I saw Shamu do his thing today. Very impressive. He did his wave to the crowd, and he did his splash. (Although, I should note that he did two of the three planned splashes of the ‘soak areas’, so I think he may have been holding out for more compensation.)  The whales that went before him were impressive, too. Lots of flips. I haven’t been to Sea World since I was a kid, so it was fun to watch the sea lions, otters, killer whales, and so on. The arctic flight was fun, too. It’s nice to experience all of this with children – to see how they take it in.

On Fried Pickles

When I was picked up at the Jackson airport, I was asked, “What would you like for dinner?” I suggested we have something unique to the region, so my host suggested Catfish Haven, a local spot for fresh catfish. The catfish was good, very good, but I was most surprised by the side order of fried pickles. I understand that you can fry anything in the South, but I’ve not really had as much experience with it. I also understand that this is not that odd – compared perhaps to the fried twinkies you can pick up at a carnival. But I enjoyed them nonetheless.

The reason I was in Jackson was to present at the 2009 Counseling Conference at Reformed Theological Seminary. The training program at RTS prepares students for licensure as marriage and family therapists (MFT) or counselors. They had asked me to go over research on sexual orientation and then to present on ethical and counseling issues that come up for Christian counselors. In the morning session we reviewed recent research on prevalence, etiology of homosexuality, mental health correlates, and the question of change.

The afternoon session focused on ethics. We discussed the AAMFT Code of Ethics, recent statements by the ACA, and recent developments in the APA. Since the students were primarily MFTs, we focused mostly on the AAMFT and how Christians practice when value conflicts may arise. Of course, Christians in the field are not the only ones who experience value conflicts. In fact, nearly every textbook I’ve reviewed has indicated that value conflicts will arise between a counselor and a client, and it is more of a question of whether the conflict will be an obstacle to services. If so, a referral is typically recommended.

The conference continued on Saturday, but I had to catch a flight back home. It was a good visit, and I enjoyed interacting with the faculty, students and alumni at RTS. They have been doing some nice work there, and their graduates appear to have a very good reputation in the community. It was a nice idea to host a conference primarily for your graduates; it allows you to visit and get reacquainted while also getting updates on recent findings in the field. It’s also great for graduates – why shouldn’t they stay in the area? They can can get their fill of catfish and fried pickles anytime they want.

RTS Counseling Conference

Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, Mississippi, is hosting the first of what will be an annual counseling conference for their students, alumni, and other clinicians in the community. The conference is scheduled for March 27-28, 2009. They invited me to present all day on Friday, March 27th – a morning session on research and theory related to sexual orientation and an afternoon session on ethical/professional issues and clinical practice. This will be followed by a panel discussion on addressing sexual identity issues in clinical practice.

Lecturing at TIU


I just returned from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. I was invited to give the Cultural Engagement Lecture Series, which were three lectures provided during the chapel time – one for the undergraduates and two for the divinity students. The one for undergrads was on an alternative narrative for discussing sexual identity. The two for the divinity students were on the relationship between sexual identity and a Christian identity.

What impressed me about Trinity was the hunger to elevate the discussion about homosexuality to another level. This is something I have seen at many Christian colleges and universities over the past few years: many Christian students are growing up with friends or family members whose lives are affected by sexual identity questions or concerns, and students are not particularly impressed with how they see the local church addressing the topic (or not addressing the topic, as the case may be).

The discussion with divinity students was particularly interesting to me as they represent church leadership in the years to come. I asked them to think about the question: “Whose people are we talking about?” By which I meant that it is important for church leaders to think about the people in their church who experience same-sex attraction as their people, as part of their community of faith. Too often I hear people discuss this topic in the church and refer to those people, suggesting we are not talking about people who are in our own communities (or worse that they belong somewhere else or belong to another community altogether). It was a small part of a larger discussion carried over into the various lectures, but I hoped that in some small way it would shift how leadership talks about the subject and engages their own community when thinking through and teaching on human sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual behavior.