Can men and women be close friends without the sex part getting in the way?
Can men and women who are married enjoy opposite sex friendships?
What would our marriages, our friendships, our churches, and our communities look like if men and women were not afraid of connecting with each other in deep ways?
What would male-female relationships look like in marriages and friendship if every man and woman could know the spiritual richness and beauty of oneness between genders?
These are the kinds of questions that grew out of my reading of a fine book I reviewed extensively on this site, December 21-24, 2010. I wrote long blogs about Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, a ground-breaking and courageous book written by my good friend Dan Brennan. I believed then that it had something extremely important to say about real friendship to our modern over-sexualized culture, especially inside the Christian church. I believed, and believe even more now, that the absence of real friendship is destroying the life of the Spirit among us. This book is an important work that addresses the need for healing in this area of life together.
Dan and I go back a very long way. I was his pastor in the 1980s. Quite honestly we had a tragic break in our relationship. That break lasted for more than a decade but after some years this broken friendship was beautifully healed. We were totally and completely reconciled and thus have enjoyed, for several years, a great (and very healthy) friendship. I tell you this story because it underscores an important point about my friend Dan Brennan. He practices what he preaches/writes! He is so refreshingly honest that some people do not like him for it. Plus, his understanding of a controversial subject is truly unique. But Dan is a man who makes friends and values his relationships very deeply. Like me he can be, and has been, hurt by friends who have turned against him. He has proven to be a true friend to me. I hope this friendship will continue to be the treasured by him as well. It is a powerful evidence of the kingdom to celebrate friendship with a person you once loved and then lost, only to regain that relationship with much greater depth and richness.
This weekend I have the great privilege of sharing in a one-of-a-kind conference that Dan has planned for some months: When Jesus Met Mary: A Conference Exploring Friendship Between Men & Women. The event publicity says that it will seek to promote understanding, demystify the opposite sex (as if that were entirely possible, eh?), desexualize interactions between men and women, guide us in overcoming sexism, help us to tap into our deep longing to reflect the image of God and help us to enter into the deep unity and communion that God desires.
I will speak on unity at the end of the event on Saturday afternoon and assist in serving the eucharist in the closing session at 3:40 p.m. The event begins with dinner at 6 p.m. this Friday evening, April 27. The speaker lineup includes some wonderful writers and thinkers, a few I know and more new people that I look forward to meeting. The meeting place for the conference is Life on the Vine, located at 5105 RFD, Arlington Heights Road, Long Grove, Illinois.
You can register now. I urge you to do so and then attend this weekend. I'd love to see many of my Chicago friends. I do not believe that you will regret coming to this event. Even if the topic frightens you, and it does for many great people, come and learn. Listen, ask questions, think deeply. The price is reasonable and the fellowship and topic will both be truly unique.