Haven hosts religious discussion event
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:10
Thursday night, an Orthodox Jew, an African American Episcopalian woman, a progressive student Rabbi, a queer-identified Presbyterian, an Evangelical Christian, a Hindu man and a member of the United Church of Christ discussed homosexuality and religion in the Trabant Student Lounge.
Thursday night, students and members of the local community congregated in the lounge to watch eight panelists well-versed in Judaism, Hinduism and four forms of Christianity dissect their religious texts and share their interpretations as a part of Haven sponsored event, “If I’m Gay Can I Pray?” Haven has annually planned events involving homosexuality and religion, though this was the second time this specific panel discussion was held, with the previous held in 2010.
The discussion addressed the discrepancy between these religious texts and personal beliefs of sexuality. Philosophy professor Alan Fox,who teaches World Religions class, moderated the event.
“My job is to make sure that all takes place in a totally civilized fashion, nobody loses sight of the fact that we have to disagree with people without hating them,” Fox says.
Panelists first gave some background about their religion’s history and addressed a few questions composed prior to the event before then extending the discussion to audience members whose questions were fielded by Fox. Some of the tackled issues include the recent emergence of transgender identity in society and its place in the religious community, Judaism’s view of lesbians, and how to determine which religious laws to abide by and which to name obsolete.
Nick Renner, the Rabbinic of Hillel answered that it was a “beautiful struggle.” He says he had posed the same question to a Rabbi he met in Israel. The Rabbi responded that he had once thought about abandoning the law but realized later in life how important that struggle was because it forced him to wrestle with his beliefs and continuously challenge them. He says religion should force individuals to consistently poke and prod at their views of life.
Kate LeFranc, the Outreach Associate at the Christiana Presbyterian Church, highlighted her own struggle for ordination within the system. As a tattooed ex-roller derby, queer-identified bisexual she says she does not exactly fit the stereotypical idea of church administration.
“There are people that are terrified of us and would just like us to go away,” LeFranc says. “It’s a tough place that we find ourselves in right now in terms of our texts, our constitutions in the Book of Order as it is known.”
LeFranc says Amendment B, a Presbyterian law from 1997, states that those eligible to be ordained must either be chaste or in a committed relationship between a man and a woman. It was overturned in their General Assembly in 2011, but she says these thoughts still persist. She says many individuals are deflecting and forming new denominations.
LeFranc is not only concerned about the church embracing L.G.B.T individuals but also other differences in all humanity.
“It’s about the church embracing queerness in all of us and embracing difference,” LeFranc says. “I think that the church has a great opportunity ahead of us and I’m really excited to be a part of that.”