The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Mark Yarhouse, Professor of Psychology from Regent University, addressed the topic of pastoral care and counseling for people who struggle with LGBT+ issues.
The 2018 Czech Evangelical Forum was recently held in Prague, 20 – 22 February.
This annual forum is one of the largest gatherings of Evangelical pastors and Christian leaders in the Czech Republic. The 2018 Forum’s provocative theme was “Church in the midst of Gender Chaos”.
The main guest speaker was Dr. Mark Yarhouse, Professor of Psychology from Regent University in Virginia (USA), who addressed the controversial topic of pastoral care and counseling for people who struggle with LGBT+ issues.
In addition to Dr. Yarhouse, Czech pastors, researchers, and educators discussed a variety of topics over the days of the Forum. The topics were addressed in a series of network meetings, seminars, panel discussions, and plenary sessions.
Dr. Dana Hamplová of the Czech Academy of Sciences’s Institue of Sociology presented the results of the 2017 Czech Evangelical Alliance survey of Czech Evangelicals, which was followed by a panel discussion to allow everyone to think about and respond to those results in greater detail. That panel included Dr. Hamplová as well as denominational leaders from Kres’anské spolecenství, Církev bratrská, and Apostolská církev.
Network meetings addressed topics more in-depth, from Christian involvement in politics, Evangelical theology and Christians in academia to pastoral care and counseling and leading non-profit organizations.
Seminars addressed topics such as youth and sexual identity (specifically for youth leaders), engaging children and youth in the churches, caring for one’s own children and family as a pastor, partnerships with foreign missionaries, as well as allowing for more detailed discussion of ideas raised by Dr Yarhouse’s topic.
THE BIBLE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Dr. Yarhouse outlined a variety of helpful perspectives and appropriately compassionate responses to LGBT+ individuals, in particular for those struggling with same sex attraction and with gender dysphoria.
Dr. Yarhouse combined a high view and deep understanding of Scripture with the latest in psychological research, an area in which he is an active participant through Regent University’s Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity.
A GOSPEL DRIVEN PERSPECTIVE AVOIDING CULTURE WAR
Jirí Unger, General Secretary of the Czech Evangelical Alliance, responded, “This Forum opened up the very sensitive topic of our church’s relationship with LGBT people and I was glad that we were able to open this topic from different angles and from a very Gospel driven perspective, avoiding the culture war approach”.
“At the same time Mark Yarhouse, who is one of the leading Christian experts in this field, was able to give us necessary understanding, lenses and ministry language to LGBT people without compromising our values and theology. As contextualisation and high - quality discussions are key Forum values, I believe that we reached our goal and provided relevant facts and raise awareness of evangelical in this whole topic”, Unger said.
COMMUNICATING THE GOSPEL TO THE CZECH SOCIETY
The purpose of the Czech Evangelical Forum is to provide a venue in which Czech pastors and Christian leaders can meet in order to learn from, encourage, and support each other. The vision includes the desire to be a source of inspiration in order to discern how to live out and communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the unique context of Czech society today.
As it continues to develop, the Forum is increasingly seeing its vision fulfilled: to bring to together Christian leaders from all areas of Czech society in order to discover new paths to advance the Gospel in their society.
Dr. Jan Vales, Církev Bratrska pastor and director of the Forum’s Theology Network, said: “The Evangelical Forum is a unique occasion. Consider this: In the network of evangelical theology some twenty people met for four sessions from a number of evangelical denominations (conservative, charismatic, and pentecostal). There is no other occasion to meet people from such different church backgrounds who also have that interest in theology unless you go and study at the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Prague”.
“The Forum as a whole proved an especially good tool this year for opening difficult topics on an interdenominational level. The theme was: Gender identity and a Christian response. I believe it helped to establish an environment useful for dealing with such struggles.”
Jirí Bukovsky, this year’s volunteer coordinator and a seminary instructor, said: “The Forum is a unique event where people from different Czech Evangelical churches meet, share their views and inspire each other. I think that the Forum this year was a real forum, meaning a place where people met, brought their views and engaged in discussions on things which are important to the Evangelical community in the country. I was pleased to see, all in one place, people from different churches and of different opinions who rarely visit the same events and have the opportunity to talk to each other. Here they had that opportunity to come with their views and interact with others.”
For more information about the Czech Evangelical Forum, you can visit the event website.