i received this email today, from which i’ll remove the sender’s name:
I recently attended the conference in St Louis. I can’t help but think Yac must be rolling in his grave. Having attended the event in the past I was troubled about the path this event has taken to the extreme of being the fundemental evangelism at its worse. I was troubled with the
tenor of presentations that claimed as a standard guilting our youth into being members of the body. Disavowing their own worth because they are sinners destined to hell if they don’t mend their ways. And it was all topped off with a slamming of Lesbians in a general session. I suspect I will not be an attender in the future and will be hard pressed to recommend this to any of our denominational youth ministers.
i post it here because i’ve heard quite a few complaints about greg stier’s talk. this email, however, was the strongest, and really offended me. this was my response:
Thanks for writing with your concern.
That said, I need to start by saying what a cheap-shot it is to suggest that the founder of our organization, whom we all knew and loved so dearly, and who died four years ago last week, would be rolling in his grave. Ironic, that you were frustrated with what you saw as manipulation and guilt, yet you try the same thing with us, throwing on the addition of emotional abuse.
Clearly, you are referring to greg stier’s talk. A couple things:
1. we intentionally invite a wide variety of speakers to our convention. We hope our diversity both honors god, challenged homogeneity, and provides everyone present with the opportunity to have their feathers ruffled. There are plenty of other youth ministry events (conservative and liberal, protestant and catholic) that provide a uniform slate of speakers who would all agree with each other. That’s never going to be us.
2. I really like greg. He’s the real deal; honest and pure. His character is impeccable. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says. I did not like much of his talk.
3. I think you either misunderstood what he said in his illustration of the lesbians, or you are over-reacting. His example was of how he engaged a group of people with whom he had a theological difference in a conversation of respect. He mentioned how he sent away the other christian who was there to condemn them. He mentioned how he was a sinner also. The only “joke” was that he said he had something in common with them, as he lusts after women also. If THAT little comment is what caused such great offense for you, then you need to lighten up.
I believe yaconelli was jumping for joy over this convention, relishing in the diversity of the attendees and the speakers, as he always did (yac was the one who brought jerry falwell and ralph reed!).
I can confidently say you are completely wrong about your impressions of any “turn” the convention has taken. Nothing could be further from the truth.
then, this exchange softened things up a bit:
> Thanks so much for the prompt response. You are correct with your
> impression that it was a cheap shot and I beg your forgiveness. That
> certainly was not the intent.
forgiven, of course. thanks.
> I would like to address the points you
> 1) While the perception on your part is that you provide a variety of
> positions, theologies, ideologies, and agendas I found the presentations
> somewhat of the more evangelical bend. Maybe it is just me. I just found
> myself more uncomfortable at this conference than in the past. Perhaps
> this is just a spiritual crisis for me. I known worship is to comfort
> the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That being said I was
> comforted by Lynn’s talk (but a little long).
This is interesting to me, since lynn is so decidedly evangelical! Did you hear ralph winter (clearly not an evangelical), or me (an ex-evangelical)? Of the three cities this year, the other two are MORE diverse than STL was — but sometimes we get what we get (we ask two or three times as many people as we get!).
> 2) Regarding the ‘talk” by Greg it was much more than the little joke. I
> couldn’t help but sense in a convention of more than 3000 individuals
> that perhaps more than 150 might be going through issues related to
> homosexuality. Did his talk welcome them into the community or push them
> further away? By his own actions of claiming that they would not agree
> on the issue of sin and sexuality wasn’t he condemning them?
Well, that’s greg’s belief, that homosexual practice is a sin. But that wasn’t his point at all! His point was that — EVEN THOUGH he believes the practice is a sin, that’s what binds him to this group of lesbians (that other christians would dismiss), because he is a sinner just like them! Surely, you would not suggest that no speaker should ever express their beliefs, or that YS should filter them. For someone who would believe homosexual practice is a sin (which is a total given, of course, for an obvious conservative like greg), I thought his point was actually the exact OPPOSITE of what you are suggesting it was!
> I really don’t anticipate a response but would welcome one. Thanks again
> for your post, and I will attempt to lighten up, but perhaps that is
> something YS needs to do as well.
Truly — YS does need to lighten up! That message came to me this weekend loud and clear. We’ve been too tame of late.
and, finally, this:
> One more thing. From your response. If I was to decide to return would I
> be welcomed?
First of all — anyone is welcome at our convention. That’s exactly my point!
Second — you even moreso, would be welcome, because you got bothered about something, expressed it poorly, apologized, and had a good discussion with me. Shoot — now we’re friends!