The Reverend George Williamson will be speaking this weekend on the issue of homosexuality and Christianity. Mary Hammond, the organizer of the lecture series and co-pastor of The First Baptist Church of Oberlin, hopes the lectures will allow gay people who have faith in Christianity to find a place in the church. Furthermore, she hopes the lectures will demonstrate the church is not entirely homophobic.
The two Saturday lectures, "Evil in the Name of God: A Historical View" and "Evil in the Name of God: A Contemporary View" will be primarily derived from the book Williamson is currently writing called Religion on the Wrong Side: Gay/Lesbian Uprising and the Breakthrough of God. It will focus on the theological, intellectual and historical facets of this controversial issue.
Even before it became a mainstream issue, Williamson advocated the acceptance of homosexuality in the Christian Church. Hammond said that "controversy has followed him throughout his life." Prior to becoming involved in the issue of homosexuality, Williamson fought for civil rights. His strong and bold character accounts for his fierce commitment to his beliefs. Hammond said Williamson "will not avoid confrontation" and "does not run away from consequences."
Hammond said many Christians "have a hard time hearing each other" on the issue of homosexuality because of their differences in biblical interpretations. She was also concerned with "the way the institutional church rejects homosexuality."
Williamson, a personal friend of Hammond's, is the pastor of The First Baptist Church of Granville, Ohio. He is also a social activist and author.
Mary Hammond holds a very strong and respectful opinion of Williamson. She calls him a "path breaking person." Moreover, she says he has a "strong sense of justice and a deep love for people." Williamson has worked with everyone from the homeless to prisoners. His work is always "on the cutting edge."
Hammond hopes Williamson's lectures will attract people from many different persuasions because homophobia is a problem for most religions. She recognizes the church's mistreatment of homosexuals, yet encourages students to attend to learn about the positive qualities of Christianity.
The First Baptist Church of Granville has a very progressive history. Led by Williamson, it was the first church to be disfellowshipped from the American Baptist Association. Their "welcoming and affirming" policy towards gay, lesbian and bisexual members, was the cause of their disfellowship. Being a progressive church, the First Baptist Church of Granville has attracted many former members of churches in the Granville area.
These members have come to First Baptist due to its open and accepting policy towards homosexuality. The influx of new members into the church has created new dynamics within the church. First Baptist has since been introduced to many different and novel songs and prayers. Nonetheless, Hammond commends Williamson's ability to integrate the many different customs of the new members. She said Williamson is "always up for a challenge." Williamson will lecture on the story of the First Baptist Church of Granville tonight at 7:30.
The First Baptist Church of Oberlin, which is essentially a sister church to The First Baptist Church of Granville, also supports progressive ideas. Hammond said her church is very excited about Williamson's visit to Oberlin this weekend.
According to Hammond, Williamson "feels pain over the way in which the church has treated the gay community." Hopefully, the series of lectures this weekend will give Oberlin students and the community a more thorough understanding of the unsettled issue of homosexuality in the church and help reconcile alienated gay students with their religion.
In addition to The First Baptist Church of Oberlin, the lectures are also being sponsored by the Ecumenical Christians of Oberlin and The Oberlin College Multicultural Resource Center.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 22, April 25, 1997
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