There was a lot of talk during Harmon´s visit to Birmingham about division in the church over social issues. Rev. Harmon estimated that 10 percent of the church has left over disagreements with the national church since the 1980s. He also opposes some of the national trends, but believes he is led to stay and be part of the discussion and affect the direction of the church.
Bishop of Alabama John McKee Slaon, also a Lenten Lecture speaker last week, tried to assure the congregation assembled at a meeting with Harmon at the Advent by asserting that the people pushing social agendas with the upcoming national church assembly were "not evil," but people "with a different idea."
Surprisingly, little is said in the discussions about the issue itself, variously termed as "same-sex unions" being promoted in diocese like Vermont- -or, even more anathema to the church´s social conservatives, same-sex marriage, which is viewed by opponents as contrary to scripture.
Birmingham is an important battleground for this fight, as it is one of the country´s more conservative congregations. Dean Frank Limehouse pointed out that 70 percent of the Advent´s gifts are restricted, with a notation against supporting the agenda of the "national church," which currently is mostly a code word for this same-sex issue. This is one of many current topics of Christian theology being aired in an important forum in the Lenten Lecture series.