Lausanne concludes: Reflections on the Sexuality Conversation

A comment in the Canadian gathering, however, was that this congress felt old. I agree. There seemed to be more looking backwards than looking forwards. Now even as I say this, I am acutely aware of the reality of the tremendous diversity in this global village of evangelicals. I would dare to say that for many participants, this was not their experience. The tone, trajectory and temper of the congress may well have been absolutely on target for their context. And many, I’m sure, leave the congress feeling greatly encouraged to move into the next season of mission in their context.

There is a paradoxical dilemma that I see. On one hand, there was the murmuring that the west had too much dominance and power at this gathering. In particular, there was a very American feel at times both in male voices on the platform and in the production of the event – especially aspects of the opening and closing ceremonies. This lingers as a question for me. It seemed clear that there was a lot of intentional attention given to try to diversify the voices that were heard. And yet, a western overtone seemed to shine through. Part of this seemed to be connected to time. If 5,000 people are going to proceed through not only the program but also the ever critical meal times, then time must be stewarded in what inevitably feels like a very western management style. Yet, the longing to linger, to not feel rushed through times of sharing and prayer was palatable. And for speakers who normally have great freedom, time constraints cramped their style so-to-speak. It was interesting to me that some of these sentiments also emerged in the Canadian gathering. Seems that outside of our schedule-driven lives, we too long to experience the unforced rhythms of grace over time-dominated strictures.

On the other hand, there seemed to be in the overall tone a reticence to make application to western contexts. There were some happy exceptions. But in terms of engaging the postmodern, post-Christian context, there seemed to be very little and the ongoing perception that these realities were negative, to be avoided, eradicated etc. For many of us functioning within these paradigms, we see opportunities. And it seemed that this was not acknowledged, addressed or invested in.

For this reason, I think my fellow Canadian made the comment that the congress seemed old. And I felt this in the multiplex and dialogue sessions pertaining to sexuality. When all the presenters are from one paradigm of ministry that is a clear clue that there will be a deficit in addressing the diversity of context that the participants will be navigating. Having speakers from various nations will itself not fully address this need if all they all come from a similar perspective. This was true of the sexuality conversation. Because all the presenters came from Exodus, this was not only the dominant paradigm – it was the only paradigm presented – and the only ministry promoted. Of course, I am biased, but I think this was not only disappointing but a disservice to participants – particularly those from North America, the U.K, and western Europe where the contexts are gay-positive and post-Christian.