Christian Conference to Feature Imam Fiesal, Gay Portland Mayor

Taking cultural conversations among Christians beyond the walls of the church, the Q Gathering that kicks off today in Portland will feature an unconventional line-up of speakers that includes evangelists, the city's gay mayor and the imam who was at the center of the controversial “Ground Zero mosque.”

Gabe Lyons, who founded the event five years ago, will interview Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the “Ground Zero Mosque” Wednesday night at the event's venue inside the Crystal Ballroom.

In a recent blog post for Q, Lyons explained that one of the reasons he decided to invite Rauf to the Portland gathering was to address the "heightened tension among Christians and Muslims in America."

"Debates rage between our faith communities, and they aren’t going away. Recent events such as Terry Jones’ Koran burning and the 'Ground Zero Mosque' discussion have only exacerbated them," he wrote.

Lyons is hoping that serious dialogue will help Christians engage in these issues, even if it means listening to ideas they may not agree with.

"In our time together, I’ll be seeking to understand what he believes and why," he said. "We’re going to discuss many of his views that some might call 'radical,' and I’ll ask him how he plans to square those with the larger American culture."

Portland mayor Sam Adams will also speak Wednesday night.

This is the fifth annual gathering for Q. Last year's event was held in Chicago with past venues including Atlanta; New York; and Austin, Texas.

The objective of the conference is to provide a place where Christian leaders can engage in thoughtful dialogue on how to renew and restore culture as God intended. Sessions explore how the Gospel might be practiced through various channels of culture in a post-Christian society.

Portland may be considered one of the most secular and liberal cities in the nation but that's why it makes such a good example for case study, according to Lyons.

"For too long Christians have looked at the Northwest as a bastion of godless liberalism, as if there are no people of faith there, but I believe there is no better place for us to be and to learn," the evangelical leader told The Oregonian.

"It represents what other cities may become, with fewer and fewer people identifying with a religion," he continued. "To see how faith leaders are responding to these dynamics is powerful."

The conference will include 45 speakers representing seven channels of culture: the church, education, the social sector, business, government, media, and arts and entertainment.

Other speakers include: Luis Palau, whose evangelistic organization is based in Portland; Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community; and Wired Magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly.

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