Faith forum brings cultural issues to light, encourages contemporary church practices

Shreya Banerjee

Churches should invite members of all types and encourage them to be active participants during services, said a pastor who may open a new church in Austin.

Andrew Fox, a pastor at the San Antonio Christian Family Church, held a forum Friday evening to gauge how students at UT view faith, religion and cultural issues. Fox said he envisions opening a church in downtown Austin that allows attendees to ask questions and participate more during sermons.

The forum focused on seven culturally important issues: family, education, arts and entertainment, media, government, religion and business. Fox tied each issue to how it could be applied to church and how the issue could be used to change the structure of church.

“Faith is important in every aspect of life, so we have to examine its impact on every part of our life,” Fox said.

Fox said he believes the approach in modern day churches does not properly educate their attendees about the word of the Bible.

“I feel like churches today are just political organizations with a religious face,” Fox said.

Students discussed the effect of cell phones on their lives, and Fox said churches should allow their participants to text questions throughout a service onto a central screen. He said this interaction will allow attendees to be more involved and will create a dialogue between the members and the pastor instead of following the traditional monologue from pastor to members.

The forum also covered issues such as gay marriage and the role of blended families for church members. Fox said he believes having a church with homosexual members is more acceptable in Austin than in many other cities.

Renee Fox, Andrew’s wife, said she appreciated the students’ discussion about their journeys of faith.

“I was surprised at how mature the students’ responses were, despite being so young,” she said. “They have not had the life experiences people my and my husband’s age have had.”

The nine students who attended the forum each described their different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Students from Asian-American, African-American, white, Catholic, non-denominational and Hindu backgrounds all attended.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Samantha Garcia said despite the intense range of conversations, the students felt comfortable sharing their beliefs.

“I’m not really religious and this forum was definitely out of our comfort zones,” Garcia said. “However, I think we all felt welcome.”

Printed on Tuesday January 24, 2012 as: Pastor encourages texting, open talks in church services