TWU’s Gender Studies Institute event "Building Bridges" draws largest crowd to date
Trinity Western University’s Gender Studies Institute (GSI) hosted speakers Justin Lee and Ron Belgau for the dialogue Building Bridges: A Conversation on LGBT Christians and the Church on February 16. With approximately one thousand people in attendance, the Gender Café event was a timely contribution to the conversations within the TWU and Christian communities.
TWU President Bob Kuhn opened the evening with a warm welcome and reminder: “We need to provide a safe and caring environment for this discussion to occur.” Kuhn added, “Effective education demands that we confront issues directly in their clearest and strongest forms.” TWU is committed to providing opportunities for dialogue on the tough questions within Christian community.
Justin Lee—a Protestant gay man who believes gender is irrelevant in a committed marriage—and Ron Belgau—a Catholic gay man who believes in the traditional definition of marriage—presented the ways they agree and disagree about Christianity and homosexuality. Their titular theme of building bridges was reiterated in recommendations to foster a space for open dialogue on both perspectives.
The conversation was divided into agreements and disagreements. Together, Lee and Belgau highlighted the importance of sharing stories, emphasizing friendship, and seeking understanding. Their presentation was not about supporting homosexuality, but about exploring what it means to live as a gay Christian. Lee asked, “The question is: what now?”
In coming to terms with their faith and orientation, Lee and Belgau came to different theological and personal convictions. Lee represents the perspective referred to as “Side A,” which believes that “all can have a marriage blessed by God.” Lee highlighted the settings and cultural contexts of homosexual references in the Bible, and placed particular emphasis on the stories of Jesus putting human compassion ahead of the law. Lee said, “The Bible tells us that every commandment can be summed up in the rule to love one another.”
Belgau represents the perspective referred to as “Side B,” which believes that sex should remain within a marriage between a man and a woman. Belgau emphasized how culture had redefined personhood since the sexual revolution. Given that Christians are called to be countercultural, he pursued the return to historically biblical personhood. Our bodies, he explained, were bought by Christ, making it “important to recognize that [His] ownership changes the way we look to God when it comes to the way that we use our bodies.”
Local youth groups, high schools, pastors, and church members were in attendance, along with TWU students, alumni, parents, staff, and faculty. Over 75 questions were received in the first few minutes of the Q&A following the dialogue.
The Gender Studies Institute hosts monthly Gender Cafés to discuss important topics within the spectrum of gender and sexuality in a Christian setting. For more information, please see the GSI website.
Watch the following video for a recap of the event: