A panel discussion held in Sanderson 215 last Thursday, Feb. 19, is the most recent installment in what Student Development calls, “continuing the conversation” on sexual identity, to quote an email from Dean Voyles. As panel moderator, Professor Hans Madueme explained that last week’s event is part of a greater discussion, which includes chapel speakers Rosaria Butterfield and Matthew Trexler (fall semesters 2014 and 2015, respectively) and guest speaker Sam Allberry last fall.
Six panelists, along with moderator Professor Madueme, participated in the discussion, which was called “Continuing the Conversation: Sexual Identity and the Christian.” The event was divided into two parts: discussion among the panelists followed by Q&A with the audience.
The “conversation” on sexual identity is focused primarily on homosexuality and same-sex attraction (though the topic of transgender did come up in the Q&A). Questions from the audience included such topics as how to vote and advice on caring for friends experiencing same-sex attraction.
“Everyone on this panel is sexually broken,” said Kevin McAlvey, Resident Director of Founders Hall and panelist, as he introduced himself at the beginning of the event. Similarly, other panelists were open about personal matters, sexual and otherwise. Panelists exhibited a tone of humility throughout the night and a resistance to the impersonal academic in their discourse.
Professor Eames delineated terminology used to distinguish various sexual self-identifications, differentiating between such terms as same-sex attraction and gay orientation. Defining terms helps establish conversation (the stated goal of the panel), but later in the night Kevin McAlvey and Professor Eames reminded the audience to avoid rigidity when listening to individuals, letting them explain themselves in their own terms.
In a word pertinent to Covenant—a campus that attempts real community—Professor Camille Halstrom noted that “the Gay community puts us to shame” in terms of offering connection. She added, “maybe we need to go get a few pointers from them.”
Professor Halstrom’s comments about community also reached beyond Covenant’s campus. While introducing herself at the beginning of the panel, Professor Halstrom expressed the pertinence of her singleness to the topic at hand, and several times during the event discussed the role of the Church in the life of men and women who are single. She stressed the familial character of the Body, stating that, “It’s part of the New Covenant that the promise passes not through flesh and blood but to the people of the family of God,” to demonstrate the Church’s need to care for all its members, married or not.
Carter Hall Resident Director and panelist Evan Marbury also stressed the importance of sensitivity toward those struggling with same-sex attraction while living in a dorm setting. Specifically he problematized nudity in a hall environment. “Pause and consider the nakedness,” he said, adding that, “a lot of people feel stifled on your hall.”
Future conversation on topics like sexual identity will continue at Covenant, and despite its seemingly exclusive focus, this panel implicated the entire Covenant community. In the words of Professor Halstrom, “We as Christians must believe that the gospel knows us better than we do.”