Finding common ground between gays and those Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin is the goal of a panel discussion Monday at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs.

Panelists for the homosexuality discussion are three gay leaders and three conservative evangelicals who are critics of the gay lifestyle, including a Vanguard member who no longer identifies himself as gay.

The panelists will share personal stories, but they will not debate the causes of homosexuality, said Kelly Williams, senior pastor of Vanguard Church and the event’s master of ceremony. Polarizing issues involving whether people are born gay and whether it’s psychologically harmful to try to change their sexual orientation will not be broached. Instead, the focus will be on understanding one another’s views.

“Post-modern judgmental churches have worn people out,” Williams said. “In the past, the evangelical community has been known more for what we are against rather than what we are for.”

Dialogue rather than debate can reveal the common ground gay and heterosexual Christians share, Williams said, such as a desire to worship Christ and engage in social work in the community.

As leader of a conservative Southern Baptist church, Williams believes homosexuality is a sin, but he doesn’t publicly criticize the gay lifestyle. “God is in the redeeming business, not the condemning business,” Williams said. “Let’s give public praise and private rebuke.”

The three gay panelists are Bill Oliver, head of the local chapter of the gay advocacy group Integrity; Wes Mullins, pastor of Pikes Peak Metropolitan Church; and psychotherapist Dara Hoffman. Representing the conservative view are Vanguard counselor Jayson Graves; Jeff Johnston of Focus on the Family; and ex-gay David Vetter.

Plans for Monday’s event began eight months ago when Springs gay advocacy groups approached Vanguard Church about hosting their “Dialogues of Courage,” a fledgling program in which gay people share their stories with a predominately evangelical audience. After discussions with Vanguard, it was decided the event would subsume “Dialogues” into Vanguard’s “Community Conversations,” which for the past several years has tackled such topics as creation care, the relationship among the Abrahamic faiths and, five years ago, homosexuality. As with those events, Monday’s panel discussion will forgo polemics.

“Sharing our stories is what makes the most difference,” Oliver said. “This won’t be a debate. We are all on the same team.”

For more interviews with Williams and gay Christians on the event, go to Barna’s blog, The Pulpit, at Call the writer at 636-0367.



Community Conversations: Homosexuality
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Vanguard Church, 3950 N. Academy Blvd., at corner of Academy and Austin Bluffs
Cost: Free
Details: 591-8800, or go to