A prominent evangelical church in Florida is receiving criticism for hosting a seminar that was sponsored by a group that aims to reform Christian teaching on sexual orientation and "gender identity."
Northland Community Church in Orlando recently hosted the event, which was titled: "Elevating the Dialogue on LGBTQ Inclusion and Understanding of the Church." It was sponsored by The Reformation Project, founded by Mathew Vines, author of the book God and the Gay Christian.
Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Community Church, told Charisma News his church hasn't wavered on the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. But he said he invited Vines "because his organization helps churches – including churches that do not agree with him – have a conversation to increase understanding between the two normally adversarial groups."
Hunter also told The Orlando Sentinel: "It's not about our church's position about homosexuality. It's about how we treat each other when we're different in our perspectives."
However, a litigation, education and policy organization based in Orlando has some concerns about the event. Roger Gannam is assistant vice president for legal affairs for Liberty Counsel.
"It's one thing to host a conversation, a panel discussion, or a debate where different sides of an issue are presented," says Gannam. "But for a church to invite into its walls an organization led by a man who espouses basically heresy – something that is not biblical at all – it's very disappointing and it's very alarming."
The founder of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, believes Pastor Hunter has fallen into a trap. "For him to host that pro-LGBT event is heresy," he adds.
Liberty Counsel argues that the purpose of the event was to "distort the Bible and change theology in order to affirm an alternate sexual lifestyle as normative."
According to Gannam, attendees were asked to fill out a survey regarding their personal sexual lifestyle choices and their views about LGBTQ inclusion in the church. He explains that after Liberty Counsel's press release was put out – which had a link to the survey – the link was taken down. But Liberty Counsel created the PDF link above using a printout that had been saved.