A Ministerial Theology Conference Discussing What?

by Layton Friesen

What? An EMC Ministerial theology conference.

No, I mean what? A theology conference on sexuality called Desire: Pastoring, Same Sex Attraction and the Church.

Wait…What!?! Yes, we are pastors getting together to discuss sex.

Why? Because we want to understand better how to preach, teach and pastor in a world that desperately needs the good news of Jesus when it comes to sexuality.

When? November 26–27, 2020

Where? Online meeting.

The church, as followers of Jesus and readers of the Bible, has a wonderful set of convictions about sexual desire—these bodily attractions that push, pull, inspire, and sometimes defeat us, but then also draw us into beautiful union with each other.

On the matter of our bodies and its desires our society seems to go off in all directions. We vacillate wildly between indulgence in every conceivable desire and a merciless shaming and punishment for those who transgress our standards. We both worship bodies and dispose of them if they fail our standards. Our world has trouble with bodies and this leads to confusion about sexuality.

This turmoil has involved the church. In our time, we cannot help but be much more conscious of what we believe, how we live it, and where the gaps are in our understanding. The question about same sex attraction especially has compelled us to think deeper about what the Bible actually teaches. The church is also very aware of how hard it is to direct the powerful energy that sexuality presents within us. Many of us have been overwhelmed by this power and defeated by lust, broken marriages, pornography, and desires that seem untameable. What’s to be done?

So the EMC Ministerial needs to discuss sexuality. The planners of this theology conference (James Driedger, Barry Plett, Jennifer Kornelsen, Dallas Kornelsen, and Layton Friesen) see two aspects of how we want to address this.

First, we believe we have a lot to learn about what the Bible teaches about sexuality. There is no better time than now to dig deeper into the Scriptures and be more fully grasped by its vision of sexuality as a God-imaging part of our lives. The church has ancient convictions drawn from the Bible about the mystery of marriage between a man and a woman. We need to learn how single men and women living in single-hearted celibacy offer the church a picture of how all of us will all one day be wed to our Lord. Our bodily desires are not to be squelched or stuffed in a box, but are to be directed towards the end to which God has called us—the resurrection of the body into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Secondly, we have much to learn about how Jesus effortlessly gathered broken people around him. They liked him and he liked them. How can those ancient biblical convictions be practiced so that they actually, really do feel like good news to the folks in our midst who walk in brokenness? Especially, we want to talk about how the church lives the good news with those who experience same sex attraction. They are not the only ones who sometimes experience the church as a condemning place, but their case gives us a good place to start thinking about ways Jesus brings transformation, Spirit-empowerment, community—in short, salvation to people with hidden brokenness.

Our hope is that this study conference will equip our leaders to engage our congregations in interesting and faithful conversations about how thirsty creatures like us will one day find what we all truly desire.

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