‘This Jesus heals’: Gender Matters Conference to share the truth of God’s love

Moira Cullings

Same-sex attraction and gender identity are among the most-talked about issues in secular society.

“To some extent, everybody has some type of relational or sexual brokenness,” said Scott Elmer, Executive Director of Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“It’s a thing where you’re tempted to think it’s such a hot button issue, maybe the Church doesn’t have an answer or that the Church’s answer would be incredibly unfulfilling,” he said.

But the Church does have an answer, and it will be addressed at the Gender Matters Conference, presented by Desert Stream Ministries on Jan. 19.

“What Gender Matters and what Desert Stream does is they say that Jesus has an answer and that the Father has given you an identity as his son or his daughter, and you’ll find fulfillment there,” said Elmer.

“Even if it’s somebody that’s experienced profound same-sex attraction, the Lord can actually bring about healing in that.”

Elmer believes that through Desert Stream, the conference has great potential to heal the hearts of those who attend.

“Desert Stream Ministries is a ministry which is designed to expose people to the love of God the Father, receive their identity in Jesus Christ and heal the wounds that have come from their brokenness,” he said.

Although the conference will focus on same-sex attraction and gender identity, it will be helpful to all who struggle with sexual or relational issues.

“The conference is designed for people that are looking for how Jesus answers people with this type of brokenness,” said Elmer. “If you come, you’ll realize that the Lord wants to restore and bring to fulfillment something in you.”

That fulfillment can come out of even the most complicated wounds.

“Most of the wounds you and I have is because of failed relationships,” said Elmer. “So, it’s actually relationship that restores that wound. The communal aspect with other Christians is necessary, too.”

The conference will utilize the teachings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict, as well as Scripture, to explain the Church’s position on these issues.

“[Desert Stream] brings people to the source of healing, which is Jesus, and then through some teaching, some ministry and powerful small group experiences, the Lord ministers healing,” said Elmer.

“The people that have been sent to it have experienced profound healing, profound renewed intimacy with Jesus and knowing him in a new and powerful way.”

Elmer explained that although society strives to make it easy for people who struggle with these issues by accepting them without question, “it’s a false compassion in the sense that we don’t think that’s the highest dignity that God called them to live.

“He doesn’t want to just leave them in brokenness,” he added. “This Jesus heals.”

Aaron Lambert contributed to this story.

Gender Matters Conference

Saturday, Jan. 19, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
1300 S. Steele St.
$25

Visit gendermatters.eventbrite.com
to register.

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA