I actually didn’t give any talks, per se, at the Goose. I was a speaker host, I sat on a panel, I moderated a panel, and led a discussion in the GeoDome. I’m glad about this, actually, for it afforded me just the kind of dialogue in which I think I work best — that is, the more I mature as a theologian, I think I’m better at dialogue than I am at monologue.
The first was a panel on Friday, moderated by Becky Knight, on the topic of sexuality. It was held in the GeoDome to an overflow crowd. Along with me were Paul Fromberg, Andrew Marin, Mark Scandrette, Seth Donovan, Rachel Swan, Jay Bakker, and Becky Kuhn. With so many panelists, we didn’t get much time individually to talk, but we each made an introductory statement, then we had a chance to respond to questions from the audience. My opening salvo was basically this: A clergyperson acted as an agent of the government and married me, binding me in a legal contract; but that clergyperson was nowhere to be found when it came time to undo that legal contract; therefore the church should get out of the marriage business.
I would say that the consensus of the panel and the crowd is that we must make the issue of sexuality in the church be about a lot more than “what to do with ‘the gays.’”
The second panel was on the topic of “Sexuality and Justice,” and it was held in front of the largest crowd that I saw all weekend to attend something at the Coffee Shack stage. I moderated (and chimed in), and the panelists were Paul Fromberg, Andrew Marin, and Phyllis Tickle. I asked them each to 1) reflect on whether the issue of human sexuality is a justice issue on par with the biggies (poverty, women’s rights, human trafficking, clean water); 2) share an experience of an ecclesial practice that they’ve seen help a church deal with sexuality); and 3) offer a word of hope.
I thought this discussion was fascinating and many people in the crowd told me afterward that they really appreciated it.
Finally, I led a conversation at the GeoDome on Sunday morning. For these discussions, we were asked to present a question to which we do not have the answer — begin with a 15-minute intro and then engage in conversation with the crowd. I asked the question, “Why Pray?” The dialogue that followed was, honestly, the most beautiful and life-giving part of the entire festival for me.
It seems to have touched a couple of others as well. Jodi-Renee Adams blogged about it for Clayfire:
There were a few comments Tony made that flew at me in 3-D given the audience and the context. The first was this: “There’s lots of things [Jesus] didn’t talk about that we have opinions on, but he did talk about prayer… and he did [pray].” Here we were – sitting in the middle of a phenomenal landscape with a radical group of spiritual people, really seeking out the Divine imagination around issues like creation care and sexuality and being ready to carry those flags in the name of Christ (and for that I say, thanks be to GOD) but in that one statement, I felt like Tony captured my fear and struggle with my own faith and with the context in which I must work that faith out. [read the post]
And mothersara wrote a beautiful villanelle (poem) based on the discussion:
Someone asked me just the other day—“why pray?”
To re-align our own intent or seek to change God’s mind?
Our measure here as ever is “what does Jesus say?”
I have always reasoned praying as the faithful way
to sing along in steady tune with plans divine.
Then someone asked me recently: why pray?