March 12, 2013

Issac J. Bailey | Talking about faith splits along the Grand Strand

Issac J. Bailey, retired First Presbyterian Church pastor Bobby Wilkes and Coastal Carolina University will hold an April 1 public event concerning faith in the Myrtle Beach area.

On April 1 at 4:30 p.m., we will begin the process of engaging the Grand Strand in a public conversation this year about matters of faith and religion and how they are changing in the 21st century even here, on the buckle of the Bible Belt.

Retired First Presbyterian pastor Bobby Wilkes and I will be working with the Jackson Family Center for Ethics & Values at Coastal Carolina University on that day.

The event is titled “Beyond Colorblindness: Into the Faith Divide” and will be held in Lackey Chapel on the main campus in Conway.

Is it possible to continue worshiping together and respecting those with whom you have disagreements on fundamental issues about your faith?

It will be a lead-up to an event at 4:30 p.m. on April 4 by an accomplished visiting ethicist, Russ Shafer-Landau, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Shafer-Landau will be speaking “On Marriage Equality,” taking a dive into gay marriage and related issues from a Biblical/moral perspective.

He will get into the nuts-and-bolts of one of the issues causing churches to fracture and some to doubt their faith beliefs.

Wilkes and I will somewhat serve as a warm-up for Shafer-Landau. We want to hear from you, members of the public, about your beliefs, about where they come from, about how you determine when a line has been crossed and you need to seek guidance elsewhere.

I’ll share a bit of the struggles I’ve had over the past few years – attending churches where the views I hold on certain issues are not even welcome and are sometimes taken as an existential threat – while Wilkes will provide the wisdom, based upon the decades he’s spent in the ministry and watching the world change around the church, and even his time trying to help a church through a split.

The fact is, faith is hard. And it only gets harder when a fundamental tenet that you have long held dear is challenged by someone you love, trust and respect.

The April 1 event in Lackey Chapel is largely in response to what’s going on in Christian churches, including the Episcopal Church’s struggles that have reached a number of churches throughout the Grand Strand.

But at the heart of the stress is the kind of balancing act everyone of every faith has to manage – trying to determine where personal perspective should give way to a higher wisdom, and how to know the difference.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on April 1 about how best to manage that, as well as your reaction to what Shafer-Landau will offer on April 4 about marriage equality.

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