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Surry Hills Baptist Church
27 Feb to 01 Mar 2014

She asked me, “How do the gay people in your church know that it's safe to come and talk to you?” — Rev. Matt Glover

A safe space for a ministry conversation about same sex issues and pastoral care.

Do your conversations about God and church and same sex issues go in circles? Can you have those conversations, or are the subjects just too volatile? Do you get to speak with many gay, lesbian or transgender people – and can you express what you want to say? Do you hear what their experience of churches like ours have been? Is it time to have these conversations?

What is A Different Conversation?

A Different Conversation is a ministry forum on authenticity, pastoral care, biblical faithfulness, and same sex attraction, run by Surry Hills Baptist Church during the Sydney Mardi Gras. This will be the fourth in Sydney.

A Different Conversation is not for the faint hearted. It will provoke your thinking and challenge you at a heart level. It isn't a disinterested or disembodied exchange, it's a rare opportunity to sit and listen to the people most affected by the issues themselves. The aim is not to change your mind, it's to expand it. This isn't recommended – it's essential.
— Jon Owen, Urban Neighbours of Hope, Mt Druitt

What can you expect from A Different Conversation?

  • Hear the experiences and perspectives of same sex attracted and transgender Christians.
  • Share experiences and ministry insights with a spectrum of pastors, practitioners, educators and Christian thinkers.
  • Participate in honest, candid and confidential peer discussions.
  • Focus on practical scenarios.
  • Bring your ministry team; students, interns; counselors, teaching staff.
  • If you wish, participate in a guided experience of Surry Hills during Mardi Gras, and insight into some of the communities represented.

Forum Standards

Some of those who will be sharing their experiences will be taking a risk by speaking, often for the first time, to an audience containing Christian ministers, people they may have no reason to trust. When registering, please ask yourself: Will I be –

  • putting myself in their shoes and feeling what they feel?
  • respectfully listening to perspectives that are different to my own?
  • responding only with understanding and empathy?

We ask all participants to read the following suggestions for safe and respectful listening, in light of the often conflicted and always deeply personal nature of these kind of discussions.

The issues being discussed are sometimes tense and confronting. This is an opportunity for Christians to address these tensions through listening and relating.

I was invited to A Different Conversation in 2011. I wasn't sure what to expect but arrived as a young man was being interviewed about his life, the abuse he suffered and his struggle to be discipled and learn how to live like Jesus as a young gay man. I found the discussions, speakers and topics highly informative and challenged many of the Evangelical norms I had never thought through. The space was safe for conversation and really honoured everyone's viewpoints. Furthermore it highlighted the many pastoral care concerns and issues present and how we as Christian leaders need to take Christ's message of inclusiveness to the multitudes of people, both LGBTIQ and friends and family, that are affected.
— Steve Turner, National Director, Forge

Forum Topics

Note: 19 Feb → Sessions 7 and 8 have swapped.

1
Thursday 7:00pm.
Same-sex attraction in Christian churches and ministry families.
5
Friday 1:30pm.
Same sex intercourse and biblical morality.
2
Thursday 8:15pm.
The challenge of talking about same sex issues in Christian churches, schools and colleges.
6
Friday 3:15pm.
Pastoral care and the LGBT communities
3
Friday 9:30am (rego: 8:30; open: 9:00).  Same sex orientation, celibacy and change.
7
Saturday 9:30am (rego: 8:30; open: 9:00).  “LGB ... T?” -- Transgender experiences of church.
4
Friday 11:15am.
Q&A with LGBT politicians and lobbyists.
8
Saturday 11:30am.
Same sex marriage, biblical ideals of marriage and political advocacy.

Refer to the forums and panellists page for more information.

A Different Conversation has borne immeasurable fruit in my ministry, preparing and equipping me to have safe and meaningful dialogue that had previously been a source of fear and anxiety. It had had supported me to begin a journey of understanding with the GLBTI community and reflect and repent of my own bigotry and prejudice. It will create a space in your heart and mind to explore and discuss, in a safe way, the complexity and richness of human sexuality and Christian sexual ethics. A must for any Christian leader or pastor in this time.
– Nathan Moulds, Salvation Army, Surry Hills and now Macquarie Park

Questions

What's our agenda?
The position of Surry Hills Baptist Church on several issues is well known. We helped organise 100Revs, when Christian ministers marched in the Mardi Gras as an apology for how gay and lesbian people have been treated by churches, and we testified at the federal and state inquiries in support of marriage equality. However, we don't run this conference to talk about that. We run this conference because Baptist, Anglican and Pentecostal ministers and churches often do not have the opportunity to listen to the experience of our gay, lesbian and transgender neighbours, Christian and often ex-Christian. Only listening allows us to develop understanding and empathy: that is what we want to see grow.
Will this be a real "conversation"?
It's not a free-for-all, which would work against having a conversation. We will not allow any person present to be treated without respect or dignity, especially those who share their stories with us (see 'Forum Standards', above). But equally, we will not be glossing over questions. There will be extended sessions on the Friday in particular for a no-holds-barred discussion of the biblical and theological questions, and we will encourage and facilitate pre-reading to maximise the benefit from these. But those sessions will only follow after respectful and active listening. That's the kind of conversation we'll be having.
Will this actually resolve anything?
You probably won't walk away thinking, "It's all so simple now!" But if past experience is any guide, this will go a long way toward building understanding and empathy with people who have grown up same-sex attracted in Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. We suggest that this is a necessary starting point for resolving any of our other questions in a Christlike way. If the topic seems wearying or draining, it is worth remembering that same-sex oriented Christians, to whom we have a duty of care, never get a day off from these questions.
Is it worth the effort?
We can't put it any better than this:
I know of no hotter topic or bigger challenge for today's church than the issues facing LGBTI people of faith – or reaching out to their communities with the good news of Jesus. It may be a different conversation but it is a conversation that so desperately needs to be had. I encourage you to have the conversation with an open mind, agree to disagree but choose not to be disagreeable. The fruit of the Spirit needs to reign supreme as Christians grapple with this topic but, more importantly, get to know the people behind the issue.
— Rob Buckingham, Senior Minister, Bayside Church, Melbourne

The Obligatory Google Map

The conference is at the NSW Teacher's Federation at 23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills (B). This map shows the 2-3 minute walk from Central Railway Station (A).


View Larger Map

Street parking is rare and ticketed. There are paid parking facilities nearby. A train ticket to Central Station and a short walk may be the most convenient option.

Inquiries

Nigel Chapman, M.Div.
Church Secretary, Surry Hills Baptist Church
Mobile 0437 49 45 49
Email: <nigel@imagine.org.au>
Admin: <info@diffcon.org> (Booking inquiries, etc)

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