At Religion Dispatches, Mike Greer reports on the surprise Southern Baptist leaders had last week when they gathered to discuss "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage." To their surprise, real gay people — you know, the folks whose lives the conference intended to put under the microscope, dissect, and define — showed up.
And they were perfectly capable of talking. They demonstrated the capacity to dissect and define, too: as Greer says,
[Russell] Moore and other conference leaders appeared to be caught off guard by the number of LGBT Christians and supportive Christian advocates, some Baptists, who not only attended the entire conference, but also respectfully and publicly responded to Moore's call to kindness and understanding and offered to meet with conference leaders at the venue.
Some of these LGBT Christians and their allies met privately for dialogue with SBC leaders, and Greer thinks it will be interesting to see how or whether the dialogue continues. He also says that when Russell Moore, who heads the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called for Baptists to engage in conversation with LGBT people and try to understand where these fellow human beings are coming from, he may never have had this level of dialogue in mind — that is, the kind of dialogue that actually took place at the SBC meeting due to the willingness of gay Christians and their supporters to attend and speak up.
Compare what just took place at the SBC meeting with the plans for a Vatican conference on marriage and family later this month, about which Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports yesterday for Religion Dispatches. The conference is being hosted by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Russell Moore will be one of the participants, along with megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
The communications point person for the conference, who has also been heavily involved in organizing it, is Helen Alvaré, America Magazine's new spokeswoman for American Catholic women — though she opposes birth control, while the vast majority of U.S. Catholic women support the use of contraceptives. Alvaré appears to suggest that the issue of same-sex marriage is incidental to and even antithethical to the Vatican conference's discussions about "the" family: the issue "takes up a great deal of oxygen," she observes dismissively.
This remark underscores for me that no gay people and no gay voices (well, openly gay ones) will be included at the Vatican conference about "the" family. Though the Catholic officials gathered there and the hand-picked group of participants the conference has gathered from various world religious groups, all of them opposed to same-sex marriage and generally negative about homosexuality, will certainly reserve their right to speak about gay people and gay lives . . . .
To dissect and define those lives . . . .
With absolutely no input from the human beings whose lives are being placed under the microscope . . . .
This conference will be a typically Catholic conference about matters of family and sexuality, in other words.