Inclusion Forum Was Scene of Emotion, Conciliation
By Cliff Dunn
NORTH MIAMI – Nearly 100 people— gay, straight, bi, and curious about the issues— gathered last Wednesday night to discuss inclusion, tolerance, discrimination, and just what it means to be “anti-gay.” The Inclusion Forum held at Temple Beth Moshe in North Miami brought together disparate elements of a rich but lately-troubled community to air grievances and find the common ground.
An often-intense night of discourse and debate reached its zenith when one attendee, a gay man named Jamesly Louis, gave an emotional account of his earlier struggles with suicidal thoughts—brought upon by his insecurities over his sexual identity.
Moderated by Rabbi Jory Lang, the forum also included Pastor Jack Hakimian, who leads the congregation of Impact Miami Church, and who has been a lightning rod in the north Miami-Dade community, especially concerning his controversial comments regarding homosexuality and gays.
Hakimian’s Impact Miami sermons— which can be seen on YouTube—often concern homosexual themes. One he preached earlier this year was entitled, “Bible Says Gays and Sex Addicts Can Change and Should Change.”
Those sermons brought him into conflict with Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, because Hakimian’s church rents its congregation space from North Miami Senior High School. Carvalho called the sermons and their messages “contrary to school board policy, as well as the basic principles of humanity,”
adding that he had “asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved … as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance.” An agreement has since been reached which allows for Impact Miami to remain as a tenant of the school.
The intolerance of which Carvalho spoke wasn’t on display August 8, when Hakimian sounded a conciliatory tone—including comforting the emotionally-devastated Louis. “Our message isn’t ‘go out and harm homosexuals, discriminate against them, treat them bad’—it’s from a theological perspective, this action is not sanctioned by God,” Hakimian told television station NBC 6 South Florida.
Hakimian sounded a similarly conciliatory tone after the forum. “Love doesn’t mean Christians can’t disagree,” he told the Christian Post on Thursday.
Openly-gay North Miami City Councilman Scott Galvin, who attended and helped organize the forum, expressed optimism in the event’s aftermath. “I was thrilled to have both sides of the debate around the same table,” Galvin told the Agenda. “The heartfelt story of Jamesly Louis had to have given everyone in the room, including Pastor Jack and his wife, pause for reflection.”