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After a disagreement between a Florida school superintendent and Pastor Jack Hakimian over his homosexuality-centered sermons, Hakimian agreed to attend an GLBT forum Wednesday evening, an experience he says that allowed him to address labels like "anti-gay."
"I thought it was pretty positive from our perspective. Of course, people were heckling and being obnoxious, but overall it was good," Hakimian told The Christian Post Thursday.
The Southern Baptist pastor, who leads Impact Miami Church, said that one of the most "interesting" aspects of Wednesday evening's forum was addressing the misuse of the word "anti-gay."
Hakimian told CP that when the words "anti" and "hate" get into debates regarding religious and social issues, the liberal, far left side can be just as hostile as the far right, conservative side.
Additionally, Hakimian argues that often, disagreement can be misinterpreted as hate.
"Because [the far left] calls us bigots and hatemongers, what does that mean? They hate us? No, they just disagreed with our views and practices," he said.
Although the majority of those who attended the forum, hosted by Temple Beth Moshe in Northern Miami, were arguing from the pro-homosexuality perspective, Hakimian contends that he and his wife were still able to "present a Christian perspective of tolerance, of love, of the Christian Apologetic concerning this issue," as well as "talk about sexuality from a Christian perspective."
"They kept saying that because you don't agree with us you don't love us, you hate us. We tried to explain to them that love doesn't mean Christians can't disagree," he continued, reflecting on the night's events and the conversation he had with the nine-person panel, all of whom were representing the LGBT community.
Hakimian was invited to attend the forum on Tuesday afternoon by openly gay Councilman Scott Galvin, who has expressed concern that Hikimian's sermons regarding homosexuality are "intolerant," a sentiment which Hakimian refutes, saying his sermons reflect traditional Christian beliefs based on the Bible.
The true goal of Wednesday's forum, according to the Miami pastor, was to find a way to work together agreeably as a community while still disagreeing on certain issues, such as homosexuality.
"Christians can disagree, but find issues of mutual concern, but the other side is just as hostile as the people on the right. It's very difficult to find people who can disagree agreeably and find issues of mutual agreement," Hakimian said.
The pastor and his Impact Miami Church were recently threatened with eviction from North Miami Senior High School, where Hakimian holds Sunday services, due to his sermons.
Hakimian's sermons often center on the topic of homosexuality, such as his May 13 sermon, titled "Bible Says Gays and Sex Addicts Can Change and Should Change."
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took notice of Hakimian's sermons, telling the WPLG-TV news station that he believed the messages "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 shot back, saying that his congregation had been unfairly judged as homophobic, and he was 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.
Hakimian told CP that one of the most positive products of Wednesday's GLBT Inclusion Forum was that he was able to show that he was far more loving than the media portrayed him to be.
"A couple of people's viewpoints of me had changed; they came to realize that we were a lot more about love than the media portrayed us. So that was encouraging," he said.