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With President Obama’s recent announcement in support of marriage equality, many of these conversations will be held only with those who agree with one another. The time has come for those who might not agree with each other to have open dialogue on these issues that affect peoples’ lives directly.

I’m proud to announce A Conversation over Coffee as just such an discussion. The goal is to bring together pastors (on both sides of the issue), LGBT people, their families, friends, and anyone interested — and talk. Really talk.

We can’t sidestep these conversations anymore. By having this discussion on neutral ground (not in a church), no one is expected to embrace one creed or another. This is about people. It’s about reconciliation. It’s about bringing us together without shying away from one of the most important issues of our day.

The public is invited. Please RSVP on our facebook page if you plan to attend.

Some items likely to be covered:

  • A short presentation from John Smid regarding his work at Love in Action, its impact, and how it affected his own life and how he eventually found grace
  • The problem with “Ex-Gay” Ministries
  • Can gay people be Christian? If so, can it be supported Biblically?
  • The difference between “sexual orientation” and “sexual activity” and why it matters
  • Why the word “homosexuality” is usually far too general for sermon points
  • Establishing a Biblical perspective on finding a place for LGBT people within the church culture
  • How churches can reach out to LGBT persons and remain Biblically faithful
  • Question and Answer session

Why are we not discussing the Biblical points on whether same-sex relationships are sinful?

We are well aware of the the traditional theological position that many of our panelists hold, and that they believe that same-sex relationships are sinful. We do not ignore their views (or the views of conservative evangelicals in general). Instead, we accept that these views will quite probably not change during a single conversation (if at all).

For the sake of this Conversation, we embrace the fact that we have sharp disagreements and agree to disagree. Our goal is to discuss how those who hold to the traditional view of same-sex relationships can reach the LGBT community and remain Biblically faithful.

Other topics that we will likely not discuss:

  • Whether or not openly gay people should be ordained. This discussion is best held by individual denominations for their own churches and organizations. Just as some denominations choose to not ordain women, we understand that most denominations will not ordain openly gay clergy. 

Our moderator, Dr. Dwonna Naomi Goldstone, will be working with both the panelists and the audience to help keep the conversation on topic — and civil. Those in the audience should be prepared to ask pointed questions or offer their input of the topic at hand. We will announce specific (and final) ground rules either shortly before or during the event.

Planning for this discussion is still underway, so please check this page often!

Confirmed panelists [UPDATED]:

  • Host: David W. Shelton, community activist, business owner, and blogger
  • Moderator: Dr. Dwonna Naomi Goldstone, Professor in the Department of Languages and Literature and coordinator of the African American Studies minor, and adviser to the APSU Gay-Straight Alliance
  • Rev. Dorothy Hartzog, Associate Rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish
  • Charles Martin, pastor of Fellowship United Methodist Church
  • Terry McMoore, Community Activist & Civil Rights Advocate
  • Wanda McMoore, Community Activist, Registered Nurse
  • John Renkenpastor of Clarksville Freedom Church
  • Chris Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project
  • Carlo Serranopastor of Xtreme Christian Fellowship
  • Patrick Taylor, Youth Pastor of Grace Church of the Nazarene
  • Special Guest Panelist: John Smidformer director of Love in Action in Memphis (and the subject of the new documentary “This is What Love In Action Looks Like,” reviewed on this blog.

Other panelists may be added over the next few weeks. We will be announcing them as they confirm. If you’re interested in sitting on the panel, please let me know.

This conversation will be frank, possibly quite lively, but will NOT be a debate. We are attempting to learn from each other, not beat each other out.

There will definitely be a time for that in the future, but our goal with this evening’s discussion is reconciliation. Panelists will include pastors, ministers, and community leaders on both sides of this issue.

This a fantastic opportunity to hear each others’ point of view in a safe, friendly environment.

Once again, THIS WILL NOT BE A DEBATE. Our goal is to come together in the Spirit of Christ and find ways that we can agree, not to highlight our disagreements.

Please contact me directly for media inquiries or for more information. This page will be updated as we get new information.

If you’d like to submit a question for the panelists, please submit them here.

We also need donations to cover the cost of the venue — so please help if you can. Paypal donations can be sent below.

NEW! You can link directly to this page at http://conversationovercoffee.com