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In every Friday Night Forum, we aim to build community and learn to better love one another. Our goal is to look at the difficult issues facing our community with honesty, thoughtfulness, and courage. For years, Christians have argued, debated, and fought one another while “speaking the truth in love,” yet we seem no closer to the grace-filled life Jesus modeled.

The Friday Night Forum mission: Engaging challenging issues with honesty, thoughtfulness, and courage to build community and learn to better love one another.

For years, Christians have argued, debated, and fought one another while “speaking the truth in love,” yet we seem no closer to the grace-filled life Jesus modeled. Join us monthly for our Friday Night Forum and help create a new vision for the Christian life that’s built not on having to be right, but on the risk of love.

- UPCOMING FORUM -

- PAST FORUM RESOURCES -

Who are the Invisible Children? Understanding the Foster Care System  | June 4, 2021
 

Join us as we take a look at situations that lead to the foster care system, the correlation between the foster care system and homelessness in transition-age youth, and how various organizations are trying to help these children. With 25,000+ children in the Foster Care system across Los Angeles, Friday Night Forum aims to take a deeper look at root causes and common factors that lead there. What are the challenges and misconceptions that are commonly seen? Where do we go from here, and most importantly; how can we help?

As we take a look at the Foster Care System, we have invited professionals from the Department of Children and Family Services, LA County Commission for Children and Families, and CarePortal, all organizations that work daily to help these children and their families. This is a Forum that you do not want to miss.

Who are the Invisible Children? Understanding the Foster Care System  | June 4, 2021
 

Join us as we take a look at situations that lead to the foster care system, the correlation between the foster care system and homelessness in transition-age youth, and how various organizations are trying to help these children. With 25,000+ children in the Foster Care system across Los Angeles, Friday Night Forum aims to take a deeper look at root causes and common factors that lead there. What are the challenges and misconceptions that are commonly seen? Where do we go from here, and most importantly; how can we help?

As we take a look at the Foster Care System, we have invited professionals from the Department of Children and Family Services, LA County Commission for Children and Families, and CarePortal, all organizations that work daily to help these children and their families. This is a Forum that you do not want to miss.

Our Panelists:

Dr. Tamara N. Hunter – Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families, an advisory body to the County’s Board of Supervisors on matters impacting systems-involved children, youth, and families. She also leads the Southern California Grantmakers + Los Angeles County Child Welfare Funders Collaborative.

Dominique Robinson, M.S.W – Faith Based Program Manager for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has over 15 years of service and leadership of specialized programs in the child welfare sector. She oversees the Los Angeles County Faith in Motion strategic framework, and is also co-chair of the Los Angeles County Faith Collaborative.

Ember Ngur – Ember is the lead contact for CarePortal’s Southern Region. Growing up, her family has fostered for 17 years and she has personally worked around the Foster Care System for the last 7 years in Los Angeles. In her role at CarePortal, Ember’s focus is to facilitate training and support for collaboration with churches, agencies, community champions and partners while also monitoring the platform to encourage and facilitate meaningful connections.

Bill Bedrossian – With over 25 years of child welfare experience, Bill is the CEO of Covenant House CA, California’s largest provider of services for youth experiencing homelessness… 50% of who are former foster youth.

Emilie Wagar is a Regional Lead Parent Partner with the Parents in Partnership (PIP) program at the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). As a parent partner, she is a fierce advocate for child safety and improved outcomes for vulnerable families. She has an expertise in navigating the child welfare and Dependency Court systems to help youth safely reunify with their families or find a loving home.

Homelessness: Looking Closer, Not Looking Away | March 12, 2021

Hosted by Pastor Mike Morgan – 
Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Caring Ministries at Bel Air Church

We were honored to have five of the top experts in the city fighting to end homelessness join us on a panel to discuss causes, solutions and misconceptions. We explored different perspectives and seek common ground as we endeavor to better love and serve our un-housed neighbors.

Our Panelists:

Rev. Andrew (Andy) Bales – President and CEO of Union Rescue Mission with more than 31 years of experience in community outreach and service to his “friends experiencing homeless.”

Pastor Troy Vaughn – newly appointed President and CEO of Los Angeles Mission, a world leader among Missions that provide for the poor, restore the addicted and eliminate homelessness. With over two decades of service and leadership, as well as personal experience with overcoming homelessness, Pastor Troy is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership, President and CEO of Christ-Centered Ministries, and Senior Pastor of Restoration Family Worship Center.

Heidi Marston – Executive Director of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, joined the agency in 2019 after a decade at the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs where she served in several roles including Special Assistant to the VA Secretary in the Obama Administration.

Adam Murray – A housing and homelessness expert who serves as Chief Executive Officer of Inner City Law Center, a non-profit poverty law firm serving the most vulnerable individuals and families in Los Angeles County.

Sarah Wilson – Executive Director of Harvest Home since 2013, a residential program that has been working to end generational homelessness by transforming the lives of homeless pregnant women and their children for more than 35 years.

Learn more about Bel Air’s efforts to missionally engage in God’s work in our city, including fighting homelessness and serving others in need. Visit belair.org/outreach.

Learn more about Bel Air’s efforts to missionally engage in God’s work in our city, including fighting homelessness and serving others in need. Visit belair.org/outreach.

The Hidden Pandemic—De-stigmatizing Mental Health | Friday, January 29, 2021

A distinguished panel discusses the importance of eliminating stigmas, the healthy and hurtful ways we try to cope, and how the church can better support mental health and mental health professionals. 

Special Guests:

Dr. Cassandra Harewood, MD

Psychiatry specialist with over 26 years of experience in the field.

Mary M. Manix, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist with She has over 20 years of clinical experience. 

Dr. Kelly Haer, PhD

director of the Relationship IQ program at the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University.

Reach out to Caring Ministries if you or a loved one is struggling for help and connection to further resources. Visit the Caring Ministries page at belair.org/caring.

Civil Conversation | Kingdom Connection Over Political Partisanship | Friday, October 30

Special Guest: Dr. Richard Mouw

Seminary president, Biblical scholar and author of Uncommon Decency: Christian civility in an uncivilized world, Dr. Richard Mouw will offer the theological basis for civility and how we can communicate with people who disagree with us on the issues that matter most.

Love Matters More | Friday, September 25

Special Guest:  Jared Byas

Biblical scholar, popular podcast host of The Bible for Normal People and author of Love Matters More: How fighting to be right keeps us from loving like Jesus, Jared Byas helps us lay the foundation for having Christian conversations with those we disagree with.

Key Principles:  Investment over Opinion; Humility over Arrogance; Compassion over Rightness; Connection over Convincing; Curiosity over Judgement; Respectful Disagreement over Silent Resentment; Boundaries over Being a Doormat and many other practical tips as well.

jaredbyas.com

Reflections from Pastor Mike on Love Matters More…

I purchased Jared’s book Love Matters More. I may be mistaken, but I’m hearing him say that there is no “absolute truth”?   Perhaps I am wrong, hoping so…

I believe Jared’s argument is that we can’t know truth “absolutely.” Basically, we will never know everything, what we do know is influenced by our experiences/perspectives, and as humans, we are not able to fully grasp absolute truth or reality as it really is (pg 13).  He is not arguing that there isn’t “absolute truth”, but rather we need to have the humility to say we are unable to grasp it fully.  If we have the humility to acknowledge our inability to grasp “Absolute Truth” absolutely, then we may be able to lovingly and patiently enter into conversations with those we may disagree with.

He further addresses this point on page 15 when he says, “It’s interesting that those who do believe we can access absolute truth almost always also believe they are the ones who possess it…Paul…told us straight up that he didn’t have access to absolute truth.  He wrote, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB italics mine).

Jared is not arguing for some sort of “relativism” (see chapter 2, bottom of page 23).  Rather, Jared’s basic argument is that only God knows absolute truth absolutely.  Since we are not God, we can enter into loving conversations seeking to understand the other, to learn from the other, to allow the other to reveal truth even further as opposed to fighting to demonstrate how we are right. 

Finally, Jared has a lot to say with regard to “truth” as we define it.  I believe he is on to something when he suggests we are in the wrong to think that simply possessing facts means we grasp the truth.  Truth without love, truth without action, truth disembodied, truth that holds in bondage…is really no truth at all.

Questions? Email aaron.pineda@belair.org

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