I recently spoke at Pepperdine with Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network.
Justin believes that God blesses gay marriage. I embrace the traditional Christian belief that God intends marriage only to join a man and a woman. Both of us are gay. And despite our differences, we’ve been good friends for a decade and a half now.
In 2003, we created The Great Debate, a pair of (very long!) essays explaining our respective views.
This year, Pepperdine University invited us to speak about Transforming the Conversation: how to have productive dialogue between those who disagree about gay marriage, and why each of us believes our position more faithfully represents the Gospel. Videos of this event have now been posted on Vimeo, and may be viewed below.
1. Practical tips for ending the culture war
Here is Pepperdine’s description of the first night’s discussion: Our culture tells us that gays and Christians are enemies, so how can we as Christians have loving dialogue on the issue of homosexuality that changes hearts and minds for Christ? Ron and Justin will use stories, humor, personal experience, and the Bible to discuss how they can be friends in the midst of strong theological disagreement, and how we as Christians can better show love to the gay community without compromising our convictions. Among the topics Ron and Justin will discuss: Common misconceptions each side has about the other; being missionaries with our language and avoiding the buzzwords that shut down conversation; understanding the difference between behavior and attraction; why dialogue is more effective than debate; and what Paul’s experience in Athens can teach us about representing Christ in the midst of disagreement.
2. A conversation about the Bible
Here is Pepperdine’s description of the second night’s discussion: Of course, the biggest disagreement in the church is about how to interpret the Bible on this issue. On the second night, Ron and Justin will demonstrate the dialogue techniques taught on the first night by engaging in a public discussion of their differing views on the Bible. The conversation will resemble a debate, but with more grace, compassion, and understanding, designed to help attendees better articulate what they believe and also better understand those who disagree with them—to create a space for more loving conversation in the future rather than inflaming an already tense situation.
It isn’t really possible to address the arguments for or against gay relationships in a 45 minute presentation, even when you add in time for Q & A. For a more in-depth examination of our views on these issues, be sure to check out the Great Debate essays.
About the Presenters:
Ron Belgau received his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington. After working at Microsoft for several years, he is now in the PhD program in philosophy at St. Louis University, where he teaches Medical Ethics and Philosophy of the Human Person. He also spent one year at the University of Notre Dame as a research assistant at the Center for Philosophy of Religion. He has served on the steering committees for Bridges Across the Divide and the Seattle Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Ministry, as a group leader for Multifaith AIDS Projects, and as leader of the Gay Christian Network’s celibacy support forum. For almost a decade, he has travelled around North America speaking about Christian teaching and homosexuality. His essay, “My Alternative Lifestyle” shared first place in the Catholic Press Association’s “Best investigative writing or analysis” category in 2005. Many of his essays and speeches are available at CityofGod.net.
Justin Lee is the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network (GCN), a nonprofit, interdenominational organization serving LGBT Christians and those who care about them. Justin grew up as a conservative evangelical, preaching against homosexuality until questions about his own sexuality forced him to reevaluate everything he thought he knew. Today, he focuses on building bridges between those who disagree. He has been featured in numerous print, radio, and television venues including Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Headline News, The Washington Blade, OUT magazine, the LOGO network, the Associated Press, and a front page article in The New York Times. Justin co-hosts the popular podcast GCN Radio and speaks frequently at conferences, churches, and college campuses. His first book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, hits bookstores in November.