Speakers announced for April's [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant

By Lance Wallace
Friday, January 13, 2012
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ATLANTA – Author and professor Jenell Paris leads a diverse program of speakers and worship leaders for A [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant, co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University April 19-21, at First Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.

Paris, professor of cultural anthropology at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., and author of “The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Determine Who We Are,” will lead the opening session of the conference titled “While We Were Avoiding the Subject: What’s Going on in the World (and the Church)?”

“A Christian sexual ethic is integral to discipleship and spiritual formation and also vital for the Church’s witness and mission to the world,” said Daniel Vestal, CBF executive coordinator. “This Conference has been months in the making and has been planned with a great deal of prayer. I am eager to see what God will do in the lives of all the participants and the churches of the Fellowship as a result of this conversation. It’s time.”

The three-day conference is being designed to offer context for a comprehensive reflection on Christian sexual ethics in a changing cultural environment. The prospectus and draft of the program are available online at www.thefellowship.info/conference.

“We need a family conversation among Baptists about what a God-honoring sexuality looks like for Christians today,” said David Gushee, distinguished professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and director of Mercer’s Center for Theology and Public Life. “The speakers we have invited from within and beyond the Baptist family should help facilitate the kind of conversation we need.”

In addition to Paris, the full lineup of presenters and worship leaders are as follows:
• Patrick Anderson, editor, Christian Ethics Today, Beech Mountain, N.C.
• Rick Bennett, director of missional formation, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta.
• Rhonda Blevins, associate pastor, Community Church at Tellico Village, Louden, Tenn.
• Melissa Browning, adjunct instructor in ethics at Lexington Theological Seminary, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University and Kennesaw State University.
• Lindsay Comstock, minister of Christian education, First Baptist Church, Worcester, Mass.
• Jennifer Crumpton, communications and social media director, Odyssey Networks, and ordained Disciples of Christ minister.
• Sharyn Dowd, associate pastor, First Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.
• Coleman Fannin, Baylor University professor, Waco, Texas.
• Allison Gillmore, director of the Goizueta Doctoral Program in Business, Emory University and consultant, Atlanta.
• Wendell Griffen, pastor, New Millennium Church, and Circuit Court judge, Little Rock, Ark.
• David Gushee, distinguished professor of Christian ethics, Mercer University, Atlanta.
• Emily Holladay, student, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta.
• Jennifer Knapp, recording artist.
• Roz Nichols, pastor, Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church, Memphis, Tenn.
• LeDayne Polaski, program coordinator, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Charlotte, N.C.
• Cody Sanders, Ph.D. candidate, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas.
• Guy Sayles, pastor, First Baptist Church, Asheville, N.C.
• Lynyetta Willis, licensed psychologist, Inner Pathways Counseling and Consulting, Decatur, Ga.
• Joy Yee, pastor, 19th Avenue Baptist Church, San Francisco, Calif.

“In recommending and inviting presenters, the planning team looked for persons who had genuinely struggled with questions and matters of sexuality and covenant first – people who had wrestled with the hard questions,” said Rick Bennett, director of missional formation at CBF and a member of the organizing team. “We were especially drawn to people who were as comfortable praying the questions as they were making statements. You’ll note that each plenary title is in the form of a question.

“We sought people who took Scripture seriously, people as serious about getting something heard as getting something said, and people who would enter into covenant with us respecting the aim and purpose of the event,” Bennett said.

The plenary session topics are “Faithful Listening in Challenging Times: How Do We Discern God’s Voice?,” “Ancient and Contemporary Voices: What Do Christians Think God Thinks About Sex?,” “Covenant 101: What Are the Ties that Bind?,” “Covenant 201: What Are the Boundaries of Covenant?,” “From Fear to Joy: How Might Congregations Lead the Way?,” and “Celebrating God’s Gifts: Seeking and Acknowledging Christ in One Another.”

The conference will cost $50 and offer a rate of $25 for students from CBF-partner theology schools. Online registration is open in at www.thefellowship.info/conference.

CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.
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