Baptists join in conversations around topics of sexuality and covenant

More than 400 people gathered at First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., for the Conference. Carla Wynn Davis photo

By Patricia Heys
Saturday, April 21, 2012
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ATLANTA – During A [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant, more than 430 people gathered in Atlanta with a spirit of openness and learning to engage in topics related to sexuality and covenant.

“This event is about helping Christians and churches comfortably discuss sexuality and covenant,” said Rick Bennett, CBF’s director of missional congregations and one of the event’s organizers. “This event is grounded in CBF’s shared core values, vision and mission. It equips and empowers Christians to be the presence of Christ to one another and to the stranger; to break down barriers; to let nothing get in the way of sharing the good news that God’s kingdom is available to us even now.”

The Conference, which was co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, included seven plenary sessions, dialogue in covenant community groups, time for fellowship, a resource fair and a concert by singer/songwriter Jennifer Knapp. The Conference was hosted by First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., a Fellowship partner congregation.

“What does it really mean to be human, and what is the place of sexuality in that?  For Christians, the questions have ballooned beyond, ‘Is homosexuality a sin?’ to include gay marriage, civil unions, hate crime legislation, health care, public education and interpersonal relationships in families and neighborhoods,” said Jenell Paris, professor of cultural anthropology at Messiah College, in the Conference’s opening session.

“This is an invitation to a new game – walking away from the tug-of-war where people line up on their side of the issue and start struggling against their opponents. It’s an invitation to reconciliation.”
Speakers shared scholarly research, biblical reflection and personal stories in addressing a variety of topics relating to sexuality and covenant: 
  • While We Were Avoiding the Subject: What’s Going on in the World (and the Church)?
  • 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?
Twenty-three covenant community groups, which were held immediately following each plenary session, provided space for debriefing, questions and processing the topics and issues presented by speakers. Each group was led by a convener and consisted of an average of 12 Conference participants who covenanted together to be confidential, respectful and constructive.
The Conference concluded Saturday with a service of worship and communion.
Videos of the plenary sessions and photos from the conference can be found online at
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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