Believing the spirit of the Christian calls for us to assume the best intentions of fellow believers, I was intrigued when I first learned that North Point Community Church in Atlanta planned to host a conference late last month for parents of LGBT children and ministry leaders looking for more effective ways to serve those impacted by the heavy and increasingly controversial issue.
In fact, the outreach brought back memories of a similarly themed conference that my organization, Focus on the Family, hosted for several years well over a decade ago. At the time, we were roundly criticized for holding the event. Many claimed offering love and support for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or their families was somehow hateful. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Unfortunately, as the North Point conference grew closer this past summer, significant concerns emerged regarding several of the conference speakers, notably two men who are in a same-sex marriage, along with a Christian ethicist who advocates for “covenantal marital lifetime monogamy” for LGBT individuals, plus “full LGBT inclusion” in the Church.
North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley addressed some of the criticism this past Sunday. Specifically, Andy responded to comments made by Dr. Al Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to last weekend’s event, Dr. Mohler suggested providing a platform to those advocating for acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Christian Church “is a clear and tragic departure from biblical Christianity.”
Al Mohler is correct. Regrettably, though, Andy Stanley fired back, accusing the longtime Southern Seminary president of holding to “a version of biblical Christianity” that is causing people to leave Christianity altogether.
It might be true that biblical Christianity conflicts with the spirit of the age, but we have neither the authority nor the privilege to edit the Bible to suit modern tastes. Revisionist theology may draw the curious, but it will ultimately confuse and lead the seeker down spiritually dangerous and destructive paths.
Perhaps the most untenable and confounding aspects of the North Point conference from a biblical perspective was not only the normalization and acceptance of same-sex marriage but also the absence of any conversation regarding repentance of sexual sin. In fact, at one point during his message on Sunday rebutting Dr. Mohler, Pastor Stanley talked about the “not sustainable” nature of chastity for same-sex attracted individuals.
Sinful sexual desire is something all of us must manage and reject, so it’s a bit perplexing why same-sex individuals are given a pass here. Scripture demands that we’re all to run from sexual temptation and immorality. Whether heterosexual or homosexually attracted, none of us can or should escape these critical biblical convictions.
Dr. David Martyn Lloyd Jones, a medical doctor turned Welsh minister who helped spark an evangelical revival in Britain during the latter part of the 20th century, once put it well. “For many years, I thought I was a Christian when in fact I was not,” he said. “What I needed was preaching that would convict me of sin and make me see my need. But I never heard that. The preaching we had was always based on the assumption we were all Christians.”
Confusion in this area is widespread and growing. Pastors cannot assume people know the truth. Earlier this week, the Vatican released a letter that Pope Francis had written to cardinals in which he suggested it might be possible for the Church to bless same-sex unions. He warned that priests cannot become judges “who only deny, reject and exclude.”
In both instances, it appears that the pope and Andy Stanley, along with many other “progressive” faith leaders, are prioritizing our need to pastorally serve and witness over the need to remain faithful to Scripture. In essence, they are idolizing evangelism and elevating it over Gospel truth.
However challenging an assignment, it’s essential — and possible — that we do both at the same time.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of the daily “Focus on the Family” broadcast heard by more than 6.3 million listeners per week on more than 1,000 radio stations across the U.S.
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