought and purpose by God. I stand with the obvious physical design of the two sexes which has full complementary meaning and works only one way. And neither ridicule, hatred, name calling, loss of freedom, or outright persecution shall deter me.

  • Strange comment: Eric

    If Rick Warren is trying to help people in a Christian manner, is n’t that a good thing?

  • Trying to deprive same gender couples of a right mixed-sex couples take for granted is NOT “trying to help,” it is trying to HURT.172

  • Would you like me to help you find mental health care, Frank? Psychologists identified homophobia as a mental illness and published their results in the Journal of the National Institutes of Health in 1953. Homophobia is the irrational fear, disgust, or hatred of gays, lesbians, and/or bisexual people, or of homosexual feelings in oneself. It refers to the discomfort one feels with any behavior, belief, or attitude (in self or others) that does not conform to traditional sex role stereotypes. Homophobia exhibits itself in the fear of knowing, befriending, or associating with gays, lesbians, or bisexual people; fear of being perceived as gay or lesbian; and/or fear of stepping out of accepted gender role behavior. Psychologists report that the most commonly observed symptom of the mental disorder homophobia is cognitive dissonance, an inability of those so afflicted to accept documentation that contradicts their deep-seated phobia and hatred of LGBT Americans.

  • It sounds to me like a gathering similar to the last anti-gay conference in Moscow in September, Edd Doerr. Anti-gays can’t handle opposing viewpoints.

  • Attempting to deny same gender American couples a right mixed-sex couples take for granted is NOT “help,” William Murphy.

  • ‘Catholic liberal’ = nominal Catholic communicant who denies the authority of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium and favors an ersatz religion derived from ‘personal experience’. They should not be there, such is perfectly pointless, but Francis will have them because he prefers their company to the traditionalists he harasses.

    Edd, you want them there, hold your own bloody conference.

    I wonder what cute little catchphrase Russell Moore will gin up. He hasn’t topped “Jesus was an illegal immigrant” yet.

  • Psychologists identified homophobia as a mental illness and published their results in the Journal of the National Institutes of Health in 1953.

    Even if your conception were not wholly fatuous, pretty sure you got the date wrong.

  • President Obama, chose Rick Warren, an anti-gay bigot, to offer up the inaugural prayer on January 20, 2009. For an excruciating four minutes and 36 seconds, Warren rambled on, talking to his imaginary celestial dictator who was simultaneously reading the very thoughts of the estimated 1.8 million people who attended the Inauguration.

    Here is the prayer with my comments interspersed throughout.
    Almighty God, our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone.

    “It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory”, Rick droned on.

    If “it all comes from you”, I suppose that means all the earthquakes, hurricanes (like Sandy) droughts, forest fires, famine, war and disease comes from Him also.

    History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one’ and you are the compassionate and merciful one and you are loving to everyone you have made.

    Really Rick? Really? Are you so clueless that you are unaware of the fact 9 million children under age five die each year? Most from starvation or disease brought on by malnutrition, plus all the religious wars going on over who has the correct god. That’s nearly 25,000 each day. Nearly 17 per minute. In the time it took for you to complete your useless prayer 78 innocent children under the age of five died. And that’s just those who are under five. Are you too simple minded to understand that the parents of these children were praying just as hard for God to spare their children as you are praying for the President and his family. But God either didn’t hear the prayers or he didn’t care to listen. Either way disqualifies him from being called a god.

    “Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African American President of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility.

    Well yes Rick, except for Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and several other “godless” countries the USA trails when it comes to overall quality of life which includes income, health, freedom, unemployment, family life, political stability and gender equality; ….you know…. little things like that.

    “Where the son of an African Immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.”

    Well, Actually Rick, we don’t know that. In fact some 62 million Americans like me are quite sure they are in fact not shouting because, well, you know…they’re dead.

    “Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity.”

    Those of us who voted for him thought he already had that. We had no idea he would pick the very people who were in charge when our financial system came within a hair of collapse for important leadership positions in his administration.

    Talk about letting the fox guard the hen house.

    Since his election we have discovered our President is mostly bought and paid for by a few obscenely wealthy individuals who are in cahoots with the Supreme Court, six of which would fit the definition of lunatics because they actually believe they eat Jesus and drink his blood.

    “Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet and every one of our freely elected leaders.”

    Make that bought and paid for leaders.

    “Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or by blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.”

    Looks like John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Ted Cruz and a few others missed that part of your prayer. And let’s not forget the big financial firms like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and others who could care less about freedom and justice. The only way they could care would be if they figured out how to make a buck on it. Remember those “shitty” derivatives Senator Levin took Lloyd Blankfein to task over? They were set up to fail and yet Blankfein sold them to his clients because Goldman would could make money when they failed.

    “When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.”

    Maybe you should be praying to the Koch Brothers and Big Coal’s hack, Mitch McConnell. After all, Jesus died for their sins and that lets them off the hook.

    “And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.”

    Well, judging from the way Congress has behaved since that prayer was sent skyward, I reckon God didn’t hear that request.

    “Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation….”

    More prosperous nation? The labor market data for February 2014 show little change in the number of people out of work. Adding the involuntary part-time workers and those who dropped out of the labor force (because they could not find a job) to the recorded jobless numbers brings the actual unemployment rate to more than 13 percent, double the officially reported rate of 6.7 percent. Looks like God has been sitting on his hands for over five years. Maybe he is still thinking it over.

    ……..and a peaceful planet.

    A peaceful planet? How’s that workin’ out for ya, Rick?

    “And may we never forget that one day, all nations, all people will stand accountable before You. ”

    Like any good Christian brimming over with faith, Rick can’t resist throwing in a not so subtle threat.

    “We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care. I humbly ask this in the name of the One who changed my life—Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus—who taught us to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be they name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

    Why would Rick care about stewardship of planet Earth if he thinks that he and his followers will be raptured up to heaven by the great vacuum cleaner in the sky any day now? Fundamentalists who focus on saving their own skins and obsessing about being first to leave this planet are incapable of good citizenship. They sneer at science, deride government, and scorn the arts, public education, freedom of speech and choice in who we can marry.

    If we allow this insane superstition and denial of knowledge to continue, without raising our voices in opposition, it will continue to spread like cancer, undermining the very ideals we once stood for.

    I’ve had enough. It’s time to make some noise on behalf of reason.

    Charlie Sitzes
    Bloomington, IN

  • With the Pope’s recent comments saying that God is not a Creator, which is direct opposition to the Scriptures, I don’t understand evangelicals wanting to go to him to learn about what God has to say. He opposes what God says. Http.//

  • LORD, YOU know. Let those of us who follow YOU remain steadfast in YOU, no matter what these men say or do. In JESUS’ Name, amen!

  • You’re kidding, right? Tell me you’re kidding. You seriously don’t know that “communion”, as you describe it; “eating Jesus and drinking His blood”…is a metaphor? You’re taking it literally? Really? Wow. Madness!!!

  • You do know that liberalism is a mental disorder, too, right? Please don’t answer.
    That was rhetorical 🙂

  • Shocking that Warren and others lack so much discernment. He is following the humanistic principle of pluralism and not Biblical teaching concerning separation from false teachers. Thus Warren now becomes a false teacher, prophet himself. Really sad