ATLANTA (ABP) – The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Mercer University are co-sponsors of a “[Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant” scheduled April 19-21, 2012, at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga.
Organized by CBF’s Missional Congregations Initiative and Mercer’s Center for Theology and Public Life, the conference will aim to broaden a conversation begun during a breakout session on church responses to homosexuality at last year’s General Assembly in Charlotte, N.C.
The three-day conference is being designed to offer what a prospectus calls a “family conversation” on various challenges in contemporary culture to traditional Christian ethics on sexuality. Topics include homosexuality, as well as divorce, the growing number of couples who cohabitate without getting married and differing attitudes on such subjects held by older and younger Christians.
“Many people and congregations lack good models and useful tools to respectfully engage this conversation,” said Rick Bennett, director of missional congregations for the Atlanta-based Fellowship. “We will attempt to provide both.”
“I think it’s important for us to gather in worship, pray the questions, communicate with one another, listen deeply to everyone and be ever mindful that none of us has all the truth,” Bennett said.
Planners hope to model conversations that can be used as a resource for local congregations.
“Any Christian community feels pressure to deal with these questions, and I think it will be a good partnership with CBF,” said David Gushee, distinguished professor of Christian ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life.
“We will have the opportunity of listening to voices of all generations, of anyone who has life experience, and sharing their sorrows and joys,” Gushee said. “People in their 20s will have the opportunity to learn something from people in their 60s, and people in their 50s will hopefully learn something from people in their 30s.”
“We are on the cutting edge of the issues this generation is facing,” said Gushee, who teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses and has observed the generational attitudes about sex firsthand. “The questions young adults are raising about what has been the traditional Christian sexual ethic are, in a sense, unavoidable, and it’s our responsibility to create a space for conversation about these issues,” said Gushee, who teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses and has observed generational differences about sex firsthand.
Gushee said the conversation will be focus on “how we should live as followers of Christ” and not to declare a position on any issue.
“We are not proposing to create a document or getting involved in public policy or the political arguments,” Gushee said. “We are not looking for grandstanding diatribes. We believe that people are most likely to have legitimate, honest conversations in small groups. So after plenary testimonies and presentations, we will divide attendees into groups to discuss what they’ve heard. We want to foster a deliberate, thoughtful conversation.”
The conference will cost $50 and offer a rate of $25 for students from CBF-partner theology schools. Online registration will be open in June at www.thefellowship.info/conference. Hotel information will be available in July.
Bob Perkins writes for CBF Communications.