Miami minister Jack Hakimian has agreed to attend an LGBT forum organized by an openly gay councilman who has expressed concern regarding the pastor's sermons on homosexuality, labeling them "intolerant." Hakimian, however, has maintained that his sermons are not "anti-gay" but reflect the teachings of the Bible.
"I would hope that those who preach intolerance or have thoughts of intolerance would come away with a personal understanding," Councilman Scott Galvin, who ordered the meeting, told The Miami Herald. "And I want the GLBT community to know there are religious leaders who do care and love them."
The Wednesday evening "GLBT Inclusion Forum" will take place at Temple Beth Moshe in Northern Miami and participants will address issues between the gay community and religious leaders.
Hakimian, who is pastor of Impact Miami Church, told The Miami Herald Tuesday that he welcomes the forum.
"Decent debate and disagreement is good. It's beautiful. We should want a community where people are disagreeing openly and publicly because if we don't, the opposite of that is oppression," he said, adding that he will likely be one of the panelists at the forum.
Hakimian recently came under public scrutiny after a Miami-Dade school district criticized the pastor, a self-described Southern Baptist evangelical, for often preaching against homosexuality during his Sunday services at North Miami Senior High School.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the WPLG-TV news station that he believed Hakimian's sermons "to be contrary to school board policy, as well as the basic principles of humanity, and I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved. ... I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance."
Hakimian, whose Impact Miami Church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that his congregation has been unfairly judged as homophobic, and he is simply teaching what the Bible considers a sin.
"I never thought I would be penalized for teaching on Christian marriage and sexual ethics from the Bible -- the very Bible that presidents swear on, in a privately rented space at an event not sponsored by the school or district," Hakimian told The Miami Herald.
"As taxpayers we have the right to assemble in public spaces," Pastor Hakimian added, demanding an apology from Superintendent Carvalho.
It has since been decided that Hakimian will be allowed to continue preaching at the high school. The pastor continues to assert that his sermons are not anti-gay, and he has told local media outlets that he hopes Wednesday night's forum will be the first of many to form a strong, understanding relationship between the county's religious leaders and the gay community.
In an open invitation on Impact Miami Church's website, it reads: "We expect a civil and intelligent discussion on tolerance, sexual ethics, and free speech. What do these words mean, how are Christians to live in Miami and how do we have 'Unity & Diversity' in a multicultural community?"
A statement on the church's website states that they believe homosexuality "is a sexual orientation and lifestyle outside of God's perfect design like all other sins."
It adds: "We believe Jesus Christ can and wills to bring forgiveness and freedom from sin's power, so homosexuals like all other sinners can manage, or control their particular sin by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This freedom does not eradicate their sinful tendency, but gives the new believer a choice to be a slave of righteousness, rather then (sic) a slave to their sinful nature."