What I Learned at Youth Specialties: Youth Pastors Want to Talk about Gay Marriage

What I Learned at Youth Specialties: Youth Pastors Want to Talk about Gay Marriage November 18, 2012

Steve Argue, Chap Clark, Andrew Root, and Danielle Shroyer talk about eschatology on a theological panel moderated by Eric Leafblad at the 2012 National Youth Workers Convention (photo by Gavin Richardson)

Please pardon the Sunday post. Usually, I don’t post on Sunday and try to keep a sabbath, but I’m not bound by the law! Also, I’m sitting in the DFW airport, reflecting on my time at the National Youth Workers Convention.

Over the past few days, I’ve seen scores of old friends, given talks on culture and the atonement, and sat on theological panels discussing sexuality and the nature of scripture. It’s been since 2008 that I’ve spoken the NYWC, and I didn’t know how it would go: would people remember me? would my message still resonate with youth pastors, even though I haven’t been one since 2003? Well, it was really fun. We had great conversations in each of those venues.

But here is the most intriguing takeaway for me: youth workers want to talk about GLBT issues, gay marriage, and issues of human sexuality.

Here’s why I think that. After the aforementioned seminars and panels, my NYWC experience culminated with an open theological conversation at a pub in the Dallas Sheraton. Any youth workers who wanted to talk about any theological issues were invited to join us for a drink and a chat, and several dozen showed up.

I had been vocal in earlier panels about my support of gay marriage and other LGBT rights, and had said that I had worked through those issues theologically. After being graciously handed a Maker’s Mark by a youth pastor, I was asked to visit with table after table of youth workers — they’d gathered around tables and they wanted to talk. And each group wanted to talk about the same thing: homosexuality.

One said that he had an aunt who is a lesbian. He loves his aunt, but she is sure that God hates her because she’s gay. He wanted to know what to tell her.

Another said that she’s still pretty sure that homosexual sex is a sin, but she wanted to know how I came to my conclusions on the issue.

Another asked me about a couple specific Bible verses.

Another wondered how to tell his senior pastor that he was coming to a more progressive opinion about homosexuality.

And so it went all evening, with person after person wanting to talk to me about these same issue.

If I have a hope for Youth Specialties under Mark Matlock, it’s that the NYWC can be a place for evangelical youth workers to have conversations that they can’t otherwise have. This is not a posture without dangers. If we keep having these conversations, some youth workers won’t come to the NYWC; and some senior pastors will forbid their youth pastors from attending.

But others will come, and they’ll come in spades, I think.

Thanks to all of you who said hi at the NYWC, and thanks especially to those of you who came to seminars, panels, and conversations with an open mind and a generous spirit.

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