|by Brandon Stewart '08 • April 20, 2007|
Thursday night, the ‘shOUT club hosted a "Christianity and Homosexuality" panel. The panel featured four different speakers including Dr. Stephen H. Webb, professor of Religion and Philosophy, Reverend Jeff Miner of the Jesus Metropolitan Church in Indianapolis, Reverend Grossman, father of Dan Grossman ’08, and Dr. Dan Rogers, professor of Spanish. After a brief introduction, the panelists each gave a brief seven minute presentation in the order listed above.
'shHOUT is Wabash College gay-straight alliance club.
Professor Webb spoke from a Catholic position and said that we live in a hypersexual society and that we must resist the temptation to allow our sexuality to be our primary identity. We must reject the populist notion that "if a desire is natural, it must be good." Dr. Webb also mentioned the ex-gay movement This was followed up by comments that it is important to continue to honor the privacy of students in college and not encourage them to prematurely label themselves.
Next up was Reverend Miner who spoke about his life growing up in a religious family and even attending Bob Jones University for his undergraduate education. It was at college that he really wrestled with his sexuality. He attended Harvard University and graduated from the law school in 1983. He also mentioned that of the evening’s speakers, he was "the only one for whom this discussion is personal." Indeed, much of his remarks were anecdotal. He was very clear that he considered himself a devout Christian and that "If I believed for a second that I was doing something wrong by spending the last 15 years in a committed relationship I would stop." Miner then mentioned the work of the church he pastors and plugged their new website (www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.com) which seeks to educate the public about the Scriptural passages relating to homosexuality. He spent the balance of his seven minutes to briefly discuss a few controversial passages and offer his own interpretation of them.
Pastor Grossman started out with a strong statement. He boldly asserted that "Homosexuality in practice is contrary to Scripture." He followed up this observation with a reflection that all of humanity is inherently, by our sinful natures, "in fundamental contradiction with God." However, "homosexuality, like anyone else can be reconciled with God." He too went to Scripture for answers and came to very different conclusions than Reverend Miner. To conclude his time, he shared the story of Charlene Cothran, the publisher of Venus Magazine, which was traditionally a magazine targeted at black homosexuals, who transformed that magazine into an ex-gay publication saying that "I fully accept and have always known that same-sex relationships are not what God intended for us."
Dr. Rogers was the final panelists to speak. He started out with some self-deprecating humor. Look around the room at the other panelists, he stated, "I am way out of my league. I’m not a Biblical scholar or a minister…I’m a Spanish professor." An Episcopalian, he tried to give that denomination’s perspective on homosexuality as well as sharing his own personal reflections on the issue. He shared that when he was attending high school in the 1980s, it was "okay to be cruel" to homosexuals in school. Raised as a Mormon, he had a powerful experience at the conclusion of his mission work when a friend came out to him. They were students together at Brigham Young University and his friend had been involved in the ex-gay movement on campus, but it hadn’t had any positive effect on his life and in fact he was at a dark point in his life. To conclude his time, he simply stated, "I believe God created us. I believe homosexuality is not a choice. And that leads me to invite my brothers and sisters to Christ’s table."
Steve Ellis ’10 who served as the evening’s moderator then opened it up for a question and answer period, cautioning the audience to refrain from personal attacks to allow a conversation and not a debate. The conversation that followed was extremely respectful, though equally forceful. There was plenty of back and forth between the audience and the panelists and even between panelists.
Juan Diaz '10 was in charge of publicizing the event. He said the idea was to help the Wabash community see different ideas in regards to religion, which is why they tried to bring a variety of perspectives to the discussion. Reverend Miner echoed those comments after the lecture saying, "It is important to allow people to hear multiple opinions and allow them to evaluate them for themselves.
Dr. Warner, professor of History, said that he thought the evening was great. "It was an excellent program. It is a great time at Wabash when we can discuss a contentious topic without flames. That’s liberal arts education."