Renowned author and professor Jenell Williams Paris spoke on “Courageous Leadership in Christian Sex/Gender Conflicts” at this year’s Integration Symposium, an annual conference hosted by Fuller’s School of Psychology. Held at Fuller’s Pasadena campus February 18–20, the conference engaged challenging questions in the realm of LGBTQ discussions. Working out of the research that fed into her book The End of Sexuality, Paris explored the nature of the LGBTQ debate and possible ways forward.
“I resist the reductionistic tendency around the debate,” Dr. Paris said. “This is a far more complicated subject than simply ‘Homosexuality is a sin’ or ‘No, it’s not.’”
Paris took the attendees through many facets of the debate—everything from the history of the term “homosexuality” to cross-cultural examinations of same-sex attraction—all to suggest that the field of study is not as binary as many make it out to be. The anthropologist stressed that in all the academic disciplines that feed into the discussion, “There is much work to be done.” Articulating a specific stance was neither the point of the symposium or of Paris’s own lectures. “I’m convinced that finding the right answer is not the right answer,” she said. “Homosexuality is part of our culture. It is here. Courageous leadership will consist of leading the way forward wherever we find ourselves with the love of Christ and the conviction of his Lordship over all.”
School of Psychology Dean Mari Clements opened the third day of the conference with a poignant reflection on the conference. “I did not expect to agree with everything Dr. Jenell Williams Paris said in this year’s Integration Symposium. For that matter, I did not expect to agree with everything our three Fuller faculty respondents said, either. In truth, that is not the point of this—or any other—Integration Symposium.”
“The Integration Symposium is not a meeting in which safe topics are posed to an audience that merely nods and says, ‘Amen.’ It is also not a meeting to set or to change policy. This year's Integration Symposium is a meeting to engage an important issue that threatens church unity both in the United States and globally. It is a meeting to bring cutting edge scholarship into respectful dialogue in the context of a gathering of people who name Jesus as Lord of all.”
Professors Erin Dufault-Hunter, Steve Simpson, and School of Intercultural Studies Dean Scott Sunquist all took the stage as respondents to the three plenary lectures by Paris. Professor of integration Brad Strawn served as host for the sold-out symposium.