If you go
What: "Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church," by Jack Rogers
When/where: 3:30 p.m. at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave.; 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway.
More info: www.drjackrogers.com
Sometimes, Jack Rogers wishes he saw a little more controversy in his presentations on gays and lesbians in Christian churches.
"I don't get hostile people coming out," Rogers says. "In one sense, that's sad. We're so polarized, people who know they will disagree with me don't come out to hear me."
Rogers, who has given some 60 presentations on the topic in the last year and a half, will come to Lawrence for a pair of events Sunday.
The first is at 3:30 p.m. at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave. The second will be at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway.
Rogers will speak and sign copies of his book "Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church."
Rogers, who lives in Pasadena, Calif., is a theologian who taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He also is a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.
He argues for equal rights for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered, and he thinks churches ought to be leading the charge.
"I'm trying to help people understand that the Bible rightly interpreted, which I would think is through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry ... does not condemn Christian people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
"That's the word I'm trying to put out, over against the excessively negative words of some parts of the religious community. I feel people are very hungry to hear a positive word from somebody representing the church."
Rogers says those who argue that the Bible condemns gays and lesbians are taking biblical literalism too far. He compares it to those who used the Bible to support slavery and to stifle women's rights - a concept he wrote about in 1999 in another book, "Reading the Bible and the Confessions."
"It's the pattern of prejudice against someone who is different," Rogers says.
He hasn't always felt this way. He says his own change of heart on the issue of homosexuality came in 1993, when he was asked by his pastor to be part of a study at his church about the issue. He reluctantly agreed, after some arm-twisting.
He spent six months studying what the Bible says about homosexuality.
"That was the beginning of a transformation, because I was, as it were, forced to study the Bible intensively for nine months on this issue, and the reality began to look different to me than what I had grown up with," Rogers says.
Kent Winters-Hazelton, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church, says Rogers' conversion on the topic gives him added legitimacy and interest within the broader church.
"He comes from the conservative, evangelical side within the Presbyterian Church," Winters-Hazelton says. "He began to explore the issue at the local church and learned about other questions, perspectives and views that can be used on that (topic), and that made a change of his perspective.
"So even more valuable than his background as a theologian - and an articulate, well-spoken one - that helped him to begin to share that change of his understanding within the church."
Now, Rogers says, his audiences are made of a one-third gay and lesbian people who simply want to hear that God loves them. Many others are mainstream Christians who believe in equal rights for all - with the possible exception of gays and lesbians.
Rogers says it's his quest to convince them that there should be no exceptions.
"This is so polarized," he says. "People think there's nothing to study. They just think, 'Well, we know.' Indeed, one church leader said in my presence, 'My grandma told me it was wrong, and that's good enough for me.' That's the attitude a lot - people don't want to think about this."