Last month Dunwoody UMC, in conjunction with Candler School of Theology, hosted a dialogue on Biblical Interpretation as related to our understanding of human sexuality.
The experience is an example of how devout followers of Christ can disagree not on the authority of Scripture, but the interpretation of Scripture. You're invited to watch the videos of the conversation as two scholars, Rev. Dr. Kevin Watson and Rev. Dr. Kendall Soulen, who have dedicated their lives to the faithful study of Scripture, respectfully disagree regarding full inclusion of LGBTQ folks in the life of the Church.
Video: Discussion Part 1
Video: Discussion Part 2
In attendance at the event were lay and clergy from Dunwoody UMC as well as a number of other local churches in the Atlanta-Roswell District. Among the attendees were United Methodists who consider themselves traditionalist, those who consider themselves progressive, and those who consider themselves centrists. There were some who feel they are compatibilists (who believe there is room in the denomination for people with differing viewpoints on this topic) and some who feel they are non-compatibilists.
Watson and Soulen were each asked to speak to their understanding of Biblical interpretation, then they had an opportunity for conversation, and afterward a chance to answer questions from the audience.
"Tonight we're inviting you to listen," said Rev. Dan Brown, pastor of Dunwoody UMC at the start of the event. "Regardless of what our position is, let's listen in Christian love and community with one another."
Brown emphasized that the point of this event was not to get anyone to change their opinion, rather to give a chance for people to hear another perspective.
"There is a tendency for us to write off those who disagree with us," he said. "But as a church, my hope is that we can treat all with dignity and respect, regardless of their position. At Dunwoody, we are aiming at a Christian community where we can disagree with one another, learn from one another, and grow from one another even if we look at the issue of human sexuality from different perspectives. I personally believe this is a reflection of the New Testament Church. In the New Testament Church, they didn’t always agree with one another, but they found ways of living together in a loving community where Christ was at the core of their relationship."
By choosing Watson and Soulen to speak, the organizers hoped to offer an example of how we can be theologically and spiritually educated and still hold different opinions on matters of human sexuality.
"We also attempted to show that it is possible for people to hold very strong differing opinions and still live in loving community with one another," said Brown. "In fact, it was my hope that we could actually see that we need one another to be our best. I think it also helped us realize that we can hold different opinions and still work together on the mission of the Church."