CRESTVIEW — The first installment of First United Methodist Church’s “Fearless Conversations” series, a discussion on same-sex attracted Christians, drew no protest marches, placards or heckling.
The topic attracted plenty of debate on social media, but the Jan. 28 discussion — featuring Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International, the world's largest “ex-gay” ministry until it closed in 2013 — saw just civil, sometimes emotional discourse.
More than 100 residents attended the first of three conversations between the church’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Precht, and renowned guest speakers on how same-sex attracted Christians view their Christianity.
Chambers said he's been happily married to his wife, Leslie, for more than 20 years, but still has same-sex attractions. “Don’t you find yourself attracted to someone outside the marriage?" he said. "Does that mean you’re going to do something sinful? No.”
Attendees responded to the opportunity to expand their knowledge of such a sensitive topic.
“The thing for me is, what can we do about what we’ve learned? What can I do about it?” church member Cathy Thigpen said. “I want more. I want to know how Jesus would look at it.”
“Through these ‘Fearless Conversations,’ which are conversations without fear of sharing openly without ridicule, we all have an greater opportunity to learn,” Lynn Yort, another church member, said. “I need to understand this.”
Chambers said the fact that there are more than 45,000 Christian denominations means “we disagree with one another on everything," and that he saw the discussion series as a step toward Christians appreciating each other’s differences.
“What I long for is for us to have a conversation on things we disagree with passionately, but realizing at the same time we are all brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said. “I long for the day when we have these conversations but we don’t break fellowship.”
“One of the great gifts of being in a conversation is understanding,” Precht said. “When we speak with each other, we come to places where we (civilly) disagree.”