The Gathering 2002
A Report from the Organizers
By John Bach & Mark Distefano
CBF held its fourth annual real-life gathering June 13-16 in St. Louis. While the previous three get-togethers, or "consultations," were intended to promote dialog between Christian boylovers and non-boylovers, this latest gathering was meant to be a time of worship and fellowship for boylovers. Plans are still underway for a fall consultation for minor-attracted adults (not only those attracted to boys) and other Christians who are interested in supporting them or dialoging with them.
Although the turnout was small, discussions and social activities were lively. The seven of us arrived Thursday afternoon or evening, and got acquainted (or re-acquainted) over dinner at a local restaurant.
The first formal session began the next morning with prayer. We discussed Ezekiel 34, a passage in which the Lord reprimands the shepherds of Israel for not caring for their flock: "You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals." (Ezek. 34:4-5) We felt the church has not fulfilled its responsibility to shepherd boylovers, leaving us scattered and vulnerable.
One participant told of his experience seeking support from his pastor. He took part in a men's group whose participants were very open about various aspects of their lives, including sexual issues. He said he needed support in living a celibate life, wanted to be honest, and desired open communication with his brothers in Christ. He was moved by 1 John 1:9 to share his attraction to boys with his pastor.
As a result of his confession, the pastor asked him to withdraw from his responsibilities in the church. He also experienced a distancing in his relationships with both church leadership and personal friends. He felt alone and isolated - "in a dark place," as he put it. In spite of the pain he experienced, he said he continued to pray for his pastor, and trusted that God would continue to be at work in the situation.
We agreed that Jesus is our shepherd. However, one participant pointed out that because Jesus is the Lamb of God, God is his shepherd. Like Jesus, we can be both shepherds and sheep. We can minister to other boylovers, to non-boylovers who are marginalized by the church, and to the boys around us.
Discussion of this topic ended with a question: Do we have a Christian responsibility to confront poor shepherds? One boylover commented that Christians need to carefully discern if and how confrontation can be effective.
Our discussion then turned to Philippians 4:11-13 and the topic of contentment. Paul writes, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..." How do we as Christian boylovers find contentment? We struggle with celibacy, lack of intimacy, and rejection by church society.
One participant noted that contentment is something that has to be worked at. He said that he did this by replacing his feelings of being cheated, or feeling inferior, with a sense of gratitude. He made it a habit to consider his blessings rather than to be frustrated by what he felt he lacked. To do this he found it necessary to set aside a regular time of solitude, prayer, and meditation. He also shared an effective way to meet the need for intimacy: hugs. Frequent hugs with people of all ages made it easier for him to live a fulfilling celibate life.
The morning ended by each of us telling his spiritual story. We represented a tremendous variety of backgrounds.
After lunch, we had ample time for napping and informal chatting. Then the group headed for a local park for a cook-out, complete with pork steaks barbecued on the grill. The weather proved to be perfect for a relaxed meal, although serious discussions could still be heard.
Saturday morning began with singing. The morning's discussion centered on the use of language related to sexuality. One participant gave a historical overview of how certain terms, such as pedophilia, homosexuality, and sodomy, have dramatically changed in meaning and usage over the years.
He explained that the roots of the term "sodomy" are to be found in the Genesis story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). While the term is never used in that account, the word "sodomite" occurs in later references in both Old and New Testaments. It is used to describe persons who give themselves up to lustful desires. The Church Fathers of the 4th century (Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory) linked the story of Sodom with same-sex sexual activity of males. The use of the term "sodomy" for same-sex sexual activity did not occur until the 11th century when St. Peter Damian coined the term. Christian tradition, embodied by Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica further entrenched this usage.
In common usage from this time up to the 19th century, "sodomy" referred to same-sex relations. In the late 19th century the psychiatric community coined the terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual." Thus, the term "sodomy," which by that time meant several different forms of same-sex sexual contact, was gradually replaced by the term homosexuality. Recent translations of Scripture that use the term "homosexual" may cause confusion because current understandings of "homosexual" are not the same as the original Greek terms employed by their authors.
The discussion was followed by the reading of a moving letter faxed to the group by a boylover who was unable to attend. Prayer and hugs closed the morning session.
Like the previous day, the morning's rather serious discussion contrasted with the more relaxing pace of the afternoon. A late afternoon trip downtown for dinner and sightseeing proved to be enjoyable as we strolled along the river, visited the Gateway Arch, and browsed in the underground museum.
Sunday's activities included attending mass at St. Peter's Cathedral and another picnic lunch at a nearby park. After this, we reluctantly exchanged hugs and said our good-byes.