Friday, April 13, 2012

Why I’m Glad We’re Having a Discussion on Sexuality

by Rev. Laura Barclay

In the conservative Southern Baptist Church in which I grew up, as well as the non-denominational Christian high school I attended, discussions of sex were taboo. The one conversation I remember about sex took place in high school health class which covered dating etiquette, then skipped straight to scaring us with slides of STDs. You can imagine how unprepared I was for life on a public school college campus.

This reality is all too common as many schools don’t follow mandatory sex education policies and churches have long been afraid to bring up any issues of sexuality in church. Because the word itself brings a host of feelings like shame and secrecy, it’s no wonder that many articles and comments about the Baptist Conference on Sexuality and Covenant are centering around LGBT issues. We who are heterosexual don’t want to discuss or admit to needing to have a comprehensive discussion in our churches about sex. It’s much easier to “other” this issue and make it a discussion solely about gays and lesbians. This conference will cover a wide range of topics in addition to LGBT issues that reflect the realities of our time, including high divorce rates, elder sexuality, delayed marriage and cohabitation of couples.

The truth is that we badly need this discussion. All churches need this discussion. Church should be a safe place where youth and young adults can come with questions that aren’t getting answered elsewhere, or are getting answered in unhealthy ways by media and uninformed peers. Youth ministers I’ve known who were brave enough to have these discussions found that their youth were willing to come to them with questions they could never feel comfortable asking parents or teachers. I wish I had access to such a place during those confusing teenage years.

And, yes, I’m going to name the elephant in the room. CBF National has a hiring policy that excludes gays and lesbians from employment. Many, including myself, don’t agree with it, but many others are comfortable with it. But guess what? This conference on Sexuality and Covenant is not to debate this policy, but to provide a starting point for discussion about a wide range of sexuality issues and we badly need a first step. We are taking that first step together, which will produce fruitful dialogue and church resources before any discussions on policy take place down the road. We are a fellowship of people who can disagree on issues and still come together for missions and ministry in the name of Christ. I’m glad to be in an environment like CBF where social issues don’t tear us apart like 21st century American political parties. We are kingdom people who cross bridges rather than dig trenches. Let’s remember that…and let’s talk.

If you'd like to be a part of the Baptist Conference on Sexuality and Covenant at First Baptist Church of Decatur, GA, on April 19-21, please register here: Registration closes April 16.

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